About Souvenirs and Memories

March 27th, 2015

In today’s¬†“The Australian”, ¬†reporter Trent Dalton interviews writer Clive James, an Australian writer whose work I always enjoy. ¬†In it, a sort of pre-recorded obituary, Clive reflects on his life in general and his illustrious career. ¬†He’s lived in the UK ¬†for many years, and at 75 he’s now unfortunately terminally ill and too frail to travel anywhere except to the hospice to which he will eventually be conveyed. ¬†There, with none of his stuff and books around him, he expects to have time to reflect on the infidelity, as he puts it the biggest mistake in his life ¬†–

“But I shall have time to reflect

That what I miss was just the bric-a-brac

I kept with me to blunt my solitude,

Part of my brave face when my life was wrecked

By my gift for deceit

Truth clears away so many souvenirs” ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Clive James, 2015.

“Truth clears away so many souvenirs” ¬†rang a bell with me, and I wish I could remember who it was who wrote some words I read just recently, on how all of us accumulate a lot of stuff including mementos and souvenirs, and especially the heaps and heaps of photos. ¬† We find it hard to let all this stuff go, and yet these are not memories but merely the “artifacts of memories”.


Years ago I had a fierce argument with an aunt who was horrified that I did not wish to grab up our father’s sunday school and many academic prizes when their house was being sorted after our parents’ deaths. ¬†She clearly felt I had some sort of duty to cling on to prizes HE won – but I didn’t feel that way at all! ¬†Different life styles I guess – she spent her life mostly in the one town, we have moved a lot down the years, and more to come. ¬†I dread being reunited with several shoe boxes of photos in our house in Australia – as we really let the photo album thing go, I think, in the flurry of house moves and long spells in storage – that’s my recollection, anyway, and I’m sticking to it!

And it was Barry Humphries as Edna Everidge who uttered the immortal line about wrinkles around the eyes which we Aussies call crows feet – ¬† “… and what are they but the dried up beds of old smiles?”

Mexican Craftsmanship On Show

March 19th, 2015

Here in Montevideo one of my favourite museums is the Museo de Arte Precolombino e Indigena,  or Museum of Pre-Columbian and Indigenous Art.


It’s on Calle 25 Mayo in the Cuidad Vieja. ¬†The permanent exhibitions are always fascinating and I always learn something new. ¬†Definitely a must-visit if you’re coming here to Montevideo.

They also have exciting temporary/visiting exhibitions, and on at the moment until 4/4, with the possibility of extension Рis a visiting exhibition of superb Mexican artisanship,  Grandes Maestros del Art Populare Mexicano,  which I enjoyed last week.  Just as in other parts of the world, hand crafted art is constantly under threat of extinction from mass produced stuff, and people are becoming less aware of the importance of traditional crafts. This project and touring exhibition is designed to help promote and preserve the traditions in danger of being lost to younger generations.

I have travelled a little in northern and central Mexico, and have a sister who for nearly 40 years has lived in the extreme south of New Mexico US.   That location has allowed a great deal of travel  across the border down the years, and given her opportunity she has never resisted to collect a large quantity of very fine examples of Mexican folk art.  Mexican ceramics, textiles, wordwork,  cut and textured tin, glassware and clothing are in use in and and decorate her genuine traditional adobe mud brick home in the Rio Grande Valley.  She would love this collection, and many of the pieces in this fantastic exhibition are of crafts and art that I  have met before.   But others were new to me Рlike this incredible candle wax sculptured altar

Mexican art 6 blog

approx 1m w x  90cm h which was displayed in a rather cold air-conditioned room for  obvious reasons!  (It was a pretty hot early march day)


Mexican art 1 blog

Mexican art 2 blog

This 2.5m x 2m hand embroidered cloth could be used on bed, wall or table.  I have a couple of huipils in this technique, plus some small mats and a table runner.


On one wall was hanging a group of different weavings, all in lovely colours and very skillful .  I show the edging of this shawl or scarf  for its featured fringing and feathers Рquite beautiful.

Mexican art 3 blog


Embossed and cut metal sheeting is used a lot  for frames  and light fittings, and this one around a mirror is superb:

Mexican art 4 blog


From Oaxaca comes ¬†wonderful hand painted wooden items particularly animals birds insect and fish, of which these are the largest examples I’ve seen. ¬†We have some nice pieces at home in Australia, too, but they are much smaller. ¬†The spotted cat-like creature, jaguar perhaps, is about 80cm long x 35cm high.

Mexican art 5 blog



The beautiful ceramic candelabra itself is perhaps 60cm tall and the candles add another 20cm approx. ¬†Talk about intricate, delicate and downright fragile – heavens’ knows what the bill for packing and transporting this stuff was!!

