Artists, Exhibitions, workshops

A workshop with the floral sculpture queen – Tracey Deep

I spent a sublime morning playing around with native flora at Tracey Deep’s floral sculpture workshop at Penrith Regional Gallery recently. Mixing flowers, sticks, bark, foliage, burnt banksias and other fire-branded natural flora we created enormous delicious compositions before having a guided tour of her exhibition Desert Song.

I was keen to do the workshop because of my interest in natural dyeing. The geometry of the compositions and the diverse specimens were a delight, and it was a real treat to be surrounded by so much native bush while we worked. You can see for yourself how abundant it was! The fragrances were so subtle and lovely.

Desert Song runs until 22 November. I highly recommend you catch it before it closes. A beautiful collection of sculptures with natural and found bits and pieces.

Penrith Regional Gallery


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Here are a few of Tracey’s sculptures. The exhibition shows work from the past ten years of her practice. Beautiful, don’t you think?

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Artists, Exhibitions

Jane Theau: Sunbaking in Oslo

I had the pleasure of meeting the very talented Jane Theau at her exhibition at Incinerator Art Space  last week. A staggering amount of beautiful stitching (that must have taken an even more staggering amount of time to execute) as well as a decent quantity of wit thrown in. Well worth a visit if you’re in the Willoughby vicinity.

Sunbaking in Oslo – Incinerator Art Space, 2 Small St Willoughby, NSW – until November 8.

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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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Exhibitions, Residencies

Process to Placemarking: a peek at the evolution of my current exhibition

I’ve just completed a residency with Willoughby Historical Society at the invitation of Willoughby Council as part of their Visual Arts Biennial (a new initiative incorporated within their Emerge spring festival). The biennial’s theme is Imagining Place, and I was asked to look at their collection with a particular emphasis on their lace and embroidery. After several month’s work the exhibition Placemarking is now in full swing (so please drop by before Sunday 27th September and have a look if you’re in the area – details are at the end of this post).

I’d like to show you some of my process and describe how I approached the residency as I’m always interested in the working methods of other artists, and I thought you might be too.

The museum is tiny, in a 1912-built cottage, and I was allocated one room to exhibit in. My practice often focuses on personal attachment to objects and clothing, and the influences of time on them, so this criteria seemed a good match for my work.

Most of the garments are beautiful of course, but some are stained and torn (my personal favourites as I love the mending and the fact that the clothes were important or otherwise valued by their wearers). I felt incredibly privileged to be allowed to handle these precious things. I photographed some of the collection in close-up, focusing on beautiful details while allowing other parts of the image to fade away. Some garments were photographed underwater and some piled up with sunlight filtering through. These images were then cropped to square format with additional focusing on particular details.

Vintage lace and embroidered blouses, bodices and children's dresses drying after being photographed under water

Vintage lace and embroidered blouses, bodices and children’s dresses drying

I photographed documents and early 20th century local subdivision maps, further exploring links to place, with the intention of making ‘wordlace’ by manipulating the images. Wanting to activate the space more I had silk georgette digitally printed with these images to make a vintage gown that would be lit from underneath, illuminating the overlapping images in a lace-like way. But first I had to make up a toile of the dress (after getting my hands on a gorgeous reproduction 1930s gown pattern form the UK) as georgette is notoriously slippery and difficult to handle. I’m so glad I did……

The toile for the vintage dress

The toile for the vintage dress

Checking the drape of the finished fabric

Checking the drape of the finished fabric

Cutting the georgette was extremely tricky and slow as matching the print at the seams wherever possible was important. The assembly took about eight times as long as the toile because of the pattern matching and slipperiness of the fabric. But once on the stand I was really pleased with it – all flowy and light and transparent.

Cutting the digitally printed silk georgette

Cutting the digitally printed silk georgette

The almost completed 1930s evening dress

The almost completed 1930s evening dress

Installation in the museum went smoothly although the lighting was pretty tricky as the museum’s lights were unsuitable, and permanent attachment of equipment wasn’t allowed, so numerous other alternatives had to be tried out before settling on a satisfactory source.

Installing the photographs

Installing the photographs

Installing the dress

Installing the dress

One of the old mangles was moved to the museum’s front verandah and set up with sheets overflowing into the trees in its front yard: a bit of fun to attract attention to the museum and the biennial generally (although the configuration of sheets has since changed, draping down the large tree at the front rather than over the pathway).

