Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Looking back...

We end this year in the toughest of times; and look to the next one for some relief, and some good moments for so many who are suffering these fires that keep our country burning.

Each year I use the time between Christmas and New year to ponder, reflect, celebrate achievements and plan. Part of that is looking back over the year and the work I have made and pulling together the ones that I love the most; or the ones that made me smile or meant something to me.

It may simply be that by the end of the year it feels like it was a  pretty patchy year (I probably say that every year) and that I am not sure that I achieved much at all; but then I start to wander through the works and realise there were some good things in there, so here we go, in no particular order as ever - just alphabetical.

My year in review:

1. Botanical Dyeing

Teaching and attending workshops brings you into contact with people with marvellous ideas and resources to share, and the story of a book that a student brought to class which then inspired me to have a go at botanical dyeing both here and in Scotland was a revelation - and I do so love the threads and their pegs!

2. Coasters

Planning ahead for a lengthy stay in the Scottish Highlands meant I was able to prepare some fabric and take some thread and sit and stitch some coasters for the cottage. I love that these are now part of our life over there...

3. Grief Cards

I have been so happy that folk 'get' the idea of my grief cards and purchase them and share them with others.  It has been a real joy to make these simply illustrated cards, with tender words and thoughts for when words are hard to find.

4. I would have loved a sunburnt country

This was special.  It grew from feeling helpless about our government's refugee policy of detention; and sorrow that so many find their incarceration unbearable and take their own life. But also, that our health and security systems fail them and they die unnecessarily.  The State Library of Queensland purchased it and understood that artists need to bear witness to atrocities, and as a society, we need to keep and protect what they say as part of the public record.

5. Justice

I was delighted to be asked to repeat this commission in a variable way.  The organisation does such grand work, and these words capture the experience of women who are victims of domestic abuse and how the service helps them, empowers them and encourages them.

6. Light and Love

Once more, in response to tragedy, I made these wee books.  After the Mosque attack in New Zealand that killed so many, Jacinda Ardern showed great leadership, compassions and courage and I used words from Martin Luther King to remind us how light overcomes darkness and that Love overcomes hate. I sent one of the books to Jacinda to say thank you.

7. Ode to Stones

In last year's review I hoped that I might be able to include these in this year's; and I just made it! They were problematic in a few ways, but really helped me focus on solving problems and resolving issues satisfactorily. I am pleased they are here this year!

8. Overwintering 5

These wee books feel precious in the hand. They work with poetic words and images and I love how I managed to pull a bunch of things together and make them work.

9. Pockets are Political

My obsession with pockets and the lack thereof in women's clothing persists; and I like this poster and the words that accompany it.  I have had lots of good responses to it from people who have read the words or heard them spoken - I am pretty sure all women get the need for more and better pockets!!!

10. Sometimes the Soul...

Once again I was honoured to work on theSophia Nugent-Siegal Prize, this time with the words of
MTC Cronin. My main contribution here was the original calligraphic rendering of the title followed by the hand stitching and numbering of the booklets.  I was happy with how the calligraphy worked out and also to be able to provide a hand-stitched option for the final book.

Looking back it was a  lovely year with some nice pieces that gave me and others joy.

Thanks for wandering down ye olde memory lane with me for a bit; but more importantly for stopping by through the year; for leaving thoughts or words in response to what I do and for generally just being a nice part of the interweb to spend time in.

Wishing you all good things, happier days, and a bright and safe new year where I hope we all find time for making, creating and sharing beauty.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

“I thought that outdoor sculpture was usually big and durable, but that seemed very dumb. Because its already very nice outside, with trees and fields, and I didn’t want to put something there and change it all. So I thought I’d make something which fell apart after a while – which would return to nature like dirt or paper”. 

Bruce Nauman

Being unfamiliar with Nauman and this work, I went away and googled and found he is a contemporary artist, with an eclectic approach and body of work.  The first things I saw were lots of neon and I thought to myself, well he must have done this ephemeral work a reasonable time ago, because he now seems to be very much about things NOT going away, but I digress.

It is more the idea behind his words that caught my eye/brain.

I quite liked his apparently simple approach - that the outdoors/nature is already pretty gorgeous and why would we choose to sully that with imposed sculptures?  And logically that leads you to ephemeral art which returns, goes back into the atmosphere or the earth and leaves barely a trace of its time there.

I must say I do love ephemeral art, and I am very fond of things being left to decay, disappear, decline, deteriorate and decompose.

Which is not to say I am not equally fond of wandering around outside and coming across sculptures and artwork that are permanent, and which utterly enhance and transform an otherwise unremarkable walk. It always give me joy to discover art along the way!

Whilst not ephemeral, this piece has rusted beautifully (shown here in 2010). These are the letters, cut out from the steel panel piece that sits above them. The words are seen each time the owner comes home, and I love the idea of the letters becoming subsumed by the forest floor...returning.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Peace on earth

As Christmas arrives and we turn towards family, friends, community, rituals, and gentle remembering, I wish for peace.

