Tuesday, 23 September 2014

chance is a fine thing

when i consider that i could as easily have been manifested as a morsel of moondust, a custard pie...or a cockroach...i remember [despite the odd dark moment when i reach for a combination of exercise, chocolate and a zinc supplement to drive away depression] just how fortunate i am to have taken the form of a human bean instead.

even if that form was not endowed with the talents of such as Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren or Judi Dench and had its thespian aspirations thoroughly quashed by being cast as a walk-on witch in no less than three successive school productions.

but back to the bean.

it was a matter of chance that two people [both from European families but different countries of origin that had been displaced as a result of the misplaced ambitions of an Austrian housepainter] happened to meet on the other side of the whirled at Melbourne University over half a century ago.

and that despite being ridiculously young at the time they plunged headlong into parenthood.

one of the two has since been re-absorbed by the universe. the other is still with us. she has a birthday on Thursday.
you might like to pop over and wish her a happy one.
i'm pretty sure she'd be quite chuffed [i would].

clicking on the image below will take you there


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

an invitation

We live in troubled times. The news is frequently dismal.  Sometimes it seems our beautiful blue planet is under threat from all sides and I for one feel helpless when I hear of plans to send more and more young people to foreign countries as cannon fodder.
Spending a week in the arid lands of South Australia, revisiting a place I left nearly 24 years ago, gave me quiet time away from the depressing news bombardments. Time to think. It gave me solace.
And it gave me an idea.
Reflecting on Emily Dickinson’s “Gorgeous Nothings”, on the beauty of Tibetan Prayer Flags, on Claudia Grau’s lovely wishing trees and on the aleatory [impromptu or randomly generated] poetry that plays a role in my teaching I came up with the solace project. 
The notion of a collective impromptu poem, recorded on cloth, to sing in the winds.
Participation is open to anyone and is quite simple. 
Make a triangular flag or pennon [meaning a personal ensign, derived from the Latin penna meaning a wing or a feather] preferably using a piece of pre-loved cloth.
Stitch on it a word or a phrase or a sentence that might act as a wish for peace or an acknowledgement of beauty, imply a sense of stillness or simply something that  gives you solace. It can be as brief or as long as you like. A haiku, a snatch of song, a word that takes you where you want to be.
Attach ties to the tethering end of your flag as in the sketch below.
Post the flag [preferably packaged in paper* not plastic] to :

c/- The Observatory
PO Box 96
Andamooka 5722
South Australia

and what happens next?

During June next year I will be in residence at The Observatory. 
I shall spend time connecting each of the flags in the sequence of their arrival, recording the words on them as one complete circular poem.
Following this I shall prepare an organic indigo vat and on the day of the southern midwinter solstice in 2015 will overdye the flags in the blue of the heavens before installing them as a circle. if there are hundreds, then a series of concentric circles :-))
The flags will be documented photographically over time and the images and text will be available online as well as in a limited edition book. It may even be possible to make a short film. While I do not have the financial resources to distribute free books to participants, each person who makes and sends a flag will receive a limited edition postcard image of the installation, personally addressed to them and posted from the Andamooka post office. [remember to include your address if you hope for a postcard!]
It is important the flags be made from natural fibre fabrics as they will remain in place following prayer flag tradition, to dispense blessings and good wishes to the four winds...any shreds that part company from the whole must be bio-degradable. Additional decorations such as stone or glass beads, shell or wooden buttons are welcome, but please, no plastic.
Some of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the remainder will go toward maintaining The Observatory. The solace project might not solve any of the world’s long-term problems; I see it more as a simple and beautiful collective gesture of goodwill...a glorious blue installation in the red dust lands.
and I hope you join me.
Yoda-san has.

