Art classes

Stitching Memories workshops in February

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Please join me for one of the free Stitching Memories workshops being offered by Lane Cove Library in February. Develop new art making skills while we explore memory and image making using a selection of historical photographs from the Library’s collection. Using text, hand stitching and cloth we’ll create new images from old, superimposing our contemporary lives onto photographic images of place and time from another era.

There are a few spots left so reserve your place by phoning 61 2 9911 3634. The details are:

Saturday 11 & 18 February

1:00pm – 3:30pm

at Lane Cove Library,

Library Walk, Longueville Rd, Lane Cove, Sydney.

I hope you can come and enjoy a fun afternoon with us while sharing your own ideas and skills. You’ll be in good company!

stitch contemporary art photography

 

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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).

Mokume stitch close up 3

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.

Mokume pulled dry

Mokume pulled wet 1

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….

Blue hand

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.

Vat prep_day 1

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.

Finished work 2

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, Inspiration

More fabric obsessions: Collette Dinnigan’s exceptional detailing

Collette Dinnigan’s Unlaced exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum/Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney is an inspiring masterpiece. So well put together and so much exquisite detail to pore over – I’m compelled to go for a second time this weekend.

Here’s a little taster.

Go. Enjoy. A droolworthy experience all round.

Unlaced

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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

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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