Tuesday 27 December 2016


this year I was invited to participate in an exhibition being held for the Latvian Cultural Festival that has been held around Australia between Christmas and New Year since 1951 

the exhibition title "past present future" prompted me to create this autobiographical piece.

loosely based on traditional Latvian costume it includes an apron, a striped wool skirt, a wool blanket, a found antique linen blouse and rather a lot of bones. 
the stitched text translates poetically as "I'm walking and wondering why I leave no footprints"  and is borrowed from a poem by Janis Elsbergs 
(the literal translation is somewhat more specific)

dyed with eucalyptus, local colour infusing into something from elsewhere, from the ground up. 
the apron was reconstructed from a linen shirt and other items sourced during a trip to Latvia in August this year. 
thank you Lufthansa for the nice cotton napkin you left in my lap, which somehow became attached as well and which serendipitously made sense, as my background is Latvian and German.

the pockets full of whitewashed bones represent the cell memories we each carry within us and which I am convinced are handed down from one generation to the next.

I was born in the late 50s, and raised as a "European in exile", a child of two displaced persons from two different cultures.  

but the Australian landscape got under my skin.

I installed the work yesterday.

it was the last piece to go in, the rest of the exhibition had already been  hung.

frankly my work looks rather 'out of place' compared to the rest...everything else is precisely formed/woven/wrought/cut/stitched/shaped...I think it sticks out like the proverbial bull terrier's testicles.
I guess that's the truth as well.
and if it isn't true, it isn't worth doing.

Wednesday 7 December 2016


it's nearly 9 years (next March) since Eco Colour (a book i wanted to call 'botanical alchemy' but was told the title wouldn't sell) hit the bookstores. in that time what i initially referred to as 'ecoprint' has spread far and wide. thousands of people are making a living by printing with plants.

hilariously, though i was the first to publish the technique* i usually see myself referred to as an "also ran" in various media. a recent book about natural processes in textile art listed me merely as a "practitioner" of the technique (though instructions for ecoprinting are scattered generously throughout its pages).

i've seen colleagues absorb my work into their teaching practices, and observed "fashion labels" created after people have taken classes....sometimes only a one day class.

and there are so many people out there teaching "ecoprinting" (though much of it is not ecologically sustainable at all, as toxic adjuncts are increasingly employed) that i no longer offer basic "how to" classes. it would be like having to play "twinkle, twinkle, little star" over and over again.

not much fun for me, and ergo less for my students.

which is how 'being (t)here' took root and has grown into a retreat class that embraces being fully present and at the same time exploring the poetics of place.
it gives me such joy to be able to offer something more than just a class about printing with leaves.

for me, 'being (t)here' is a way of experiencing the whirled that helps open the cracks that let the light get in (thank you Leonard, for that phrase) no matter where you are. it offers a pathway to beauty that can be rolled out whether you're in a verdant forest, a shimmering desert, an urban wasteland or your own private paradise.

we observe and see, write and draw, print and dye. we fold paper into books...  the island book fold and its bigger cousin the river book, making a journals from single sheets of paper :: without having to thread a needle.

together we make discoveries, in ourselves AND in the dyepot. the other lovely thing that's been happening is that many of the students keep in touch with each other after the workshops. sometimes they make a facebook group, sometimes a blog. others just wrestle with an email list. but they maintain the connections and forge deep bonds. it's wonderful.

i've been teaching less through institutions (though i remain loyal to a select few), and more in beautiful and sometimes unusual places. the Yellow Ferry is one of these. there is something deeply magical about being on a boat, which is why i will be back there in February 2017.
i've reduced the class numbers and though the feedback from many people is that they consider the fee too high, the investment for the class is actually the same as for the first one, it's just that i have sourced a richer collection of materials for each person to work with, with treasures such as a limited edition silkymerino dress to take home.
 as a business proposition it is laughable because the expenses won't balance against the income...but to me it is absolutely worth it for the experience we will all have.

because it is the journey that matters, in the end.

and i am loving the ride.

*you'll see references to "nature printing" that are earlier, but that is a technique where the plant is dipped in paint or dye and pressed against a substrate of some kind