Thursday, 15 January 2015

to Sweden, from the Deep South

back home on the farm with a few days to finish dyeing a collection of dresses that are going to Sweden tomorrow


yes indeed.

when Li Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano ask you to put together a few things to take part in an exhibition at short don't say no.

so of course I said yes please, how many pieces would you like?

the answer came back : seven dresses with big skirts

dresses with big wild skirts are my favourite things to make.

Kubbi lent a paw and in between supervising me pootled off for a swim with Uncle Boston and Auntie Molly

Willow [also known as Mrs Poo] prefers to take her baths without water.

so now i have seven dresses in the cauldron. Kubbi helps me gather sticks to feed the fire.
then they need to cool and dry before sending off tomorrow. i'd have preferred to leave them bundled for longer but as i'm hopping on a flying sardine can headed for my beloved Aotearoa early next week it's not practical : they need to be photographed for the catalogue before they go in the mail

although it's a group exhibition [there are twelve of us] this is a big event for me...
because it will also be the first time that a series of my photographs will be exhibited in Europe [as a backdrop to the dresses].

the show is at Artipelag, a museum on an island near Stockholm and runs February 6 - May 3, 2015

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

rhapsodies in blue

it was easy planning my clothes for this trip
all i had to do was throw anything blue into the suitcase
and then at the other end
take a daily lucky dip and wriggle into it
[too hot and steamy for boots]
packing the materials was another thing
handstitching indigo-dyed ecoprint bags
and stuffing them with selections from my cloth collection
was fun
[though i will say counting beads can be confusing for a bear]
and happily the baggage-mishandlers did not play football with my suitcase
because the blue-and-white teacups that were to stop the beads rolling off the tables all happily arrived intact.
Roz and i both brought fabrics from our homes and had a glorious time decorating the workroom on the afternoon before class
our wonderful host Tarla had grown all sorts of indigo-bearing plants
as well as madder [which is most useful in reducing an organic vat]
 you could almost think you were in Japan, with such fields
Tarla and her daughters prepared delicious food for us
with fresh ingredients sourced from the garden
where a Satin Bower Bird had busily gathered blues
from the surrounding district
 we looked at ways in which we could bring our blues together
sharing stories about the meaning of this beautiful colour
reading a little poetry
considering what the colour meant to us as individuals
 we stitched, experimented with fresh indigo
worked with the metals that Roz had brought
made string
and at the very end
overdyed the finished pieces in the gloriously rich vat
that Tarla had prepared earlier
thank you, all of you, for making it such a splendid three days

not yet saturated with the blues?
here are more stories
a few more links via our shared blue bower

Thursday, 8 January 2015



thank you John Hopper for including me.

inspired to read?
it's available here
from January 14

Thursday, 1 January 2015

out (t)here

 New Year, New Ideas...

photo by Dorothy Caldwell

you may have heard that i have a new friend

photo by my Ma

already we are getting into the habit of doing things together.

i have a hefty overseas itinerary for this year [planned before Kubbi's surprise arrival in my life] but once we've weathered it, i will be shortening my foreign excursions and spending more time in the Deep South.

having a roadtrip companion opens new doors. sleeping out in the desert on my way home from Tamworth was lovely but it will be so much more delightful to be sharing supper and my swag [that's a bedroll for those of you not familiar with the term] with my dog.

how satisfying it is to be able to write that..."my dog". [who is snoozing beside me on the sofa as i write]

Kubbi will be joining me at dog-friendly places including the lovely Crockett Cottage Studio at Mansfield in November and on a journey to the Flinders Ranges, a region that has inspired many artists including Hans Heysen, Imants Tillers, Antony Hamilton, Kay Lawrence, Dorothy Caldwell, a host of 19th century explorers gifted with drawing skills...and of course yours truly.

