Wednesday, 10 August 2016

everything we need is here


For the first time in ages (a scant week in Aotearoa doesn't really count) I'm making a substantial journey that doesn't involve teaching; having come to Europe primarily in the role of carer for my Ma, who despite falling and cracking her hip four weeks ago decided she would rather come on the trip anyway than languish in a hospital bed. 
I came away thinking I might knit or write in any spare time. 
Ha. 
The Dogs Above had other ideas. 
First I accidentally found a silk shirt at the thrift store. 
Then I was poking around a ruin and found a dyepot. 




I hadn't even brought string...so I made some. 



There was a barbecue arrangement but no matches. So I purloined a glowing coal from a nearby sauna. It was that, or use the toaster. Don't ask. 


The twigs were all a bit damp. Happily I had some firewater with me (thank you Schlosshotel Kronberg!!) and a piece of linen rag. It proved an effective combination. 



I gathered some old friends from the roadside 


At first the brew (unusually) turned green. 



Rather an idyllic location, don't you think?


Holidays. Gotta love em. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

wishwash

i get a lot of questions about the laundering of contact-printed cloth...should it be dry-cleaned, is the dye washfast, what's the best way of cleaning it etc

the answer, in short, is to treat your plant-dyed cloth as you would treat your own hair.

not too hot, not too cold. no harsh detergents, no greasy soap. because if you use either of those you'll need to rebalance the pH with a vinegar and water rinse afterward (which is kind of what conditioner does for your hair. they only make it gluggy so it won't run off your hand in the shower)
 
be gentle.
wash by hand or using the wool cycle on a front-loader.

i recommended Aesop's APC Fine Fabric Care on my labels, cos it smelled divine and was wonderfully gentle on cloth. so gentle, in fact, that i could have used it in the shower.

sadly though i seemed to be the only customer buying it and so they discontinued the lovely stuff.

their animal wash does the trick, but doesn't smell as nice.

the other important thing is to dry your cloth in the shade.
unless you are washing sheets, in which case peg em out in the sun and the wind.
they'll be crispy white and smell like heaven.

just remember to avoid the dry-cleaner like the plague. the process is neither dry nor clean and will have your favourite silk negligible sloshing around in a vat of petrochemical nasties along with the filthy trousers worn by a travelling salesman for four weeks and somebody else's vomit stained car seat covers.

yuk.

and have a nice day.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The oddness of blogger


I have no idea why blogger published the last post twice (after I edited one word from my Batfone )
But I'm leaving them as removing either one would delete your amusing comments. 

Image above from recent new work, to be shown in the SALA exhibition 

Threads of Industry
Changing Place :: Making Place
at the Onkaparinga Woollen Mills, Lobethal. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

another gem

good heavens.

look at the date. it's been over a month this time.
that's because i have been away here




making food influenced by the landscape
and also some big splashes


and revelling in the light


now i am home where between storms and howling winds i am momentarily taking a break from trying to discover why (although the sky has been falling) we have no water in the tanks; to deal with the emails i haven't tackled on my batphone while i was away from the magical all-surrounding wifi.


and in the inbox i found this ::

1. How would you describe your work? 2. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? 3. When do you know/decide when a piece of artwork is finished? 4. How do you organise your time, what is a typical day? 5. What kind of environment do you work in? 6. In what way does the natural environment inspire you? 7. What advice would you given aspiring textile artist about to embark on their career? 8. Which artists inspire you, and why? 9. What books have you found useful and would recommend? 10. What would you say is the best natural mordent when eco printing on cotton? 11. I am looking to dye recycle fabrics/clothing what advise do you have?

sic. as in, i have pasted it here, unedited.

i did attempt to write back politely, if briefly...but now, fuelled by caffeine and cold weather and the rage induced by a nameless person stealing a pile of wood (cut laboriously with a chainsaw by my daughter) before it could be gathered in 
i am going to give it a proper go.



1. How would you describe your work? 
 this is copied and pasted from my website. i think it's pretty clear.

i use ecologically sustainable contact print processes from plants and found objects together with walking, drawing, assemblage, mending, stitch and text as a means of mapping country, recoding and recording responses to landscape - working with cloth, paper, stone, windfall biological material, water, minerals, bones, the discarded artefacts and hard detritus of human habitation, the local weed burden. the work has been described as using " the earth as the printing plate and time as the press"

2. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
 if i may quote Maggie Smith's character from the Second Best Marigold Hotel
"never to give any"
 
3. When do you know/decide when a piece of artwork is finished? 
 if i had the answer to that i would have become a successful painter
instead of working into my paintings until they became mud and then giving up in disgust

