Wednesday, 1 July 2015

it's not business, it's personal.

every now and then there's a flurry of correspondence from folk demanding to know why i am continuing to destroy the planet by flying about in planes, teaching face to face instead of simply offering classes online.

it was the subject of lively discussion with my son this morning as we shared several portions of delicious caffeine. i wish i had taken notes as i've already lost half the words he offered (all of which were deeply insightful).

i had mumbled something along the lines of it probably being easier to stay at home ecoprinting mass-produced garments and plenishing the bank account than teaching instead except that this would go starkly against my life philosophy. and would be quite lonely. and i would miss the wandering.


that when boiled down to the essence, what really takes me out into the world to teach is not business, it's personal. it's the being together with a dozen like-minded souls eager to learn and keen to share. 
it's the importance of making a connection, of spontaneously reciting poetry and breaking into song, about the burbling laughter and sometimes even the tears. it's that moment a face lights up with joy at the work that has come from a person's hands, the energy that fills a room when we collectively read the aleatory poetry created by sharing gathered words, the hilarity that follows an impromptu dressing up session (and sometimes simply knee trembling awe at the intangible presence of beauty) and when someone tells you that something in their life has been bettered or even healed simply by being present in a class. *

when we go online (as my son pointed out) we are (no matter how we try) dislocated from reality. people might sit at their computers, thinking they are being deeply social and being included because they can participate by pressing a few buttons but really (if they thought about it) being very much alone, no matter how many comments buzz back and forth or how many little hearts and happy faces are pasted into the screen. (i'm not being dismissive of those of you who live remotely and to whom the internet has been a boon, just trying to explain what i'm thinking)

to me there's little that beats being gathered around a cauldron or in a cosy sewing circle, sharing cups of tea and morsels of chocolate and above all, sharing community. and  it's almost impossible to recreate the satisfaction generated by the ceremony bundle-opening in a happy group through simply demonstrating to a camera in a "virtual" class 

signing up for a workshop (and i do this myself several times a year) means choosing to participate in a group of people who share your interests, being embraced, as it were, in a way that is non-threatening and nourishing to the spirit. being (t)here, being present.

it's why i am working at creating more opportunities for people to gather together in places where i can also prepare food for us all (i love that the roots of the word 'companion' are from a Latin word for "one who breaks bread with you") and i think that minds and bodies function better when fuelled on food that is delicious and healthy

sharing food communally for the duration of the workshop/class/retreat gives us the sense that we are truly companions on a journey, however brief

which is why the substance of my classes has stretched, shifted and broadened over the years. sure, i could simply continue to teach "an introduction to ecologically sustainable plant dyeing" in a purely academic way, but that's not how i want to experience my work with making colour from plants.

 i think plant dyes are situated at a kind of crossroads, a meeting place for art, craft, medicine, chemistry, botany and ethnobotany, geography, culinaria (why isn't there a more romantic word in the English language to describe cooking?), ritual and poetry. i think that paying attention to the natural world in this way (and of course it's not the only way) makes for a richer life experience.

i see life as a glorious adventure, over far too soon and often completely out of my control. heaven knows i'm not perfect but, like Phyllis in "The Railway Children", i mean extremely well.

so i'm going to keep walking this path, sharing the delight of the ecoprint but at the same time also hoping to make a difference in people's lives and doing the best i can. i'm aspiring to do it with grace. i hope to keep learning as i go and to keep playing, because so much of what i have learned has been through play

i was lucky enough to win the interplanetary lottery, not just to have been born but to have so much choice in what i do and, with that, to be in the position to (i think) do something of use...and i'd like to continue sharing that in person, not at the click of a download**

so i'm leaving the idea of online teaching (and also classes on DVDs) to those who do them well.
you'll find me out the back, piling twigs and thistle heads, blowing a flickering flame into life, wrapping a length of well-loved string around a bundle or three,
with my pockets full of leaves and my heart full of hope.

fingers crossed i'll see you there.


