Archive for the ‘General’ Category

A Question On Landscape

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

A quilter recently contacted me asking if I teach landscapes. My answer to her included these comments: My freehand patchwork technique is wonderful for landscapes, and your question makes me think again about much of what I have done … I have much experience with landscapes using many techniques, and would be happy to teach a whole workshop, about how fiber artists can make “landscapes” … I never teach everyone in the class to do the same … always encouraging students to follow their own intentions with the techniques that I can teach them to achieve this.

Landscape has always been at the core of the inspiration for my art. When I began to seriously express my creativity through colour and textures of landscape in the 80’s, I did this through stitch+paint+found objects. The world is made up of is made up of and infinite variety of landscapes, all of them to some degree dotted or dominated by streams, rivers, lakes ponds, parks – including but not limited to deserts, beach fringed coastlines, rugged high mountains, extensive icy tundra, tropical rainforest clad ridges and valleys, man made farmlands, highways and backroads and, of course villages, towns and cities. Below are some details from my ‘creative embroidery’ phase, but really, my art has always been mixed media even if dominated for years by patchwork and quilting, p&q.

Colour+texture in paint+stitch

Over the time I have been making quilted fabric works, my interest in landscape has shifted from shape+colour+texture to the current shape as a result of processes by wind, water, temperature change and the activity of Man as agents of shaping landscape we see around us today.

Landscape in various techniques and materials

My p&q phase began in the late 80s and has never ended, while the many sewing and construction techniques I’ve learned down the years are always ready to be considered for inclusion in a new work. While much of what I do comes under the much of my art today fits under the umbrella term art quilting, it is definitely ‘mixed media’ too.

For pieced designs, a.k.a. patchwork, I sew the pieces of fabric together by machine to make a surface design. I also use my machine to sew free machine embroidery, fme, and free machine quilting, fmq. In addition to those, I also do surface designing using any of the following – hand stitch, hand quilting, needleweaving, beading, stencilling, hand painting, hand drawing/mark making, monoprinting, spray painting, stamping, burning, machine applique, couching and more. Materials I use vary, but a favourite is cotton, plain, hand dyed and printed with small textural and striped designs. I have made quilts using appliqued leather. I made one from vinyl with appliqued mylar shapes. I have used nylon and silk organzas, and sometimes use lame or other glittery fabrics.

A Gift Of Handmade Paper

Friday, June 14th, 2019

A couple of years ago here in Montevideo, Mike and I spent a delightful day with Sue Dennis and her husband Bob. They were on a South American cruise, and meeting up with us in the city of Montevideo was their shore activity that day. What a good combination – two textile artists with supportive, congenial husbands who both just happen to be geologists with some experiences and acquaintances in common? Sue and I first met years before, teaching at a quilters’ gathering in Mt. Isa, a remote northern Australian Outback mining town, where we’d each lived at different times.

The time flew as we did a short guided tour of the city with some suitable craft gallery visits (some distance from the port, they might never have got there …) before settling into lunch and a few wines at the mercado del puerto, right near where their ship was docked. We were sorry when the time came for them to head over to reboard their ship, and I was touched when Sue gave me a couple of gifts as a thank you, as if one were needed, for we thoroughly enjoyed it all. One gift was a piece of Sue’s own hand dyed fabric, in these greens. She’d have had no idea green has always been my favourite colour! I have used about 1/4 of it in various projects since, and at the rate at which I use colours and prints I’ll be dipping into it for a while to come.

A hand made paper book – in which to collect thoughts, writings, quotations or sketches.

The other gift was a book of sheets of handmade paper. Such artisan made books are prized as artist diaries, trip diaries, as displays of collected momentos, special quotations – all kinds of special things. I’m not a big writer of diaries, and my regular readers know this blog is the nearest I believe I’ll ever come to keeping an artist’s or visual diary. I’m sorry to confess this 15cm x 10cm, 28-page hand bound book has languished in it’s protective cellophane packet since, and in the last couple of years has come ‘to the top’ several times, as it did just yesterday as I tidied up a corner of my workspace. No, don’t get over excited – it was more a shuffle of stuff with a bit of feather duster work, I didn’t actually throw anything out, which would have made what I did more effective.

When the book appeared, I took it out of its cellophane bag, checked the maker’s sticker on the back, confirming it was not Sue’s work (I’d have been surprised if it were) and for the umpteenth time pondered how I’d really love to do something with it, but felt hesitant to start writing/drawing something on it in case I then felt I’ve spoiled it … stupid thoughts like that. Writing that sentence reminded me of various quilt makers I’ve known down the years who’ve bought some absolutely gorgeous fabric that they are never quite able to cut into, but hang onto with good intentions for years and years. It was perhaps because this little book did go through my hands and mind yesterday, that when I read a interview article on the work of British artist Claire Benn this morning, it occurred to me that it would be very exciting and entirely appropriate to remove the binding and treat each individual sheet of paper as a stitch surface.

I’m a big fan of hand stitch from way back, particularly what I call the Glorious Straight Stitch which was the subject of a series of posts back in 2013 I’m sure I have some natural coloured threads that would be lovely on such lovely thick textured paper. I’ll just have to think about this a bit longer, and for the moment I put it back into it’s protective cellophane bag…

Sculptures From Pockets And Corners

Monday, June 10th, 2019
Benoit Pype Sculptures de fonds de poches, 2011 – 2014

I was recently at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Montevideo and was quite enchanted by this work. By Benoit Pype, this is a small, c.1m x 1m, table top installation of little mixed media sculptures or assemblages, each mounted on a little white plinth or cube, which vary in height from 1-2cm+. As I approached it, I thought it was some kind of crowd scene of tiny figures, but as my eyes were drawn in close I found these tiny little objects including many fibre things including bits of fluff, feathers, threads, little snippets of this and that, heavens knows what else, with possibly a sticky lolly or a dead beetle somewhere … I should go back to check; and maybe take a better camera. The title suggests he might have emptied his pockets regularly, but from the sounds of an interesting article by Michela Alessandrini about him “Benoît Pype handles the minuscule, collects the useless, and acclaims the waste.”

