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Arcs Are Everywhere, Take 2

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Yes, they are everywhere around us ,  and I love the technical fit with the freehand cutting and piecing I use in many of my quilted textile statements.

Lately I’ve used strong bright colours with black particularly, and just felt I needed to go into something soft and neutral – signifying mood change or looking for balance, perhaps?   And lo and behold, last month New Zealand friend Doris MacGibbon arrived with a gift of some lovely fabrics I might very well have chosen myself if I’d been anywhere near a fabric shop that stocks such things – not in Montevideo in a million years, I think.  Several fabrics made me think of wintery beaches in various places – too cold for sunbathers and swimmers, and perhaps windy, like lots of memories of Greens Beach, northern Tasmania, or this selection from the Falkland Islands trip I took a few years back:

Confession: I did not realise I had ‘breaking wave action’ until I took these photos of the pieced top!

 

The Opposite Of Patchwork = Holework?

Monday, April 16th, 2018

I believe from our use of the word ‘patchwork’, surviving ancient textile remnants and the myths and legends that surround the notions of traditional patchwork, that it all originated in the world of mending.

As a newbie in the world of quiltmaking, I learned how to draft and construct traditional American geometric patchwork patterns to any size.  Like most, I was instantly hooked, and still love a well made traditional quilt.  However, since I met freehand or improvisational piecing, that has been my go-to technique. in which fundamentally line is a seam, think it, do it.

From my family background, and standard for my age, came education in the practical skills of sewing, mending and dressmaking, from a mother who believed every woman needed to know how to use a sewing machine for her home and family.

From my early interest in stitch and its potential as creative embroidery came appreciation of applique techniques in textile art.

I’ve been consciously thinking of holes for some time, but realise now that I’m considering ‘patch’ as the opposite of ‘hole’ and in fact have already unwittingly combined them:

 

So should works featuring holes be called lace, or ‘holework’?

Doreen Bayley, Sculptural Basketry, Dodeca, Uruguay.

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

Late last year I visited the exhibition of award winners in Uruguay’s Premio Nacional Artesania de 2017 / National Craft Award  2017, at the Museo Blanes in Montevideo, about which I posted  at the time.  It included these two non-functional vessels, made from pine needles stitched and held in place by needle and thick thread, working up spirally into basket-like forms, each topped with objects gathered from nature – on one a limestone rock, and on the other a large seed.  (I’m sorry the photo is a bit contaminated by reflections on the acrylic display case they were in)

Doreen Bayley, sculptural basketry ~ 10cm<20cm, Premio Nacional Artesania de 2017.

Doreen Bayley’s constructions’ emphasise the negative space between fibres (enclosed hidden volume) and suggestions of function, both from the heritage of ‘baskets’ as containers, connecting modern basketry with ancient woven or meshed vessels.  Probably all ancient peoples had some kind of hand made fibre vessels we call baskets – this article will give broad perspectives through human history, though I skimmed without seeing any reference to the basketry skills of the Australian Aborigine which are well known and continue to this day through the art and efforts of such artist-teachers as Nalda Searles , and even a gardening program on my country’s national broadcaster, hardly surprising really, as much beautiful basketry today is made from gathered vegetative fibres.

Though the Uruguayan 2017 national craft award show has finished, this award winning fibre artist, Doreen Bayley of Colonia, Uruguay, currently has some additional, mostly small, pieces of sculptural basketry on exhibition at the Dodeca Cultural Centre Carrasco, showing until May 2nd 2018.  In some ways the pieces are more interesting than those she had in the award show, though I can understand why a couple of them at least she may have decided were not appropriate for entry there.

 

For this largest piece in the exhibition, Doreen used Salix Matsudana known variously as the corkscrew willow, the tortured willow, the curly willow … a popular subject for gardeners and raw material for interior decorators.  Assembled from cuts of this tree’s weeping branches, the short pieces are held in place by plastic ties frequently used by gardeners and home handymen.  Overall this piece is about 30cm x 25cm x 5cm  approx – and that little space centre front in the section of the bare wood just suggests a vessel function.  Actually to me, the whole thing suggests a facial tissue box tipped on its side.  As my eye flips from the branches to the ties that hold them in place, so my mind flips from ‘beautiful to not-really-beautiful’….it’s an intriguing piece.  In front of it on a low table are two very small pieces: now these two suggest some practical purpose but are in fact totally ‘useless’.  The blue of a fine blue fibre woven in with something firm but hidden, makes me think of a small sack of something, standing up on it’s base.  The other piece makes me think of either an Aladdin’s lamp or a drinking vessel, the old fashioned kind of thick glass used to feed reclining infants or invalids in the days before sippy cups or bendy straws.  Each piece made mind ponder on ‘the inside’.

Doreen Bayley, vessel, grasses, base approx 15cm diam,  10cm h.

