Inspiration, Quotes, Stocktaking, Studio practice

Thinking, reflecting, digging

Sometimes it’s good to revisit favourite or resonant quotes when in contemplative mode or in the thick of studio work. You can get lost in your own world when busy in the studio but it’s good to remind yourself why you work there in the first place.

Searching for your voice, the tweak that will give the work its edge, the reality of what you’re trying to say: these are the things you dig for, work for, explore for.

You might already be familiar with these but it never hurts to read them again:

Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Hmm… thanks Georgia.

 

Art is a way of recognizing oneself.

Louise Bourgeois

Agreed Louise.

 

Art is restoration: the idea is to repair the damages that are inflicted in life, to make something that is fragmented – which is what fear and anxiety do to a person – into something whole.

Louise Bourgeois

Yes. I like this.

 

Art is the concrete representation of our most subtle feelings.

Agnes Martin

Of course.

 

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.

Twyla Tharp

Thank God for escape routes.

 

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

Martha Graham

I just love this one Martha.

 

And here are a few images of works in progress. More old stuff, memories, trying to make sense of things…

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These are some of the works I’m getting ready for my solo show in September. I’ll let you know the details in a later post.

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Books, Exhibitions, Inspiration, mending, Stocktaking, Textiles

Reflections: 2017’s good stuff

The kids are back at school, I’ve had a massive clean-out in the studio, and I’m gearing up for some long studio sessions to make work for some exhibitions that are coming up later in the year. I’m just putting the finishing touches on workshop plans for children and adults so will let you know about those soon.

Over the Christmas break I have been doing the usual reflections on the previous year, taking stock and planning for the next. So … I thought it timely to share a few of the highlights and interesting things I’ve encountered before launching into 2018 proper.

EXHIBITIONS

Some standout exhibitions from 2017. So different but so good!

Piksa Niugini, Stephen Dupont: Darwin Museum and Art Gallery; The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture: National Gallery of Victoria; Interior Landscapes, Elisabeth Cummings: Orange Regional Gallery.

OTHER ARTISTS, AND OTHERWISE GENERALLY INTERESTING PEOPLE

Darn and Dusted

Check out the video of Luke Deverell’s fantastic mending enterprise.

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Tom of Holland

Another mending guru. Self-taught but with a penchant for the very precise.

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Hanne Friis

Norwegian textile artist extraordinaire. Oh my God. So beautiful I think I’m going to die.

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UNEXPECTED INSPIRATION

From nature – of all places.

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Kosciuszko National Park, long (v.e.r.y. long) walks amongst the wildflowers and lakes. The price you pay for silence and serenity…

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Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory.

BOOKS

2017 books

Working Class Man (and its prequel, Working Class Boy), Jimmy Barnes

Oh my God! These books are a compelling, gutsy, and raw insight into poverty, violence  and neglect, and the possible consequences for those caught up in that web. A brave revelation of the reality so many human beings face. Much food for thought.

The Last Girl, Nadia Murad

Another Oh. My. God. account of life from another world. Nadia’s story is a seriously courageous one, describing the murder of much her village’s population, and her kidnap and sexual slavery along with all the young girls from her village. Her account of her escape is chilling, and all the more haunting as few of her peers have been as lucky.

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

I loved this and couldn’t put it down, but was ever so slightly underwhelmed at the ending.

Alone in Berlin, Hans Fallada

An insidious and chilling account of life in Berlin during World War 2: trying to live your life while trust and humanity evaporate around you at a rate of knots.

The Art Rules, Paul Klein

Some pretty decent, practical advice for artists here.

The Good People, Hannah Kent

An absorbing story about rural Irish farmers and their beliefs, although I didn’t find it quite as thrilling, or as heartbreaking, as her first novel, Burial Rites.

First We Make the Beast Beautiful, Sarah Wilson

An inside view of living with anxiety. Pretty compelling, especially if you know someone who is dealing with it. Quirks, weirdness and acceptance all thrown together.

Practical home Mending Made Easy, Mary Brooks Picken

Said to be a mending bible. It’s certainly thorough! One for my textile reference library.

Fashion and Orientalism, Adam Geczy

Meticulously researched history of oriental influences on Western clothing. Authored by my old lecturer!

The Textile Reader, Jessica Hemmings (ed.)

This is a gem. I’ve only just started it but am thoroughly fascinated by it. Recommended to anyone interested in textile theory.

