I have just spent a wonderful week at Fibres West with the gorgeous tutor Canadian Artist Amanda McCavour in our class Experimental Surfaces: Machine Stitching and Unexpected Materials.I was drawn to attend Amanda’s class through her stunning installation works – and in hope that my previous failed attempts at machine embroidery using water soluble fabrics could be rectified.
I came to the class with a tonne of ideas, but put them aside to try samples of the techniques Amanda taught us. These first two days of technically successful samples became a solid foundation for my experiments and discoveries over the next three days.
We used Solvy, a water soluble “fabric”. Basically you stitch on the Solvy and as long as you have enough intersecting stitches, once you dissolve the Solvy the whole piece stays together, as a stitched line only. Sometimes easier said than done…
We sampled three types of Solvy, each useful for differing types of work. Firsty, sandwiching fibres, threads and small pieces of fabric.Using some scraps from my cut away workAs long as you capture these small pieces with stitch…it should all hold togetherAlternative materials such as security envelopes, poster card, acetate and paper held in place between two layers of sticky solvy.Stitchedand washed out And all stitchThis type of work can be light and airy or heavily stitched.I came to the workshop wanting to further explore cocoons and spent the remainder of the week working on this challenge. I wanted to make one complete cocoon, not having to join it in any way. This first attempt was too rounded at the top. So I started with the capsCreating a method for the peak and threadThen the baseTrialing the whole cocoon in one piece, adding some patternThen, consoling myself that the cocoon would need to be in two piecesTrialling a stainless steel/linen thread in the bobbin The cap
Work of others in the class – ClaireWendyJan The Group sample wall growing all weekThe classroom was a buzz with sewing machines (mostly Bernina) all week. Some, the price of a small car. Claire’s 1970s, vintage? model was much admired and worked beautifully all week. Such tough machines 🙂
My usual way of working, is to get a great idea, think about the project for a while, make a start, slowly work and refine, let it sit at various stages, think some more, have a serious period of doubt, rethink, rework and over time, usually a few months, the original great idea in my head becomes a finished work – often not as I had possibly imagined it.
La Mariposa’s Cocoon was a very different experience. A waiting game…
Although I could see the development of the Wearable Art Whispers Project and form some ideas, as the final artist I needed to respond to the work of each of the other artists and add to the overall piece. Until I received the box and had the opportunity to unwrap each artists contribution, see the details up close and set up the whole garment, I had no idea if my thoughts would be possible.
A very short time frame. Each artist in the Wearable Art Whispers project had a month to complete their section. Half way through my month, I had an absolute deadline for the launch, then made even shorter by garment fitting and reveal rehearsals.
A completely different starting point. La Mariposa’s cocoon is the first work I have ever made with performance in mind as the initial idea for the work. I had an image of La Mariposa emerging from a cocoon, surrounded by curious young children and them unwrapping her. M. C. Escher’s Bond of Union came to mind.
Untested materials. I used materials I had never worked with before, I had never made a piece so large.
The process and the practicalities. “How is she going to get out?” was the question my immediate family continued to ask as I planned and then made the cocoon. “I’m not really sure yet” was my usual answer.
I started the process of making La Mariposa by researching images of cocoons (technically Chrysalis) for shape, colour, texture and how butterflies emerge. At this point I could have become VERY sidetracked as they are beautiful, a huge variety of colours, shapes, designs…then I started looking at the amazing variety of caterpillars and…
I chose a simple style with a distinct cap and ridge. The ridge defined the widest point of the cocoon to allow for La Mariposa’s wing span. It also determined the overall height. I chose to use cane for the armature for its lightness, flexibility and natural curve. Thank you Liz Arnold for a wonderful supply of cane 🙂Layers of cane masking taped together. The cane itself created this lovely curve.
Happy with the ridge, I continued to make large circles to define the width of the cocoon and create the cap.Each circle was then strung together to get the shape and height correct and then secured with crochet chain.
Testing the height on my daughter’s very tall friend.Of course this had to be hung as I worked on it. You can see above, I used a pole suspended between two cupboard doors initially and then a broom handle between two clothes airers so I could work at a reasonable height on the cap section.Above is a family affair – my daughter testing there is enough space for the wings, my Dad to the right, he had just brought over a free standing hanging frame he made and Ruby the Dachshund supervising.