 Peace within, peace between us and peace between nations.

 To all my blogging friends who share so much and support each other so much, thank you for another year of magic.

 Wherever you may be, and however you may spend the time, may your Christmas be bright and beautiful, may you be safe, and may you find and celebrate moments of peace.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Summer time...

I am not sure if it happens elsewhere, but here in summer the radio and television, and even some news emails and podcasts, move to 'summer  programming' which means - not the usual things.

I feel bit like that this summer - having been distracted from the studio by the kitchen and the sewing room...

Following on from the post where I mentioned I felt the urge to make labna, the results are in and it worked!

After 4-5 days we removed it from the fridge and the handkerchief and it was a nice firmish ball.

I put some dukkah, dried rosemary and pink Murray River salt into a dish and rolled teaspoon-sized balls in my hands, then rolled the balls in the mixture

Yum. I poured some olive oil over the top and they are ready for spreading on biscuits, toast or strewing through a salad of sorts.

I also wanted to test if they would make sweet labna balls and I can safely say yes they do.  I rolled them in a sweet dukkah mix, then poured warmed cinnamon honey over the top and they were a wonderful accompaniment to fresh nectarines and raspberries.

And so to the summer of sewing.  Again, who knows why but I have got my sewing mojo going and have been stitching most everything in sight.

I wore the pants I made last week all weekend, and I finished hand stitching the circles on this house frock and it does make me smile.

I had bought some fabric ages ago as a possible extension to a top, but went with another options so it sat there looking at me in a way that said - I'm not really you, but let's see what we can do.  So I made a sleeveless top with a gentle cowl neckline and I think I will wear it! Bonus.

 A couple of years ago I bought this fabric with a gift voucher I was given for my birthday.  I loved it, but then within a week or so, the fabulous Maleny Additions fashion and homewares shop started selling tops made with it!  How unbelievable - I went all the way to Sydney to buy it, and then a local designer started sewing with it too.  So that was it for me, I couldn't bear to look like I copied them, so it has sat there again, waiting, waiting...

The clothes made with it by Donna from Muse, were looser and larger than I might wear, so I have finally decided to make a fitted dress from my toile with a few variations. Here, I have changed the neckline and also narrowed the shoulder seam, and angled the shoulder seam to match my shoulders. 

I am amazed that I even dare to modify patterns now - I  must have learnt something at sewing!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

"It always astonished him how twenty-six highly conventionalised glyphs could find such varied expression once a living hand set to write them down. Was it Gertrude Stein who said that language was alphabet in disorder ?"

Yann Martel. Beatrice and Virgil

I remember reading this book a while ago and being perhaps a tad perplexed and/or unsettled by it; but I found this quote in an old notebook and I know that I loved it, so here we go.

Actually I think I am as much in love with the descriptive language as I am with the notions contained within it.

The writing is delicious, but also the idea that the alphabet, that letters, can achieve so much in so many different ways when different people put them together.  Quite astonishing really to think that the foundation of so much of our written history and culture is founded on these 'twenty-six highly conventionalised glyphs".

Thinking about highly conventionalised; it is a kind of miracle that across so many cultures, geographies and countries so many folk have agreed on these 26.  Given how we disagree on just about everything these days; it seems truly remarkable and I celebrate our ability to agree on these!

It almost feels at this time of year, one should toast the glyphs for all they have done for us and continue to do!

Ahhh, Waiheke Island, January 2018.

(after a quick google I could not link Gertrude Stein to the alphabet in disorder quote, so have left it alone...).

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


It's funny how ideas are sparked or begin.  I can't recall when or exactly where, but I do recall blogging friend Liz Ackert (a former librarian) referencing the dewey decimal system call number for something.  (apologies Liz that my memory is vague on exactly what).

But it got me thinking about codes and things that mean things to people who know how to read them.  Whilst we were in Scotland I started googling different library systems for cataloguing and went down many a merry rabbit hole and managed to confuse myself mightily.  The dewey decimal system is only one of several such systems used by different libraries around the world.  But its primarily the one I know so I ended up just sticking with it.

On return I started playing with some of the numbers which reference things that matter to me.

So I began with feminism. 305.42

And moved onto peace (reflected here by conflict resolution's call number). 303.69

And to LGBTQI rights. 306.76

And family violence. 362.82

And refugees. 362.87

It has become quite the interesting search and is something that could definitely lead somewhere. None of it is exact given my lack of librarianship skills, but the numbers do match closely aligned categories...

I have one or two things on the go and shall see what happens next.

And apropos of nothing - an interesting cloud sky the other afternoon!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Of this and that

This summer is proving to be tough already, only 2 weeks into it.  It is hot, so hot, and dry. Drought has been officially declared in our sub-tropical region. How can this be?  We watch as our poor garden fades and fails and still try to make the most of the things we can keep alive.

