You can certainly tell where the world is at right now by the responses to my Instagram and Facebook post of this short video.
I purchased 18kg of recycled men’s business shirts from the Mega Barn Op Shop back in early February, as the base fabric for a body of work for a small group exhibition planned for later this year.
My preparation work was to wash the 93 shirts, cut out the back pieces, cut these into strips and then fold and roll the strips. I now have a colour palette / paint box ready to start.The reactions to the video, was “Wow!” and “I thought it was toilet paper rolls” ???? ☹
Almost all my events, workshops and exhibitions have been cancelled. My planned year, no longer…
It’s still, sort of, business as usual in the studio though, the work planned will hopefully show sometime in the future, if not now.
Making has always been my sanity, and the studio my sanctuary. Many works I have made have come out of the bad stuff that happens, it’s a way to deal with it. The process of making, getting in the flow, and of late the very repetitive task of cutting and rolling all these shirts has helped me on the emotional roller coaster we are all currently on. I simply walk into the studio and start where I left off. My hands engaged before my mind needs to be.
I am delighted to be a finalist in the Collie Art Prize (CAP) 2020, on show at The Collie Art Gallery until 5th April 2020.
Title: I’ve got nothing to wear!
My relationship with clothing is complex. What I choose to wear each day represents my face to the world, how I feel, what I want to express. How will I fit into the groups I wish or am expected to belong to?
The choice becomes more complex with a mix of who I think I am in my many and varied roles, current body image, seasonal weather and mood.
The fabrics for this artwork are discards from the artists own wardrobe; loved clothing worn out, some rarely worn, others purchased for a single purpose and others “What was I thinking?”
Sculptures on the Scarp 2019 was held a couple of weekends ago. It rained and rained and rained on install day. It rained on the first day, friends were concerned that my work would be getting wet…Yes, it was, but fabric and buttons are designed to get wet, so I wasn’t too concerned.
What I didn’t consider, was on that final sunny day, as the buttons and fabric dried out in the sunshine, they absorbed some of the colour in the bush. Some of the individual buttons have dyed silvery greys, other hints of rusty tones.On a few of the pieces the thread I used to stitch the buttons has also developed rusty tones. I’m surprised and delighted that plastic buttons and polyester thread has dyed so well.Thanks to Kerrie Argent for all the lovely photos on location. A couple of night time images
The work on show at Sculptures on the Scarp looked amazing. You can see the work of all the Artists Here.
While this is probably something I say every year, this year the approach is a little different.
Moving away from the “mosaic style” of my cut-away pieces, where I stitch 100s of 1-1 1/2 inch squares to a canvas, I’m trialing whole cloth pieces. I started this in “Days Like This”. These 20 x 20cm works were delightful to make and gave me the opportunity to include some simple hand stitch; colonial knots and running stitch. The challenge of course is the design/layout has to be determined before you start any machine stitching. With the “mosaic style” I could play around with the layout on the canvas until the very last stage of making the work. However there was a huge amount of time spend edging each small square with satin stitch.In this new work I have pushed the size to over 50 x 100cm. A challenge to manoeuvre for free motion stitching on the sewing machine, and awkward for access to the centre for hand stitching. Below – back of the work. Most seasoned quilters will say I am a being a wuss “that’s not very big!” BUT, I don’t have a long-arm quilting machine nor a quilting frame and in hindsight the backing of denim may have been a mistake. It’s quite tough to hand stitch through.
I’ve also worked mostly white on white, a shift from the usually bright colourful works I make in the cut-away technique. I’ve technically learnt a lot making this piece and during the time spent stitching, I now have lotsway too many of ideas for “whole cloth” works!
Making a body of work is only one step to exhibiting your work. Midland Junction Arts Centre staff have been wonderful to work with. Ease and grace come to mind. Curator Greg Sikich and volunteer Assistant Curator Lisa made me truely admire the skills of a curator. Achieving the vision I had with some works and guiding me with suggestions and decisions when I was less certain…I learnt a lot in those two install days.
A huge thank you also to Margaret Ford for her speech to open my exhibition. She immediately understood my work and portrayed it beautifully to the audience.Of course this body of work would not exist without the support and trust of my mother as you will see in the catalogue essay below. She willingly told me her very personal stories and those of her mother, my Nanna, in the knowledge that I was going to, in some form, interpret this into contemporary textiles. My one hope is that she feels I have honoured them. The ever supporting family 🙂
Of Our Time – Ordinary Lives explores the lives of three generations of maternal women in my family.