*in the interests of total honesty i will reveal that there have been about five people in all my years of teaching who haven't liked what i offer, or have found it not what they hoped for... at least, five that were brave enough to tell me.

**making the PDF of the Bundle Book is the closest i want to come to that!

PS thank you, all of you who have been part of my journey so far. i am truly grateful.

and lastly,
if you've made it down to the bottom of the page
i've decided to give an early bird discount to those who sign up before July 22 for either of my two classes in Mansfield this year (which is a saving of $70 per class)

Monday, 29 June 2015


i see to my surprise that this is the one thousandth post. i can't even imagine that many marbles. no wonder i haven't finished writing that novel.

i've been tweaking my website this evening, finally adding the class details for Mansfield in November...undies and bloomers (by demand) in one session, with another devoted to independent work (on the project of your choice) in which i act as consultant, keep a series of dyepots simmering for you and make lunch every day (gluten free vegetarian). there'll be some nice wine, good cheese and yummy chocolate as well.

those of you who have spent time with me before know how i feel about nourishing the inner bear.

Marion of Beautiful Silks has very kindly offered a 10% discount on materials for class participants. we've been good friends for at least a decade and a half now so i'm also very happy to be going back to her lovely Botanical Studio on my way home from Mansfield

i'm also offering a paper dyeing day at Poet's Ode on my return from the USA early in October, before i head up to Wirrealpa to prepare for our wonderful outback retreat there later that month.

maybe i'll see some of you at some of these...

meanwhile, if you are an Australian size 10-12 and interested in acquiring the garment above, do please drop me a line (i love it and would wear it myself but i'm just too sturdily built). it's silk, dyed with eucalyptus

Friday, 26 June 2015


dear friends.
thank you.

 i've just returned from the Observatory
i observed the solstice
by hanging the solace pennants

opening each parcel i travelled around the country and around the whirled
many of you enclosed letters with your work
letters of joy, hope and sometimes sorrow
moving me to tears at times

as i held each piece in my hand i felt the love you had put into it
i learned some new words
(and will need to relearn long-forgotten morse code to decipher one flag)

you sent wishes for peace
blessings for the natural world
prayers and hopes for friends and family in need
and for loved ones you had lost.
you told stories of gathering to share food, talk and stitching
shared memories and stories
shared precious fragments of cloth that held personal significance
i thank you all.

you'll have noticed the indigo dip didn't happen.
the water situation at the Observatory is tenuous
(it all stil needs to be carried in)
and so i had to abandon that idea
which was as well, i think
as they are beautiful exactly as they are


i shall be building a website for the project
carefully typing out your collective poem
and will leave the postbox open
in case there are more to come
in which case i shall add them to the circle
whenever i visit the Observatory

in the meantime, my gratitude goes to

(and in no particular order)
Heidi Monks
Cherilene Chan
Donna Kallner
Frances Westwood
Bodil Møller Larsen
Jo Roszkowski
Denise Fordyce
Isobel McGarry
Cassie Gibson
Mary Heath
K O'Donnell
Joy Hopetoun
Cynara Mori
Jenni Worth
Shari Bubner
Arija Schwerdtfeger
Nicole Howe
Wen Redmond
Amanda Holloway
Gerdi Schumacher
Dorcas Pennyfather
Penny Crompton
Evelyn Parkin
Louise Plint
Therese Swift-Hahn
Mo Crow
Cathy Wycliff
Celeste Hansel
Liz Ackert
Beth Brennan
Cindy Monte
Maya Sara Matthew
Jo Ann McGeever Metzger
Yvonne Habbe
Malin Sjöstrand
Suri Vangolen
Morna Crites-Moore
Janet Tobler
Susi Bancroft
Lajla Nystad
Holly Story
Diane Kingsley
Christi (Possum) Carter
Wendi Trulson
Jenny McHenry
Indra Stephenson
Tracy Duddridge
Eva Rodriguez Riestra
Lotta Helleberg
Emma Riley
Sue Fisken
Jane Flower
Kathy Wonderlin
Tina Meakin
Helen Trejo
Carola Heptinstall
Donella Wilson
Sue Gilbert
Fiona Burchell
Lynn Jones
Ronnie Ayliffe
Kathy Jolman
Jessica Grantley
Eileen Schramm
Nanette Gilbert
Jo Brook
Deb Cocks
Jan Rowan
A Sibson
Robert McCulloch
Mary McCulloch
Lorraine Meeks
Carrie Vartarandi
Emma McWilliam
Pat Morrissey
Margaret McCathie
Diana McPherson
Parvin Morrissey
Kate Bowles
Bridget Ely
Barbi Crisp
Jo Britt
Suzanna Klein
Nancy Thorne
Lindy Frayne
Jyah Gage
Tricia Copeland
New Zealand
the USA


