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.
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
Aha and AHHHH…These are the words you want to hear from participants in your workshop. That lovely moment when something clicks or they can see a connection to what you are presenting and the type of work they already do…a new way of working, a slight twist, an “of course”… I’ve had all these moments myself at workshops and artist talks. Some of them are defining moments in my work. Often a small, seemingly insignificant part of the whole, has made the difference.
I had the great pleasure of running two half day workshops for WAFTA late last week. Simple Steps to Surface Design was part of a series of Textile Techniques Toolbox workshops to coincide with the launch of “Altered States” WAFTA’s member challenge exhibition. The challenge is to create a small work of art from the surprise contents of a bag of materials. These workshops are designed to inspire and expand possibilities.In my half day workshops we covered screen printing in various forms, gelli printing, stamping, spray stencils, fugitive medium, Dylon and RIT dyeing. A lot to cover in a few hours, just a taster to explore further if it was of interest. The participants made lots of A4 size samples – reference material for future work.I loved seeing my stencils and stamps used in ways I would never have thought of…how each participant explored new possibilities. I loved their delight when something surprised them and they were excited to explore further.
Christmas is just around the corner and this week I am in full swing preparing lists, shopping, cleaning and cooking. I’ve had the blinkers on Christmas up until now. Over the weekend, I (95%) finished my Wearable Art Mandurah (WAM) garment and cleaned up the studio. I have been working on this garment solidly for the past three months. Although not due until mid February I gave myself a Christmas deadline. I find it is really necessary to allow my work to “sit” for a while…time to consider how to finish, does it work? will it hold together 🙂 I know I can’t work well up against a last minute deadline. The nature of my work doesn’t allow for this and the stress caused is not worth it.
This Brain Pickings article arrived in my Facebook feed today and beautifully sums up why.
Acts That Amplify: Ann Hamilton on Art, the Creative Value of Unproductive Time, and the Power of Not Knowing
From Anne Hamilton’s essay “Making not Knowing”
One doesn’t arrive — in words or in art — by necessarily knowing where one is going. In every work of art something appears that does not previously exist, and so, by default, you work from what you know to what you don’t know. You may set out for New York but you may find yourself as I did in Ohio.
I find this happens in my work, a seemingly brilliant idea in my head, in reality, goes completely astray…the completed work becoming quite different to my initial imagining.
But not knowing, waiting and finding — though they may happen accidentally, aren’t accidents. They involve work and research. Not knowing isn’t ignorance. (Fear springs from ignorance.) Not knowing is a permissive and rigorous willingness to trust, leaving knowing in suspension, trusting in possibility without result, regarding as possible all manner of response. The responsibility of the artist … is the practice of recognizing.
This is the challenging part – the trusting in possibility…time allows for this, it can’t be rushed for a deadline. It appears when ready…ideas and connections come when I’m in the shower, driving the car…
So, this week I prepare for Christmas, next week watch the cricket, read books, see friends, relax…
Last week when I dropped my son Callum to work at Para Quad waiting to speak to his Supervisor, I had a chat with the chap who sorts the buttons…Every garment that is unsuitable for sale has its buttons removed and the fabric is cut up for industrial rags in another section at Para Quad. The buttons are sorted into colours and jars for sale through the shop and the Scroungers Sale (next one is 27th November – get there early!) There is a huge plastic storage box under this table full of buttons to be sorted.I started making button necklaces about five years when I acquired my Mother-in-Law’s button collection, working with the colours and combinations available until I ran out of buttons…I purchased a jar of white buttons from Para Quad last year.Stepping forward to a few weeks ago and my Wearable Art Mandurah garment for 2017 needed yellow buttons, lots of yellow buttons…I had recently discovered through a Google search that RIT DyeMore Synthetic dye gives good permanent colour to plastics. I was delighted to see my white buttons become bright yellow after only a few minutes in the dye bath.
The commission was for blues, creams with a winter beach feel. It’s certainly not in my usual bright bold colour range, although all the fabrics are from my collection and most have been used in other combinations. Many of the deeper blues I have hand dyed. There are glimpses of bright colour here and there and metallic prints add to the richness. The process of make these works starts with A4 sized pieces of fabric that I have stamp printed, for this work using metallic fabric printing inks. I then layered fabrics underneath and stitched all the layers together. With very fine, sharp scissors I cut away sections to reveal the under layer. With this work I took a hit and miss approach with the cut away sections to keep some of the printed areas adding more texture and colour. You never quite know what you are going to get at this point. The fabric underneath can really alter the look of the piece.