Family stories, those incidental ones beyond the dates of significant events, are lost if not recorded. Historical events and dates of births, deaths and marriages are easy to research. However how these same events personally affected my family as they navigated changing and challenging times can only be found through inquiry.
My early experience learning about the women in my family was through the naive lens of a child. My childhood memories of my Nanna’s life paint her days as simple and leisurely. My Mother appeared to cram a much larger workload into a strict timetable between home duties, work and study. By comparison, my own feels mashed together with few clear boundaries and little structure, but for the constant putting out of spot fires. My daughter’s life I can only project.
As a mature adult I started asking the right questions and discovered that the stories of my Mother and Nanna were much more complicated than I had believed. I have been fortunate to have access to old family letters: some nearly eighty years old, to records, memorabilia and photos. I have also been fortunate to have access to my mother, between heartfelt conversations and a shared visit to the Midland area much in the style of Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery.
Often we can’t think of the right questions, or aren’t interested until it is too late, and as I observed this in my friends and family, I was determined not to let the intricacies of my own family history slip away.
My left-handed Nanna, who taught me how to crochet right-handed, was the eldest daughter in a large family, and long considered a confirmed spinster. As far as we know she never had paid employment outside of the home. In 1941, at 37 years of age she received a marriage proposal by letter and travelled from Melbourne, Victoria to the Midland Junction Train Station to meet her Husband to be: a man she had only met on a couple of occasions. With whom she would start a new life in Western Australia.
I was drawn to the precious items my mother has kept: Nan’s letters, including the proposal by my grandfather; her exquisite hand embroidered and crocheted doilies; telegrams, ration cards, and receipts for major purchases; the documents relating to my Grandfather’s early death; immunisation records; swimming certificates; five books in the Anne of Green Gables series. I began to get a sense of her experiences leaving a loving family in suburban Melbourne, a few tram stops from the city, to living through Perth summers near Midland, during WWll and the rationing of most living necessities. The only means of communication being via letters and the occasional telegram.
During my Nanna’s time, concepts of recycling and zero-waste were of necessity. This exhibition was created entirely from materials I already possessed: scraps from previous projects, recycled and gifted vintage fabrics, older Op Shop finds.
2000 Miles Away uses tie linings complete with stains from washing, marks from manufacture and the remains of unpicked stitches, sewn together with recycled envelopes and overhead projector sheets. On a recreation of my Nanna’s hexagonal tiled floor their conversations are blurred by distance and time.
In 1962 my nineteen-year-old mother married my father and had to resign from her clerical job at the Government Railways in Perth, Western Australia. The “Marriage Bar” was still four years from its eventual repeal, requiring married women to give up their jobs in the Australian Public Service.
She found employment in a private company until I was born two years later. As time went by she worked in many clerical roles and in her 40s followed her true passion, gaining a degree in Literature and History from UWA aged 50.
My mother’s life has been marked by massive shifts in the means of communication, along with the frequency and also the access across remote distances, thanks to developments in technology.
The typewriter in its many forms has been a pivotal part of her life. Starting with the “clunky old Remington with round black keys,” on which she learnt to type in High School, to a bright red Olivetti Valentine portable: I remember her squeals of delight in receiving it for her birthday from my father, and when she came home perplexed, having had to take a speed test on “one of these new Golf Ball Typewriters,” during a job interview. As technology has changed, her progression has continued with electric typewriters, computers, iPads and mobile phone texting.
The individual typewriter keys, unique and separate, when linked together have been the means to tell stories, write essays, apply for jobs, write letters to family and friends, and more recently, send emails and texts.
The title Remington Keys is taken from the typewriter brand she learnt to type on in high school. These keys show the structure of life, bound by society’s conventions, order, and acceptance of those rules imposed upon women. My mother worked within this framework in acceptance of these societal expectations and employed these skills to create the space to explore her dreams. The work employs vintage fabrics and op shop ties in the hues with which my mother would decorate her home across the decades and the fashions she followed.
Keyboards are now less a skill in and of themselves but a means so many of us use to communicate, shop, write our thoughts, and play. Textiles have changed in a similar way: they are no less present in our lives, but our relationship has changed. The traditional sewing, knitting, crocheting and embroidery skills passed down from my grandmother to my mother as important tools to make a home, have become a means of expression and exploration, when passed down to me.