4. How do you organise your time, what is a typical day? 
i wake, gently, in the morning and the housekeeper brings me a cup of tea. the resident masseur rubs my toes with fragrant oils. i luxuriate in a hot bath for a few hours, dress in some romantic and frivolous outfit, pick roses until it's time for lunch and then loll on the porch swing in a pile of cushions working my way through a pile of books. later i put on a freshly starched apron and totter into the kitchen to create a three course meal made from food gathered in my walled garden. 
(much later someone else does the dishes)

5. What kind of environment do you work in? 
everything is perfectly organised and easily found. there is not a speck of dust, no cats have played wildly with my best silk threads and nobody has peed where they should not. the fridge in the studio magically restocks itself, a pile of fresh dry kindling is always to hand and the interns are up before dawn sorting windfall leaves into neat piles, arranged by colour and size.
6. In what way does the natural environment inspire you? 
in every way. 
(today it is mostly inspiring me to go back to bed where it is warm.)
7. What advice would you given aspiring textile artist about to embark on their career? 
 think twice about supplying work on consignment to boutiques in glamorous locations that expect you to post it to them free of any charges, then put 250% commission on the work and when it finally sells, pay you at their leisure up to 12 months later. consider becoming a lawyer. or a gardener. it pays better.
8. Which artists inspire you, and why? 
those who make a living from their work.
9. What books have you found useful and would recommend? 
'Eco Colour' and 'Second Skin'. theOxford English Dictionary. also 'Holidays in Hell' by P.J O'Rourke and pretty much anything by Rebecca Solnit
 10. What would you say is the best natural mordent when eco printing on cotton? 
'mordent' is a musical ornament, a little wiggly thing that indicates the way a note should be played. i think i would find it tricky to use in a dye process 

11. I am looking to dye recycle fabrics/clothing what advise do you have?
hmm. as i understand it that is an acronym for a department in the US Homeland Security division.
if it's advice you're after, then here goes ::

know the plants you are using, and their properties

do not be seduced by toxic adjunct mordants

think carefully about wild harvest and whether it's worth risking a plant population just because you want pink. or some other colour.

do not steal all of the red/gold/purple leaves from underneath trees in public parks in the autumn/fall. they are there for everyone to enjoy (and usually taking leaf matter from a Botanic Garden is illegal anyway)

develop your own style. 





another gem

good heavens.

look at the date. it's been over a month this time.
that's because i have been away here




making food influenced by the landscape
and also some big splashes


and revelling in the light


now i am home where between storms and howling winds i am momentarily taking a break from trying to discover why (although the sky has been falling) we have no water in the tanks to deal with the emails i haven't tackled on my batphone while i was away from the magical surrounding wifi.


and in the inbox i found this ::

1. How would you describe your work? 2. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? 3. When do you know/decide when a piece of artwork is finished? 4. How do you organise your time, what is a typical day? 5. What kind of environment do you work in? 6. In what way does the natural environment inspire you? 7. What advice would you given aspiring textile artist about to embark on their career? 8. Which artists inspire you, and why? 9. What books have you found useful and would recommend? 10. What would you say is the best natural mordent when eco printing on cotton? 11. I am looking to dye recycle fabrics/clothing what advise do you have?

sic. as in, i have pasted it here, unedited.

i did attempt to write back politely, if briefly...but now, fuelled by caffeine and cold weather and the rage induced by a nameless person stealing a pile of wood (cut laboriously with a chainsaw by my daughter) before it could be gathered in 
i am going to give it a proper go.



1. How would you describe your work? 
 this is copied and pasted from my website. i think it's pretty clear.

i use ecologically sustainable contact print processes from plants and found objects together with walking, drawing, assemblage, mending, stitch and text as a means of mapping country, recoding and recording responses to landscape - working with cloth, paper, stone, windfall biological material, water, minerals, bones, the discarded artefacts and hard detritus of human habitation, the local weed burden. the work has been described as using " the earth as the printing plate and time as the press"

2. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
 if i may quote Maggie Smith's character from the Second Best Marigold Hotel
"never to give any"
 
3. When do you know/decide when a piece of artwork is finished? 
 if i had the answer to that i would have become a successful painter
instead of working into my paintings until they became mud and then giving up in disgust

4. How do you organise your time, what is a typical day? 
i wake, gently, in the morning and the housekeeper brings me a cup of tea. the resident masseur rubs my toes with fragrant oils. i luxuriate in a hot bath for a few hours, dress in some romantic and frivolous outfit, pick roses until it's time for lunch and then loll on the porch swing in a pile of cushions working my way through a pile of books. later i put on a freshly starched apron and totter into the kitchen to create a three course meal made from food gathered in my walled garden. 
(much later someone else does the dishes)