Once all the A4 pieces were complete, I invited my friend to choose the pieces she wanted to include. (I have a collection of sea greens, copper, deep blues, tucked away in a box ready for another canvas). All of pieces were then cut into 1 1/2 inch squares.At this point I arrange the squares onto the canvas, photograph and arrange again. This process is repeated until I am happy with the design. Taking photographs of each arrangement frees me to mess it up without the fear of losing the previous layout.The photographs are great to be able to refer back to and viewing from a camera or iPad image you see the scale of a completed work, whether the proportions are correct, how it works as a whole piece. It’s easy to get lost in section or details of the work…not seeing the whole piece.When I am happy with the layout, each square pinned to the canvas, I let it hang on my design wall for at least a week…I work on other things, ignore it. There may be some tweaking…the odd square not quite right…I look at in daylight, night time, move it around the house for different light.The next step is to edge every square. Usually I match the machine thread to the top fabric colour. Lastly the squares are individually stitched onto the canvas.
I now have time to ask this question of myself…after eighteen months on WAFTA’s twentyONE+ committee (the exhibition closes today) and the back to back making of works over this time for various exhibitions has stopped. I’m partly at a loss, whilst also imagining ALL the things I could be doing and ALL the directions I could be going.
What I do know is that the balance needs to shift…not to a past version, but a workable reset. Don’t get me wrong I have really valued the experiences and opportunities working on the committee…I eagerly put my hand up as I knew the professional development, the connections and working with wonderful women would far out weigh the time spent. (I really think people underestimate the tremendous value in volunteering). Working back to back on projects “Chain Smoking” as Austin Kleon calls it, is invaluable for developing ideas, preventing procrastination and building a body of work. Am I tired? No, just the life balance is out of whack.
I made this work for InTension in 2011 it is a record of 100 days of my life in 2010, each rectangle represents one day and the activities I did that day. Initially to discover how much time I spent in the studio (the pink bits) also the work, washing, running kids around…well you can imagine the numerous and variety of activities women with children at home attend to. A version of this is still my life, so keeping a balance is very important.
In the last few weeks I’ve taken time to consider and research a new body of work (even made a very small piece – 10 x 10 cm). This currently has no purpose, other than a response to ideas on this busy and full life. There is PLENTY to work on here 🙂
Keeping this new balance will become difficult as the calls for entries start to arrive…
The Common Threads Wearable Art Showcase was held at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, last Saturday night to a full house. This show gets better and better each year.
The Mandurah Mail has lots of great photos of all the garments in the show.
The garments will be exhibited at Contemporary Art Spaces Mandurah (CASM) from June 3 to July 3.
Fire Flies was made in response to the competition theme of “Illumination”
The original idea for this work came about through a couple of connections. Firstly a female friend who worked on a mine site for many years, said “There is no flattering Hi-Vis clothing” at the same time I started seeing people wearing Hi-Vis clothing EVERYWHERE. Not just in the work force for safety reasons, but down the shops, walking the dog, I even saw a guy asking survey questions on a sidewalk wearing a Hi-Vis vest. I began to question the “visibility” people have in this saturation of Hi-Vis. How do you stand out from this crowd?
Ironically, many roadside construction workers I see are wearing faded, worn out and dusty versions of the clothing designed to protect them…
I also considered if people always wear their Hi-Vis clothing, what could I make that they could pack in their suitcase and take to the mine site for a disco night?
Concertina and folding came to mind…
I started with recycled plastic strips from ReMida. Stapling them together, playing with shape and design ideas. I went down the path of investigating spray paints in fluro colours and primers to adhere paint to plastic, although when scaled up, the plastic option became too heavy and I am sure would have been very uncomfortable to wear.
Accepting that I would no longer be in the Upcycled category gave me the freedom to choose the most suitable materials for the project design. I bought fluro t-shirting by the meter, stiffened it with interfacing, then cut it into strips ready to stitch together.
The title Fire Flies comes from this Wikipedia reference –
…Experimental use of high-visibility clothing began in 1964 on the Scottish Region of British Railways. Fluorescent orange jackets, known as “fire-flies”, were issued to track workers on the Pollokshields to Eglinton Street electrified section in Glasgow...
