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

The Best Laid Plans…

Way back in March this year I wrote about cleaning up and rearranging my studio…last weekend I finally got back to it.Studio2I became very busy with twentyONE+ exhibition and then straight onto helping my husband with the launch his new book…the pendulum swung from 90% art to 90% office admin. Now to regain some balance…Studio 1Over the weekend I completely flipped the work spaces in the studio. The large desk is now under the window as a general work station AND sewing table. The Beverley Artist in Residence has a work table facing the window and that confirmed my decision to move everything around. Studio 6The smaller table that I used for machine sewing is now more like an island in front of the design wall. Studio 4The couch is now near the door. This means that my husband and the kids won’t have to climb over piles of stuff (can’t stay tidy AND work) to sit down for a chat. I have also thrown out moved on to loving homes a lot of good stuff that I really don’t need anymore. WAFTA have a spring stash sale soon and some kindy programs will benefit.Studio 7

I do believe, and it has been shown by many that you don’t need the perfect studio to be creative. However, I am amazed at how much better I feel over the past week working in the new set up.Studio 3I couldn’t throw everything out…the much treasured 1970s Woman’s Day Complete Guide to Handicrafts I received one Christmas as a young girl take pride of place.

The Making of Fire Flies

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.

I was delighted to be a finalist in the showcase. My work Fire Flies was worn by Shannon White who sang “Say something, I’m giving up on you” accompanied by a grand piano and cello. It was beautiful…Shannon White Fire Flies

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.Making Fire Flies 2Making Fire Flies 3

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.

Hi Vi fabricsFabric StripsI was quite pleased with the sample results on the mannequin, so continued on…Trial 1

Fabric Strips 2Fabric Strips 1Endless hours of stitching many, many meters of thread and bias binding…Trial 6I trialed a variety of ways to create shape in the garment and use reflective tape.

Trial 4Reflection 3Trial 5

Nov 16 028And how to finish the neckline…

Neck 2Ultimately a navy blue under garment referencing the “work-wear pants” without reflective tape worked best.

Head Gear 1Head gear 2








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...



Finishing, then starting again…

Last week I entered 4 works into 3 (2 juried) exhibitions.
There are many many months of work to get to this point, and lots of things somewhat neglected, especially the garden, and yes, the studio…

25 jan 2016 001

I have been planning for some time to rearrange the studio AND have a big clean out. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve started, moved some furniture out, added new drawers and storage shelves. I want to have all the tools and supplies at hand, stored in like areas (not in the box they came home from the last workshop in) Seriously cull the amount of stuff I keep, all those techniques I’ve tried and won’t again, all the products bought on a whim at craft fairs and never really used, and the “It might come in handy one day”s.  I am sure some of this stuff just burdens you with guilt that you SHOULD use it rather than WANT to. The big question – Will I really use this? Is this the direction I am going?

The clean out is still a work in progress, due to slotting it in around all the other things going on at the moment, and the ripple on effect of moving things out of the studio means there are piles of stuff sorted, but not re-homed all around the house, and piles of stuff to give away.

Along with better storage, I wanted to make the studio easier to move in. I have a 2m wide display board in the studio that is a fantastic design wall and Josh uses it for the majority of textiles shoots he does. It has prevented the studio door being fully open for the past 18 months! The rearrangement means we can now do photo shoots in the studio AND open the door fully! We have done 5 photo shoots in the studio over the past few weeks and it is starting to work really well.

March 31 2015 004

A very useful design board, however you can’t open the door fully nor see the telly!

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Photography for the MELD exhibition 2014

I’ve not finished the studio clean out partly because my wonderful husband took me to see Chris Isaak at Leeuwin Estate Winery in Margaret River last weekend. Traveling there and back I stitched, slow stitching over printed text on small pieces of silk organza.March 4 2016 032 These will become my piece for “Brooching the Subject”. Once semi finished I am going to take the plunge and put the whole work in a sun dye jar for a month or so, and hope I can reproduce the result I achieved in the samples earlier this year.