Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Inspirations From The Earth’s Crust

Monday, March 11th, 2024

This is the most dramatic picture that leapt off my computer screen this week. I just can’t stop smiling at it. No one knows for sure how it was formed, and discussion online ranges between it somehow being deliberately split by some unknown ancient civilisation and a product of erosional processes. When you think of it, if you cropped the photo it would look like just another vertical cliff face somewhere, but the photo in full begs the question ‘how come this bit of vertical cliff was left behind after such an extensive erosion process in that area?’ I’m very interested in both fields, neither extreme seems convincing, and the answer doesn’t matter much to me, so I’m not theorising here. I’m just intrigued by the drama of these two massive blocks of stone appearing to be balanced on relatively small pedestals or plinths.

The Al Naslaa rock, Saudi Arabia, (source Wikipedia)

We all live on the Earth’s crust of course, but not everyone has more than a passing interest in the familiar features of the landscape around them, and I’d suggest ‘the weather’ occupies more time per day in human minds. Also, most people live their whole lives in the area in which they were born and raised, without direct experience of other parts of the Earth with different mega shapes and textures. My early interest in physical geography probably began with the different sunday drives and school holiday road trips that our parents took us on as we grew up in the Australian state of Tasmania. In our childhoods we learned about the economic activities in various areas, they took us to see things like a power station under construction. We travelled on trains – air travel was rare and expensive. My parents knew people who lived on sheep farms, ran diaries, apple orchards and fished commercially. Dad’s best mate ran a furniture factory so we learned a bit about wood and forests during our travels. Dad’s brother was an industrial chemist who was involved in a paper mill which I did see in operation long ago. A friend of his took ours and another family underground in a silver lead zinc mine he managed. Tasmania is pretty rugged, with mountains and plateaus in the centre, and the western side of the island has particuarly inaccessible hardwood forest covered mountains and steep sided river valleys. Moving to the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia with my exploration geologist husband was my first encounter with very flat expansive semi desert regions and the sparse vegetation that results from low rainfall. It was one part of the huge culture shock of the totally new experience of living in a goldmining city, Kalgoorlie. Mike’s work in 70s and 80s took us the other parts of the Australian Outback, each with distinctively different landscape types, and our love of camping and road trips took us through more really remote parts that mobile phone coverage has rendered less ‘remote’ these days. When we were young, far Outback tourism was too difficult for most people outside mining and pastoral companies to undertake, but these days modern fourwheel drive vehicles and highly sophisticated camping gear enable many to undertake trips to places that we were fortunate to experience nerly fifty years ago courtesy of some of Mike’s employers, and what I call our Tent Period took us to the Northern Territory to live in a tent camp, in an area that has since been gazetted Kakadu National Park. In the 80s we spent 6+ years in Denver CO and visited many of the most famous national parks and monuments in the United States, many of which are based on extraordinary geological features. In further travels in Egypt, France, England, New Zealand, Chile, Southern Argentina Uruguay and The Falkland Islands, either employment or recreational tourism related, physical geography has always been interesting to me.

My geologist husband ‘sees’ the lines and shapes of and landscape as the surface results of the powerful tectonic forces acting beneath the Earth’s crust. I ‘see’ the lines and shapes of plains, mountains, lakes, valleys and mesas as results of the eternal erosion and deposition cycles through wind, water and temperature variation, and sometimes as a result of human activity, as in these next pics. Digging into the Earth’s crust to extract minerals is one of the most interesting human activities, and has always been tied to our family’s economic well being. So it’s hardly surprising that has been an inspiration to my art on several occasions –

An opencut mine in paint and stitch. It is just possible to see small trees and possibly buildings or heaframes on the distant surface. c.1987 Approx. 18″ x 24″
“On The Golden Mile” 1987, approx. 16 x 24in. Paint+ hand stitch.
“Hannan’s Reward” 1993. 100cm x 140cm Machine pieced and quilted.

We see/read the same view of the Earth’s surface in different ways, and I have always found landscapes a rich source of inspiration for my embroidery and contemporary quilt designs.

Another Discovery

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

 Mirage 1, 2005.    75 x 100cm                     Oscuro, 2002.   122cm  x 100cm.