A recent WAFTA meeting honoured four octogenarian textile artist members – Peggy Buckingham, Judith Pinnell, Joy Knight and Margaret Regan. Peggy, Judith and Joy are all Life Members of WAFTA. Their contributions to textiles in Perth in the 70s, 80s and 90s through teaching, discovering and sharing new techniques have been of great benefit to us all. This is in the days before we could simply look up a technique on google, or be part of a like minded textile group on facebook. They were instrumental in starting textile groups such as WAFTA, 84 Group, FibresWest which are all still going strong today. All four of these ladies have a great passion for what they do and are still making work!
I truly hope I can still be making art in my 80s!
Towards my “Still Making Art” goal, I am currently – along with the rest of the committee, doing a lot of admin work for twentyONE+. The exhibition opening in six weeks! It is starting to all come together and getting exciting.
WAFTA’s Memory and Commemoration exhibition has just finished in Busselton.
My work “Last Post” is the sheer organza piece, far left, Julia Sutton, front Diane Binns.
The latest projects are for OzQuilt Network Australia Wide Five – due too soon and “Brooching the Subject” I have been sun dyeing some silk organza for each project
Neither has turned out like my samples, but they are growing on me. (Dreadful photos thanks to very old camera – have since bought a new one!)
The 40 x 40cm size for Australia Wide Five should be easy, although following the path of discovery “how would that work…” I am currently playing with four variations, none of which is developed enough as yet…
And slightly distracted – I made Ruby the sausage a sleeping bag
I first met Judith when attending one of her Silk Paper making classes in about 2003.
On this, my second, visit to her home and studio she firstly introduced us to the visitor in her swimming pool – Esmeralda, a very large pink blow-up flamingo! Judith’s studios are in her home, conveniently located next to her living area. Judith is a life Member of the 84 Group and Western Australian Fibre and Textile Association (WAFTA). Judith describes herself as a very late starter, as you’ll see…
Judith moved into her current house when she moved to Australia with her husband and three daughters in 1983. She is lucky enough to have two studios, both with lovely natural light. Her Sewing Room was originally a games room, then became the music room for the girls, and slowly her work and sewing machine and computer have moved in. She is surrounded by her artwork and books.
Judith’s laundry was extended to become the Wet Studio. It was designed to allow her to run all her private teaching classes here, with easy access and plenty of tables to work at for a number of students. A second sink was made deep enough for silk paper frames. There are lots of storage cupboards, shelves and large shallow drawers to hold flat design work.
Judith makes large works in the garage on trestle tables (moving the car out for a time). Sometimes she works in the living area hand stitching or designing. She dyes all her own threads and feathers, often on the kitchen stove! She says “I’ve taken over the house!”
Judith does most of her designing in the Wet Studio. She will design the work, draw it out, sometimes painting it in colour. She used to work a lot at night, as time spent during the day with her retired husband was important, along with various committees she was a member of. Now, she finds it easier to work during the day. She works without music or the TV; she likes it quiet so she can concentrate.
Judith designs and plans projects ahead, often thinking about half a dozen steps in advance “as it is very difficult to unpick machine embroidery”. She makes her silk paper then prints on it with foam stamps she has designed and hand cut, or Indian wooden stamps (which she has a large collection of), then she machine and hand stitches the work, sometimes adding more printing later. When she is at the sewing machine she will set a timer for 30 minutes and then take a break to walk around for 5 minutes. She spends most of her time machine stitching and can be in there for “days and days and days”.
“I love putting the colours together for a new project” Judith said. She can spend 2-3 days gathering threads, collecting fabrics, maybe up to 30, putting in, taking away, deleting and deleting until she’s left with a very small number. “That’s how it works for me”
She tries to be fairly organised, although she likes setting herself a challenge, “What if…”
“When you get accustomed to designing you always see things you could do or use. You keep thinking about things, even when you can’t work.”
Judith was born in Australia. After becoming a shorthand typist she wanted to travel to the UK. At 22 her parents gave their consent for her to go as long as she agreed to their conditions: “You have to live somewhere respectable, have your return fare home, and you are not allowed to hitchhike or go behind the iron curtain.” Along with a girl she met in Singapore she traveled 3rd class around Europe to 9 counties in 6 weeks: “Great adventures on a very tight budget”.
Judith worked at IBM in London where she met her husband-to-be, Martin. They married soon after, in 1957. She planned to stay for 6 months, but ended up living there for 29 years and raising her family in the UK.
Martin’s work as a Computer Architect meant he travelled a lot. Judith was at home with their 3 daughters. They lived in Winchester, near Southampton.