Barbara and Warren Fargher, the owners of beautiful Wirrealpa Station have several times suggested that they'd be keen to host a workshop group and even floated the possibility of holding an exhibition of work derived from being "in place" there.

so between us we have come up with an idea.

a journey to the heartlands.

the adventure will begin at Port Augusta, South Australia, where participants will board a mini-bus for the spectacular drive to Wirrealpa where we shall be staying in the historic shearer's quarters [which means i will be up at dawn chopping wood for the donkey that heats the shower water].

during the week we will have time to wander; to stitch, paint and draw, to construct sculpture from found objects, to write and to take photographs. there'll be a dyepot or two going. you'll be well fed. the week won't have a formal workshop structure, but is planned more as a rich opportunity to be nourished by this remarkable region.

we will begin in the mornings with discussion about possibilities and then you'll be free to explore these at your own pace. in the evenings we will gather about the long table in the cookhouse with a glass of wine and share the doings of the day. there will be excursions to view ancient petroglyphs and also a spectacular ochre valley, both sites of great cultural significance.

i'm so excited to be able to share this beautiful country with you!

the dates will be around October 19-23, 2015 and i'm still working out the budget and other details [there are no local supermarkets...everything will need to be brought in with us] but i am taking expressions of interest. please drop me a line if you think this might be for you.

Monday, 29 December 2014

more than i expected!

well thank you, all y'all who have written to ask about
being (t)here in New Orleans

the flood of enquiry was a surprise and a delight - the sort of response that makes me want to leap out of bed in the mornings and dance about in me nightie!

now just to will have to find your own accommodation

but there are lots of lovely places to stay.

as a visitor i'd be looking for somewhere in the Bywater, Marigny, Treme
and then [if you have not a bicycle or other wheeled transport] you can just catch the 88 bus down St Claude
hop off at Caffin Ave
and enjoy a lovely walk southward [well, technically south-southwest] to reach the Chateau

Sunday, 28 December 2014

announcing New Orleans (and a bit of a personal reality check)

it's been a big year.

i've exhibited in New Orleans, Atlanta and Minneapolis (USA)
Evoramonte (Portugal)
Barossa Valley, Port Augusta, Adelaide, Murray Bridge and Tamworth (Australia)

i had work acquired by the Art Gallery of South Australia and was rejected by the Waterhouse Art Prize

self-published a number of books and taught at least nine workshops around the whirled.

which seemed like a reasonable achievement until i clicked a link to Amazon from a friend's sidebar and read the critiques for Eco Colour which is apparently a self-indulgent waffle with no useful information AND in which (according to the several reviewers) i apparently endorse the use of chemical adjuncts "without the specific caution that these are quite toxic".
i don't recall that at all. but clearly i am getting old and batty as well as being "somewhat prickly and seems to be the Self Appointed "Green Police" "

the good news for those people is that i have very recently been blessed with a dog and so will be limiting my travelling to much shorter sorties (after i get through 2016) to stay home and be with her so our paths are far less likely to cross.

at the same time i'll be making a serious effort to get my novel together. BE WARNED. it has stories, contains my favourite food recipes and has been completely self-indulgently written in my own voice so if you didn't like Eco Colour or Second Skin avoid it like the plague and don't say you weren't warned.
rather than attempting to complete the trilogy and writing a book about pattern-making i'm building all that into the story too.
(note to self  :  do not read critiques of novel if/when it is eventually published)

+ + +

if, on the other hand, you are not one of the above and willing to brave three days in my company in New Orleans in September 2015

i can tell you that i shall be offering a compact intensive version of 'being (t)here' in the marvellous Chateau Curioso, down near the lazy river, in the lower 9th ward

the class involves drawing and writing as well as the dyeing of cloth and paper and the making of a beautiful 'island book'. it is about being in place.

dates : September 4,5,6

the cost will be US$700 and i will be brewing a daily cauldron of soup (with accompaniments) for our lunch. some materials will be supplied but there will be a small list of things to bring. by and large we shall be working with treasures we find in the local area

if you are keen you may secure your place with a non-refundable deposit of $100*
drop me a line via my contact page if you'd like to sign up

* in the event there are insufficient takers for the class i shall refund your deposit in full

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


today would have been Pa's 79th birthday
he slipped into the world on the longest night of the year in 1935
and left it much too soon in 2013.

he left me with the best legacy though
that of always being open to learning
because [as he said] you can't pump water out of a reservoir
unless it has been able to catch enough rain

and having grown up with this philosophy
i've made sure to keep learning throughout my teaching practice
- deliberate learning, that is, in addition to what i learn from
my family, friends, practice and students
bless all y'all

so in 2015 i will have the joy of being a student in Larry Thomas' class at Big Cat Textiles in Newburgh,  Scotland.
Alison and Netti very kindly invited him to teach there at my suggestion as i've been keen to take a class with him for years but somehow the cosmic carpool never lined up

