Sunday, 14 January 2018

celebrating both collaboration and compromise

it's been a while since I had anything really interesting to tell y'all but today I have two things to talk about.
one is the fabulous scarf I was gifted when I visited the Netherlands last (northern) summer, woven from her own exquisite handspun yarns by Caitlin Bongers (she's the one with the voice of the angels who started us all singing by the River Tay a couple of years back).
the other can wait for a moment.

the scarf waited patiently while I sailed in and out of home, emptying suitcases and refilling them, patting the dog, grubbing a few thistles and explaining to my cat just why I had to leave again. it was a busy year. so much so that I consciously cleared my dance card for the first three months of this one, so that I could find some space to breathe, to prepare for the next lot of teaching and to think about what my part of the collab might entail.

I should explain that when I received this gorgeous armful of softness I was quite overwhelmed. I know what it takes to warp up and weave something, and this piece is especially beautiful. I asked Caitlin if she would mind me dyeing it, and being given permission I suggested we regard it as a collaboration.

so this week, in between working on the "other thing" that I will shortly reveal, I sat in the armchair, dogs at my feet, cats and kittens disporting themselves over my shoulders, and decided that I would knot the fringe of the scarf. such gentle repetitive work is good for quieting the mind. while working I listened to a podcast from On Being, John O'Donohue discoursing gently on beauty. it was perfect.

then I was moved to take my needle and do just a little stitching into the piece. just a little.

I soaked it in a diluted iron brew (students may remember it as 'magic potion', made by soaking rusty things in vinegar, and heavily diluted for use otherwise everything can turn black)

it was firmly bundled with Eucalyptus scoparia windfall, and then cooked in a pre-loved dark brew. (it doesn't matter what your bundle is cooked in, it's what's inside the bundle that's important)

when it cooled, I unrolled it, and it just took my breath away.  THANK YOU Caitlin, for entrusting this treasure to me. it will be joining the "essential travel kit".

and the other thing?  that belongs to the 'compromise' part of the title of this post. various people had been kindly urging me to consider making an e-course, but I simply couldn't come at standing and talking into a camera. I'm not good at doing and talking at the same time. something to do with the cerebral hemispheres.

but I do like making books. so the compromise is that I have made a wee book that is a kind of workshop-in-your-pocket (or on your screen if you take the PDF version). it's mostly handwritten rather than typed but I wanted it to feel as though you were looking over my shoulder into a notebook.

what's in it? it contains the secrets of the tsunobukuro, that magical bias stitched bag of Japan that I so frequently share with students. (little ones are perfect for buying vegetables, the in-between sizes brilliant for gathering leaves, twigs or keeping your clothes sorted in a suitcase...and I always carry an extra-large one in case I run out of luggage space.)

it is available at and if you send me proof of purchase (via the contact form on my website) I shall invite you to the 'secret' Facebook group where, for the month of February, I shall be posting tips and tricks and one or three "how to's", and where you can post images of the bags that you make, and have conversations with fellow 'baggers' around this marvellous whirled.

thank you for staying with me and for reading thus far. 
here are some related links to explore.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

wayfaring in the outlands

regular readers will already be aware that I adore Scotland, so it won't come as a surprise if you can hear me dancing around my studio from a distance

because today I can finally share two classes that have been some months in the planning.

from the river to the sea(loch) :: finding your wild heart on the western edge
November 10 - 14, 2018


wayfinding between time in the outlands…
November 17 - 21, 2018

getting to each one involves a bit of an adventure and a ferry ride, but that is half the fun.

you'll find the link to the contact details here (please scroll to the bottom of the page)

Sunday, 12 November 2017



Lately there has been another tsunami of posts on the interpixies by various people operating in the creative arts whirled, complaining about copyists.

The funny thing is that many of them derive a living from having either copied someone else's work from a book, poached a successful business model (in one case, together with the email list!) from an associate or are directly teaching exactly what they have learned in a class.

I stopped giving printed handouts in the year 2000, when someone at the textile forum who had not actually been in my class, helped themselves to a copy and then advertised and presented the class (verbatim) a few months later.

Sometimes people still ask for them...and I can't help but raise an eyebrow when they add "because I've been asked to teach the class to   my quilt group/local school/in a workshop   next whenever.