*paper-based packaging from flags will be used in a subsequent project

Monday, 15 September 2014

observations from another edge

this week past i had the joy of a roadtrip to the beautiful Arid Lands Botanic Garden at Port Augusta [South Australia]
where i installed 'elegy' 
a sculpture composed of bones
for the Arid Sculptural Exhibition
[in turn part of the wider Arid Festival]

the bones were from cows who had died on our paddocks
mostly due to age and infirmity
one of them from snakebite

the exhibition [and festival] takes the theme ‘life on the edge’  and i had proposed an installation created from animal bones gathered while walking on the edge of the land, the edge that is the surface where the land meets the sky. these collected bones seemed to me to celebrate the lives that have passed while providing nourishment for future life.
i have for some years now undertaken the stacking of found rocks as a meditative aside to my work in textiles and writing. these bones are a softer material. i planned them to form an interlocking cairn, using white clay as a bonding medium. the bonecairn, a placemarker intersecting the edge between earth and sky, would mark the edge between life and death and be devised to respond to the elements. rain might soften the clay, wind might influence the form, wild animals could likely create interventions of their own. to all this i was open. 
arriving at my allocated site it seemed to me that a cairn was not appropriate.
i felt [rightly or wrongly] that it would be too intrusive, would pierce the sky
and so i worked just a few feet to one side of that spot. 
laid the bones out in a big curve and sat in its gentle arc, listened to the land
and then one by one
bone by bone
built a circle. no clay required.

and after that
i wandered off again

Sunday, 7 September 2014

on the western edge

last week i was on the western edge
[although i will confess now that i did not find time to dip my toe in the ocean]
for another workshop in Jane Flower's splendid shed

this time our work involved shapeshifting
transforming pre-loved garments into celebration dresses
cutting and splicing
delighting in transforming two-dimensional cloth
into something much more complex
Lizzie giving her lovely dress a quick field test
Rona making some adjustments in our 'fitting room'

each afternoon we fired up the cauldrons
so there would be presents to open in the mornings
[thank you Jonathan for collecting all those armfuls of twigs]
the wildflowers at this time of year are spectacular
i think they are [top to bottom]
Diuris brumalis
Caladenia sp
Drosera sp
Anigozanthos manglesii [which happens also to be the state floral emblem]

other local colour was also pretty stunning
work above by Chez
not sure whose the sample above was - but i DO know the roots were harvested on private property as 'salvage botany'

 the south west of our beautiful red island is home to something like 70% of all of the plant varieties on the continent.
but before visitors to this country [or locals for that matter] decide to leap in and avail themselves of this wonderful resource it is worth becoming familiar with the law as regards plant collection.

it is illegal to harvest native plants in the wild anywhere in Australia
- even though the irony is that timber fellers and builders of airports and freeways are permitted to completely destroy forests, wetlands and anything else that gets in their way

in some circumstances it is also illegal to harvest wild plants on private property [unless you can prove that you are a traditional owner...or that you planted them yourself]

and some places that you might think are private property
are actually leased Crown Land [this includes pretty much all of the outback] in which case you can't pick there either
the only plants you can legally take from the wild in Australia are weeds.
or windfalls [but not if they are rare or threatened species]

and if you think you can get away with it, think again
ecoprints make for indisputable evidence!

on the bright side, tip pruning street trees in urban areas
especially where they are overhanging or obstructing paths
might be seen as a community service
[unless, of course, there's a local bylaw...]

i found some of my favourite weeds growing in abundance

my visit to the far west was all too brief
due to an over-filled dance card
next time i wander that way i hope to make a much longer stay
...i'd have liked to see those dresses unbundled, for one thing

Thursday, 28 August 2014

adrift in a cloud of Aesop

 i think we can say it has been a mixed week
during which i discovered that a silk jacket
[pre-loved Liz Claiborne]
did not dye well.
suspect it has been coated with stain resisters
the lesson is not to purchase in a wild rush
but take time
do the drink bottle test
ie splash a tiny bit of water on the surface of suspect silk
if the damp silk has a whiff of gas station
or worse still if the water rolls off 
leave the item in the store
the lesson is, in fact, to s l o w down
and smell the flowers
it's spring
 just be careful with Geraldton Wax
they seem to harbour a lot of flies
 happily some other things yielded better results
 i have been wandering the paddocks
gathering up bones
that are the remnants of cattle and sheep 
who have shuffled off this mortal coil
mainly due to age and infirmity
 it is not as gruesome as it might appear
and is in a good cause
in a week or two i will be taking them to the 
where they will form a bonecairn 
anyway after my gathering
i tottered off to the Post Office
where a delightful parcel awaited me
thank you Aesop
for sending me a sample of your new perfume
it mingles bergamot and orange
jasmine, rose, clove and cardamon
and two things i had to look up
Fusianus spicatus [which turned out to be sandalwood
...i always think of Santalum album together with that common name]
Cananga odorata [ylang ylang]

it smells so much better than bleached bones
that it had me dreaming
of places and people faraway
in the way that certain fragrances do

and though i miss their old fragrance
which has been discontinued
i will say that this one is quite delightful
thank you, Aesop!


