Desert Wind, With Toothpick

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

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.

Considering Series Again

December 13th, 2017

In response to yet another question on working in a series, on which I have written before,  I wrote a  few comments on the Quiltart list this week, including:  “I think it is important to write about each work. I don’t mean how you made it – those technical details aren’t the important part of a series. I mean writing your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, concerns, fears maybe – anything about your work, put onto paper, or into a digital visual or artist’s diary of some kind.  This writing, in whatever form, is not for publication but for yourself; the act of thinking about why you are doing what you are doing is part of the series process.  And when a meaningful artist statement is required, you have already done the groundwork! I’ve occasionally had what I felt at the time were one-offs, and yet with some, hindsight, there are really only two that don’t fit in one of my series.  But, even as I wrote that sentence, it occurred to me that those two almost forgotten works, made almost 20 years apart, have something strong in common… perhaps I need to think about that and write something about what links these two very different looking works…”

Life’s Rich Tapestry 2,  1990,  160cm x 160cm

I can’t find anything I’ve written about this old quilt, although if you have a Visions 1992 catalogue handy you’ll find something in that –  that artist statement would refer to the role of chance, in how our lives weave through highs and lows, as nothing stays the same for ever – we exercise skill navigating the swings and roundabouts, but there’s always temptation, the quirky hand of fate, the wheel of fortune, and so on – all these things are alluded to in the images on the quilt, which itself is a patchwork background of brights and darks signifying highs and lows.  In many ways this  contains the germ of the much later and still current ‘Ebb and Flow’ series.


Arbol de la Vida,  2008,  approx 150cm x 100cm

This morning I went back through my blog posts (aka something like ‘artists diary’) and read here what I’d forgotten about this second quilt I called Arbol de la Vida.  It was a exhibited in some exhibition I was invited to take part in – I just don’t remember – and I didn’t write much about it at the time, perhaps I didn’t think it was important enough, I’m not sure.  But I can tell you that in the preceding few months or weeks I had seen a fabulous exhibition of the ceramics of very important Uruguayan artist  Jose Gurvich  some of whose works can be seen today in a dedicated museum in the old city on Plaza Matriz. I love his work which is literally everywhere here.  Note the Life theme, and the pictographic symbols on the leaves – I was definitely on that same hand of fate/role of chance track 18 years later.

This morning I watched an interesting profile of Egyptian jewellery designer Azza Fahmy whose beautiful dramatic modern jewellery references her nationality and cultural history – she commented that while designing her Pharaonic collection over 10 years she was constantly combing through museums and archeological sites all around Egypt re-familiarising herself with all elements of ancient Egyptian decorative design that she was using as inspiration.  It can take much time and thought to build a series!

I think it’s time to have a palm reading.

Grids + Texture = Inspiration?

November 25th, 2017

When something like these two surfaces grabs me, I always take a closeup of the texture.  Not that I want to recreate it in fabric, but I am recording my admiration in this ‘visual diary’, and possibly in time I will find inspiration in some aspect of it.  These obviously already appealed in terms of grid layout and texture.  There are more fabulous door examples here, and a few of some old safes and strongboxes here.

Left:  Gate in city wall, Cairo                  Right: Safe in Cabildo, Montevideo

When we saw this fabulous  C19 safe in the recently restored original Montevideo Cabildo on the Plaza Matriz, it reminded me of the fabulously textured reinforced door I snapped in Egypt 10 years ago.  Check out the keyhole in the centre of the detail (lower right) Some day when I have time (to wait around) I’m going back to inquire if anyone has the key to this old safe – as I’m sure that it too is a work of art, and I’d love to see it.  Momentarily inspired, I just googled ancient keys – and my goodness,  there are some beauties there.  I could spend hours more wandering via the keyboard, but not today.


Textile Exhibitions Montevideo, 5

November 14th, 2017

For the WTA VII Biennial here in Montevideo, Spain was the specially invited coutry, and several prominent Spanish textile artists participated in an exhibition at the Centro Cultural de España an exhibition – Doble ancho,tejiendo con arte/Double width, weaving with art, curated by Maria Ortega and Carmen Pellares.  Several artists showed more than one work, and it was nice to get a sense of a body of work from those.  All the works were interesting, with the emphasis very clearly on techniques combining fabric, thread and stitch, with only some using paint or dye surface design techniques before using stitch.   So technically speaking, most of the works were far closer to traditional needleworking techniques than many works in the other WTA Biennial VII exhibitions I’ve written about. Far from being a negative, this brought me back to the basics of stitch on fabric, where the process is one of holding the fabric, pushing the needle in, pulling the needle out, making some space for mental wandering, and if taking enough time to stitch an exploration of the idea in your mind, a resulting needle worked piece of art is produced.


