Sunday 23 December 2018

dear Martine

dear Martine

sorry for the slow reply ... I have tried several times to reply to your kind comment on the previous post, and Blogger simply would not publish. My fingers were crossed that it would work today, because it's nice to be able to engage in conversation, I think. But Blogger refused.

What I wanted to say was that I'm glad you're still here, and that I love "bumping into you" in Europe from time to time!

And I'm so grateful for your support of my work :: it must be about ten years that we have had a connection of some kind ?

That's what I have come to realise about my work...Yes, it's about sharing the printing of leaves on to cloth and paper, and writing poetry and listening to the whirled but it's much more than that. It's about creating community.
And what is really going on, when we gather around a cauldron and make bundles, or sit around a big table and stitch; is that we are (like in old times) gathering around a village well.
There is talk, there is caring for each other. It's not just what I teach but what each person shares, too.

Which brings me to my big news.
I have so enjoyed creating classes for my online school that I have decided to create an annual version of one of my favourite workshops, 'being(t)here', that I have taught all around the whirled but which has been a little different in each version, depending on the place and the time of year, and on what I have been thinking about deeply.

The first online edition will run from March to December 2019, with eleven instalments each delivered on a new moon. It's a huge project and I'm slightly terrified and utterly elated at the same time. But that is what makes life exciting and worth living. It's splendid to have things that are really worth getting out of bed for (in addition to my delightful granddaughter and my loyal hound).

On that note, I wish you a lovely and peaceful Christmas (or any other gentle festivity you might indulge in) and Joy and happiness for the New Year.

lots of love


PS if your name isn't Martine and you've read this far I still wish you happiness and health and all good things for the coming year, and thank you for reading my words.

PPS Blogger has now decided it won't publish my comments on other blogs, either. Which is kinda sad, because there are a number that I do read, and it's good to leave a calling card. Guess Blogger has decided to place limits on my screen time. Good thing they aren't hosting my online classes!!!

Friday 30 November 2018

dear 1393 (the annual report)

the glorious view over the heathlands, from Mount Chudalup
one of the remarkable wildflowers in South West
Western Australia

to the 1393 folks who've stuck by this blog over the years.
a little over ten years, as it happens.

thank you for hanging in there.

this calendar year has been a particularly full one. I've taught five times in Australia, twice in Scotland and Canada,
once in New Zealand and once in France. that's eleven workshops. seven of them were a week (as in 5 days) long, three were three days, one was a mere seven hours and one ran over two weeks.

a string-and-bundle installation
created for the sculpture park
'understory' by the participants of
the retreat to Northcliffe, WA,
in October

I made paper by hand during a brief residency at Richard de Bas papermill in France and spent time in New Orleans, dreaming up new work and collaborating with musician John Fohl.

I built a new website at a new address, and then bought back my old domain name from my former host so as not to lose all the goodwill that it had built up over the past ten years
somewhere in between I took a big swig from a cup of courage and
having previously resisted offers from others (the kind that read "come to our studio across the seas at your own expense, let us film you doing tricks and then we'll give you 5% of the profits") launched the School of Nomad Arts, which is giving me much delight.

I had no idea it would be so satisfying to make wee movies and create online classes.
now I know.

I'm writing this post from the beautiful gardens at Inverewe in Scotland, where I am spending the last week of November, dyeing with windfall leaves, preparing for an exhibition in their Sawyer Gallery (next June) and dreaming up more classes for my school.

unsurprisingly, the mirror tells me I'm looking a tad frayed.

it may be time for a wee rest.
time to go home, cuddle that gorgeous grandbaby and go wandering with my dog.

but it's been a fabulous year.

the week at Northcliffe, during which we spent all day each day outside in sunshine and in rain was absolutely glorious. we made a field trip to Mount Chudalup, and created an installation for 'understory', the local sculpture park. people worked on their laps or on the grass, stitching dyed pieces into a 'wayfarer's comforter', a big soft cloth to keep them safe and warm on their travels.