Now I’ve got all that off my chest, and the decks are almost cleared, I’m looking forward to getting down to work in the studio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Artists, Inspiration, Studio practice, Textiles, upcycling

Fragments and Patches

I want to share with you visual art and textile lovers a couple of intriguing articles I’ve come across of late.

The first is a piece in issue number 77 of Selvedge magazine, Keeping Body and Soul Together. If you don’t have access to a print copy you can see an abbreviated version of the article here, under the title Going Going Ge Ba. With the most beautiful photography by Mark Eden Schooley, the article by quilt expert Dr Sue Marks outlines the old Chinese practice of making ‘Ge Ba’, a type of textile collage. With up to 15 fabric layers held together with rice glue, the resulting pieces (roughly 40 x 60 cm) were pretty tough, and were cut up to sole shoes!

All kinds of fabrics scraps were used to make Ge Ba, anything worn out or no longer of use, old embroideries and even propaganda cloth. Perhaps they can be seen as a Chinese version of Japanese boro.

I think you’ll see why I love them. The compositions are striking textural abstracts, in much the same vein as boro.

Ge Ba collage

Image: Selvedge blog, Going Going Ge Ba, 27 September 2017

The other article I wanted to mention is also a Selvedge one. Painting with Wool, on their blog of September 27, features American textile artist Channing Hansen‘s organic knitted works. This guy is wild! His complicated compositions are made of various natural fibres he dyes himself, patch-knitted in rambling formations. His work process must be so frenzied!

Channing Hansen Marc Selwyn Fine Art

Image: Marc Selwyn Fine Art

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Image: Selvedge blog, Knitting DNA, 16 June 2017

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Image: Selvedge blog, Painting with Wool, 27 September 2017

Feeling inspired? Pretty amazing work, don’t you think?

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Artists, Exhibitions, Galleries, Inspiration, Studio practice, Textiles

Flowers on the brain

Some new work on the go in the studio. I don’t know whether it’s because it’s spring or I’ve been gripped by Modus Operandi Flora, but flowers have definitely caught my eye these past few months.

I’ve been playing with making flowers with velvet and voile which I’m in the throes of experimenting with in an en-masse kind of way.

The two images shown above are studio shots. Everything is very much in the development stage. Studio updates to follow.

Meanwhile – enjoy the view…

Below are some of the floral distractions I’ve loved of late. From the top: Hiromi Tango, AGNSW, kids art installation at Gallery Lane Cove, Sarah Contos, MAASKosuke Tsumura, H&M, and Juz Kitson.

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Hiromi Tango at the Japan Foundation’s Eco-Anxiety – Holding a Deep Breath

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Embroidery details from the Asian Gallery at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

 

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Kids art installation at Gallery Lane Cove

Detail of a Sarah Contos work at Roslyn Oxley 9 Gallery, Sydney


 

 

 

 

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Beautiful details at Love Is…Australian Wedding Fashion at Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences

 

H&M advertising poster

 

Juz Kitson at Sydney Contemporary

 

 

 

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Artists, Inspiration, repair, Studio practice, Textiles, Uncategorized, upcycling

The heirloom theory

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Donya Coward, Brown sitting Rabbit – photograph from her website

Do you have any artists or makers who do it for you? Are they an inspiration for your principles and practice?

I often find research addictive. One find leads to another. Before you know it you’ve got a chain of inspiration and empathic appreciation for the work of others that informs your own work and sits comfortably with your beliefs and principles.

Discarded materials, ratty old preloved garments, mending, and disparate bits & pieces often have reuse potential that goes unheeded. Memory is embedded into everything. These examples of creative work are very much aligned with my own philosophy and love of materials.

Slow work.

Hand work.

Considered.

Ethical.

I say that (ethical) because I firmly believe in the Less Is More theory.

Less consumption, more human contact, less fast-paced living. Purchase something of great quality that you love, that will last and last – and take pleasure in handing it on to others when the time comes.

Donya Coward is an artist whose work is an exquisite example of what I like to call ‘the heirloom theory’. She takes bits and pieces of very different materials and turns them into sculptures and other textile art that are brilliantly handworked treasures. You can see more of her incredibly detailed work here.

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Celia Pym, Norwegian Sweater – photograph from her website

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Celia Pym, Hope’s Sweater, 1951 – photograph from her website

Celia Pym is a UK artist whose penchant for darning and mending is a quirky and beautiful way of extending the life of garments and objects. In her hands anything textile can be preserved in a way that gives a refreshing and individual twist to its existence. You can see more of Celia’s unique projects here.

