Dale Chihuly Glass at Denver Botanic Gardens

August 24th, 2014

While¬†in the USA¬†in¬†last month,¬†we had a lovely visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens, where our daughter Anna works.¬†¬† Until November 30th¬†there’s a fabulous¬†array of¬†Chihuly’s glass¬†pieces installed in amongst the garden plantings.¬† The gardens were at their full height of summer colour, and most of the works were quite organic, and very in tune with the plants that surrounded them.¬† To see some of the images, go here¬† http://tinyurl.com/o6pw4xf¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†They say that by the time it closes,¬†over 6 months it will have brought an extra 3 million visitors to DBG !¬† On the strength of this we avoided the one weekend available and instead chose¬† our last day, a monday, to visit – not realizing that¬†this was a free entry day!¬† And, so there were crowds of people¬†moving around the gardens,¬†anyway!!!¬† But, despite the large number of people, the crowd was nicely behaved and mostly¬†not¬†too pressing.

These beautiful pieces were in the water,¬†and looked very plant like; but they are ribbed cones of glass in¬†variegated greens with generous amounts of silver – you know I love glitter!¬† It’s a hard call but with green being my favourite colour, I think they are my overall favourites.

DBG favourite Dale Chihuly piece, blog ccopy

Denver has a record of dramatic and fierce summer storms – our roof was pulverised by golfball-sized hail one year, so naturally I wondered about insurance.¬†¬† Each installation is¬† a mass of organic shapes attached at one end to a central form.¬† The glass is quite thick and strong, but if something does get broken, that module is just removed and replaced with another.¬† I imagine there’s a storage area somewhere in the grounds with lots of bits of coloured glass shapes sitting around on shelves, waiting …


Second Thoughts

August 22nd, 2014

Sunburnt Textures Embr copy 2

“Sunburnt Textures” is a title piece from my first solo exhibition 1987, shortly after which my textile art¬†came under the influence of quilt making.¬†¬† The design area is about 30cm x 45cm, of paint+stitch+found objects on white canvas,¬†mounted on a stretcher bar.

In march this year¬†I worked on a power point presentation¬†about my textile¬†art¬†to use at two guest speaking events in Australia in May.¬† I found myself carefully considering this and other older works with fresh eyes after many years.¬†The very old slide was a bit cleaned up around the irregular edges with PS to¬†use as a background to¬†the title¬†“A Journey Through Landscape”

Also at that time I¬†submitted an entry proposal for the¬† “Golden Textures” exhibition¬†2015,¬†and included this sketch below.¬† The entry¬†was accepted.¬† I planned to carry it out in gold stitchery on a darkish fabric, approx 1.3mh x 1mw, and brave or mad I knew it¬†would take a long time.

Sunburnt Textures sketch quilt blog copy

Also in late April, I submitted entries for the¬†Australia Wide 4¬†Exhibition¬†opening Adelaide October this¬†year –¬†and this is a detail of one of the two I had chosen:

Sunburnt Textures 3 detail copy

At 40cm square, and clearly on the same theme, ¬†it became¬†a sort of test piece for the Golden Textures¬†entry.¬†(this detail is about¬† 10cm sq).¬†¬† I’ve always loved hand stitch but¬†the trees in this one are free machine embroidery. Well, the gold thread worked OK as you can see, but for a¬†1.3m x 1m piece it would take me many months of stitching as the metallic thread fairly quickly shredded, meaning needles had to be changed often.¬† I realized that on¬† that larger scale with the time I had available, it was not going to be possible,¬†and so I changed my Golden Textures proposal, so that now,¬†over 3/4 finished¬†it is¬†black stitch on a background of a less intense ochre-red/brown silk which glows beautifully….sometimes second thoughts are better.





An Ancient Site With Impact

July 19th, 2014

Muisca Solar Obsdrvatory blog

Muisca Solar Observatory 3 blog

Muisca Solar Observatory 2 blog


At a not-very-well-publicised site, Parque Arqueologico de Monquira, ¬†near the historic colonial town of Villa de Leyva, Colombia, we spent quite some¬†time wandering among the henge-like¬† stones, menhirs,¬†erected at what is thought to be the site of an ancient solar observatory, known as the Observatorio Solar Muisca,¬†after the pre-Columbian peoples who lived there.¬† A wonderful¬† wide view photo is available here (taken April 2014) Quoting from a Footprint guide account:¬† “About 1 km further along this road, 4 km from Villa de Leiva, is the well-endowed archaeological site of the Parque Arqueol√≥gico de Monquir√°, otherwise known as El Infiernito, where there are several huge carved phalluses (which make popular photo opportunties!). This is one of the most important Muisca religious sites in the country and features the only solar observatory in Colombia as well as a dolmen burial site:

Muisca Solar observatory 4 blogy

The site was discovered by the Spanish who baulked at the enormous stone penises and proclaimed that the Muisca would be banished to hell, hence the name ‘El Infiernito’ (hell). Much of it was destroyed and the stone used by local campesinos to build their homes. Some of it still remains and has been studied and maintained since the 1960s by archaeologist Eliecer Silva C√©lis with the support of the Universidad Pedag√≥gica y Tecnol√≥gica de Colombia.”

