Knots Can Add Fine Texture

July 29th, 2023

Last year I made several layered textile works featuring a knotted surface. One of them, “Caribbean Crush” will go on show for the first time soon, at The Visions Museum of Textile Art, San Diego CA, from October 13th until December 30th.

A nearly-full view of Caribbean Crush, 2022, 98cmsq, and close detail of the hand stitched surface using a fairly thick polyester thread that’s impossible to press flat, which is why it is so wonderful for this kind of thing!

I’m pretty sure there will be ‘do not touch’ instructions everywhere, yet for my piece I almost think touching it should be allowed – the surface is so inviting, and surprisingly soft to the touch.

I’m currently gathering materials and ideas for a small project, to meet a call for entries combining textile and glass in some way, 2D or 3D, <20cm any direction. I have sourced glass fabricated in various ways without having had to take a crash course on glass blowing 🙂 In Egypt we visited a glass blowing artist and I simply had to gather up a ridiculously heavy bag of huge glass beads without any idea what I wanted to do with them… I once made a necklace which was a lovely idea, and I wore it once for several hours, but it was impossibly heavy to wear for that afternoon, let alone all day!! So here I am, 15 years later, and there’s a chance several of them might actually be included in this little piece…

Glass beads from Egypt! The fabric is fibre glass, and the other bobbly things are another purchase I simply had to make in Egypt… they’re thread ‘buttons’ for traditional men’s clothing. I’ve always thought them quite beautiful but they’re not very robust – several are unravelling even though about all they’re ever done is travel a day or two in a suitcase, then sit in a drawer and about once a year just slip through my hands for a few minutes….

Decades ago I fairly heavily beaded an entire wall quilt “Tidal Shallows 1” with tiny watery blue/green toned glass beads –

“Tidal Shallows”, 1998, 88cm x 88cm

About a decade ago I went to a beading class for a few months, so I have plenty of glass beads around, but I’m thinking I need to do some knots for texture to marry the glass and textile elements.

So when I looked on Pinterest for knotted stitches, I found some really interesting images, one of which led me to a blog article on 9 Important Knot Stitches in Embroidery , and I was struck by several I didn’t know – namely Danish knots, 4-legged knot stitch, colonial knots and Turk’s head knot (which you make with the thread/yarn/cord and then attach to the work.) I was pleased to see French knots there, and what the writer called pistil stitch which I’ve always called stemmed french knots – always one of my favourites.

I’m also thinking about a Stitch Club workshop I enjoyed in 2020 from Clarissa Callesen. Stuffed forms weren’t new to me, but the workshop was a fun and lively reminder of their sculptural potential. There’s always one of those constructions from that week kicking round my sewing room… and I see myself using something of that technique here:

Art Quilt Australia 2023

July 28th, 2023

One of my two entries was selected for this important Australian biennial, and I just shipped my work “Green Dimension” out yesterday, assured it will arrive at the National Wool Museum, Geelong, Victoria, early next week. The exhibition opens on Friday11th August, and will close on Sunday 12th November. Green Dimension is hand stitched using processes I really enjoy doing, and as green has always been my favourite colour, it was a pleasure to make.

“Green Dimension” 2023, 107cm x 103cm. Hand stitched.


July 13th, 2023

In 1978, I attended a wonderful 8-day summer school / symposium at a conference centre at Goolwa, South Australia. It was organised by a group of very experimental stitchers within the South Australian Embroiderers’ Guild, who then went on to publish a wonderful book about the ideas and techniques they’d taught us. We were taught by a team of three highly qualified embroiders a couple of whom were academics in tertiary art or textile art schools. That amazing workshop had a huge ongoing impact on my fibreart, and in the next decade I combined paint with stitch, embroidering my impressions of the landscape around me.

A slide from a recent presentation, this symposium was hugely influential on my textile art, though shortly after I made this gold nugget for a Community project quilt in Kalgoorlie Western Australia, we moved to the USA where I learned the basics of traditional American geometric patchwork and quilting, which led me down a completely different path!

“Distant Shores” 1985, ~100cm x 130cm. In reality this was my first art quilt, but as ‘a creative embroiderer’ I termed this a wall hanging, until several years later.

My only traditional quilt, a Flying Geese design, was begun in a symposium workshop with the then doyenne of Flying Geese, and author of a book on the subject, Blanche Young. This is an awful photo!! The question is, why was I in such a hurry that I couldn’t take a decent one? However, the wall quilt’s storage at the moment, so this will have to do.