This particularly applied to several works by Amparo de la Sota, and I think she may be an unwitting aficionado of the slow stitch movement – it’s a real thing over the past 3-4 years – google that term for many references to taking one’s time to enjoy the process, the meditative potential of repetitive hand work – and this appeals to stitchers across the spectrum of hand embroidery and hand quilting styles.


Amparo de la Sota, Spain,  Carta / Letter  approx  1.5m sq.
detail below

This piece I really loved, because of course, it is hand embroidery.  I could sense that calm she might have felt as she was stitching in black cotton on sandy-gold linen.  However when I read her statement it it meant much more.  To Amparo this work expresses her great interest in letters of the alphabet not only for their shapes and written and printed meanings, but the shapes and patterns of sections of text within those hand written letters from bygone days.  Then paper was an expensive luxury so that writers covered both sides of the page with lines of text going in several different directions superimposed to get the most onto that single piece of paper. It was an era when letters travelled slowly and a reply from around the world could take many months. Today we live at a different pace – I’ m not unusual in that I have hand written only two letters in the past year, but when I was young, we wrote several every week.

This second work, too, I particularly liked, though I could not find any particular reason why she chose the gingko biloba leaf as her motif, except it is a popular motif of an unusual plant that, until it’s discovery growing in a chinese monastery garden in C19, was known only through the fossil record.  As with a lot of Amparo’s work apparently (see link above and more) she likes to crochet lines of fine texture and sew these onto the fabric – a technique and look ideal for this particular plant.  I’d love to watch her actually working.

Amparo de la Sota


Raquel de Prada showed two works, both on delightfully mundane everyday subjects – first a group of bottles on a shelf, second a group of people.  Stuffed or some might say ‘quilted’, both pieces also featured irregular shaped cut-out edges, and as an artist who works in quilted textiles, I was thrilled to see the edge treatment of these works.  With all art but especially textile art I love to see people working outside the default rectangular box – though of course my readers know how much I like to work in grids, too, but I have done my share of irregular shaped works.  The use of fabric dyes to paint the fabric of the top/front layer is very light handed and impressionistic, like watercolours.

Raquel de Prada, Spain, Las botellas de Frankfort / Frankfurt bottles  approx. 180m W x 90cm H
Raquel de Prada, Spain,  Abuela diminuta con sus nietos / Little grandmother with her grandchildren  Approx 190cm W x 100cm H


Brezo Alcoceba, Spain,  Sumiko Noname  approx. 140cmW x  60cmH

The small photo I included in this collage of shots of this next work confirmed what I felt but wasn’t sure as I approached this dramatic work – that it is indeed a wearable work of art.  I lifted the photo from the catalogue – which had no accreditation 🙁  of either photographer or the artist who made the piece, so I hope no one minds.  The artist is Heather Brezo Alcoceba  of Madrid.  From reading about her work, it’s an architectural concept as clothing, made of wool felt.  I love it – and you could see it as some kind of vibrant pink chrysalis, which I’d love to wear as a glamorous show stopper, though perhaps it would add a bit much volume to my silhouette, but what the heck.  However she made it, it’s fabulous.


Maria Muñoz Torregrosa, Spain  Las lineas de mi mano/My hand’s lines each pair of hands c. 25cm x 25cm x10cm approx

The final favourite from this show is this work by Maria Muñoz Torregrosa expressing her acute sadness about a much loved son she is worried about or feels she has lost in some way.  The group of 10 soft sculptured pairs of hands have banners or chains of words (stiched over wire) strung between them, and within these lines the artist feels are answers or solutions to their relationship.  Did she consult a palm reader about this painful situation, perhaps? According to her statement, in her search for understanding, these short messages offer guidance and possibly comfort about the situation, as in ‘your absence fills everything’.  Thought provoking and profound.


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