The old mangle on the front verandah

The old mangle on the front verandah

The front of the museum

The museum entry

Professional photographs of the installation and a selection of final photographic images will be coming soon, as will photos of my workshops associated with the exhibition. I’d love to know what you think. Are you a bit textile-intoxicated like me?

Placemarking invitation

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Books

A bit of insight never goes astray

Creativity books

Sometimes I find I’m drawn to analysing why I do (or don’t do) things. Over the past few months I’ve been reading, amongst other books, some real crackers on the processes of creativity. I thought I’d share them with you, as they’re bound to resonate with you other creative folk out there.

If you haven’t already read it, Austin Kleon‘s most recent book Show Your Work is a deceptively simple, practical encouragement guide to getting out of your shell. He has a nice, friendly, in-your-face way of getting the message across.

(Workman Publishing Company, New York, 2014)

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Art & Fear: observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking really probes into what’s behind your work, identifying your fears, artist’s block, and the processes of making art and generally leading a creative life. David Bayles and Ted Orland have put together a study in the psychology of being an artist that is reassuring, insightful, and at times a little confronting. My copy is the 14th printing, so what more can I say?

(Image Continuum Press Edition, Santa Cruz CA & Eugene OR, 14th printing 2014)

Right now I’m reading Twyla Tharp‘s The Creative Habit: learn it and use it for life. It has lots of insights into her creative process and career hiccups, exercises to challenge your creative thinking, and some sound advice thrown in too. Not to mention the roles of generosity and valuing yourself and others. So far I’m only a quarter of the way through but it’s obvious already it’s a winner.

(Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York, 2006)

They’re well worth hunting down if you’re not familiar with these titles. I’d love to hear your opinions if you’ve read any of them. Have they raised questions for you about your work or the way you practice? Have you found them of value?

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Residencies

Gunyah artist residency

I’ve just returned from a wonderful short residency at Gunyah (Port Stephens, NSW) – a peaceful, serene environment for working, thinking, and re-evaluating.

Sunset from the balcony

Sunset from the balcony

A wonderful, if too short, residency that was a real delight. Pluto the dog was very impressed too, what with all those intriguing bush smells to check out. The family came to visit for the weekend and we took off to the sand dunes (which had moved so much closer to the road than we remembered – no doubt due to the recent storms), had morning tea at Tillerman’s in Tea Gardens, and lazed around the Gunyah living room, enjoying the fireside, world map jigsaw puzzle, art magazines and the views. We had a great time checking out the jetty (Pluto does love a swim), discovering charming little beaches, and walking around exploring – and baking bread.

Wet day activities

Wet day activities

I used the time to play around with the local flora (luckily readily available because of those storms) and making dyes for the silk lengths I brought with me. Pluto and I went on daily walks collecting interesting bits and pieces to include in the process.

Pluto eyeing off our collection

Pluto eyeing off our collection

We washed the cloth down by the jetty before and after the dyeing – a serene and meditative process at Gunyah (it is so quiet). The lovely golden colour of the water no doubt contributed to the final results. Photographing the fabrics in the water was fascinating for me – I couldn’t get enough of it. The colour of the water, the rocks beneath, the swirling cloth, beautiful light….

Clockwise from top left: washing the silk by the jetty; bundled with petals & foliage; finished cloth; dyepot with bark, flower petals & orange fungi

Clockwise from top left: washing the silk by the jetty; bundled with petals & foliage; finished cloth; dyepot with bark, flower petals & orange fungi

Washing dyed silk

Washing dyed silk

I also used up some of the waste threads and string to make experimental ‘lace’ samples.

Hand stitched 'lace' experiments using waste string and frayed silk threads from the dye bundles

Hand stitched ‘lace’ experiments using waste string and frayed silk threads from the dye bundles

Evaluating some work

Evaluating some work

A big thank you to Kath Fries and the Gunyah team! What a peaceful and laid back thinking/working environment! And the house is sooooo charming…

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Competition selection

A little exhibition

My work, News, is a finalist in this year’s City of Ryde’s Women’s Art Prize! The opening is tomorrow evening at See Street Gallery in Meadowbank. If you can make it, please drop in to have a look and say hi.

News, 2014, archival pigment print on cotton rag, silk & mohair yarn, hand stitching

News, 2014, archival pigment print on cotton rag, silk & mohair yarn, hand stitching

ryde

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