local colour at Northcliffe

a mere two days at home to repack my bags, and I was off to Scotland to begin a three-and-a-bit-week road-and-ferry trip with  Alison Mountain (half of the team of two that make up Big Cat Textiles) . the plan was that Alison would cook for the first retreat (at Ardtornish Estate, near Lochaline) and I would captain the sailboat, and after that we would co-present a retreat on Orkney...meaning we would take turns at cooking and at telling stories. (we are nothing, if not optimistic)

the lovely people at Ardtornish were so chuffed to have us, that we are already confirmed to return in 2020. the gardens there reminded me so much of my parents' lovely garden at Mount Lofty, before it was blackened by fire. and the house itself reminded me of Arthur's Seat, the towered house just a bit further up the mountain from us...where Nancy Harford taught me how to wash Persian carpets with velvet soap and a garden hose, introduced me to the joys of gin+tonic and told me the secret of everything... "whatever happens dearie, never lose your dignity".  I'll confess I'm not always good at keeping that in mind, but I do try.

after five glorious days expecting at any moment to encounter the Dowager Countess Crawley and her withering words around a corner, we left Ardtornish behind us in the wee hours :: driving northward to catch a ferry to the charmingly named port of St Margaret's Hope, Orkney. it was a magical sail across to this gorgeous archipelago, arriving in time for a brilliant sunset. the next day was taken up with serious (double-trolley) food shopping in preparation for the arrival of our participants.  

the Ring of Brodgar

  and so began a week of 13 hour working days, beginning with the morning porridge prep and concluding after the last dessert plate had been cleared. happily we had a cheerie helper (a rare luxury) who smiled through piles of plates and wrangled the ancient dishwasher into submission. 

thank you, Caroline! 

when she isn't disguising herself as a dishie on a far-flung island, she actually runs a clothing company. (and lest the reader thinks I've begun taking interns in return for dishes, no. I have not. both the shared workshop and the assistance will remain unique events. no applications will be received!!)
if you'd like to know more about the actual class...Jane Wheeler has described it in great detail.

and now I'm in my last week here, boiling up a cauldron at the Inverewe Gardens. I came here with the intent of focussing on the eucalypts, but the story seems to be changing as windfalls drift on to my path, squirrels skip across it and herons soar gracefully overhead.  

next year holds four in-person workshops, three solo exhibitions and a number of research trips planned to add depth to the classes I offer online. thank you for your support, whether you've come to a workshop, joined an online class, bought one of my books or simply taken the trouble to sit down and wade through this blog.

let the season of twinkle-lights begin!!

Friday 5 October 2018

a collaboration

life seems to be steaming by like Niagara Falls.
blink and another month goes by.

since my last offering here I have become a grandmother.
other grandmothers will be smiling quietly to themselves as I confess that I have totally fallen in love with the tiny buglet.

In between cuddling the wee one (and making silly hats for her) I have made another course for the School of Nomad Arts - this time it's an offering for February. It starts now (four months ahead of time) so that participants can prepare by doing a bit of preservation dyeing.

And then (on my way to Maiwa in Vancouver) I've been in New Orleans for a week or so, working on   a piece of cloth and a short film, to which local guitar legend John Fohl has kindly added a soundtrack.

Wanna see it? click here 

Thursday 2 August 2018

home for a bit

it's lovely, being home for a bit, curling up with my lovely Kubbi-dog and having some contemplation time.

the School of Nomad Arts is quietly blossoming, I have three solo exhibitions lined up for next year and just four workshops left to teach this year (all of which need serious class projects, fresh poems to read, materials to source).

Next year's dance card is already full, too.  Plenty of time to sleep in the grave.

If you happen to be in Sydney this month, find my work in 'Local Colour' at the UNSW Galleries in Paddington.

If you are wandering further afield, perhaps to France, you'll find my work in a new iteration of 'Earth Matters' for the Biennale du Textile Contemporain in Oloron-Sainte-Marie

Thursday 5 July 2018

raiding the ragbag and sorting the stash

It was such a joy sharing with students from all over the planet in my first-ever online class (the Alchemist's Apron)  that I found myself dreaming up another one.

I know so many lovely dyers who simply cannot resist putting another morsel in the dyepot...and then    build up great mountains of delicious samples that rarely, if ever, see the light of day again. Which set me thinking.

It's time, my darlings.

Time to raid the ragbag for beloved discards from which you can harvest, and to sort out your stash and get ready to join pieces together to make fabulous frocks that are unique to YOU.

The class is called Conscious Clothing.  I'm literally dancing with excitement in my armchair about sharing my dressmaking tricks with y'all and I can't wait to see the gorgeous dresses that will be growing in the hands of makers around the whirled.