I had not heard or his work until I saw this one piece, and in the very short time I’ve been reading about him, this artist has become a favourite. Rather than give more links and quotes, I recommend you visit his website , make a coffee and take time to explore his approach to his art, revel in the excellent photography and enjoy his wonderful statements about his work. (“It is not necessary to go to the end of the world to travel, the adventure is at the bottom of a pocket, in my garden, around my house.” )

Browsing Through Stitches

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Browsing on my FB page this morning, I was enticed by a wonderful pic of a very textural work (by Clarrissa Callesen) advertising the Ballarat and Toowoomba winter textile art workshops this year, at It looks like a great program, as usual, Glennys and Noni! and I’m sorry I can’t be there but will be able to come one day. On this year’s tutor/class offering list is international tutor Clarissa Callesen of USA, whose work I did not know of, but am very glad to have found this interesting mixed media artist

When I’m browsing and find something interesting, I always look for a web page for that name, hoping there’ll be a statement by the artist revealing something of motivation and influences in their art. Clarissa’s entire statement is worth reading and contemplating, but several sentences in particular resonate with me: “I am less concerned with an object’s original purpose and more interested in the evidence of life a thing wears upon the surface ….. I am fascinated with the relationships between decay and fecundity, repulsion and seduction, chaos and order.  The compost of life creates new growth, whether that is the literal forest floor feeding new life or the wounds and scars of human life that bring forth strength and change.” I wish I had written those words. ‘Recycled’ easily finds its way into artists’ statements these days, often sounding a deliberate attempt to endow the work with some extra merit. But reading her statement shows this is this is not just empty virtue signalling, as her work is an expression of deeply thought out views and feelings, and requires no dressing up with fancy words.

Callesen’s art recycles and re-purposes discarded man-made materials, plus other natural objects such as stones, driftwood and shells she has collected; and her stashes of materials and objects must be amazing. What she finds is already in some state of disuse and decay when found, and on some of their surfaces she enhances signs of decay or stress using various processes, so that looking at some images it’s not possible to be sure of the composition of many of them. With the exception of some tetrahedrons I made a few years ago, I’ve mostly worked in 2-D – art quilts since 1989, but before that I was making framed or mounted creative but very low relief embroideries, examples of which are in my mixed media gallery Seeing this lovely stitched art is inspiring me to think about a couple of 3-D ideas …

In the same browsing session I clicked on a link someone posted to Exquisitely Gifted a major exhibition among several scheduled events celebrating the West Australian Embroiderers’ Guild’s golden anniversary. It may just be the photographer’s choice, but looking at the pictures of this exhibition, including many framed and mounted works with very few free-standing or sculptural pieces, I think little has changed in the guild since I was a member over 20 years ago. Some of those mounts are box lids (I myself made one or two fabric covered boxes with decorated lids) and many are nicely framed. Book or album type presentations are popular, like this one I made in 1985 while a member of the guild:

Mineral Study 1985. 46cm x 28cm Mineral specimens property of M. Schwabe.

It takes time and care to achieve high standards in traditional embroidery styles, and some of the fabrics and specialty threads are pretty expensive, so no wonder these kinds of works are regarded and presented as ‘precious’. Craft guilds like WAEG are the repositories of the historic knowledge and techniques of traditional embroideries that, but for the incredible guild activities , might otherwise disappear. The textile art world exemplified by Callestan and other practitioners of contemporary hand stitch depend on the deep knowledge and enthusiasm of the traditional craft guilds.

Attention West Australian readers and textile artists – In September an exciting sounding Threads Of Gold Convention will be held at Fremantle – check out the guild’s news pages for details – their taster workshops sound real fun!

Revision Notes – Improvisational Piecing

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

I’ve just been updating my class handouts for introductory and advanced classes in Improvisational Piecing, IP, which I’ll be teaching in Gramado, Brasil, in September. I generally refer to IP as ‘freehand piecing’. Every line is a potential ‘seam’. I’ve loved this style of patchwork since I first encountered it c.1990, and these days it appears frequently in Modern Quilting, art quilting, and variations on traditional patterns.

Cutting only with the rotary cutter and piecing by machine, the maker has no set pattern pieces to follow. I often do a basic sketch diagram:

Some simple traditional patterns adapt well for improvisational piecing

– or have a photo in front of me to start with, such as this one:

Woollen fabric sample albums at a historic museum. Lines are everywhere! These images have been pinned on my wall for a while … the lines are important, but so are the colours.

Unlike the precision of traditional patchwork, accuracy of meeting points is not only unnecessary, little mis-matches and irregularities are essential for the organic look IP has.

Dividing a square to build complexity – the size of the square determines how much detail can be gone into!

I’m removing the above diagram from my class handout, because I’ve come up with something I think is better; but I’m sure some readers might find these diagrams a bit inspirational and want to try the ideas they suggest.

The basic geometric shapes that make up traditional patchwork patterns all lend themselves to improvisational inserts, and they’re worth playing around with because there is always plenty of scope for the ‘What if?’ and serendipity which make it so much fun to do. The end result is something more interesting, more complex, Plus there’s potential for borders and backgrounds …

Sunburnt Textures 4, 2014. 30cm x 30cm
Detail from Ebb&Flow 16, 2009

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