And yet we know we are nowhere near as bad as folk further to our west.

This time of year is also kind of bitsy - there seem to be things finishing, gatherings to be had, work to get done, preparations made for guests and the like, so it seems as if I just move between one wee thing and another. But I enjoy and appreciate most of them.

First things first - food!

More shortbread is being baked - for family and for friends.

More tomatoes are appearing - the heat sees them ripen before your very eyes, but kilograms have gone to friends and relish and sauces are being made.

And for some reason not even known to me, I thought I'd like to try to make some labna.  So into the brand new handkerchief the yoghurt went, tied around a metal straw and hanging in a vase in the fridge.  High tech all the way! Will see how we go in a few days when it has drained.

And then to sewing.  My pocket fetish/infatuation is in no way abating, so I am trying to work out new ways to incorporate pockets into my clothes.  I have a pair of pockets like these on some pants I bought and thought I should try to work out how to do them for myself.  So here is the calico mock-up.

And here they are successfully designed and applied to a new pair of pants. Most happy I am (altho I need to make the elastic in the waist tighter, still they are very nearly done).

A friend needed a quick card as a gift and they popped over to print the word PACE!! which relates to an acting teacher's regular commands to them to keep the pace up (at first I thought he wanted the Italian for peace...). A couple fo proofs.

I needed a few more grief cards - different ones this time - the dandelion ones with the words "they lived and laughed and loved and left. and life will never be the same again".  So managed to use the leftover ink to print them.  Still to be illustrated, they are drying merrily in this heat.

And then to the dull as dishwater job of dissing type.  I took apart the work I had done for McAuley in Melbourne and put all of the type back in its individual compartments in its individual trays.

And all of those wee spacers - grouped together in size and back in their special spots as well.

Days are full but life is good, except for the no rain thing.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

“And the days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days.” 

Ray Wylie Hubbard

Expectations are funny things. So much of our subjective experience seems to be impacted by what we expected might happen.  In small ways - expectations may be high about a book or movie because everybody you know says it's brilliant; and then the book or film doesn't meet expectations.  Keeping expectations of say an event low, can mean that the experience is enjoyed far more, simply because it is better than you thought it might have been.  As I said, funny old things.

I quite like how this quote brings into play not only expectations, but also that sense of gratitude.  I imagine it is about keeping an eye on the small things to be thankful for: the moments; the words; the beauty; the small acts of kindness that we come across or find and taking the time to not only acknowledge them, but to also have gratitude for them.

Having gratitude for something places value on, it means that you realise that it benefits your life or your wellbeing and that you know that it might not have been there and now it is.

I think it is a simple way of looking at the world - imagine the opposite where expectations are high and gratitude is low - a bit of a recipe for a miserable old time really. So I shall be trying - especially at this time of year, to manage both my expectations and my gratitude.

I was so grateful that my dad planted sweet peas at the cottage in the hope that they might bloom when I was there - and they did - and every day for 8 weeks we had sweet peas in the kitchen...

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Making things

I am pleased that as I get older I work a few things out.  I have learnt to complete all my commissions and commitments (pretty much) by November which gives me some clear air in December when things go all a bit ditzy.

And so this month I have been able to finish odd jobs; test out things I want to test; make a few things; work with the garden's bounty; and sit and stitch and repair.

All of which adds up to nothing much, yet quite a lot!

As we head towards gatherings and celebrations around Christmas here, baking becomes a thing.  I have been making shortbread for gifts and preparing food for guests and visitors.  For reasons completely unknown to us, our tomatoes have gone ballistic this summer (hot and dry perhaps?) and we are collecting about 1-2kg each day of these tiny sweet cherry tomatoes.  Bags are given away but also sauce and relish are made and others roasted to stir through pasta and the like.

They are so cheery!

And then to making more cards.  My grief cards are selling well - I think they speak to folk who want to say something about grief without actually using a with sympathy card.  I had been looking at them and thinking however, that they were a bit bright, and so I went and played with my Graphitint watercolour pencils instead and came up with some slightly more restrained, slight more sombre or gentle colours which I think still work well.

They are available over at decklededgepress shop if you are interested...just select the colours and the numbers of each you would like. They are, priced at $8each including postage anywhere in the world! You will also find some new baby cards and wedding cards there...

And so to stitching and fixing.  I have become one of those people who has an alterations/repair pile! Who knew?  This old dress has been a bit of a favourite - a nice linen which has been modified a few times and then sadly got a blob of oil down the front of it.  It has become a house dress (ie I don't wear it out in public) but  I thought I might be able to make something of the blob, so off we went.

I used a template for different sized circles and drew them onto the front using one of those pens which will iron away.  I gathered some beautiful silk thread I had bought at Fibres West back in July - a variegated one called Hannah from Beautiful Stitches - and started stitching around them  with a bit of variety here and there.

So far so good - plenty more to go but I think it will make me happy when I wear it around the house in the heat of summer!.