Flying Geese wall quilt, 36″ x 72″, 1988.

In 1987 I was invited to exhibit my fibreart interpretations of landscape. As I prepared for that exhibition, someone advised me to have everything photographed for my record – which was sound advice, although the choice of photographers for hire in the mining town where we lived at the time was limited – between a wedding/portrait photographer and another whose day job was the official company photographer for the biggest mining company in the region.  It didn’t occur to me to ask Murray to photograph my art against a plain neutral background – and so everything was photographed against a rather nasty bare brick wall… which in my innocence I saw nothing wrong with!  But bless him, Murray’s lighting and focus were excellent, and at least I had a 35mm slide record of my work!  I’ve had a few of those slide images digitised, including this one, cropped to eliminate that brick wall 🙂 

Soon after we arrived to live in Denver CO for a short time, a new neighbour took me along to her local quilt guild which I immediately joined and began learning traditional geometric patchwork and quilting.  I took some construction classes and joined quilting bee for the cultural experience, which turned out to be the hardest group I’ve ever had to leave, anywhere, as the ‘short time’ durned into seven years. I made just one traditional wall quilt, of the flying geese design, and began to design my own non-traditional quilts a year later.

Way back in my early art quilt making days probably 1991 or 1992, I attended a monthly meeting of the Front Range Contemporary Quilters group at Boulder CO. The guest speaker, Patsy Allen of North Carolina, was a well known at quilter in the early 90s, having appeared in some of the earliest Quilt Nationals. Her slide lecture covered her portfolio of work produced over 10-15 years, showing that while her techniques and designs changed over that time, certain recognisable elements were present in every design. It was interesting to see how some elements became more prominent over time, and others became less significant, but their presence gave identifiable continuity through all her work. Like many other prominent art quilt makers, she advised us to always take as good photos of our work as our tech skills or means allow, and recommended occasionally reviewing our art in chronological order, looking for patterns of continuity and thinking about what inspires and influences us.

I recently gave a virtual lecture on the influences in my own works over the decades I’ve been making and exhibiting textile art.  Of course, my techniques, materials and the focus of landscape’s influences have varied over time, but to put the talk together was enlightening. I do occasionally review my art in more-or-less chronological order every few years, and sometimes find an angle I never considered before.  A couple of interesting questions from my audience after the lecture prompted further thought, too.

These days with digital cameras and phones, it’s easy to take progress photos of what we’re doing, though I only publish a few of them in my blog or on my social media sites.  Taking pics of works in process encourages me to regularly review my general artist statement, possibly my bio, and write a brief statement, at least a sentence, about every work as I finish it, while my thinking on it is fresh in my mind. 

My regular readers already know that this blog, the nearest I’ll ever come to an artist’s diary, is one line of documentation about my fibreart. My other documentation is a list of titles, dimensions, year completed, and like any list it’s a fairly dry or sterile document that I an quickly look up if I’m writing or answering a query. I what I call an illustrated catalogue, with an image of the work plus title, year, dimensions and availability or location of each work. I really should expand this to include a statement about it and the major points of it’s history – exhibition, sale etc…. but right now I am working on something that is starting to pull me upstairs to my sewing room, so I’ll deal with that another day.

Fibre Art Exhibition in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

July 4th, 2023

I recently visited an exhibition of very small 2D and 3D textile works, each a maximum of 25cm x 25cm x 25cm, at the Cultural Centre Bastion de Carmen, in the Casco Viejo area of the city. The works were assembled by the World Textile Association to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Twenty five Uruguayan and twenty five Chilean artists submitted a work, which will now travel to Chile.

There was no catalogue and very little stated information given on most of the pieces, beyond what you could work out from the title, though some artists referenced techniques used. As I have always believed and quite often said that the best artist statement is a brief, well chosen title, so I shouldn’t complain.