And finally, an elegant vessel that one could certainly plunk a pot of maidenhair fern into, but why would you? This lovely piece begs to be lifted up, weighed in the hand, turned over, sniffed, smoothed by the palm and fingers, looked at closely, peered into and set back down again with a satisfied smile.  A thing of beauty is a joy for ever. Doreen does pre-treat her materials to protect against the ravages of decay by insects, moulds and fungi.

Doreen Bayley’s statement mentions the influence of Ed Rossbach, who spearheaded the 1970s resurgence of interest in the craft of basket making, elevating it to a sculptural art form – some would say architectural. Though he himself used a wide variety of natural and man made materials in his art, under the influence of hippy culture’s back to the earth movement many since that time have focused on gathering and using natural materials they found around them.  This firmly grounds modern basketry in the heritage of an ancient craft that descends from the Stone Age.  Materials, food and tradable goods had to be carried around at times, and most ancient peoples had some form of woven fibre technology to do this.  Woven vessels have been found from Asia Minor and ancient Egypt from before 5000 BC, and similarly dry desert climates around the world favoured preservation of early natural fibre objects from plant materials and hides; but like all other textiles in humid conditions, basketry decays fairly rapidly from the effects of moulds and insects.  (For a glimpse of the variety of materials and forms in basketry today, go to https://www.facebook.com/basketry/  and then consider the art of Lanny Bergner about whose work I posted March 26, 2016 – baskets/vessels but stainless steel and blowtorched – they’ll last indefinitely!)

Mark Making And Mending

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

On textile artist Maeve Coulter’s textile art page is a brief paragraph on her techniques, another on the themes and ideas in her art, plus this single line: “I was raised in a household where fabric was revered, rescued and reused.”  This comment is a common thread running through statements by many textile artists, fabric artists, art quilters, whatever each of us calls ourselves.  The presence of fabric or cloth in our lives is acknowledged, and we tend to revere it at some level for its importance from cradle to grave. It’s frequently expressed in terms of saving, rescuing, repurposing, upcycling, reusing and recycling garments and other cloth items.  The western world has lost a lot of the ‘make do and mend’ concept, and our garbage tips and landfills bulge as  huge environmental problem grows daily.

I’m a classic Baby Boomer, and all the mothers of other kids I knew used fabrics carefully, sewing garments with generous seam and hem allowances that allowed them to be handed down and along to other families where they could be taken up, let out, lengthened or shortened.   For a garment to successfully endure all these phases, the fabric needed to be the best quality  possible, and in home sewing for kids especially it has always been false economy to go for cheap fabric.  Our mothers were stay at home mums, as even though they might have worked during the men’s absence fighting WWII, most of those jobs were handed back to men as they returned home.  Clothes rationing lasted in Australia until the early 50s, so our mothers had the motivation and the time to invest in the whole process of sewing, mending and repurposing fabric things.  Plus they mended things to make them last longer.

Straight stitches commonly feature in mending – for example a 3-corner tear

I’ve noticed artists who can claim their work uses all recycled materials enjoy a subtle extra merit, eco brownie points, making the work somehow more worthy because only recycled materials were used.  Google “recycled clothes” for example, you’ll find many pics of inspiring projects from recycled materials, it’s big business.  I guess I might be part way there, as I don’t cut into new fabric if I have suitable coloured/printed/textured scraps or offcuts I can use in my improvisational constructions.  Occasionally I cut up an old garment, but I tend to give away intact clothes I’ve worn a lot or outgrown that still have some use in them.  To go all the way would be to scour op shops and markets, but, to be honest, I have no inclination to regularly do those rounds or hoard bundles of fabrics from used clothes.  I have a close friend who acquires mended fabric whatevers by various means – clothes, sheets, blankets, you name it, she has it somewhere.  The interior of her house has all this wonderful fabric stuff, much of it backed by interesting stories, but you can barely find a place to sit down.  I just do not want to get on that bandwagon  🙂

 

Element of Intermittency

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

Though there does not seem to be such a word, there should be, and it would be built from intermittent the same way that the word intimate gives rise to intimacy.  (I’ve just become hooked by Scrabble online, I’m a bit word conscious anyway but constantly amazed by what is and is not allowed as a word.)   In a few years’ time maybe you’ll look back and say you read it first right here on Alison’s blog; but regardless, I’m hereby declaring intermittency to be an element of discontinuity between lines and shapes in my Ebb&Flow works, the statement for which is “Series Concept – Nothing stays the same for ever.  With age, we recognise and understand the ebb and flow of people, places and fortune throughout our lives.”

I’ve been exploring this theme for over a decade. Mostly I deliberately construct the intermittencies; sometimes they’re accidental or seem so.  Beautiful shapes stop suddenly, perhaps connected by lines of stitching to where they resume elsewhere in the work, but they can also remain totally unconnected to anything.  Doesn’t Life itself have patches of that same thing, of intermittency, of abrupt discontinuity as various features of Life come and go, ebb and flow?  No, not your own life?  Well mine has certainly been characterised by serial intermittencies in the geographical and cultural senses.  We’ve had many moves, and the 12 years in this house is the longest time I’ve lived anywhere in my entire life.

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