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Mayer Peace Collection – image from Instagram

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Mayer Peace Collection – image from Instagram

Berlin designer Christine Mayer’s practice is one I’ve watched for a while. She is superbly skilled at repurposing textiles in a way that’s individual and deftly structured. Her work extends to theatre costumes as well as fashion. Check out her work here. I’m happy to say I’m a proud owner of one of Christine’s pieces, bought during trip to Berlin in 2012. Timeless and beautiful.

I love finding inspiration in the efforts of like-minded creatives. There is satisfaction in finding similarities in practice, using your own resources creatively, and sharing ideas, whatever limitations might be in place.

Who are the practitioners you find inspiring? Does your list keep growing? Let’s compare notes……

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Inspiration, Japan, Residencies, workshops

Investigating pigment, process and imperfection: authentic Japanese textile methods (Part 1)

 

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I’ve been very fortunate to receive two artist grants (from the Australia Council for the Arts and the Copyright Council Creative Individuals Career Fund) to learn about indigo shibori and other Japanese textilial processes with Japanese Textile Workshops in the mountain village of Fujino in Japan last month.

Living in a charming 150 year old traditional silkworm-farmhouse/barn I stitched and dyed from early morning until late at night for most of the ten days of instruction by Bryan Whitehead, with eight fabulously interesting women from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Chile, Brazil, Canada and the US. An intensive crash-course in shibori techniques was interspersed with intervals of silk cocoon processing, spinning, cord weaving, stencil dyeing, resist-paste making, artisan studio visiting, and antique textile examining, and, as if that’s not enough, we were treated to wonderful Japanese (and occasionally not-so-Japanese) meals cooked by the multi-talented ikebana expert, Hiro.

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Bryan prepping the indigo vat.

Stitching and folding for shibori is so very time consuming! There were a few blisters and wounds to contend with (from stitching, but mostly from pulling the threads), but the results made up for all that pain. It was a joy working with like-minded people, learning while reinforcing the value of time and care in making something (and believe me, time is necessary) – and laughing a lot while getting to know people.

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Various shibori manipulation techniques, and the first products.

I loved the pole wrapping technique (shown above). It takes nearly forever and is, like the others, so worth it! I especially love the watercoloury bleeds of the indigo, and the not-quite-controllability of the whole process.

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A selection of my finished work.

The techniques I learned have given me lots of ideas for making work. I’ll be showing works in progress as they develop and would love your feedback, but in the meantime look out for a couple of other upcoming posts on other techniques from the workshop.

Lunch

Not forgetting lunch! Always served with an awesome salad from the vegetable garden outside the kitchen window, with beautiful locally sourced pottery.

 

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body

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I’d also like to acknowledge the assistance of the Copyright Agency Creative Individuals Career Fund for this project

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Exhibitions, Inspiration, Japan, Residencies, workshops

Images, memory and boro love

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How do you feel about the power of images? Do you ever stop and think about the impact images have had on your life? They’ve always been hugely influential to me, and I can think of many I’ve carried around in my head since early childhood.

A more recent episode that illustrates this is my fascination with Japanese antique boro textiles and clothing. A few years ago I came across my first boro images (yep, on the internet) and was captivated by their layering, frayed and tangled edges, faded surfaces, and their quirky and sometimes desperate stitching. But what I think screamed out to me the most was the obvious extent to which these items were valued by their makers and their families – out of desperate poverty I might add, but the Japanese have a way with aesthetics that can make your head spin.

While my art practice began with (mostly oil) painting, my recent work involves photography, textiles and installation. I found the sentiment of these boro textiles very sympathetic to the intentions in my own work. Memory, a sense of place, traces of human touch and history now all interconnect with varying input from photographs, cloth and stitch.

All this led me to undertake an artist residency in Japan last month, where I saw authentic boro that didn’t disappoint. More on my residency next week. But in the meantime here are some photographs I took at Amuse Museum in Asakusa, Tokyo that show some exquisite textiles and clothing. Here is the museum’s website. And if you’d like to see more I can recommend Sri Threads beautiful website as well. I wonder if they touch your sensibilities too?

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This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body

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I’d also like to acknowledge the assistance of the Copyright Agency Creative Individuals Career Fund for this project

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