The Time of My Life – in review

Canadian independent creative magazine Uppercase asked for submissions recently on the theme Diagram Your Life. If you drew a Venn diagram of your life, how would your life and creativity intersect? What would a data-driven self-portrait look like? 
I am delighted my work “The Time of My Life” was selected for inclusion in issue 35. The work was originally made for the WAFTA InTension exhibition in 2011. In late 2010, I documented my time spent on the activities of the day for 100 days, each with a colour representing a separate activity. At the time of making the work I felt very frustrated about my lack of time in the studio. All the pink areas are studio time. Reviewing this seven years later, with my darling children all now beyond their teen and schooling years and mostly independent (although all still at home) my art practice has significantly changed and developed, and I do have more time available. The mad rush to get everyone out the door early in the morning is much less of a challenge and no longer am I running kids to appointments or after school activities and cooking dinner in spurts between the drop offs and pick ups.
In other ways there are still lots of demands on my time, however my priorities have also moved much more towards making art and art related activities. Sometimes often the housework is at a minimum, my garden is designed to thrive on neglect and I don’t go shopping without a specific purchase in mind.
In hindsight I can see the time spent away from the studio not so much as a frustration, as it can be just as valuable to my art practice as the hands on activities at my desk. That time helps me process ideas, find a solution to design challenge, see new possibilities, and relieve my sometimes aching back and shoulders!

The Studio Reality

I’m working on a place mat sized space of table in my studio at present, surrounded by clutter on every available work surface. The tidy, spacious studio images in Down Under Textile Magazine a few months ago is long gone (some would say they’d never seen it so tidy)
I’ve started sampling for my next project and as I slowly resolve the idea in my head, I am considering all possibilities and have pulled out every thread, fabric, and What If?
 This is a mess that may or may not become part of this work. I suppose what I am saying, is it’s the mess of inspiration, not of lack of storage space nor enthusiasm to tidy up 🙂
 I will be forced to “tidy” as the project progresses, when I need more table space to work and as I narrow down the possibilities of what might go into this project.
 Supporting my mess/clutter = inspiration, Austin Kleon in his newsletter last week talks about The art of finding what you didn’t know you were looking for. By not having everything in your studio filed and organised beautifully allows for the chance discovery as you search for what you thought you were looking for. 

WAFTA @Wearable Art Mandurah 2018

Would you like to enter Wearable Art Mandurah in 2018? I have loved being a part of this competition over the past four years. I’ve made lots of great friendships in this wonderful community of designers, and there are many many opportunities to have your work shown. Along with making my own garment for the 2018 competition, I am running a five month long – one day per month program WAFTA @ Wearable Art 2018 starting 30th September. This program is designed to help you step-by-step through the processes and challenges to create and enter your work in the upcoming 2018 competition. I’m going to share my successes and my disasters! We will cover:

  • Concept development
  • Material choices
  • Tips and techniques
  • Judging criteria
  • Mentoring and instruction
  • Pre-selection photography
  • Artist statements

Suitable for Beginners, Tertiary Students, Groups (1 or 2 people) and Individuals.

It’s going to be loads of fun!  I hope you can join us, places are filling fast!

Click here for further details

WAM Head Wear Workshop

Head Wear, like footwear in wearable art can cause a lot of angst.
The footwear challenge is due to the shoe size guessing game of your model. Head Wear has a few more challenges; for the artist and the model. As artists/designers we want a head piece to complement our garment and create that wow factor. We also don’t want it to fall off mid-showcase! Models and dancers require something secure, comfortable and lightweight.
Lou Grimshaw, Props Assistant at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts presented a wonderful workshop on Sunday to address these issues. Sharing her wealth of experience, we learnt techniques to make balanced, lightweight wire frames to build our designs upon. Below is one of Lou’s pieces.
 Using a jig we learnt to shape wire and solder the joins to make the basic headpiece.
We then looked at the endless variations and alternative materials, always considering the wearability of the piece. Lou shared many tips, suggestions and products to try for our head wear. The very experienced group of participants were also happy to share their knowledge. There were lots of aha moments and “ooh, I want to try that!”
Above – the wire frame of one of Lou’s pieces.
Many thanks to Barb Thoms from Wearable Art Mandurah for organising this fantastic workshop. I’m really looking forward to seeing some amazing head wear next year!

 

The routine has gone astray…

Nearly two weeks ago my son had an unexpected hernia operation. He has been recovering well, happy to camp out in the family room all day with his doona and pillows and watch DVDs. Occasionally asking for food or a new DVD. I have been home with him most of the time so you would think this is an excellent opportunity to make lots of art work…No, a rather strange impulse to spring clean, and feeling quite frustrated about what to do next. I have no pressing deadline to work towards right now. I have lots of ideas, but no clear direction.
So I decided to just start. Something familiar, printing dots and stripes, on dupion silk. There were several routine processes once I started; ironing, layering, stitching.
 Then cutting back the layers. And as I do, time to think about how can I change this up a bit? What can I do differently? What could this become?The familiar rhythm of working has soothed the frustration and my lack of daily routine.

Amanda McCavour – Fibres West 2017

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

which caused the tension to go astray – a lovely mistakeand the final piece adding some security envelope paper scraps (in my test sample the colour bled onto the thread)


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 🙂

 

Making La Mariposa’s Cocoon

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.

The Making of Everlasting Love?

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.

The idea for Everlasting Love? came from these connections –
Our everlasting love with bright shiny new technology, often quickly discarded is resulting in landfill. Will future generations be planting everlasting daisies made from plastic coated copper wire from computer cables as our environment carries this burden of waste?
My vision was a wearable carpet of everlasting flowers.
Each of the 1000+ flowers in this work have been created using UTP computer cabling.
The blue plastic covering was stripped away, the paired wires were untwisted using a cordless drill, then stretched and dyed pink.The flower shapes were then spray painted in three shades of pinkOver 500m of cabling was used. I tried several materials to create the desired “skirt/train” shape and background for the flowers, eventually settling on chicken wire for the lightness and transparency.The “skirt/train” is clipped to adjustable shoulder straps and connected to large metal rings across the waist. The challenge was to make this comfortable for the model as well as quick and easy to remove. The corset has a side zip as well as adjustable lacing. Through experience in wardrobe I know you need the quick change option of a zip. Recycled buttons from Para Quad were hand dyed yellow for the flower centres and pink for the flower buds.
There were lots of trials for the flower buds.The final version being on an armature from wire, felt and sari silk to cover the shoulder straps.
 The completed carpet of flowers.

Armatures Workshop with Katrina Virgona

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.3D workshop 113D workshop 123D workshop 13

3D workshop 143D workshop 16The great group of fellow workshoppers inspired each other throughout the day. It’s always delightful to see the what others create from exactly the same instructions and materials.3D Workshop3D workshop 93D workshop 10

We also discussed the pros and cons of Instagram…I now have an Instagram account louisewellsartist

 

Simple Steps to Surface Design

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.Print wsahop 4In 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.Print wshop2Print wshopPrint wshop 12Print wshop 10Print wshop 7I 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.Print wshop 3Plastic dyed 4Print wshop 5

Print wshop 9Dyed PlasticPlastic Dye 3 Dyeing DylonI am really looking forward to seeing all that comes from this.