These two small wall quilts date from early 2002.   Looking through archived images this morning I found the one on the right, and though I remembered it, and occasionally come across it in the deepest recesses of my storage area.  For a while I couldn’t remember what on earth I called it, but eventually I did, and I now believe the illustrated catalogue to be complete.  The key word is ‘believe’, leaving some wiggle room for another discovery.

Mirage 1 was really just a sample to see how fine I could go with a wavy line approach, and gently waving lines like these have characterised my technique ever since.  It’s no great art work, but a little piece I love and usually take to any technical workshop that includes freehand piecing.  I had just been inspired by the new appearance of very finely pieced works by well known Australian artist and friend, Margery Goodall, which has since become a signature element in her textile art.  The title reflects the shimmering quality of a mirage.

Oscuro also has little artistic merit, but is another piece I needed to make.  The arcs of colour which began appearing in my work several years before seemed appropriate for those unforgettable images of rolling, falling, clouds of smoke, ash, all manner of debris, that filled our minds following New York’s Twin Towers attack in 2001.  The barely visible machine quilted pattern is of same-colour grey arcs over the entire quilt.  Oscuro is spanish for dark.

Ancient History in Sheer Layers

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

This Egypt themed work has never been ‘lost’ because I bump into it every now and then.  I don’t  remember giving it any name, it isn’t listed in my catalogue but I will rectify that, I’ve never shown it, nor did it lead on to a new body of work that I thought at the time it would; though I knew I didn’t want to make a set of ‘Egypt’ quilts.  I think it is an expression of awe I felt the whole time we were visiting a place that had fascinated me since I was a young child, and having put that into fabric, I left it.


We visited the country about ten years ago, before the Arab Spring upheavals, and of course layers and layers of human activity and history confront at every turn, carved and painted onto thousands of mural walls, monument bases, stelae and temple columns, and used to decorate all manner of objects both useful and not so useful for sale to the throngs of tourists who have not yet gone back to the pre-revolutionary numbers.  I’m certain this layers of history thing prompted my choice to use nylon organza to give a blurry sense of the passage of distant times – check the left side of the photo below.  Some pyramids, the sphinx and Tutankhamun’s iconic headdress are lurex fabrics cut to shape with marker pen details added.

Recently someone asked what fellow artists recommended for stabilising some kind of organiza for free machine quilting.  My sheer Egypt piece came to mind, and I recommended that maintain the sheer quality and avoid slippage between the layers, that she might hand baste and then freely quilt/embroider without either foot or hoop.  It’s a decade since I made this work, and so I think that’s how I handled it!  but it’s hard to tell from the photo or the actual (crumpled) work pulled from the cupboard.  As I often do, I found it a bit wondrous to see something I’ve not paid any real attention to for ages.  There’s a lot about this work I really like.

My regular readers know I’ve recently been thinking about influences from landscape in my work, the tracks left by Man, and natural patterns of all kinds in landscape.  Here’s a great pic, taken in the Black Desert SSW of Cairo, showing a network of tracks in the ancient desert landscape.

Tracks And Marks

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018



Almost no one currently alive will ever find themselves in a landscape of any kind where they could be 100% sure no human has ever been, although on a deserted beach or a windswept landscape stretching into the distance, if you ignore the sometimes subtle tracks ahead, squint your eyes and forget your recent flight, bus, train hike, bike or boat trip that got you there, it may just be possible to imagine you are the first human to ever set foot on that landscape …

Though it took me years to actually name a group of works ‘Tracks’, I know that landscape shapes, colours and textures are all track marks left by Mother Nature on those surfaces.  Modern Man, too, has left many complicated marks – fences, pipelines, railways, roads, power lines, canals, airports and ports, marshalling yards, to say nothing of small towns and vast cities with horizontal mazes of streets, bridges and roads, and multilevel vertical mazes of human habitation –  really, the tracks of human activity are everywhere.  Though I have focused more on the patterning on artifacts and drawn images on rocks, cliffs, cave walls and open plains, the ‘tracks’ made by Man on landscapes are not limited to the ancient ones that I’ve always found so awe inspiring, intriguing as those are.