Judith always loved sewing, and once her children were at school she started making kids stuffed toys for the World Wild Life Fund stalls. In 1978 when her girls were teenagers studying for their O and A Levels, Judith started her City and Guilds Diploma at Southampton School of Art. It was a 4 year course in Design and Embroidery with 1 day a week of classes and with a full time load of study and homework: 15 students started, 5 finished the course. The course was mostly traditional hand embroidery along with classes in History of Embroidery, 9th – 20th Century. “That’s where I developed a love of Medieval history” she said. “One week we were studying the Bayeux Tapestry, (and) my husband said “Would you like to go and see it?” “Yes please!” So they all popped over to France for a long weekend. “It made it all come alive, it made so much more sense” Judith said. They continued to visit stately homes all around Winchester to see the works Judith was studying.
During her course, Judith had only two days of machine embroidery classes so she taught herself from Valerie Campbell-Harding‘s books. She liked the quick results compared to hand stitching. Judith was a great fan of Valerie’s work and has all of her 22 published books on machine embroidery.
Judith said returning to Australia after 29 years was a shock. She felt lost, as everything had changed.”I thought I was coming home, (but) it didn’t become home for a very long time”. As she discovered, “Nothing is ever the same.”
Judith arrived in Perth at the beginning of a lot of change and development in the textile scene. At the Embroiderers Guild she met Susan Wilding and with others they began the 84 Group. They initially met in each others homes. Judith became a tutor for the group, teaching machine embroidery. Judith also started teaching private classes in her home.
Through the Craft Council, Judith met Peggy Buckingham and became involved in FibresWest and worked on the committee for the first 5 retreats, starting in 1992. Through this, Judith finally met her “guru” Valerie Campbell-Harding in Perth in 1995 when she hosted her as a tutor for FibresWest.
In 1995, Judith became the first secretary when the new textile group WAFTA was formed.
In 1992 Nancy Ballesteros of Treetops Colour Harmonies introduced Judith to silk paper. Nancy had seen silk paper in USA and had started to experiment with bonding mediums. Judith started trialling, making samples and testing the paper making techniques, using it for machine embroidery and other textile techniques. Judith and Nancy started running classes together in 1995.
Judith taught silk paper making and machine embroidery classes from her home studio and eventually throughout Australian and overseas.
At the 1995 FibresWest retreat when Valerie Campbell Harding was a tutor, Judith introduced Valerie to silk paper making. Both Valerie and Peggy Buckingham suggested Judith write a book about it.”Because you know so much”.
Judith feels she knows so much about silk paper making because, “First of all you have to be passionate about it, and keep working and working until you have cracked it… The more you do, the easier it becomes…you can’t teach people to see things…You have to do something for 6 months to really discover…”
She said her thirst for knowledge was inspired by her husband, who always supported what she did, and she was always learning from him.
Valerie very kindly sent Judith instructions on how to lay out the book to present to a publisher, including images, chapters, 2-3 lines on each chapter and projects. She very fortunately got a contract in a week! The book “Take Silk” was published in 2001. A following book, “Silk ‘Paper’ Creations for the Fibre Artist” was published in 2004.
The books led to teaching and exhibition opportunities throughout Australia and overseas. “You learn a tremendous amount by making a book”, says Judith, although “you don’t earn a lot from writing books… As I say, “I cancelled the Rolls Royce and the around the world trip!”
Judith has gone on to have two solo exhibitions, one in Perth and one in New Zealand, along with group exhibitions in Australia, USA, New Zealand and UK. On making work for exhibitions she says, ” I could probably paper the walls with all the refusals for exhibitions… that’s the way you learn, by being prepared to enter.” She said it is so important to stick to the criteria.
It is evident in Judith’s work that she has a love of colour. After a life in England, on her first visit to India she says she discovered colour and it changed her life: “I didn’t realise I loved colour so much!” she said. She works in the bright colours of the silks or monochrome shades of a colour.
Judith’s work is inspired by her many holidays: The family had 17 holidays in Europe, and Judith and Martin also had 7 trips to India, mostly Darjeeling. Broome also features. She has dozens of notebooks, often from her holidays.
Judith loves the 1930 costumes specifically the work of Erte’; his flowing lines, tassels and pockets, along with beading, feathers and tassels and metallic threads that can be seen in a lot in her work. Judith has made book covers, boxes, bags, hats, clothing, and silk paper hangings. She loves working in 3D.