Christi has kindly been gathering some of the backstories here


some screenshots from my batfone below
you can see i have a bit of editing to do
and then
i need to choose an image of the whole circle for the postcard....

there's a bit of blue creeping in, conditions for photography were not ideal and sunshine/wind/shadowdancing were the orders of the day

Sunday, 14 June 2015

sniffing the wind

it's been an interesting month or two. life's bowled me a few wobblies including the unexpected passing of an old friend - i shan't bore you with the rest of them other than to speculate that i suppose it's the whirled's way of keeping us on our toes. in theory i should already be at the Observatory, cataloging the Solace pennants ready for installation but there are just a few more things to sort out here and then we can be off to the North in a couple of days.

in the meantime, for the first time in a very long time, i have actually cooked something from a recipe (as opposed to hurling various ingredients together and hoping they will be friends).

the formula for Lemon Delicious was kindly supplied by Mary after i tasted her fabulous pudding at dinner last week. i will confess to browning the butter in advance (remember I'm half Latvian) and to only having panela in the pantry (the recipe calls for white sugar) which threw the colour of the mix a bit but it tasted a good deal better than it looked. 

i served it with lemon butter, a translucent smear of marmalade (thank you Mary), a sprig of lemon verbena and a dob of sour cream. unfortunately when plating I wobbled with the spoon and covered the whole thing with sauce thus accidentally obscuring the lovely brown crust. it's not quite so light as the original but you know the old line about getting to Carnegie Hall...practice.

this week i also visited Treasure Ships, an enormous exhibition at the AGSA. after my recent foray into curating i was doubly awed by the work that has gone into deciding what should go where. happily for the curators, the makers of the works are long passed and thus unlikely to query the display of their work... some of the exquisite block-printed and mordant-painted cloths are affixed to the walls at well over head height and so cannot be clearly seen at all. 
but that's a small quibble. 

rather than paraphrasing the media release...i'll paste a bit of it in.

" The works reveal how the international trade in spices and other exotic commodities inspired dialogue between Asian and European artists, a centuries old conversation whose heritage is the aesthetic globalism we know today.


The exhibition commences with the small country of Portugal. Located on the periphery of Europe, Portugal re-mapped the West’s view of the world and created a mercantile spice empire stretching halfway around the globe during the fifteenth-sixteenth century. In 1498 Vasco Da Gama’s small fleet became the first European ships to reach India and landed with the famous words, ‘we come in search of Christians and spices’.  Within a decade the Portuguese soldier –aristocrat Francisco de Almeida (1450-1510) had ruthlessly seized control of the Indian Ocean spice trade and established Portugal’s permanent presence in Asia which was to last four hundred years.