Happy with the shape, next was to what to cover with. From the red and black in the images I had seen of La Mariposa I planned to use a gorgeous piece of shot red/black/silver Ruth Tarvidas fabric I picked up at Para Quad op shop, however next to the garment it looked awful.
Back to google. I found images of microscopic details of cocoon patterns distinctive to particular species of butterflies. This started the inspiration for the use of recycled doilies.A quick Facebook request to our local Buy Nothing Group, a quick email to family and friends…crickets. A mad run around all the local op shops, and then slowly a few donations came in. I realised that people have either long ago cleaned out their linen cupboard, or they collect and cherish them. And I agree, I couldn’t donate those precious doilies made by my Nanna either. The lovely Rachel from our Buy Nothing group gave me over 50 from her collection and others gave generously too. Below are some of the beautiful designs donated.
Eventually I thought I had enough to cover the 2.8m height and 3m circumference. Initially I hand stitched individual pieces to the cocoon top…Then to speed things up for the main body of the cocoon, doilies were cut into strips and machine stitched back together. Before I attached this covering I needed to make a final decision about the opening. La Mariposa was to emerge herself, however very delicately to protect the wings and hand pieces. A few sleepless nights considering ideas:- unraveling – it needed to easily be reconnected to unravel again… the front dropping down – it would become dirty very fast… and finally parting – lose press studs with gaps in between gave the model enough room to wiggle her hand through and then be able to expand the opening with her wrists, arms and leg.Cutting the cane armature for the opening, so close to completion was one of the most difficult things to do. Luckily it pretty much held its shape.
Other things to consider A free standing hanging frame to allow the cocoon to be used in a variety of locations. My Dad made the hanging frame from an old base for a table on wheels, a tent pole and a piece of chrome rod. The over cautious counter weight was made from a 20kg bag of sand covered in black fabric.
At this stage it functioned as a static piece…However the vision for La Mariposa to successfully emerge by herself was the dream goal and Tash from DTX Studios took my vision and ran with it. She made La Mariposa come alive and performed such an elegant reveal.
Early last spring when nothing much was flowering, I watched the first blooms of the Everlasting Daisies on the median strips in our neighbourhood and on the daily commute taking my son to school. I watched the daisies follow the sun, close their petals against the rain, cloud cover and as the sun sets and open brightly again on sunny days. I documented them as they faded and went to seed. This coincided with my son’s final day of high school. Both with the promise and hope for new beginnings the following year.A year prior, on the last morning of Vicki Mason’s Fibres West class we learnt to make flower like brooches from computer wire. In July as we set up twentyONE+ there was a skip bin full of discarded computer equipment and cables near the gallery as the University was upgrading their technology systems.
Sunday afternoon and the others are going to the footy. I should continue working on the canvas I have a deadline to finish, I feel like having a nap, I chose to visit Artwalk Freo… Best decision.
Artwalk Freo is a 4 km walking tour of home studios of eight well known Fremantle Artists, held last weekend. I visited six of the venues. Eveline Kotai, Jo Darbyshire, Annette Seeman and John Teschendorff, Ian de Souza, Penny Bovell and Trevor Richards.It was a delight to explore the lovely calm, light filled spaces in which these artists produce their work, see work in progress and materials of trade. Each artists’ home was filled with their own unique and interesting collections of books, objects, artworks, their own and those of others.Images are of Trevor Richards’ 1960’s house with its stunning terrazzo floors throughout (I understand built by the owner of the factory that produced much of the terrazzo flooring in Fremantle homes), and the original kitchen!Coincidentally, Down Under Textile magazine arrived today and I am thrilled that my own home studio is featured. As many people have already commented, it is very tidy…on this occasion 🙂
WA Inspired Art Quilters is a group of eight ladies:- Hilary Arber, Roberta Chantler, Meg Cowey, Pat Forster, Elizabeth Humphreys, Stephanie Knudsen, Stella King and Denise Mallon who have joined together to exhibit their work with West Australian inspired themes. Their first exhibition is currently on at Mundaring Art Centre. It was a cold and wet Saturday afternoon when the Quilt and Textile Study Group visited the exhibition and were given an inspiring and informative talk by one of their members Liz Humphreys.
