2017 Review

I set a self imposed Studio ban from the week before Christmas until last  week. I prepared for Christmas in one week without too much stress and then planned to relax for the Boxing Day Cricket Test. A day of so in, after much napping, I was bored…so, I’ve read a few books, sewn some clothes and cleaned out lots of cupboards. (The lady at the op shop sighed when I said “I have a car full of donations”… obviously not an original idea at this time of year!)

At the beginning of a new year, like many of us, I ponder what might have been and make big plans and goals for the new year ahead. I’ve followed Alyson Standfield’s Annual Review Process for the past few years as I find it has really helpful prompts to make me consider all aspects of my art practice. This year I decided to follow Austin Kleon’s 100 things that made my year style of listing all the funny, incidental and delightful stuff, the odd discoveries and the simple pleasures we sometimes take for granted and forget. Combining the two reviews I have created a more balanced and joyful look at my year.

Here are a couple of my 100 things from the end of the year:-

Our dog being the most excited member of the family at Christmas

and my Mum’s yummy Christmas pudding.

My studio supervisor was very keen to get started for the year and I have big plans for 2018. So we have started… One working.One napping. A fairly good indication of how the year will pan out.

It’s Nearly Christmas Time

I made a self imposed deadline of Christmas to finish my wearable art piece for Wearable Art Mandurah (WAM). The garment is not completely finished however it is 95% there and could pass for the photo shoot and entry due in February.  I now have the freedom to relax and enjoy Christmas and (my favourite day) watch the Boxing Day Test and doing NOTHING! This week I will start Christmas preparations. By pushing ahead on my garment, I haven’t done any shopping, nor preparations for Christmas. This week, several trips to the shops and some homemade presents and cooking should bring us to Christmas, which should be a joy rather than a massive stress (which it has been in previous years long ago).There is nothing like a deadline to help you find the time, push through the hard bits, make decisions and go for it. Especially when a new and exciting project is just out of your reach. This garment has felt like a hard slog for a lot of the making time, and I’ve celebrated the achievement of this deadline.Time now to sit back, relax and allow this piece to settle and be tweaked as needed…in January!
Back to Christmas – I love seeing the stunning Western Australian Christmas Tree, Nuytsia floribunda the largest mistletoe in the world! These photos were taken yesterday on an unusually wet and dull December day, in our nearby bushland. If you would like to know more, there’s a rather cutting description of it in Australian Geographic, and more sympathetic description in Australian Native Nursery .
I wish you joy and happiness for this festive season and great things for the New Year.  I have big goals for 2018 and resolutions that can’t be broken. Details soon.

Delightful Distractions

As I slog through the “middle part” (= many, many, many hours at the sewing machine) of my current work with my self imposed deadline fast approaching, procrastination and distractions are extremely tempting. One delightful distraction last weekend was the inaugural exhibition of The December Gallery. Jan Mullen and Annie Shelley present a stunning body of work, Annie’s beautiful tonal drawings, perfectly complement Jan’s work. I’ve been following Jan’s blog on the development of these series’ of works she has on show and I admire them even more knowing the thinking and work behind them.
 My son Callum participated in the Disabled Surfers Association program at Leighton beach on Saturday morning… I need to mention here my great respect for volunteers. The Disabled Surfers Association is a very well run program with loads of volunteers of all ages giving people with disabilities a wonderful opportunity for a safe and successful surfing experience. Callum loves it and looking at the photos so does everyone else.This gave me the chance to see the Fremantle Art Centre Christmas Bazaar.
My afternoon continued with visits to Midland Junction Arts Centre to see Eco Echo by Fibrant group and the Felt West pop up shop.
My work has not progressed as far as I had planned this weekend. There are 100s more of these required before I can proceed to the next step, but my love of why and what I do has been restored.

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. 

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.

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.

Making art …

Monets Garden 1 On Saturday we saw I, Claude Monet. A rather slow moving, although very interesting film of images of Monet’s work and photographs of his family, friends and home with voice over reading from his letters and diaries. Throughout the movie, he expressed his exhaustion and his frustration with his work…all his life. He lived in dire poverty for many many years and never truly felt he did much work of great value!
I think to most of us his garden and Les Nymphéas (The Water Lilies)…say otherwise.The Water LiliesHere is little Olivia on our visit in 2008. Here is a short video of at the  Musée de l’Orangerie Monets Garden 5Monets Garden 2Monets garden 7Monets garden 6The WAFTA general meetings started for 2017 on Sunday after a two month gap. It was lovely to catch up with new and old friends and we had an interesting talk by Canadian artist Laura Vickerson.

Yesterday we photographed works for two exhibition entries. One was a reshoot as I was never really happy with the white background we had used previously. I loved the detail shots, but when the full work was viewed on a computer screen it kind of got lost in the background. If you can imagine a 1.5m work the size of a gift card, the fine details appeared as one dull colour. We shot it with a black background yesterday and with the greater contrast, it came alive.

I’ve been hand stitching solidly for a couple of weeks on the second piece. An often asked question is “How long did that take you to make?” Well, completing the hand stitch alone, I caught up with all the TV shows I had recorded, finished Wolf Hall DVD Series and the entire final season of Downton Abbey. The listening and glancing TV watching technique of course.

I’ve just got a bit more paperwork to finish and then dive into the next work.
The past few nights I have ironed all the recent purchase of op shop ties ready to start working with.March 1 035

 

 

As the end of the year approaches…

Tree 3Christmas 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. JacarandaOver 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…

And what does this garment look like? Sorry not yet…Instead here’s some Christmas Wearable Art made by a friend of Josh’s.Christmas Josh