Mexican art 7  blog


And, finally, some Day of The Dead ceramic figurines at a funeral …

Mexican art 8  blog


Apart from my delight at seeing this beautifully hand crafted art work and so much of it – 600 pieces – the wonderful thing about the exhibition is that it is here in Montevideo. ¬†If you’re coming soon, or live here, take an hour or ¬†two to enjoy it: ¬†http://www.mapi.uy/informacion_de_interes.html


The Bungle Bungles of Australia’s Kimberley

March 9th, 2015

Known as “Purnululu” to the indigenous people of the region, and later known by Europeans as ¬†“The Bungle Bungles”, these ancient landforms are located in a remote region of Australia’s north west known as The Kimberley.


It’s hard to get to, distances are long and rugged travelling, and though very expensive, flying over it is a very popular way for some to experience it. ¬†I haven’t been there yet though I have travelled over a lot of the Kimberley region, including all the towns mentioned on this location map.

The Kimberley map

The Bungle Bungles have long been depicted in Aboriginal art from the area, and the formation has become a familiar motif in collectable art  in formats ranging  from paintings to Tshirts, graphic logos and 3d sculptures.

I’ve been inspired myself. ¬† Back in 1993 I finished a quilt called Nightfall In The Bungle Bungles ¬†155cm x 148cm part of which is shown here on the left. When finishing off this quilt,¬†I went to a workshop by Nancy Crow at which I learned the basics of improvisational piecing which changed the whole way I piece fabric. ¬†If I’d left making ¬†NITBB until a month later, it would not have looked like a row of Egyptian pyramids ;-)

BBungles Kimberley 2 collage blog The idea stayed with me and in 2002 I had another go, and the result, above right, was Kimberley 2, 70cm x 110cm.  


Wherever you go in this area it is impossible not be be impressed with distance, remoteness and dramatic scenery including waterfalls gracefully falling over over towering cliffs into the clear refreshing pools at their base.  Such cliffs inspired Kimberley 2, 1996,  110cm h x  70cm w, an irregular shaped peice photographed against a black background.



This morning I came across a call for entries for a textile art competition to be called ‘Kimberley Dreaming’ to be shown in Australia later in the year. ¬†The required format is 30cm x 30cm. ¬†I have some ideas gelling and enough time to put one or two into effect before the closing deadline – so I’m off to dig through my scrap bag for suitable fabrics to begin putting something together.




The Sketchbook Page Today…

February 21st, 2015



sketchbook today feb 22 blog_edited-1

With arrows, stars, words and comments, this is a typical sketchbook page. ¬†They’re always in pencil, but I re-did this one for you in pen to get a clearer scan. ¬†I understand my own handwriting and abbreviations in this aide memoire, ¬†and even if it doesn’t mean much to you¬†I’m happy to share these¬†marks as part of my process. ¬†You’re welcome to anything else you glean of the ideas they encapsulate :-) ¬†There is much reference to several previous works or things I’ve been working with in sample form.

I regret that my hand writing has deteriorated, partly age-related :-) ¬†but even more a sign of the times. ¬† It is¬†the nearest I ever come to journal keeping, but of course it is definitely not that. ¬†I really don’t know how the beautiful artist journal keepers keep it up ¬†:-) ¬†This morning I was casually googling around holes, sheers, grids and marks, when a couple of ideas struck. ¬†Not wanting to lose a second, and with the sketchbook upstairs as usual, I took a sheet of waste paper from the printer and jotted them down. ¬†I’m a diagram person, and when¬†epiphany strikes like that a simple diagram+words, stars and arrows captures it. One¬†just might solve a nagging problem to do with using sheers that has long bothered me, and I must let Rosemary Claus-Gray know ….




QuiltCon 2015 or Modern Traditionalism

February 20th, 2015

Modern traditionalism – what a great term! ¬†Tradition and Innovation coexist strongly in all kinds of human endeavour, and quilt making is no exception. ¬†It’s very human to want to continue doing things the way they have always been done – but equally human to want to vary it a bit – or a lot.

It is very interesting that in¬†less than 10 years, the Modern Quilt Guild has rapidly taken off as a large subset of the Quilting Industry. It began as a movement of ¬†mostly younger makers juggling jobs, families and creative time deficits which led the founders to communicate online; but as other people joined them guilds began to appear to cater to a desire of people to meet locally in real time – exactly the same function of such groups in the ‘other’ older and more traditional part of the Quilting Industry. ¬†The focus of Modern quilt makers has always been to produce decorative practical home items (more bed quilts than wall quilts) ¬†which are made with the now standard rotary cut fabrics, machine pieced and machine quilted. Improvisational piecing finds a natural home with many Modern Quilters, though not to the degree I’d have thought would prevail by now, as Modern quilts still predominantly feature straight edge pattern shapes. ¬†I have been working freehand, template-free, that is, improvisationally, for over two decades now; and since I learned how to do that have always freehand cut the inner shapes of any repeat unit ( ‘block’ ) ¬†and very often the outer edge too. ¬†I love grids and how straight lines contrast with more organic lines. ¬†Modern Quilters still happily talk of ‘blocks’, and it is interesting to me that the movement has not found its own distinctive terminology to set itself apart a bit more from things traditional. While the Modern Quilt movement has brought quilt making into the lives of people many of whom have never quilted before,even though their mothers and grandmothers might have, there’s also quite a percentage who have defected from their more traditional quilt guilds and groups including some who have gone so far as to ditch their non-modern fabrics, and there are some with a foot in each camp.