It is very evident that the group have a love and appreciation of the Western Australian landscape, have all travelled widely and many lived in rural settings.
The exhibition consists of two Series of works:- Series – One Sand/Strata/Scheme/Salt & Series Two – Primary Production.
The exhibition runs until 18th June 2017.
My Mother’s Day gift was a 1 day WAFTA workshop with the lovely Katrina Virgona. 3D Textiles (or what the heck to do with an armature?!) I have admired Katrina’s work for some time and her piece “Emmeline” from twentyONE+ has pride of place in my studio.
The workshop was a great reassurance that I was generally on the right track with the few armatures I have made and has given me confidence to explore a range of wires, sizes and techniques for future projects…now happily sitting in the background until needed.
We also discussed the pros and cons of Instagram…I now have an Instagram account louisewellsartist
Everlasting Love? asks “If we continue to throw away our once loved technology for the latest bright shiny new thing, will we have room to plant flowers? Or will the only flowers be made from landfill contents?”
The 1000+ flowers in this garment are made from over 500m of UTP computer cable. The enclosed eight strands of wire were untwisted, stretched, dyed, wrapped, spray painted and assembled.
These images of the gorgeous Amy on judging day are by photographer Elle Norgard and courtesy of the City of Mandurah.
I’ve just seen the images of all the other finalists and I know the showcase is going to be amazing.
Here is a short video of 2016 showcase:-
To purchase tickets for 2017 showcase click here
Dates and Times:
Saturday 10th June 6.30pm
Sunday 11th June 2.30pm
Mandurah Performing Arts Centre
No longer a whisper, La Mariposa was revealed yesterday in a beautiful performance by Tash from DTX Studios in Perth’s Forrest Chase Mall.Wearable Art Whispers was the brain child of Anzara Clarke, a project involving seven artists from around Australia, each contributing to the garment. Each artist responded to the project theme “La Mariposa” from Clarissa Pinkola Estes book “Women Who Run With The Wolves” and the work of the previous artists. The artists in order are Deb Hiller (WA), Sue Sacchero (WA), Tanya da Silva (NSW), Philomena Hali (NT), Larissa Murdock (QLD), Stephanie Powell (NSW) and Louise Wells (WA)Each artist chose the area of the work they wanted to create and wow, seeing each piece up close they are all works of art. Deb – started the garment with a lovely velvet corset, beautiful details up close, Sue – a stunning skirt with panniers to give La Mariposa the hips she proudly wears, Tanya – a beautiful macrame necklace, Philomena – A felted dreadlocks headpiece with embroidered words relating to La Mariposa, Larissa – Delicate hand pieces distributing pollen, Stephanie – Wings, that are exactly as described in the text, Louise – A 2.8m cocoon made from recycled crochet doilies.We each has a month to design and create our section, followed by freighting to the next artist. We have a private Facebook page for up dates, show and tell, and support. I am really looking forward to meeting some of these women in a couple of months at Fibres West.As the last artist I had the pleasure of seeing the whole garment to conclusion. I chose to make La Mariposa a cocoon (more correctly a chrysalis) to emerge from, to start her journey. This is the first piece of work I have made with performance in mind as the initial concept. I was delighted that Tash could see my vision and brought her to life so beautifully. Still have goosebumps!
My week started out with some great things happening, like my Wearable Art Mandurah 2017 garment getting through the pre-selection stage and now heading to the Judging Day in April and a small piece I have been working on becoming “resolved”…not finished, but ready to be assembled together.Great sadness followed as we made the necessary decision to say goodbye to our 16 year old Golden Retriever Austin. Difficult beyond belief. He passed away peacefully in his favourite spot in the garden surrounded by the family and with the help of a home visit vet.
We all shared our favourite stories of Austin over a glass of wine early that evening. Then at a complete loss of what to do what to do with myself, I returned to the rag rug that I started making in January when I was also at a loss. At that time finding it really hard for a number of reasons to get started doing any new artwork. A practical rug made from old t-shirts for our family room floor, simple, repetitive, few decisions needing to be made and holding no arty angst. The making routine got me started again. I’ll be sharing the making of this rug soon if you want to make your own.