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Embarrassing – Help Anyone?

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Compiling the illustrated catalogue of my art quilts over the past 30 years is interesting, and I’m now about 3/4 through and enjoying this challenging project.  There have been one or two surprises, and this little wall quilt is one of them.  When I came across the details “Forest Floor, 2000,  55cm  x 46cm” in my list of quilts, it took a bit of scrolling through a folder of earlier quilts to match these details with an image which had no caption – of a small wall quilt which I simply did not remember making until I recognised some of the fabrics, the style I’d often used and the undeniable evidence of this photo I took at the opening of my solo exhibition at The Embassy of Australia in Washington D.C., June 2005.  I guess I must have finished it shortly before packing to go up to USA without leaving enough time to take it into my photographer Eduardo Baldizan’s studio, because I have good photos of everything else in that show.  My record says this is Miriam, standing with presumably her young daughter beside the quilt, and that she bought it that night.  My embarrassment is that I don’t remember Miriam’s family name!  If anyone recognises her, I’d appreciate your letting me know who she is.




Uruguay’s National Crafts Award 2017

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Yesterday Mike and I went to the Museo Blanes where the award winners in the Uruguay National Crafts Prize 2017 are now on display in an indoor/outdoor courtyard area around a lovely pool surrounded by grass, with seating. It’s been recently worked on and is only just open to the public again, and I hope it will remain roofless but I’m not sure where that’s going.  Anyway it’s a perfect spot to show this work.  Some of the pieces are under protective plexiglass cases, others not.

The award aims to promote creativity and innovation in the production of handicrafts at the national level; to improve the marketing channels of such objects; to promote research into the cultural roots of Uruguay and its expression in contemporary handicraft works; and to encourage and spread the rescue of trades and craft activities in general.  Under the aegis of several national governmental and association organisations, the prizes totalling over US$7000 are of two categories – one-off unique pieces and production pieces that have been market tested.

In Uruguayan crafts generally I am often very aware of my different cultural background that has me perceive lots of stuff as simply clunky, heavy and dark.  Unfamiliar historical references are often apparent, but even when I do know the fine details of them I still find some objects visually unappealing to me no matter what they referenced.

The first piece I came across that I really love is Noelia Martinez Montero’s bag using wet felting and other techniques, featuring a design from engravings found at archaeological sites up around Salto.  I don’t know if it actually will function as a bag/cartera, but that’s what she called it.

Noelia Martinez Montero, wet felted bag

The gaucho (equivalent to Aussie stockman, N.American cowboy) is a huge cultural element in the history and culture of this country.  Like their counterparts, gauchos have taken their industry’s leather arts in particular to high standards.  This next pic is of Jonathan Velasquez’ exquisite woven rawhide decorated scabbard, knife handle and riding crop, enhanced by being in several colours.

Jonathan Velasquez – rawhide decorated knife handle, scabbard, riding crop

Bandoneon players, bandoneonistas, are at the heart of Rio del Plata music, especially through tango, ancient and modern.  This single enthusiastic looking figure by Jose R. Vasquez Fleitas, was displayed a short distance from a bunch of really wild looking types playing cards fabricated in the same techniques –  carved bodies coated with clothing made from recycled fabrics painted over, and the heads topped with dyed natural wool fleece hair.


 Jose R Vasquez Fleitas,  Bandoneonista  approx 30cm

Birds, especially elegant looking long legged ones, are popular for crafted objects; and this one with its tell-tale little feather topknot is the southern lapwing known as Tero – the national bird of Uruguay.  It’s beautifully made in the right proportions from wood and various textured sheets of metal and steel, though the information did not mention if these were recycled materials as I felt they were.


Ismael Alvarez Aljas,  bird figure approx 25cm.

There were other items that I found hard to relate to on cultural grounds, as I mentioned, including a  bunch of figures on horseback made from shells and dried animal bones, which though they did look full of movement somehow I couldn’t envisage buying or having around on my own coffee table.  A hand woven rug of dark brown wool with touches of grey was displayed as if just dumped, plopped down in a heap on top of a plinth.  It should have been either carefully folded to show the edge, or draped over something – so it could be admired – it was selected into the national crafts award exhibition for heavens’ sakes.  This was very disrespectful to the artist, in my opinion.   And this next rant is of something that so often bothers me in this country – the information and name plates beside the exhibits.  Though though nice looking small acrylic blocks, the printing was small, and many were maddeningly crooked – carelessly placed beside their exhibits.  Though I did discretely straighten up some just sitting on plinth and table tops, I didn’t dare touch the plexiglass covering others.  This near-enough-is-good-enough misalignment of things like door handles, light switches is sooo common in Uruguay, and drives me nuts.  However don’t let my idiosyncrasies put you off – this is a nice exhibition, and can be seen though to the end of February, plus the the Lacy Duarte is still on, and there are always the permanent Figaris, Blanes and Cuneo works to be enjoyed. One of my fav places – check the museum opening times at

Updating Record Keeping – New Year Project

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

From a file of old photos not very often visited, here’s a photo of a work I haven’t seen or thought of in some years.  I’m in the middle of a project that is bring a few gems to the surface, and I’ll show another soon including one from the ‘OMG What Was I Thinking? group. This one I always loved – typical of the Ancient Expressions series, exploring landscape’s relationship to the peoples who lived in/on it and some of the marks they left behind.