In setting their identity apart from traditional quilt making, Modern Quilters maintain certain particular goals, some of which are spelled out on the movement’s¬†website,¬† and the following generalisations can be made: these quilters tend to be younger in age than more traditional quiltmakers, are strongly literate in digital communication and social media, produce primarily functional quilts, ¬†are (allegedly) inspired by modern design, and they favour use of bold clear colors and prints, lots of white/grey/neutrals with high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work.¬† whatever this last term means…. ¬†I also found this whole sentence,¬†lifted exactly as it appears on the MQG ¬†website –¬†¬†“Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.” ¬†

I’ve been browsing at the pics of the winning quilts at the QuiltCon 2015 exposition in Austin, TX https://themodernquiltguild.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/congratulations-to-our-2015-quiltcon-winners. ¬†By all accounts, if measured by enthusiastic crowds alone, the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual event is probably well on the way to reaching equivalence to the more traditional International Quilt Festival Houston every october. There are classes to take, vendor booths with fabrics books and notions, speakers, discussion panels, block competitions and more, with a huge variety of categories of entered quilts vying for enticing prizes with attendant prestige.

The term ‘modern traditionalism’ is one of the exhibition categories for QuiltCon 2015, and below is the winner – for a closer look go to¬†https://themodernquiltguild.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/soper_longislandmodern.jpg¬†¬† It bothers me as much as most sampler quilts I’ve ever seen – only rarely are they well designed, as distinct from ‘well made’, which this one certainly seems to be. ¬†Traditionally sampler quilts are a first project in which a quilter learns how to piece or applique quilt blocks while coming to understand the basics of colour, value, balance and contrast, the quilter then learns how to set them into a pleasing layout, with or without sashings and borders. When you add the sandwiching, quilting and binding, that’s a lot of learning in that one project. For this quilt, the addition of generous grey, white or grey/white print sashings ,and perhaps the odd empty block to surround the splashes of lovely clear bright colour would have achieved more expansive negative spaces and introduced some element of minimalism. ¬†Some blocks could have been withheld from the front and pieced into the back where they would still available as a reminder of the learning they covered.


1st Place
Long Island Modern Sampler by Kim Soper
Centerport, New York
Individual MQG Member
Pieced & Quilted by: Kim Soper

There are some very interesting individual blocks in this overwhelming collection, and I hope Kim Soper selects one or two to work with for something more out of the box for next year. For example, she/he could take the bright mint green improvisational cross at lower left – it’s a popular motif for repeat units, modern or traditional. I used it ¬†in a repeat unit design in organza in 2005:

transparent quilt 2 copy tiny_edited-1


The following link shows all the winners and runners-up in the exhibition and many are from countries outside USA, pointing to the growing popularity of MQG around the world – there’s even a couple of Aussie winners !yay! – check these out –

Bias Tape Quilting Challenge

Sponsored by Panasonic


1st Place
CPU by Katherine Jones
Chigwell, Tasmania, Australia
Tasmania, Australia MQG
Pieced & Quilted by: Katherine Jones


2nd Place  Stock on Hand by Katherine Jones

Chigwell, Tasmania, Australia
Tasmania, Australia MQG
Pieced & Quilted by: Katherine Jones

 I was born and raised in Tasmania Рthere must be something in the water besides the flouride :-)




1st¬†Place ¬† ¬† ¬†plus a Judge’s Choice award !
Rainbow Magic by Mollie McMahon
Sutton, NSW, Australia
Canberra MQG
Pieced by: Mollie McMahon
Quilted by: Mollie McMahon
& Jules McMahon


And it is especially pleasing to see Best of Show awarded to this wonderful quilt by fellow art quilter¬†Kathy York¬†¬†whose work has been known to me for a long time –


i Quilt by Kathy York
Austin, Texas
Austin MQG
Pieced & Quilted by: Kathy York

You can see all the winners of QuiltCon2015 here https://themodernquiltguild.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/congratulations-to-our-2015-quiltcon-winners

Go to the Modern Quilt Guild website and there visit some of the galleries, clicking on slices/thumbnails for a complete view of each quilt.