Made from minute scraps leftover from my previous works, Days contains a timeline and travels of my own art practice. The approximately 20 000 squares, recreate the days of my life so far. As a group, they all blend together, similar though unique, frayed, complex, simple, broken, amazing and any other combination on any given day. Held on by a thread. A life and a day can go from happiness to sorrow and back.
These individual days are shown in their complexity, detail and contrasts when scaled-up in Days Like This. Minute details which are glossed over in the context of the whole, make up the subject matter of these individual works.
I have been working on the theme of Silver Linings over the past few years
and Light into the Darkness was a shift to wearable art and is the final piece in this series.
I wanted the model to be smothered in a dark cloud, her view of the world obscured, not to be able to see beyond the overwhelming darkness.
I came across an image of an enormous pony tail tree in full bloom, the strength of the trunk supporting the bloom inspired the shape of the garment. The trunk or body of the garment became the silver lining, those little seeds of hope and colour connecting and building a strong foundation of resilience.
The cloud is made from tulle that I dyed black and grey.
Some of the edges have been machine stitched with silver lines and some with a black lace like edging.
I wanted the effect of an upside down tutu and after feeling very frustrated with my results, I rang the WA Ballet and spoke to a lovely lady in the wardrobe department who very generously gave me lots of tips and ideas to create the desired effect.
I ended up making four separate layered pieces for around the models’ neck and a headpiece.
The model’s body is covered with colourful circles connected together with machine stitching.
There are about 1200 circles. Each circle is a sandwich of denim jeans as a backing, transfer printed satin (see below), silks
and a top layer of dark grey fabric that has been printed silver with a stamp. The sandwich is machine stitched together and then I cut away the top layers to reveal the colourful silks and satins underneath.
Each piece was then hand cut from the sheets.
The circles are connected to each other by free machine embroidery. I stitched on a plastic like material called Solvy to connect all the circles. When I finish stitching, I wash away the solvy in warm water and as long as all the stitching is attached to the circles the whole work stays together…If not, it’s a big knotty mess!
I made a few panels of circles and then trialed them on my dress form. My initial idea was to blend the circles black to silver.
Very quickly I abandoned the silver, and continued to make dark panels trialing for shape and quantity.
When I was happy with the arrangement, I stitched all of the panels together. The whole garment then needed to be washed again. This was a rather scary moment!!!
The shoes where a Buy Nothing gift and were bright orange. I spray painted them black then made a stencil by stitching another piece of solvy and then sprayed silver over a stencil.
Light into the Darkness image by Tony Tropiano at Wearable Art Mandurah Showcase 2018
The past few weeks have been filled with some lovely studio distractions. A couple of wonderful birthday celebrations, gallery visits and time away at the beach for Easter have all been delightful, but there is the frustration of not enough time in the studio and that time is ticking by, ever closer to the exhibition date.
The amount of physical time required in the studio at the sewing machine, hand stitching, printing, cutting etc is huge…for all of my artworks. The daily practice of going to the studio and continuing from where I left off, slowly adds up to create my work. It is mostly a calming and meditative part of my day and I really miss it and get frustrated when I “don’t have time” to be in the studio.
Having said that, I also know that time away (on holiday), visiting galleries, seeing friends, and even the daily drive to take my son to work, all help me process the work, think in a different way, make new connections and what if?…
The progress that was seemingly very slow, has leapt forward thanks to one of those aha moments in the car last week.
It’s already two weeks since we returned from our lovely holiday in Italy and Germany. I’m over the jet lag and have caught up on most of the jobs “to do after our return”. Below are photos of the beautiful Lake Garda, Italy.
My daily/weekly routine has returned and I’m happy to be able to make a start on my next wearable art piece after only being able to think and dream about it for over a month. Some purchasing of materials and a quick dyeing session yesterday means I have made a start on some samples.
The first full day session of [email protected] was last Saturday. In this program I am helping others through all the steps to create their own Wearable Art garment to enter in Wearable Art Mandurah (WAM) for 2018. I’m really looking forward to seeing their amazing ideas develop into finished garments.
I was delighted to find in the mail on our return, amongst all the bills, my copy of Down Under Textiles Magazine. Back in February I was asked to become a regular contributor and this Issue 29 has my first column. The magazine, also as of this issue, is available in Barnes and Noble in USA.
In the mail this week was a copy of the beautiful catalogue for Art Quilt Australia 2017. There are many stunning works in this exhibition and I feel honoured to have my work juried for inclusion amongst them. If you have the chance to be in Launceston, Tasmania before 22 October I think it would be well worth a visit.
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.
I am really looking forward to seeing all that comes from this.