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 🙂 

 

Calm in the Chaos

Ironically, this is the title of an artwork I made, in a less chaotic time, for the inaugural Australian Textile Art Award. The exhibition opened last Friday, then the gallery immediately closed for an indefinite time due to the Corona Virus.

Last October, in what seems like another life, we spent a wonderful week at Lake Garda, Italy. We walked along the lake edge, caught ferries to lake side villages, ended the days with an Aperol Spritz and a delicious dinner.

My plan was to make work inspired by this beautiful lake, focusing on the enjoyment of life.

Artist Statement 

Big skies and large bodies of water calm me, I take a deep breath and sigh, all is right with the world. This work began after a lakeside holiday with a goal to reflect and inspire this simple joy in life. However, back home life got in the way, with responsibilities, interruptions, and the negative influences of social media and the news. Working through the many iterations of this piece has helped me accept that the chaos will continue, and that we need to look for the glimpses of calm amongst it.

Materials and Techniques

Materials – silk organza, silk dupion, recycled business ties, woolen blanket, polyester machine thread, embroidery thread. Techniques – Fabrics were printed and hand dyed, then layered together and machine stitched throughout. Some layers have been cut away. Colonial knots were then stitched throughout. Individual circles have been assembled with hand stitching.

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!

 

How do you come up with ideas for your work?

I often get asked how I come up with the ideas for my work.

For me it’s lots of observation, questions, thinking, connection – often connecting two unrelated ideas…One thing I do know, is that the hours and years of driving my son to school and work, and after school activities was the perfect time to allow my mind to wander and make these weird connections. The twice weekly drive to swimming lessons past a construction site had me thinking about how the Hi Vis clothing worn by the workers was so faded and dirty I failed to see how it was serving its intended safety purpose. I then started to see Hi Vis clothing worn everywhere… “Is Hi Vis the new black”? became the idea for Fire Flies.

Fire Flies

That drive time gave me regular daydreaming time, a good 20 minutes or more several times per day. Ideas developed, works became resolved. Something you can’t necessarily do in the studio or at a computer. Now that it’s no longer part of my daily routine, I realise how valuable that time was.I read this quote from author of Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury last week thanks to Austin Kleon, and I think it sums up how we get our own unique ideas/slant for our work (whatever field you work in):

Three things are in your head: First, everything you have experienced from the day of your birth until right now. Every single second, every single hour, every single day. Then, how you reacted to those events in the minute of their happening, whether they were disastrous or joyful. Those are two things you have in your mind to give you material. Then, separate from the living experiences are all the art experiences you’ve had, the things you’ve learned from other writers, artists, poets, film directors, and composers…

I would add here, all the things you have learned from others in any areas, not just art experiences.

He goes on to say…

All these things are very personal… You can’t write for other people. You can’t write for the left or the right, this religion or that religion, or this belief or that belief. You have to write the way you see things.The above images are details of the back and front of my current work in progress.

 

 

 

The Inspiration of the Art of Others

It tends to happen in waves, lots of time spent working in the studio with occasional visits to galleries and other art events. Austin Kleon would say you need this balance of input and output.  I recently had a weekend full of art events. The last day of Evenline Kotai‘s beautiful exhibition Invisible Threads at Art Collective. Her work gives me both a sense of calm and blissful joy. Gorgeous busy detail whilst still creating an overall sense of unity, cohesion and emotion – something I am forever striving to do.

Saturday evening was the Lawley Art Auction. My work Dusk was auctioned with funds raised supporting the arts program at Mt Lawley SHS. Many, many years ago I attended a similar specialist high school arts program. It is lovely to be able to help support the next generation of artists.

Sunday I attended the Wearable Art Mandurah Showcase. I am delighted that two of the women, Meagan Howe and Ardea Murphy, that participated in my Wearable Art Mentor Group 18 months ago have won their respective categories in this years event! It is pure joy to be able to celebrate their wins with them and to feel that in some small way I have been able to help on their journey. See photos from the showcase here

For the first time in 6 years I was simply a member of the audience, rather than a nervous designer. I had a gap year from Wearable Art to give my full attention and time to my solo exhibition last November. After seeing the showcase I am again inspired. Lots of vague ideas floated around in my head. Many of these, as I considered them over the next few days disappeared due to lack of interest or practicality. Trust in the process, and one of these ideas has become stronger, clearer and compelling. I now know what I want to make, how, though is still a mystery!

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?

 

 

2018 – Review

It’s that funny time of year between Christmas and the New Year, when I don’t really know what day of the week it is, and after a big year,

Empty gallery after the closing Of Our Time – Ordinary Lives

I feel I have permission to do nothing for a bit. I’m not planning to start any new work until the new year, a sort of self imposed studio ban. I’ve been reading through a stack of textile related books, and had lots of naps – Not dissimilar to my 2017 review. Once again, I’m getting a bit bored and restless. Below are some observations/realisations from 2018.

  1. Depth Year – I have had this concept in my mind all year. Working towards a solo exhibition has meant this body of work became the sole focus. Time to explore, research, go deeper and make. It has been difficult at times to say not now to other projects/exhibitions, however, there’s no compromise to fit in with the work of others, no jury selection. No size restrictions or imposed themes to fit your work into.
  2. Safety and the longevity of your art career. Like any other work, occupational health and safety is paramount. As artists we have no industry standards, we must take responsibility ourselves. This article “My Beautiful Death” along with a point made by CASM Artist in residence Helen Coleman talking about the natural dyes she researched in her exhibition “Remember, although natural, some plants are poisonous. So would you want to wear  fabrics you dyed with poisonous plants next to your body?”  I work inside my home, so don’t dye fabrics and rarely use other things that could be toxic, however I do very repetitive work and need to consider the physical strain and stress on my body. After too many sessions with the physio late this year, I know I need to counterbalance this by more yoga/walking exercise.
  3. Care for the environment in regard to my work has become more of a focus in the past few years. Finding the beauty in recycled materials has had a big impact on my work. The endless options have been removed, the constraints of materials help inspire and challenge new directions. Not until I had almost finished the body of work for Of Our Time – Ordinary Lives did I realise that I had purchased no new materials, only items already in my studio, op shop treasures and fabrics given to me.

    Machine stitch on recycled security envelope

  4. The habit of working gives a quality to my life. The repetitive processes of stitch, etc is meditative and energising. Post exhibition, without a new project, I find way too much time is spent browsing social media, trashy TV and feeling very tired. It sure is time to get back into the studio!

    My studio supervisor is ready!

So close and yet so far…

As I’m writing this I am close to my self appointed deadline of the end of this month, to have all my work finished for my exhibition in November Of Our Time – Ordinary Lives My studio and our house is covered in dust thanks to the endless cutting fabric into small bits and reassembling.
I was actually a little bit ahead of my deadline and that is a problem. In that I thought Ooh, I could see that exhibition…and that other one…and maybe go out to dinner. You know, have a social life like other people. There goes the weekend. And then over the past week or so, so close to being finished a few unexpected challenges consume my days. The washing machine hoses leak and flood /stink out the laundry, the dog starts limping – will this be the second trip to the vet in a fortnight? A car is purchased for our daughter = an afternoon sorting out insurance, money and collection of the car.With a couple of days to go I have officially finished making!!!As I have mentioned to friends that my work is almost finished, they comment on how organised I am. November seems a long way off. There are still many steps other than making work in order to prepare for an exhibition – attaching work to canvases, backings, hanging devices, all leading up to photography day mid September. And on to catalogues etc.