I've made the list of necessaries (and a wee video about dyeing while wandering) accessible to help you decide whether the class is for you. If you do dive in, the class is yours for life and there's also a Facebook sewing circle as extra support...the lovely thing is that you all bring so many skills to the table, and even though have a few reservations about FB, the fact remains that it is a very accessible means of connecting us all.

and as part of the first lesson, I've included a downloadable PDF of the wee pattern-cutting booklet I published (in a very limited edition of 100) some years ago. It contains the essence of how I make my clothes.

Will I see you there? I hope so.  At very please click on the link above to read about the class. I'd love to know what you think of the idea.

Saturday 5 May 2018

a clean sweep

I had been with my former website host since 2004 or 5, but things were getting awfully clunky. It became tedious to try and upload images as the site would crash or simply freeze, so eventually I gave up.

Goodbye, - I'm sorry, but you just made it too hard.

Hello - along with a new address.

find me at

I'm still learning my way around, so there's bit of tweaking going on, but it feels fresh and clean and I love it.

Now I just need to get my house and workroom feeling the same way!

Saturday 17 March 2018

the school of nomad arts

I am pinching myself ... but it is true.

I have taken the plunge.

(what on earth is she on about, I hear you mutter)

Thanks to my friend Christi Carter telling me about Seasonal Affective Disorder, (something that was unknown to me) which prompted me to dream up a February project to help keep the February blues at bay...and then her insisting I really needed to make a video for the FB group (created for those who invested in the Bagstories book)

and then the darling Bagsisters being so very kind about my filming skills (and a bit of pride myself because I was able to make a wee film without saying UM or anything naughtier).

All of this gave me the confidence to create a virtual campfire that I am calling

the School of Nomad Arts.

it is the place you can go to learn and to make, all while curled up in your armchair, wearing your favourite jimjams and without having to brush your hair if you can't be bothered.

the first ever class is

the Alchemist's Apron

starting on March 22 (but open for enrolments now).

care to join me there? I hope so.

Thursday 1 March 2018

blogger must be getting past its useby date

Blogger has decided this week that it will not let me respond to visitors comments.
Which is a bit frustrating when there are questions to be answered.

So after typing answers several times (and forgetting to copy them!) and then losing them again
I decided to sort it out by posting screenshots.

fingers crossed the people concerned swing by and find em. But if this situation continues I fear it may try my patience...

Monday 26 February 2018

gardens of the heart

staying at home for the summer has made so much sense.

it's given me the space (and grace) to play :: to make new work and to dream new ideas.

in January I made the wee book 'bagstories' and was stunned to find the welcome it received, and then delighted to see how the 'bagstories' group (on Facebook) so quickly became such a lovely supportive gathering of like-minded spirits.

that foray has led to me deciding that I should make a February project every year. Also, at long last, I will offer distance learning for those who suffer physical, geographical and/or economic difficulty in getting to a class.  more on that very soon.

but for now, let me tell you about 'gardens of the heart'...a  project in poetry and cloth that will culminate in an exhibition for the 2019 Adelaide Festival Fringe, that I am coordinating with the h.ART group who have been the backbone behind the establishment of an Artspace in the old Onkaparinga Woollen Mills in Lobethal, South Australia. You can sign up via the Facebook group, or (if you aren't on fb) leave me a comment below (or email me) and I will assign you a 'line number'. Why line numbers?

it's because 'gardens of the heart' is based on the three-line poetry that I have been sharing with students in recent years...which results in collaborative aleatory poetry...beautiful words gathered by chance from groups of (three) people.

each person stitches their line along a piece of cloth (450mm x 150mm  :: 18" x 6") together with the number of dots they've been assigned.

then all the pieces will be stitched together by me (and some friendly volunteers) next February to form three-line poems, which will be installed at the Woollen Mill Artspace in Lobethal, South Australia together with a cloud of suspended flowers.

are you in?

Wednesday 24 January 2018

at high noon on February One

at high noon on February One this year (central standard time.... a silly zone really, half an hour different from the actual meridian on which South Australia sits and initiated by a bunch of businessmen in 1899, when the speed of communication/travel was so slow it didn't make a difference anyway), the 'bagstories' group on Facebook will revert to secret.

why is this important? it's because on that date (as soon as I return from a family airport run) I shall be posting the next instalment of instructions for a lagniappe project I am guiding purchasers of the 'bagstories' book though for the month of February. (it's a project that is not actually in the book, as it would have added too many pages and thus too high a cost to the consumer.  It is an invention of my own that has roots in Japanese traditions and a few nods to other cultures...that I am very excited to share)

corner snippets

those people who have already bought the book and let me know (via forwarded receipts) that they have done so, have been admitted to the group and are busily preparing a small collection of stitched cloth squares in readiness. well, mostly cloth. One is working with Japanese paper and another will doubtless be using her lovely shifu.

another way of joining is to find the bagstories group (there's a link at the bottom of this post) and to show your proof-of-investment by cutting and pasting details from your receipt into the space that FB provides for answering questions.


