Stocktaking, Studio practice, Textiles

Studio (dis)organisation and other questionable habits

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So when did a tidy studio become a thing? I’ve tried, believe me, but just can’t make it work. All those blog posts and magazine spreads that show studios looking like they’ve just been painted, pimped and primed for ‘work’ do my head in. Little snippets of showpieces, that’s all they are…

Mine, on the other hand, simply operates around a kind of chaos where I can generally find everything (thank you visual memory) but can’t seem to negotiate the time to put everything away before starting something new. In fact, I frequently work over the top of things because I haven’t cleared a nice, inviting horizontal surface first.

I can confidently say I have nil clear horizontal planes anywhere in my workspace. This is, of course, exacerbated due to preparing for an upcoming show in August, and an influx of more pre-loved clothing I’ve been taking apart, but I’ve come to realise – only lately – that I really don’t care. That tidy desk tidy mind stuff just doesn’t match my brain. Whatever works.

These pictures are of some of the tidier bits of my studio. Full of promise and wonder.

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In fact, the whole chaos thing seems to suit me. I love finding bits of cloth/paper/yarn/photographs/wood/clumps of tangled thread/hair around the place and allowing them to suggest form for another work. The process can take a while though… like years.

And while I’m at it, falling prey to chaos has been the reason for my non-blogging of late. My apologies to anyone expecting the regular fortnightly thing I promised earlier in the year, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

So my advice to you all is this: don’t even think of trying to conform to the expectations of others (within reason I suppose I should add); just get on with your thing, and; believe in yourself while you’re going about it.

 

 

 

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Experiments, Paper, repair, Studio practice, Textiles

Studio work: chaos, conflict, and the path to resolution

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I’ve been spending time in the studio working on some paper pieces – with cloth and text   too, of course – reflecting on chaos, conflict and resolution.

It seems to be part of an evolving theme I’m exploring about my dad. Always having thought of him as a fairly difficult man, with moments of intense love and attachment, I have for many years thought about examining his relationship with his family and his love of the Papua New Guinean people – his comrades during World War II.

Dad trained members of PNG police force during the war, and recorded, in Pidgin English, testimonies of the native people affected by Japanese war crimes after its end. You’ll see some of his handwritten and typed records in these photos.

Rather than embarking on a comprehensive analysis of his life, I’m finding myself drawn to examining bits, vignettes if you like, that catch in my memory. And the more I do this the more I see parallels with contemporary life, and sometimes specifically with my own.

In the contemporary world Japan is a major trading partner and friend of Australia; a remarkable contrast between Dad’s memories and mine. I love the Japanese, their culture, art practices and traditions. And the contrasts between the WWII era and now are both strikingly different and proof of the possibilities of reconciliation.

Having dug up some lovely vellum I bought in New York twenty years ago (in my painting days – and I’d always thought it too beautiful to use), I’m combining it with a variety of rice papers and vintage threads.

A selection of stitches that have their own particular meanings in this context: a ‘mattress’ surgical stitch, running/sashiko, and the stitch method used to repair Japanese sake bags (I don’t know if it has a name, but please let me know if you do) are really important to the work.

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Vintage Japanese rice paper from notebooks and ledgers.

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Burnt Arches paper, surgical stitching in vintage linen thread, handwritten text.

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Placement of layers of hand dyed muslin, like bandages, over the work, ready for stitching.

An attempt at mending.

I’m hoping to get at least one piece completed this week, so will show you the results in due course…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Art classes, Paper, Photographs, Textiles, Uncategorized, workshops

Stitching Memories workshops: the debrief

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Two full classes and a hugely enthusiastic tribe. What more can you ask for?

Running the Stitching Memories workshops at Lane Cove Library was delightful. Its always an amazing thing to see what people do with their work: all have different approaches based on a photograph of their own selection from the Library’s historical image collection.

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I showed how to transfer a design (or text) onto a photograph, and various ways to stitch, showing my own examples and those of other artists, always encouraging participants to be free, non-judgmental and experimental.

Some people chose images reminding them of their families or homes, others chose randomly, while others decided on imagery completely unfamiliar to them.

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All the examples here are works-in-progress. A two and a half hour session really just provides an introduction to the possibilities.

Sometimes just a touch of stitching here and there is enough to make a quirky statement. The addition of text can change the entire reading of an image, and over-the-top stitchery is certainly not out of place in this workshop!

And did I mention the camaraderie involved in these sessions?

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I have one more session in this series coming up at Gallery Lane Cove on Saturday March 11, with a slightly different focus. The Stitching Your Memories workshop is free, and will be running in conjunction with the exhibition Translating Displacement, which shares stories of former refugees, asylum seekers, citizens and non-citizens whose families fled war and violence to settle in Australia. If you’d like to book please phone 61 2 9428 4898 or email info@gallerylanecove.com.au.

We’d love to see you there.

 

 

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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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Studio practice, Textiles

Returning to the studio…

After a spell of two months looking after and fretting about my sick mum, I’m at last back in the studio gathering up the threads of different project ideas. Taking time off of this kind puts everything in limbo, so play time is now my priority (within the limits of the usual commitments, naturally).

I thought I’d show you some of my experiments of late.  These are textile memory maps (I quite like these). Old fabrics that are memory triggers. I think there’s more to be done on this theme so will get onto some large ones soon. These are 30 cm square.

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Perusing the fruits of a rummage through the vintage fabric pile before getting the shears out.

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The beginnings of shibori stitching on linen (heavyweight Belgian painter’s canvas actually). So nice to work with. Will be dyeing this with something other than indigo – but plant dyestuff though.

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More studio work in the pipeline…

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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.

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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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