5. What kind of environment do you work in? 
everything is perfectly organised and easily found. there is not a speck of dust, no cats have played wildly with my best silk threads and nobody has peed where they should not. the fridge in the studio magically restocks itself, a pile of fresh dry kindling is always to hand and the interns are up before dawn sorting windfall leaves into neat piles, arranged by colour and size.
6. In what way does the natural environment inspire you? 
in every way. 
(today it is mostly inspiring me to go back to bed where it is warm.)
7. What advice would you given aspiring textile artist about to embark on their career? 
 think twice about supplying work on commission to boutiques in glamorous locations that expect you to post it to them free of any charges, then put 250% on the work and when it finally sells, pay you at their leisure up to 12 months later. consider becoming a lawyer. or a gardener. it pays better.
8. Which artists inspire you, and why? 
those who make a living from their work.
9. What books have you found useful and would recommend? 
'Eco Colour' and 'Second Skin'. theOxford English Dictionary. also 'Holidays in Hell' by P.J O'Rourke and pretty much anything by Rebecca Solnit
 10. What would you say is the best natural mordent when eco printing on cotton? 
'mordent' is a musical ornament, a little wiggly thing that indicates the way a note should be played. i think i would find it tricky to use in a dye process 

11. I am looking to dye recycle fabrics/clothing what advise do you have?
hmm. as i understand it that is an acronym for a department in the US Homeland Security division.
if it's advice you're after, then here goes ::

know the plants you are using, and their properties

do not be seduced by toxic adjunct mordants

think carefully about wild harvest and whether it's worth risking a plant population just because you want pink. or some other colour.

do not steal all of the red/gold/purple leaves from underneath trees in public parks in the autumn/fall. they are there for everyone to enjoy (and usually taking leaf matter from a Botanic Garden is illegal anyway)

develop your own style. 





Saturday, 25 June 2016

sorry, but it seems i'm beyond help.

correspondence sometimes comes in drifts, like snow

there's the seasonal influx of requests for assistance with school studies.
i try to respond kindly, even when the questions seem silly.

"why do you do art?" is a frequent flyer.
sometimes it is temping to write "because i am otherwise unemployable"
though it's pretty close to the truth.

i don't mind answering a well thought-out selection of questions, but only if you can't find the answers by googling.

towards the end of the northern college year there's generally a bunch of emails from people who would like to come and stay to "assist me in the studio" in return for one-on-one teaching.
a working holiday in the sunny south.

from my point of view this means i would be fully responsible for a person i have never met before, providing meals, a bed, entertainment and transport so that i can explain to them exactly how i want a bundle put together, or a dress stitched, or?

it's far less stressful just to do the work myself. besides, i enjoy what i do. i love the spontaneity that is possible when i am alone (well, with only canine and feline company) wielding scissors and needles and dancing in the leaflitter that carpets the floor of my studio.

and perhaps it is a psychological disability but i feel utter and overwhelming claustrophobia at the mere thought of having to share a month or more of days (and evenings) with another adult whom i may not have actually met prior to their arrival.

in recent years i have been finding increasingly beautiful areas in which to hold workshops and as a consequence the volume of inquiries from people wanting to take a gratis class in return for stoking the fires and gathering plant matter has escalated. i could have filled the upcoming class at Scott's Head entirely with such volunteers :: which could have been hilarious...
a dozen people all stoking the fire and gathering leaves, which would probably look like a splendid pagan ritual but won't pay the electricity bill.

there have been suggestions that i should increase workshop fees so that i can offer scholarship places. i don't see how that would be at all fair to paying participants. it's not going to happen.

and then there are the truly cheeky requests from people who live close to a workshop location and "just want to drop in for a day to see what it's all about". hmm.

some tell me they left well-paid positions in order to pursue their dream career. i applaud their bravery but that is their choice, and not my responsibility. i was an unemployed sole parent (of three) at the time that i returned to plant dyeing. it took me over fifteen years to achieve financial independence and be solely supported by this work. i suppose it's just as well i didn't have a comfy job because i'm not that brave and i might have clung to it and my life would have turned out awfully dull as a result.

but the long and the short of it is, please don't ask me if you can come and stay with me so that i can feed you and house you and teach you everything i know.

because the answer will be

thank you so much for your kind offer, 
but i regret i cannot accept.

on the other hand, if you sign up for a workshop, i will do my best to share my knowledge and skills. because that's my job. and my life. and i love doing it.



