When it’s Time to Let Go

Marie Kondo says ‘’If it doesn’t bring you joy, or isn’t useful, let it go” However, what if that is how you feel today, but not next week or in a year? And how many times do you throw something out to find you need it the next week?

My studio has turned into a box room, there’s barely enough room to work. I have a large table, yet work in a small space surrounded by stuff.

A small reprieve between deadlines gives me time to actually look at the space rather than the work right in front of me. What do I really need? What materials and tools are needed for my art practice and what is a long past dream, left over from previous projects, workshops, was a maybe that never happened…what did I accumulate on a whim?

Will I really ever use most of the stuff in here? Will it make me feel a whole lot better to have a more organised or freer space? A bigger studio is always the dream, but is it necessary or just an excuse to get more stuff?

I do keep all the little jewel off cut bits of fabric from my work, and have made artworks from these.  Image – Days .

I collect and have made work from family clothing, recycled doilies, tea towels and blankets…

I do know the need for a good range of supplies to create my art. But what about the dozen sample bottles of perfume, boxes of buttons, computer wire, CDs, envelopes, paper, 100s of empty cotton reels, 5 kg of green flower sequins, tie linings, a garbage bag full of collars, cuffs and seams from 85 shirts, felt scraps, foam, tulle, polyester organza…

2 days later I have piles of stuff to give away to our local Buy Nothing Group, the Op Shop, Fibres West garage sale and a big bag for the bin. My studio is now neat and tidy and spacious! The much loved artworks  on  the  wall  by:  Betsy  Bush,  Justine  Row,  Josh Wells, Jaslyn Pearse,  Helen Jones,  Amanda  McCavour,  Wendy Lugg,  Jan  Mullen,  Anne Williams,  Anne  Johnson,  Pauline  Franklin,  Mo  Kelman,  Marianne  Penberthy,  Gail  Hawes,  Eveline  Kotai  and  Katrina  Virgona.????Supplies are back together in LABELLED boxes, I have a storage system for my artworks, and ALL of my 2m long table is usable again????It’s such a good feeling.

As time goes by

I think this is week ten of the new normal for our household. We isolated earlier than most due to concerns for our son who has Down Syndrome. I have not been to the shops at all during this time, and become quite good at online ordering. ???? I rarely leave my house, other than for my morning walk. I spend quite a lot of time at home working in the studio, and that hasn’t changed, however due to the cancellation and doubt in my 2020 exhibition calendar, my enthusiasm took a dive. Like many people, my emotions were all over the place for the first month or so. Gradually we have set new routines in place and weekly events to look forward to. We now have a weekly movie night among other things, and as I write this my son is having a cooking session with his support worker via zoom.

On my Groundhog Day morning walk each day (a walk for the hills and exercise, not the view) I have time to think and I have started to notice the gradual changes over the past few months, the weather (cooler), the smells (more fragrant), the increased number of birds and various plants blooming and then fading. This beautiful Banksia flower slowly blooming got me inspired.As I work in the studio, I’ve been listening to the fabulous The Great Women Artists podcast.I’ve enjoyed reading Threads of Life by Clare Hunter, The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley and most recently The Diary of a Bookseller by  Shaun  Bythell (if  you’re a fan of Blackbooks…)This one below reminds me of the state of my Covid 19 hair 🙂 

 

They are not toilet paper rolls!

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.

A lot has happened since I last wrote…

A wonderful big holiday to Europe in October. If you are a fan of German, French and Italian rocks, stones, brick walls, doors, windows, Mosaics, Stained Glass…you may well like to see my Instagram

Also on Instagram you can see in London my Mum and I had many a textile treat visiting the iconic Mary Quant exhibition at V&A and the fabulous Zandra Rhodes exhibition at The Fashion and Textile Museum.

We were part of the last small group tour of The Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion. before it’s two-year long closure to move to a new location.

The Foundlings Museum, which has the largest collection of everyday textiles surviving from eighteenth century Britain.

Since returning home I have been busy making new work and new plans.

Exhibitions

This weekend we head to Collie for the opening of the Collie Art Prize where I am very pleased to be a finalist. 3 March – 15 April 2020.

Also opening soon is the Australia Textile Art Award (ATAA) at The Embroiderers Guild, Victoria 21 March – 5 April 2020. I am delighted to have work selected for this inaugural exhibition.

The Art Quilt Australia 2019 exhibition is now on show at Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, Lilydale, Victoria from 8 February-17 May 2020.

Workshops

There are a few places in a couple of workshops I am running for WAFTA very soon.

7th March “Where Do I start? Where do I begin?” Concept Development workshop 

29th March – Printmaking Techniques exploration on cloth and paper 

New plans

I am very excited to announce I have been invited to exhibit with fellow artists, Sarah Thornton-Smith, Leanne Bray, Charmaine Ball, William Leggatt, and Marina van Leeuwen at Lost Eden Gallery in Dwellingup in July in an exhibition called Patterning Habit.

 It’s a very busy 6 months!