Larry Thomas is in great demand...his drawings are remarkable, his work is represented in collections around the whirled, he teaches at Sitka, the San Francisco Art Institute and Haystack. i had the good fortune to spend a morning with him at his studio in Fort Bragg last year [or was it the year before...losing track of who and where...]

anyhoo you can read more about him here

i'm teaching a two-day class just before he begins at Big Cat, perhaps there may be some amongst you who would like to swing in for both? or of course if you're really keen, join me for 'being (t)here' then take a week to tour Scotland and come back for five days of wonderment and drawing

but i'd get in quick, cos when word gets out, his class will fill quickly.
click here for more detail

in the meantime, have a lovely Christmas or Chanukah or simply a delightful holiday at the time of twinkle lights....and if you're lucky enough to have a good father about, give him a hug.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Silly season

It's the silly season
and I forgot to say Happy Birthday Herr Beethoven yesterday ( his 244th!)
I'm offering a little party game on Instagram 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

wandering + wondering

last Tuesday i packed 'back country' into the back of the ute [that's a pick-up if you're American] and headed out via the World's End Highway, the Goyder Highway and then the Barrier Highway up to Broken Hill and across New South Wales to deliver and install the work at the Tamworth Regional Gallery. [that's a little over 3000km there and back again]

and then yesterday i got up before sunrise, climbed into the [now much emptier] ute and pointed it in a westerly direction. Augustus [that's the ute's name] could smell his home paddock and was eager to go. 
me too.

i was also eager to see the Geminid meteor shower that's lighting up the night skies at present, so as the sun got lower i began to look for a suitable campsite. it's been years since i last slept under the sky in the outback. when the children were small we simply camped in a paddock at home and in recent years much of my travel has been to destinations overseas where camping isn't a practical response to the challenge of finding a bed [and where there are ticks, which give me the heebie jeebies]

about 120km east of Broken Hill i found a small red dirt road labelled Wirreanda. it looked suitably infrequently used so i turned up it and drove until i could see just the lights of the trucks on the highway but not hear them [thinking that i wanted to be within walking distance in case Augustus didn't want to start in the morning]. i also took a screen shot of the compass on my iPhone and messaged it to the folks back home so that they would have the coordinates in case that was the last time they heard from me and had to search for a body. 
then i unrolled my swag in the tray of the ute [there's just enough room for me to sleep diagonally] and hung a mosquito net over the top. perfect.


in the past i have always had a dog along when sleeping out but the pawprints left by Kip when she passed on July 19th, 2010 still haven't been filled so the precaution above [given the lack of canine company] was a simply sensible thing to do. you never know.

it turned out to be a splendid night, initially enlivened by lightning displays around the horizon and then beautifully clear with a myriad shooting stars, including one that seemed almost a Min Min light, bright green and travelling horizontally about 10 degrees above the northern horizon.

and then a couple of hours before dawn the moon rose in the east, cunningly disguised as a big slice of candied orange. at one point a tiny passing bat grazed my cheek with its wing as it flipped by, casually disposing of a mosquito

i had brought a book to read and also a set of solar powered twinkle lights [they'd been charging up on the dash all day] to read by but i never so much as turned a page and after testing the lights, turned them off as well. 


it was such a luxury to have the time to watch the sun go down, see the stars appear and truly appreciate the slow transition from day into night, listening to the birds organising themselves for sleep, the brief concerto of singing insects and then the rich velvety silence of a desert night, so quiet that it seemed i could hear the passing stars
i'm pretty sure the shades of the seven lovely Dogs who have blessed my life were there as well 

in the morning, after a bit of yoga [that 33 year old swag doubles nicely as a yoga mat] i packed up and discovered i had not been alone after all

there were also "tail-drag" marks from a kangaroo who had visited in the night, maybe to ask me to stop snoring. i hadn't heard it at all.
 i headed off again, stopping for a musical interlude under a bridge just outside Broken Hill while it was still cool and before the flies got busy. i like the acoustics that big bridges offer.

i found that others had been there before me

oh yeah? well i had sax under the bridge. 
far less messy and i'm guessing it probably sounded better too.