I know this is a slightly fussy and irritating beginning...but I think it's worth the effort, as it means you'll have lifetime access to the bagstories group and can continue your conversations there long after the February project is done. Already I'm seeing that people are planning to meet over cauldrons here and there. I'm hoping others may gather for stitching sessions (or coffee, or a cocktail)... the more different people we meet, the more we find we are the same at heart...

'bagstories' already has members from almost all over the whirled...including Iceland, Brazil, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, England, the USA, India, Canada, New Zealand forgive me if you're in and your country is not on the list yet! forming peaceful friendships through bag-making. This is making me enormously happy.

thank you, Jadranka Brown, for this Looking very much like my grandmother.

so whether you invest in a hard cover, a soft cover or the pdf version of 'bagstories', I do hope you will join me for the month of February, making gorgeous bags, having conversations across the whirled and sharing your lovely work.

thanks for swinging by. here are a few side-steps you may enjoy...

Sunday 14 January 2018

celebrating both collaboration and compromise

it's been a while since I had anything really interesting to tell y'all but today I have two things to talk about.
one is the fabulous scarf I was gifted when I visited the Netherlands last (northern) summer, woven from her own exquisite handspun yarns by Caitlin Bongers (she's the one with the voice of the angels who started us all singing by the River Tay a couple of years back).
the other can wait for a moment.

the scarf waited patiently while I sailed in and out of home, emptying suitcases and refilling them, patting the dog, grubbing a few thistles and explaining to my cat just why I had to leave again. it was a busy year. so much so that I consciously cleared my dance card for the first three months of this one, so that I could find some space to breathe, to prepare for the next lot of teaching and to think about what my part of the collab might entail.

I should explain that when I received this gorgeous armful of softness I was quite overwhelmed. I know what it takes to warp up and weave something, and this piece is especially beautiful. I asked Caitlin if she would mind me dyeing it, and being given permission I suggested we regard it as a collaboration.

so this week, in between working on the "other thing" that I will shortly reveal, I sat in the armchair, dogs at my feet, cats and kittens disporting themselves over my shoulders, and decided that I would knot the fringe of the scarf. such gentle repetitive work is good for quieting the mind. while working I listened to a podcast from On Being, John O'Donohue discoursing gently on beauty. it was perfect.

then I was moved to take my needle and do just a little stitching into the piece. just a little.

I soaked it in a diluted iron brew (students may remember it as 'magic potion', made by soaking rusty things in vinegar, and heavily diluted for use otherwise everything can turn black)

it was firmly bundled with Eucalyptus scoparia windfall, and then cooked in a pre-loved dark brew. (it doesn't matter what your bundle is cooked in, it's what's inside the bundle that's important)

when it cooled, I unrolled it, and it just took my breath away.  THANK YOU Caitlin, for entrusting this treasure to me. it will be joining the "essential travel kit".

and the other thing?  that belongs to the 'compromise' part of the title of this post. various people had been kindly urging me to consider making an e-course, but I simply couldn't come at standing and talking into a camera. I'm not good at doing and talking at the same time. something to do with the cerebral hemispheres.

but I do like making books. so the compromise is that I have made a wee book that is a kind of workshop-in-your-pocket (or on your screen if you take the PDF version). it's mostly handwritten rather than typed but I wanted it to feel as though you were looking over my shoulder into a notebook.

what's in it? it contains the secrets of the tsunobukuro, that magical bias stitched bag of Japan that I so frequently share with students. (little ones are perfect for buying vegetables, the in-between sizes brilliant for gathering leaves, twigs or keeping your clothes sorted in a suitcase...and I always carry an extra-large one in case I run out of luggage space.)

it is available at and if you send me proof of purchase (via the contact form on my website) I shall invite you to the 'secret' Facebook group where, for the month of February, I shall be posting tips and tricks and one or three "how to's", and where you can post images of the bags that you make, and have conversations with fellow 'baggers' around this marvellous whirled.

thank you for staying with me and for reading thus far. 
here are some related links to explore.