I have been teaching creative classes of one sort or another since 1986 and have participated in many (over thirty) classes as a student, most recently one with the lovely Lorna Crane. Next year I'll be back at a student. Will I be sharing directly what I have learned? No.

I choose to attend classes that will add to my practice, in a kind of personalised ongoing post-graduate professional development program. Sometimes I learn more about the practice of teaching than about a specific technique. Either way, the experience is invaluable and improves the way I present classes, but indirectly so.

That's because the experience is filtered through my life, not simply reproduced.


So when people ask me outright to explain exactly how I make my personal work (which is what happened at the opening of my current exhibition 'refuge') I politely decline. There's enough information freely available about 'ecoprinting' online and I don't care if you are "just a painter and unlikely to use it" because I'm sorry but my bullshit detector redlined when I saw your partner's ears pricked and alert. I wouldn't have explained it anyway. To say that it's a contact print is enough.

Also, I am now wise to the practice of inviting people to lunch to talk about the possibility of working with their firm...and then having your brains thoroughly picked. Lunch is not a sufficient payment for my time (and airfares). I prefer my own cooking most times anyway. In future, persons wanting to "consult" will need to substantiate that interest with appropriate reimbursement for my time and travel. Your lawyer isn't going to drop in for lunch to tell you exactly how to manage a situation either. The other thing I will not allow is prospective hosts to "sit in on a class" to see how it will "fit with their program".  I'm not so much green as I'm cabbage-looking.

On the sunny side, I do love teaching, and that is why sharing the class 'being (t)here' makes me so happy. It changes with each location, and grows as I dream up new techniques and practices to add. Each one is different from the next. The poetry writing, though it fills some with trepidation, has become a rich and fulfilling part of the event. Participants still learn how to print on cloth and paper, but also develop more confidence in drawing and writing. Many tell me that they come away from our time together with a deeper knowledge of themselves and with a clearer vision of where they want to take their own work.

Things like that fill me with a deep satisfaction, gratitude and the feeling that my time on this wondrous planet is not being entirely wasted.

Next year will take me to France, Canada, New Zealand, and Scotland

(look for an announcement soon about

"wayfinding between time in the outlands…" in Orkney)
 as well as (a little closer to home) Queensland and Western Australia.

Maybe I'll see you somewhere out there?

'Albertine' doing her thing

Saturday, 16 September 2017

a catalogue for disquiet

I've made a catalogue for 'disquiet'
you'll find a preview here

so grateful to the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery
for allowing me the space and time
to create a story of sorts through my work.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

where did the day the week the year my life go?

the title of this post is running like an earworm in my head.

since we last met
I have been in the west of Scotland
and also in the west of Australia

both beautiful.

I took a few days on my own after teaching at Newburgh (the two reddish pix are details of 'shibusa felt', followed by printed paper and then some stitched and dyed organic eri+cotton cloth (acquired from Maiwa)

we had students from all over the whirled...both coasts of the USA, as well as the south-west, Australia, New Zealand , the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as lovely locals.
all gathered together in happy community around a dye cauldron
(and the delight, for me, of bilingual teaching...good practice!)

then I sailed for Harris
where I exhumed last year's bundle
and made a small film
and thought about music

it was hard to tear myself away
but journeying through the Wester Ross brought other delights
notably the extraordinary Inverewe garden, just north of Gairloch
where I spent a happy morning dodging midges

before driving onward for a glorious studio visit
exploring common ground with my friend Kerstin Gren

home again
I was called west, to the Dryandra Woodland
where we had to step carefully, with tiny orchids underfoot
and were required to apply for a permit to gather windfalls
(which, technically, all leaf printers in Australia gathering anywhere that is NOT private property, are legally required to do)

and where we found the perfect pot, with only one small leak that was successfully plugged with clay, scraped from the edge of a nearby dam

now I'm home again, briefly
and thinking about next year.

because I can no longer teach in the USA
(the current regime is not keen for wandering dye-stained gypsies)

those who wish to spend time with me
may like to hop the pond to Scotland (November next year) where
plans are afoot for some new explorations (details to follow)
or Norway (September)
when I shall be adventuring with Arts and Cultural Travel