Ancient Expressions XIII    1992    Approx 125cm x 90cm

Since I began making quilts in 1987, I have always had each photographed with the best technology at the time; I’ve always kept a list of title, date completed, dimensions; kept an index file card for each listing exhibitions it was seen in, where it sold or two whom it sold.  I kept my slides in albums of slide sheets, and kept catalogues or other paper stuff in a filing cabinet.  Time’s moved on and all this is now woefully old tech – and in my case, disorganised, but it’s complicated, and partly because I never expected how long I’d living in this country, so never brought over stuff I would have if we’d actually moved house. Plus I haven’t spent any quality time with my records in Perth for some years.  I’m wondering whether it matters, really, but just in case someone wants to curate a grand retrospective 🙂  I’m compiling a new document that combines basic info plus image(s) of each work.  I’d really forgotten about several of them – a couple I am sure I have physically lost, some older works are here and others never made the journey, but I can’t be 100% sure they’re still rolled up in dust covers on top of the bookshelf in Perth.


Desert Wind, With Toothpick

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Left – Desert Wind 1995,  200cm x 200cm.     Right – Toothpick, year unknown

A couple of days ago while showing some visitors a few of my quilts, I unfurled this one,  Someone said ‘There’s a needle in it…’  and we turned it over to find not a needle but a toothpick slightly protruding. It’s not of any kind I’ve ever bought, and I have no idea how it could have got there. The notion of someone stalking around an exhibition opening spearing a quilt with a used toothpick is quite bizarre.  ‘Desert Wind’ (bound edges not visible) is approx 2m x 2m.  It’s big enough for a bedcover – and in the right room in the right house it would be dramatic.  I made it originally to use as an eye catching backdrop for my booth at a contemporary craft show in Australia.  It doesn’t suit our style or anywhere we’re ever likely to live – but anyway it remains in my possession, and I exhibit it from time to time.  In its exhibition history it’s been handled by quite a few people one way and another, and of course, it took many hours of machine piecing, machine quilting and hand quilting.





How strange this toothpick has only just come to light!

Lacy Duarte, Antologia, Montevideo Exhibition

Monday, December 18th, 2017

The other day we visited one of my favourite museums, Museo Blanes in Montevideo, where currently showing is a survey exhibition covering almost almost 60 years of the drawings with paint on paper and canvas of Lacy Duarte (dec. 2015)  Someone coined the word pintujos, combining parts of the spanish words pinturas=paintings and dibujos=drawings to describe these mixed media works.. Lacy Duarte was born in rural northern Uruguay, in the border zone with Brasil, and all her life retained her strong roots though lived for a time in Porto Allegre Brasil, Maldonado UY and later Montevideo after the death of her painter husband.  Her creative life began with painting, she learned and practised weaving, taught drawing and eventually re-focused on painting – with drawings, in collage-like constructions, these pintujos.   She carved wood and other materials, and used fabric+stitch on small sculptures of rural animals and often human figures or dolls.

Fabric is also part of these collages, in the form of what would have been originally rubbings of clothing and now printed by some technique so they occur as repeated motifs of parts of garments of textures that indicate strong durable fabrics, none of them suggesting femininity.  I was interested in the brush marks on these pintujos suggesting stitch, holding the fabric of everything together, perhaps. Duarte apparently struggled with the courage required of women to survive in the poor, very macho uruguayan rural environment .

Pintujo, Lacy Duarte

Pintujo, Lacy Duarte


Detail, pintujo, Lacy Duarte
Detail, pintujo, Lacy Duarte

The slightly slumped female figure with sagging shoulders and untidy hair is an interesting symbol for her concerns.  Prints of it it appear often in her work (pics 1, 2, and in the 3rd pic down, the head has been torn off the body and placed elsewhere – hinting at the psycho-social issues she felt keenly.  Of the armadillo-related creature, the mulita, Lacy wrote “En el campo,cuando agarran una mulita, el animal inmediatamente junta sus manos y queda indefenso, pero tiene un cascaron que le permite sobrevivir; mi identificacion es por al cascaron que me hi tenido que armar para la sobrevivencia.”  Roughly translated this reads “In the field, when they grab a mulita, the animal immediately gathers its hands and is helpless, but has a shell that allows it to survive; my identification is by the shell that I had to grow for my survival.” (in the macho, poorer, uruguayan country side.)  The mulita appears a number of times in the works of this show, as does the woman I mentioned, and a woman, a child and some small creature riding horseback (to school?) is repeated many times too.  The horse’s head on the broomstick appears often, too, and maybe it has an additional symbolic meaning beyond being a popular childhood toy anyone can afford or make.  As Lacy herself carved, it might have been something she made for her own sons.

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