Thursday, 16 June 2016

being put in my place


I had a hilarious experience this morning...
Accosted by a man with a puppymill designer dog. 
The sort of person who is the reason there's a warning on the curling wand...for external use only. 

He angrily demanded to know what I was doing...just after I had deposited a small handful of boiled plant matter under a bush, in the obviously misguided belief that organic matter is nutritious and helps prevent evaporation. 

He insisted I pick it up, as he doesn't approve of such stuff and prefers the pine bark chips. It appears he is the self-constituted warden of the Greenwich steps...
I swallowed any possible acrid response, smiled sweetly, picked up the offending matter and wished him a pleasant day. (Though it was very tempting to tell him that the phenols in the pine bark actively inhibit plant growth.) 

I understand that it could be overwhelming if every person in the city tucked all their green waste into public gardens...but these were leaves that had literally been gathered from the surrounding streets. 
Who knows what corners they may have blown into if I hadn't picked them up. 

I moved on, whereupon he followed me around the district at twenty paces, watching as I cleaned the sidewalks of more leaf litter. I did an extra round just to give him a bit more exercise. 

Clearly he needed the endorphins.



Wednesday, 15 June 2016

in Odessa



sounds like the title to a novel set in the cold war, doesn't it?
(you might want a cup of tea or a gin, this post is about as long as a novel)

sometime late in 2014 or early in 2015 (i forget exactly when)
i received an enquiry through my contact page
asking whether i would be interested in having a solo exhibition
at the Ellen Noel Art Museum, Odessa, Texas

i thought about it for twenty seconds and answered "yes, please" 


but whenever i mentioned the plan to others, 
in response to a "what are you doing next?" question, 
i'd get some very strange answers
such as
"i was born there but left as soon as i could"
or 
"there aren't any trees"

which was a bit off-putting.

so i'm here to tell you that my Odessa adventure was absolutely fabulous. 
i met some of the kindest people i have ever encountered there, 
was warmly welcomed
given free reign (and every support) to create my installation
and 
liked it so much that i have promised to go back.
they have a replica Stonehenge 
(not created as a tourist trap but with a really good backstory)
and there ARE trees.
also the most glorious collection of mid-century modern architecture
(which just happens to be my favourite architectural period) 


AND the water, though undrinkable, is miraculous in the dyepot.
the water in the puddles is useful too. 
i marinated a piece in it, prior to dyeing (using local colour)






during my stay i also guided a group of young people taking their first steps into natural dyeing, through the Teen Art Residency program, a splendid initiative of the Museum's education section

though we only had five half-day sessions we made string, dyed samples, stitched (by hand) hoodies from pre-loved t-shirts, printed paper, cut an apron from a shirt and even dyed Easter eggs, though obviously that feast didn't fall last week



and then we worked together to install their exhibition












and here are a few more snaps of mine





a big and heartfelt thank you to 

Daniel Zies :: Curator
Annie Stanley :: Education and Outreach Coordinator

 Edgar and Eric at
for their generous donations of eucalyptus for the exhibition
and "green waste" for the residency

and to everyone who so kindly welcomed me.
i loved every minute i was there. 

and i'll be back.



+


coincidentally, as i was composing this post, a missile wandered in from Maya Stein
...perfect.
(at which point i should also say thank you, Christi, for introducing me to her!)

at the entrance

I've never believed what they say about strangers. I have walked into
a Nebraska town so many miles from home and been fed ambrosia salad,
offered a place to sleep. In Centennial, Arizona, they asked me to read poetry,
opened a bottle of wine to toast my arrival. There was a living room in Houston
where a woman I'd never met shared a difficult secret, and her eyes softened
in the telling. There are doors we insist, despite the risk, on keeping open, and doors
we insist, despite the risk, on walking through, and I don't want to imagine a world
where the houses stay shuttered and silent, and the front stairs splinter, and the bell
goes rusty from disuse. So there is no other choice but to clamber up, point our heart
at the entrance, press the buzzer, and wait for who will come to let us in.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Once upon a time there was a polar bear

Well, more or less. 
I had the great good fortune to be able to buy a wool+cashmere coat for $1. A friend spotted it first. Luckily she is built on compact lines. 

Instead it was my size (i.e. comfortable)
It made me look like a lost polar bear. 
And I wish I had taken a picture of it before I took out the horrible shoulder pads and bundled it into the dyepot. 


At least I had the sense to shoot the bundle. 



It's been a rather fabulous present to myself. Every part is delicious (to me, anyway). 



But as they say in the classics
...the devil is in the detail. 
I'd say the true delight is in the detail. 






Even the lining, though synthetic, turned out nicely. 


The cost was made in Uruguay. I wonder if that's a sign?