that scent makes me want to take a tent
to the far paddock
wrap myself in teasilk
and dig a natural swimming pool

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

nine years later

back in 2005 i had the absolute joy of undertaking my first [formal ie paid for] costume commission.
the production was 'petroglyphs - signs of life' and the company Leigh Warren + Dancers

i designed and made the costumes, twined a large ball of string that became a key prop and devised the poster image.

it was a wonderful experience.

working on 'petroglyphs' led [in 2007] to creating costumes for the West Australian Ballet production 'debris'...dancer Frances Rings [who had joined LW+D for 'petroglyphs'] had been commissioned to choreograph the show and requested to have me as costume designer

now nine years later i have the delight of working with Gala Moody and Michael Carter who were also members of LW+D back in 2005

both now live in Spain but have been in Adelaide this month working with Leigh Warren and State Opera on the Philip Glass Opera trilogy, Leigh's last production before he hands the dance company that he founded some twenty-five years ago to a new artistic director and heads for fresh fields

the morsels on their bodies were part of the blue series i began in New Orleans and continued in Portland [last year]

kicking myself that i skipped taking a photo of Michael in one of these shirt collar pieces

but am hoping that [sooner or later] a moving image will appear on Michael's website


my favourite production so far for  Leigh Warren + Dancers

two bodies dancing

about Frances Rings

lastly, clicking on the photo below will take you to a link with more images from Debris


photo above by Jenni Large, borrowed from the Artful management website for purposes of tempting readers toward the link

Monday, 18 August 2014

in the air and on the ground

silkymerino rolls looking much like bread dough

 last week i followed an old marmalade stain on the map
and found myself back at lovely Glenmore House

it had been a long day so i was particularly happy to be lulled to sleep
by the scent of my favourite jasmine [polyanthemum]
thoughtfully placed in my room by Mickey, bless her

a sniff and a whiff of that particular flower and i am seventeen again
at least
on the inside

we had a glorious sunshiny bluesky day for our "heart and hand intensive" 
botanical alchemy workshop
during which i was so busy that i hardly managed to take pictures
fortunately Mickey [and Alex the kindly gardener]
took lots. you can find them here
i did manage a happy snap of the cumquat icecream and rhubarb compote
swoonworthy deliciousness. 
and of our cooking fire

had there been time we would have stitched the glowing morsels [below]
into tsunobukuro bags
but by 4pm everyone was worn out

the next morning i prised myself out of bed
and hit the road for Tamworth
where I had been invited to come and inspect the gallery
prior to my exhibition there in December
the plan was to arrive on Friday evening, in time for the opening
of the 2nd Tamworth Textile Triennial

the inadvertent slashing of a tyre
caused by avoiding a close encounter of the unpleasant kind
with another motor vehicle
delayed my arrival until well after ceremonies had concluded
it would have been cheaper and faster to fly
even without the added cost of a new tyre
but the four hour wait was good writing time
and the five hour + drive was good thinking time
even if i did have to drink an awful lot of coffee

wandering around Tamworth on Saturday morning
i found a lot of men in hats

a rock from which someone had chipped all the bits that did not look like snake

an old friend far from home
[California poppy in a dry creek bed]

some stones to play with

and some rather too friendly seeds
Bidens pilosa
which had to be individually removed
NOT something i want to take home to the farm
even if they do resemble tiny stitches

after i had picked my dress clean
and had some breakfast i betook myself to the gallery

my favourite among the works in the Triennial
was that of Ilka White

the work below, by Gillian Lavery
based on a simple premise
of timed daily sitching
10 minutes with a piece of thread that measured from her
mouth to her belly button and back
needle in, needle out
breath in and breath out

every day for one calendar year
remarkable in its dedication and execution

there were others too
that i would have liked to have shown here
[but did not want to embroil myself in Viscopy issues]
including Kate Campbell-Pope
whom i had last encountered when we were together in the 'Seven Sisters' exhibition curated by Kevin Murray in 2004

it is an exhibition well worth seeing...and as it is touring Australia for the next couple of years many red island readers stand a good chance of finding it not too far from home.