Treasure Ships also presents the story of exploration and trade, discovery and shipwrecks, as well as illustrating the astonishing beauty of Chinese porcelain, known as ‘white gold’, and vibrant Indian textiles created for export around the world."

there's a particularly amusing Japanese painting of a group of Portuguese in which each one of the men depicted has the same enormous nose (as my companion pointed out with a small giggle). clearly the artist was fascinated by a prominently protruding Portuguese proboscis and painted it onto each face. practice makes perfect.

the relics above were retrieved from the wreck of the Batavia. the gunpowder canister at the top is made from copper and i can cheerfully envisage bundling cloth and leaves around it. happily it is under glass and therefore safe.

while we're talking of voyaging and wanderment i'm delighted to say the itinerary for the long-dreamed of wandering to New Mexico has been confirmed. i've been corresponding with Arts and Cultural Travel for some time now and it's looking as though some kind of adventure (but not necessarily the same story each time) with them may become an annual event. i certainly hope so.

here's the link to the very first one. (i'm told one eager soul has already signed up so that leaves 11 places)

and finally, for your amusement and because i've been getting the usual seasonal requests for internship (please let me come and stay with you so you can teach me everything you know during my summer break) and last month had rather a lot from students frantically trying to put together a conclusive body of work (i want to print leaves on my final collection, will you tell me how) and a couple along the lines of "i'm starting a fashion business please tell me which fabrics to use and what dyes and mordants you would recommend for them" (no, i'm not joking) i have been having to compose kind-but-firm letters in response.

as some of you know i do respond, albeit briefly, to questions where possible, but sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day. Austin Kleon has gathered an amusing collection of letters composed by famous people facing far greater deluges of correspondence.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

in situ : the penultimate installment

it's taken me a while to sort through the images from in situ
and i'll confess i'm not dancing with happiness about them all
i take comfort that the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery will be commissioning a professional to document the exhibition and so these first offerings will be but a taste

this link will take you to the dedicated exhibition site
clicking here will take you to Mary Heath's kind review

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

in situ : in stall

the last time i curated an exhibition was 1986
a lifetime ago
my name was
and people took me seriously
because i had a title
"Visual Arts Development & Exhibitions officer, Arts Council of South Australia"

these days the Arts Council [as it was then] no longer exists, having been absorbed by the Regional Cultural Trusts
and my surname changed by marriage.

these days i am India Flint
of nowhere in particular.

two years ago i conceived the notion of an exhibition
"in situ"
about the sense of place, whether in the pristine wild or amid the clutter of the city, whether derived from the locality of our birth or a dwelling place of choice, whether acknowledged or suppressed pervades how we live and work. place is integral to human integrity and to our sense of being.

i invited eleven people i knew to participate.
over time 
it has gradually come together.
 ‘in situ’ comprises work by  Sandra Brownlee, Dorothy Caldwell, Helen Carnac, Imbi Davidson, Desiree Fitzgibbon, Roz Hawker, Nikki Jackson, Judy Keylock, Isobel McGarry, John Parkes and me; examining the experience of locality, exploring the intimacy of personally familiar places and the particular relationship each artist has with their environment. 
i will confess i struggled with including my own work. as curator, this is somewhat frowned upon. Directors of galleries certainly shouldn't do it, but in this case it is a sort of anchor point. at least, that's my excuse.
 so today i drove to work with my assistant
through a blue sky day, to grapple with the delight of empty space
and with arranging work to claim it.

much later i pootled home along the backroads

past stubble fields that looked like stitches
through Rathjens Gap, where one hundred years ago witches were reputed to fly
and where i suspect petroglyphs might still be found
if the sun were at the right angle
finding new puddles on the way
home to the studio
where it was time to burn a few boats
under the careful supervision of Tabitha
while Kubbi slept the sleep of the just
after which
i made a new drawing tool
one that does justice to the inkwell i found last year at McArdle Bay, Lopez Island

tomorrow it's back to the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery
to complete the install

ready for the opening on Friday May 22 @ 7pm

do swing by if you're in the region.