 

Deadlines and Exhibitions

I work to deadlines. I tend to set them for way ahead of actual need. An early experience of not meeting an entry deadline is forever in the back of my mind. AND there are always last-minute alterations, photography, paper work, challenges to fill in the spare time.My August deadline to finish the works above and at the end of this post, was due to family celebrations and travel. Not due until mid to late October they needed to be finished now, packed and ready to go. Then there’s this funny gap, where I don’t quite know what to do with myself. The studio routine is out the window and I have to…well there’s always cleaning and gardening to do 🙂

After months of working in the studio it’s now the start of the exhibition season.  A Well Worn Path, a piece on the theme of Domestic Maps has been selected for Art Quilt Australia 2019 and opens at the National Wool Museum Geelong, Victoria tomorrow night 5th September until 15 December 2019. It then tours to Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, Lilydale, Victoria from 8 February – 16 May 2020.Also currently on show is Light into the Darkness in Fiber Arts IX at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Sebastopol, California USA

I Have An Online Shop!

And it’s finally live!

It has taken a few years and several aborted attempts…

The final motivation was thanks to my darling husband…there’s nothing like telling someone that they are not going to achieve something to get them motivated to proving them wrong!

I’m starting simple, adding work gradually, because I’d rather be stitching than spending too much time on the computer 🙂

Available so far are Remington Keys from my solo exhibition last year Of Our Time – Ordinary Lives. More work to follow soon. Click here to go to the shop

Of course anything you see on this website is possibly for sale, so please feel free to send me a message 🙂

Starting Over

I was tracking well on my latest piece of work. 2/3 finished and way ahead of the deadline…
Usually work slowly comes together, there is a love/hate relationship at various stages, with corrections and changes as the work develops.
The image in my head simply didn’t translate…the colours, the proportion, the contrast. There was simply no way to fix it.
So I have started over. Having made the decision it is actually quite a relief! I am much happier with the progress.
Below – A new start
Below- The top layer ready to machine stitch
Below – The Middle Layer
Each work I make stimulates more ideas to play and experiment with on the next piece. The more I make, the more I refine the process too. I have been experimenting with a range of backings over the years. Starting with polyester felt, upholstery fabrics and this year recycled denim. The denim made a lovely sturdy work, but proved difficult to hand stitch through. I’ve started doing a lot of hand stitching and the strength required to pull the needle through on each stitch really made my hands ache. I have changed to using old blankets for the last few pieces and find it much more comfortable on my hands.
Below – The backing. My childhood blanket recycled…again!
The backing for this new work was unpicked and sewn back together from a previous dud artwork. The disaster piece was no different. Both proving what not to do!
Since then there’s been a lot of machine stitching, cutting away areas
and lots of hand stitching Colonial KnotsAs I’ve been stitching away, I’ve been listening to more 99% Invisible podcasts – Here is their recent set on clothing. My favourites being Punk and Blue Jeans and Pockets.

Slow Textiles

Working is textiles is a rather slow process. I started this piece in mid February. It is large – 3 x 2m lengths and there are several very time consuming steps…lots of ironing, printing, machine stitching, cutting away and now covering the entire piece with colonial knots.The slow stitching is quite calming, I’ve got into a gentle working rhythm that is surprisingly easy on my back, neck and shoulders. Often the repetitive nature of my work leads to lots of pain…and always in the back of my mind – How will I complete this if my body can’t cope?I’ve started listening to Podcasts as I stitch. Thanks to a recommendation from my son, I’ve been listening become slightly addicted to 99% Invisible. I’m boring my poor husband with lots of interesting facts…

A lovely coincidence was to discover my recent favourite read, The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair was a featured episode. I loved this book and her next, The Golden Thread– how fabric changed history. The chapter on spider’s silk lead me to google this amazing cape.

More stitching and Podcasts await!

Despite the efforts…

I love reading the acknowledgements in the back of books. I find it a satisfying finish to a novel, especially when I’m not quite ready to let go of the story I have been absorbed by. It is also telling of the process of creating something, that many others are often involved in getting the work to completion either through the physical production; research, editing, reading, or support; often a loving partner supplying the writer with cups of tea and the space and freedom to work.

Contrary to this, one of my favourite acknowledgments is from a book I read many years ago by Lisa Evans in her book Odd Socks. I have a photocopy in one of my journals. It starts –
Despite the efforts of the following:

Lately I have come to realise that books are written not so much because of the efforts of many, but despite the efforts of many. Therefore, here is my list of those people/animals/inanimate objects despite whom this book was written.
This book was written despite the fact that children expect three meals a day…

…This book was written despite the fact that these children, although very lovable, are all a tad faulty and therefore require regular visits to optometrists, speech therapists, podiatrists, dentists, ear, nose and throat guys, etc. And don’t forget the mandatory activities! Tennis, karate, saxophone, swimming, pottery, chess…

…This book was written despite bloody housework – and the bills to pay, washers to replace…

…This book was written despite the ongoing battle for “me” time and all things, like tennis, champagne, good books, friends, family and the occasional convivial lunch, which lure me away from what I should be doing…

The truth! I can completely relate to this! There’s a million distractions and jobs to do before you can ever see yourself getting to do your creative work. It’s not all smooth sailing sitting undistracted working in a studio, it’s a myth!

As a wife, mother, female artist, I constantly feel the pull of other commitments and the commitment to others. My work needs to be made despite the busyness of life, I just need to fit it in where I can.

All this stuff is not going to go away just because you try to be an artist. There is never a right time AND its never too late to start. Nell Painter talks about starting a new career as an artist in her 60s.

The images in this post are progress shots of my latest piece of work.

The next step is to start cutting away the top layer.
All these steps have been made despite the interruptions!
And for those who still have fantasies that you can spend all day in the studio. Here is a great series What do artists do all day?

 

 

New Year, New Work

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 lots way too many of ideas for “whole cloth” works!