In the design of my quilt, New Directions, 2000, the multitude of lines from every direction represent the paths and tracks of human migration onto our continent in the last 60,000 years.  I have just read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu  which details the agricultural practices of Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal people.  Until now, having grown up in Tasmania, and lived overseas for many years, I’d never heard of extensive fish traps on the great inland river systems, and the extensive areas planted with grains on the open plains, many of which were seen by the colonists but dismissed by settlers and farmers with European farming practice backgrounds.  Ignorant of the sustainable land management practices the indigenous people had practised for thousands of years, they dismissively assumed they were not civilised enough to have devised such systems.  This fascinating book has me thinking more about tracks and pathways.

Eye-Opening Grids

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Browsing online recently, I discovered the beautiful textile art of Canadian artist Chung-Im Kim .

Born in South Korea, and for nearly three decades resident in Canada, Chung-Im’s art interestingly and successfully blends her cultural past with her cultural present. Traditional Korean bojagi are some of the cultural roots to which Chung-Im periodically returns for inspirational refreshment; and in one body of work these well-known traditional textiles have become canvases for print and stitch compositions.  But it is her dimensional, sculptural work with felt that blew me away, with alluring titles of groups of work in her portfolio – pre-grids, grids, free grids, living geometry and miniatures.

Felt is made from a large variety of natural, synthetic fibres and blended fibres, with wool felt considered to be one of the oldest textiles in human history.  Late last year I wrote of an interesting exhibition by some international feltmakers in the textile biennial here in Montevideo, and though I have found and bought some beautifully crafted felt things down the years, I’ve still never seen anyone actually making felt, and have never seriously considered it as a ‘raw material’ for my own art, though I am aware of artists such as Rebecca Howdeshell US,  Siv Goransson UY and Australian Nancy Ballesteros.

Chung-Im describes her materials and process as industrial felt screen printed with digitally engineered images, which she presumably cuts into, and then assembles the remaining pieces by hand, for which see this image.  So I googled ‘industrial’ felt, and now understand ‘felt’ to be a huge field, more varied than I’d ever thought about, and of large scale manufacturing of felted fibres of various kinds and blends with industrial applications including carpet underlays and gaskets for use in some machinery. The most interesting site I spent time on provides sizes of pre-cut and rolled felt from small custom shapes, various page-sized sheets up to huge rolls of various widths and thicknesses, depending on the buyer’s requirements.  I immediately began developing a mental list of ‘buyer’s requirements’ to ask about, and it almost makes me want to ditch my woven fabrics and clear studio space for some industrial felt supplies … No, I doubt I’d take such a radical step, but some ideas a percolating, and as I do have some small pieces of craft felt around, some time I might paint, monoprint or stencil something on it of my own design, or look into getting something printed, as a canvas for embroidery, perhaps.  Felt as a non-fraying material with some body or stiffness is inspiring…but I digress.

These works really opened my eyes to the potential of ‘grids’, and to the realisation that I may have been interpreting ‘grids’ too narrowly, despite several posts on the subject, like this one .   Isohyets, topographical maps, aerial photos, erosion patterns, in fact all kinds of contour lines associated with diagrams, maps and charts all come flooding into my mind when viewing these works.

Chung-Im Kim, dawn,  2012,   71 x 60 x 6 inches.  Image artist supplied.

Chung-Im Kim, nalgae,  2012,  43 x 44 x 5 inches.  Image artist supplied.
Chung-Im Kim,  baekya 2009, 46 x 47 x 4 inches.  Image artist supplied.

These and many more works on her website show inspiration from landscape shapes and patterns of surface textures.

Another interesting group of work is titled ‘living geometry’ , containing pieces which I initially thought could have been filed with ‘free grids’, because all their grids are certainly irregular.  However, on further reflection, I realised the difference in concept is that these pieces appear to be growing right out of a surface in a very organic way, suggesting they are alive.

The combination of smooth, printable surface and stiffness that lends itself to sculptural goals, reminded me of the wool felt sculpture/garment exhibited by heather Brezo Alcoceba of Spain, which I mentioned in the post of 14/11/2017 last.  (scroll well down)  In this pop-over shoulder cape kind of garment, the wearability of which was not immediately obvious, it now occurs to me that that very 3D surface has a strong connection to the idea of irregular grids.

I’d like to thank Chung-Im Kim for supplying images and giving permission to use them in this article.


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