'If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are'      Wendell Berry

Friday, 8 May 2015

wrap up (some more) for winter


we had a glorious day at Poet's Ode last Sunday
wrapping and dyeing beautifully soft pure wool shawls
in a cauldron heated over a lovely twig-fired heater
made especially for me by my blacksmith son

the sky was blue, the lunch delicious
we drank tea, told stories
played and worked in the back garden
(an oasis of quiet hidden from the hubbub of Hahndorf)
laying our shawls out on the grass
and happily strewing leaves 

we composed a little spontaneous poetry
while waiting for the bundles to cool

it was such a lovely time that we're offering a repeat
(i'm not in South Australia much after all)

the weather might not be so kind on June 6
but we can cosy up in our lovely workroom
make a fire in that lovely hearth
and wrap up in our wool shawls
because wool is warm even when wet

Sam and Yoda won't be getting off the home sofa though
they're much too comfortable

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

musing over the dyepots

I'm told a program broadcast by the ABC recently allegedly claimed that ecoprint bundling is a practice originating from and belonging to indigenous Australian culture. The truth is that it is derived from Latvian Easter Egg dyeing, a pagan tradition pre-dating Christianity, involving the wrapping of hens eggs with plant matter followed by boiling them in a pot full of onionskins and water. I transposed it to cloth (experimenting with steaming as well as boiling) substituting eucalyptus leaves for onionshells. They smell a good deal nicer, for one thing.

As far as I know metal pots, as well as woven wool and silk, only came to this country with the European invasion of 1788 (other than accidental arrival via shipwreck) and it wasn't until they became available that eucalyptus leaves could be boiled in water to reveal their extraordinary colour potential, now in such demand whirled-wide.

But maybe I'm wrong.  Perhaps metal pots were salvaged from the shipwrecks that occurred along the West Australian coast from 1622 onwards (though that first one, the Tryall, was quite a distance offshore). If you have information I'd be very interested to read it, especially if you can back it up with references. Dye history fascinates me.

I have a theory that dye traditions around the planet follow traditional regional cooking practices quite closely...for example the slow-brewed indigo of Japan relating to their fermenting of foods, the soup-like dye extraction traditionally used in Europe and the stone-ground ochres and stains of indigenous Australians that echoed the ground pastes of seeds that formed part of their diet. The absence of boiled food in aboriginal cooking pre 1788 seems to be a clue about dyes.

I'm not being picky, I really want to know.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

re-treat to Tin Can Bay

seven days ago i fell out of bed at 4am to catch an early flight to Queensland where i was met at the airport, given a cosy corner in a comfy back seat and (between snoozing and waking and a delicious lunch) transported further north. 

by the time we reached Tin Can Bay i had been very firmly asleep (and quite possibly making bear noises) for at least twenty minutes - waking/arriving and wandering across to this view had a rather dreamlike quality to it

it was Roz's idea to offer a retreat at Tin Can Bay - she's been familiar with the area for over thirty years, so her offering to share the magic was particularly kind. i had only been there once before, for one night some five years ago. this was to be as big an adventure for me as for the others who joined us there.

i've long had an affinity for tidal areas but have come away with a new love...mangroves.
 everything about them is beautiful...the way their long seed pods line up in the waves
the tidelines drawn by their crumbling leaves (punctuated by more recently fallen leaves toasted orange in the sun)
the seedlings growing from well-fallen seed pods that have managed to plunge their way into the mudflats and take root
while other roots fingered their way upward from beneath
drawing another story on the sand

this was a time to wander
be still
and listen

and though participants drew, painted and wrote
made bowls, bundles and bags
for me the important thing about the days spent there was not the production of finished objects
but the intangibles
the things that cannot be quantified, described in words, photographed or sketched
seeds that were sown to sprout and bloom, who knows where, who knows when. rather like the mangroves.

so i will hand the last word to Bill
whose writing is as fresh as when the ink first dried on the page so many years ago...
these found by chance through randomly opening a page in a book acquired by one of our number on the first leg of the journey homeward.