Let me share with you these ones I found most interesting:

“Esplandor” (radiance) Veronica Garrido of Chile used fibres from the agave plant for the delicate needle lace she embroidered around the edges of the skeleton of another plant, hoja, and the slightly more robust-looking lunaria petals. I love it when people use their skills to create something for the technical challenge and a beautiful result.
Natalia Urnia of Chile says of her grandmother’s completely frayed blouse that brought to her mind poetic thoughts of time – the past, present and future.
Doreen Bailey, UY, produced “Artist’s Book’ featuring various materials – metal mesh, gut, beads, raw silk and silk ribbon, using mixed techniques of plaiting, embroidery and crochet. I love the cover – annealed (heat treated) metal mesh which of course is ‘fabric’.
Patriarchy within Uruguayan society clearly weighs heavily on this Uruguayan artist, Ana Maria Casnati, either from personal experience or observation of some situations around her. The grim expression on this lady’s stitched portrait is presented in a house-like dark stained wooden mount/frame, very oppressive in its effect. A really thought provoking work.
Chile artist Inez Campino knitted this copper wire sculpture that immediately said to me ‘abandoned snake skin’.
Estafania Tarud UY exhibited “Fuego”, an intriguing hand stitched representation of a hand holding a cigarette lighter flame in pitch dark. I’m not fond of using embroidery hoops to display finished works, but it is a thing, I know. I felt it is only part finished – I’d have liked to see the image centred in the frame, or otherwise some very dark (but not black) stitching to faintly suggest the presence of the person whose hand is holding the lighter open. And I’d have liked the hoop to be hanging straight on the wall.
Margaret Whyte’s “Insensatez” (Senselessness) is a bit of a mystery to me – but perhaps that’s the point. I looked carefully at it, and the mixed techniques include painting, and tying/stitching down of the discarded mesh fabrics, fibrefill and pebbles with threads and wire, probably from the various meshes in the composition. I’m not sure what it says – definitely not a decorative piece, and I’m not at all sure it makes any effective statement about reusing discarded materials, either…
One of a couple of strange pieces visitors were invited to touch and handle, this one was as unpleasant a handling experience as it appeared at first glance, and I don’t see the point except as a subtle way to say ‘don’t touch’.

Quilt National 23 – “Abstract Landscape Textures”

June 17th, 2023

This biennial exhibition is showing in Athens, Ohio, until September 13th, after which the collection will be divided into 3 groups, which will travel to other art gallery and museum venues in several countries until the end of 2025.

The Dairy Barn has various projects related to the QN23 exhibition.

One is that all exhibiting artists are offered the chance to record a short video on their art and work to submit for editing and posting on the Dairy Barn’s YouTube channel. You can see the video I recorded for QN21, which of course was at the height of the pandemic, and as an older person I didn’t even consider travelling to the opening. For various reasons I didn’t go up to the recent opening of this year’s QN23, either. This past week I’ve been preparing a video about “Abstract Landscape Textures”, and was almost ready to send it to them when I decided to have just one more serious look for any kind of planning diagram I’d drawn, feeling sure I would have done something. In that video I said I’d taken a ‘large page and drawn a few lines on it’, and that was what I’d been looking for. I actually found the diagram, but it turned out to be approximately 7″x5″, a really minimalist doodle taking about 1/3 of a standard A4 page in the blank paged book I do such things in… I’ll post the link to my video on the Dairy Barn’s YouTube channel when it goes live.

Planning diagram for “Abstract Landscape Textures” (~7″x5″)

It’s a typical of the diagrammatic pics I use to plan my works, but has no annotation this time. I often add lists or numbers that show what I’m needing to think about… but here, the only clue is that the lines extend quite far to the right, indicating that I was intending rows of repeat patterns in the kind of style I diagrammed on the left end – and blank areas indicate I hadn’t actually decided what to put in those parts. I did all the horizontal lines first, then the arcs and beehive shapes – and still not being sure, put it aside for a while and worked on a couple of other projects before taking it up again 4-5 months later.

I think because it took so long to make in fits and starts with other things in between, that by the time it was eventually finished, I felt slightly ambivalent about it, and hadn’t even decided on a name for it beyond the working title ‘large black with gold lines and arcs‘. I had it photographed in the same session with two others, and when it was time to submit for QN, I put details of those other quilts on the form, then, as the entry fee covers three works, I decided I might as well put this one in, too, meaning I had to commit to a title for it! We’ll never know of course whether the jurors would have selected one of the others I entered if there had only two….

On the evening of Thursday 29th of this month, just days from now, I will be giving a virtual slide lecture, “Timetracks: A Guide To Exploring Influences” with Q&A session to follow, as part of The Dairy Barn’s Quilt National workshop program. I’ve finalised the power point slides and sent them a copy, and we’ll have a pre-presentation check next week, to make sure there are no technical problems. Registration is required, and further info is at It will be recorded and available to participants for 6 weeks after that date, which will be helpful to any friends in time zones around the other side of the world who may want to watch it.

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