Such sites always really thrill me, being a connection to people way back in the mists of¬†time – the pyramids, Stonehenge and Obiri Rock, even the relatively recent Bayeux Tapestry all¬†had enormous impacts, too… even dining seafood at a waterfront restaurant in Barcelona focused my thoughts on the amazing concept of continual inhabitation of that area by people since Neolithic times in Europe, perhaps 6,500 years ago.

Revisiting Older Works, or ‘What Was I Thinking?’

June 13th, 2014

Earlier this year, an article about my four Quilt National quilts appeared here¬† http://quiltnationalartists.com/journey-landscape-alison-schwabe/¬† and it seemed a good place to start¬†a broader study for a powerpoint presentation I was asked to give to a¬† meeting of¬†Ozquilt in Perth WA last month.¬† It was suggested I might¬†talk on inspirations, themes and my processes.¬† Naturally, revisiting¬†mixed media work and quilt¬†making done over 35+ years¬†led to¬† the rediscovery of many works I’d pushed to the back of my memory – some for very good reasons indeed!¬† Here’s a pair of works made 7 years apart on the theme of water¬†as a¬†major force of nature shaping landscape:

floodwaters #2

Still Waters #2, ¬†1993.¬†¬† That year we were living in the USA, and¬†early summer ¬†floods¬†occurred all down the mighty Mississippi River valley, leaving thousands of people flooded out, destroying many homes and much infrastructure.¬† There were many dramatic and harrowing stories in the media,¬†all of which¬†prompted this piece.¬† Now, the ‘What Was I Thinking?’ bit may be obvious to you, but didn’t occur to me at the time: floodwaters, whether seeping or pouring over a tiled floor are not clear and sparkly!¬† I still have this piece, and now put it in the category of ‘not a great one’ but a work I had to make, nevertheless.


Flood 1 blog

Flood,¬† 2000¬†¬†¬† This flood piece got the swirling muddy waters right – because by this time I was more focused the powerful force of water in/on landscape.¬† I don’t think¬†this is an¬†especially wonderful a quilt, either, and hardly surprises me it is still ‘In Artist’s Collection’¬†¬† Again, it had to be made, probably so I could move on.¬† The murky green main fabric is quilted with freehand water current lines, though they’re hard to see in the clear nylon thread I used in the twin top stitch needle.¬† Although I have revealed something about this work, it still amazes me¬†that I actually made this¬†one¬†– another ‘What Was I thinking?’ piece.







From The Series Of The Same Name Comes Ebb&Flow – #24.

June 11th, 2014

Ebb & Flow 24 web

Ebb & Flow 24,  2014. 

A bit erosional in character.  Despite some real differences with others preceeding it, this one defnitely belongs in this series much more so than I felt while making it.

There has been a bit of discussion on the SAQA and Quiltart lists about working in a series,¬†what might be the importance of working in¬†a series, how you go about it, what are the guidelines to working in a series,¬†how do you set up a series., even some asking ‘Should I be working in a series do you think?’¬†¬†¬†¬†Some people get so analytical over¬†this stuff that I don’t think needs much analysis; while¬†others¬†write books and teach courses on working this way.¬†¬† Everyone knows when the work of another artist, contemporary or historic, falls into a series(s)¬†¬†¬† Working in a series is nothing new, nor does it guarantee that your work will be accepted or acclaimed if you do!¬† But everyone knows a series when they see one – it could be loosely described as a group of art works linked by some theme or technical factor that underlies¬†or defines a cohesive body of work.¬†¬†From personal experience I know that to¬†be involved in one is enriching and satisfying.¬† I don’t seem to plan mine as in set out a plan, they just lead from one to another, and¬†I just find myself in one after 2 or 3 related pieces.¬† I continue with a theme until I feel I’m done with it.¬† One or two I feel I’m finished with (Colour Memories) ¬†others not so at all even though I may not be working in that group just now¬† (Ancient Expressions) : I reserve the right to say something more some time!

How¬†thrilling was the announcement the other day that the Rembrandt portrait at Buckland Abbey in Devon UK has been shown to be a self portrait dating back to 1625 when he was in mid 20’s.¬† Until very recently it had always been thought to be in his style but done by one of his students.¬† It’s suddenly worth a heck of a lot¬†of more money in nominal terms – but, of course, the abbey will never offer it for sale!¬†But the larger amount is relevant for insurance purposes; and confirmation¬†of the C17 Rembrandt selfie will bring a large increase in visitor numbers and revenue, I imagine.¬†¬† Anyway, Rembrandt painted over 40 self portraits, quite a series you’ll agree – and many other artists painted the Old Master, too, so there are a lot of images of him – we must have a pretty good idea of what he looked like in pre-photography days.