Residencies, Studio practice, upcycling, workshops

The Coal Loader: industrial artist studio residency 2018

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This week I begin a ten month artist residency at the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability at Balls Head, Waverton in Sydney. A beautiful industrial site overlooking Sydney Harbour and situated next to HMAS Waterhen, it’s a tranquil, lush and inspiring place to work and explore.

If I don’t get too distracted by the views.

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I’m looking forward to exploring the industrial remnants and history of this unique site that serves as a much-loved community resource, in what has to be one of the most incredible locations for an artist-in-residence studio. The industrial features are everywhere – even the studio floor.

I’ll be working with old, used fabrics and other materials, reflecting on the influences of the site’s industrial and commercial history, its surviving architectural elements, and the juxtaposition with its current use.

There will be a public program including a monthly open studio and several workshops throughout the year, so the public can pop in for a chat and see what I’m working on, or learn some new skills if so inclined.

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Here’s a link you might be interested in with some details of the site. In a future blog I’ll add another link to the public programs page when the workshops and open studios have been finalised.

So drop around and say hi, and check out the community vegetable gardens, beautiful harbour views, great cafe (opposite the studio) and the chicken coop.

And don’t forget all that rust, those evocative tunnels, and that crumbly wharf – all begging to be photographed and explored.

 

 

 

North Sydney Council are gratefully acknowledged for the provision of the Coal Loader Artist Studio.

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Japan, Residencies, Textiles, workshops

Investigating pigment, process and imperfection: authentic Japanese textile methods (part 3)

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Silk. Synonymous with Japan, and rightly revered. Another beautiful project we tackled during the residency at Japanese Textile Workshops in May.

Dipping the silk half and half in dye baths made from both gardenia pods and madder, the colours were brilliant yellow and fire engine red. I used a ready made undyed scarf and a length of organza for these projects.

Silk gardenia madder

Then, dipping the lot in the indigo bath changed everything. A few extra dips here and there produced moody, seductive greens and purply browns.

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Silks drying in sun

The shimmery sheen of the silk reflects the colours so beautifully. Food for thought for future projects…..

Silk scarf

 

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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Japan, Residencies, workshops

Investigating pigment, process and imperfection: authentic Japanese textile methods (part 2)

Mokume at studio

The finished mokume piece drying in the sun.

Mokume. A Japanese term for a woodgrain effect that is insanely time consuming but so beautiful on completion that it sucks you in to do it again (and again).

My residency at Japanese Textile Workshops in May opened my eyes to a few things. First – the homework (to be done before arrival in Japan). Using a lovely lightweight crinkled linen the chosen design had to be marked out on the cloth with a special marker pen (that doesn’t affect the indigo). A brief Mokume prep rundown:

1. Draw lines across the cloth 2 cm apart, and design lines over that.

2. Use a double-threaded running stitch along the drawn lines with long ‘skip’ threads over the design shapes. BIG knots at each selvedge to prevent the threads pulling out.

3. Stitch three lines of running stitch between the 2 cm lines (yes, 5 mm apart). Varying the stitch length and distance between the rows will give a more natural woodgrain appearance.

4. Lose count of the hours (weeks) you’ve spent stitching. Be amazed at the mesmerising effect of the repetition.

5. Fold up neatly, put in suitcase with all the other projects and fly to Japan (if that’s where you’re going to finish the project of course).

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Mokume stitched close up

6. Arrive in Japan (see above). Carefully pull the threads down one side of the cloth as tightly as you can. You’ll find you get some intriguing sculptural forms appearing.

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7. Soak the entire thing in water (it must be thoroughly wet) and squeeze out the excess. Now pull those threads even more to make them as tight as possible. Tie tight, big knots with several threads together to form a tight, fairly rigid form. Cut off excess threads (they’ll just get tangled otherwise).

8. Dip in the indigo bath. I did ten dips, oxidising between each. Unfortunately my gloves leaked on this occasion but I did manage to get it off my rings without much trouble. It was a different story for my hands and nails though….

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Mokume finished

Linen takes up the indigo beautifully. A close-up of the finished goods – and the intricate woodgrain pattern. A very inky piece with lovely bleeds.

 

 

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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Inspiration, Japan, Residencies, workshops

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

 

Farmhouse

Front door

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.

Indigio samples

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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Finished work 1

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

aca_logo_horizontal_small_rgb-543223f8c880e

 

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

logo

 

 

 

 

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Exhibitions, Residencies, workshops

Textile embellishment the Japanese way

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I’ve received great news over the Christmas break! I’ve been awarded a grant from the Copyright Council Career Fund to undertake a residential workshop with Japanese Textile Workshops in Japan, west of Tokyo, in May. We’ll be dyeing with indigo and covering shibori techniques, sashiko stitching, stencilling and some weaving and silk processing. The tools and looms are authentic, aged Japanese instruments, so it’s going to be a unique opportunity to experience these processes first-hand. You can find the link to the workshop blog here.

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In the meantime I’ve had to satisfy my impatience by seeking out other beautiful Japanese things, like the images in this blog of an exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia. While visiting Adelaide at Christmas I found, by accident, The Power of Pattern: the Ayako Mitsui Collection, showing extraordinarily finely cut stencils for textile prints. The stencils are cut from mulberry paper and treated with persimmon tannin. The detailing is exquisite and incredibly fine. The exhibition runs until March 13. I highly recommend it.

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Here is the link to the exhibition.

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I’m off on a short one week trip to Japan later this week so will be saturating my senses with art, craft, architecture and culture in preparation for May’s workshop.

I’ll keep you posted!

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Exhibitions, Residencies

Placemarking: the exhibition and workshops

Here are some of the photographs by Ian Hobbs of my Placemarking exhibition last month at Willoughby Museum. Special thanks to Ian and to Jacky Talbot from Willoughby City Council – a great art facilitator and colleague.

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These are photographs of one of the workshops I conducted in conjunction with the exhibition. Embroidering text onto photographs, we used a variety of threads, yarns and textiles to transfer handwriting onto photographic images from the museum’s lace collection. We had a really enthusiastic bunch who made some lovely works.
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