Tuesday, 24 February 2015

lovely Lopez and the Pacific North West

as regular readers of this blog have probably discerned
my heart has many homes.

one of them is Lopez Island and i'm happy to say that 
after i present my workshop for Maiwa in Vancouver 
i will be boarding the train 
 hoping for a window seat on the starboard side 
and heading back there in the  northern Fall

more details here

i just wish i could bring my Kubbi-Kabuki-dog to play with Isla (a.k.a. Her Royal Fluffiness) whose image you will see if you click on the link above

Thursday, 19 February 2015

same town, new eyes

yesterday i had to take the trusty Augustus
down to Murray Bridge for a grease and oil change

i love that i can take backroads there
through familiar bits of wide brown land

some visitors have described our roads as brutal
frankly most times i'd rather putter along on the dirt than hoon along the freeway
(unless i'm in a pony car. that's a different matter. entirely.)

after we dropped Augustus at his day spa
Kubbi and i faced a day on foot in the great outdoors
(they don't offer loan vehicles if you have a furry friend) 

also, we needed to carry supplies (drinks and snacks)
because unlike the customs prevailing in Europe 
where dogs are welcome even in restaurants
Australian canine companions are discouraged from darkening the doorways of local businesses
no matter how pretty they are

so it was a chance for me to discover that town through 
a different set of eyes
and accompanied by a different set of feet.

there's an evil local weed called caltrop
which has horrible and vicious spikes and is unavoidable in several places.
 i had to carry the Kubblet across several infested areas to avoid having her paws stabbed

we walked to the big river
met some other pups
and there was a splendid romp
(which was too much fun to be part of to waste time messing with a camera)

sat in the shade under one of the bridges for which the town is named
and watched corellas pretending to be pigeons
and also showing off by performing acrobatics and hanging upside down

and then went back for another swim

wandering about aimlessly
making the odd drawing
playing with feathers and bark
and an enthusiastic pup
was rather fun
(though i had a pile of work waiting at home)

and now i had better get on with it

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

out (t)here

for some years now i have been sharing a wonderful place in my country with just a handful of visitors, mostly those who have wandered in across the oceans and might otherwise only be exposed to urban life but also a couple of close friends

it's a place that infuses me with vigour, fills my head with dreams and magic (well, yes, ok, i can actually find those things most places, but) and puts good red dust on my boots (harder to find). it provided the foundation for my exhibition 'back country'
is a source of solace and a good place to rediscover who you really are (something that sometimes gets lost in the compost of the daily grind)

last October i was there with Dorothy Caldwell and Sandra Brownlee...a most happy confluence indeed. the place is Wirrealpa Station, owned by Warren and Barbara Fargher. they've done extraordinary ecological restoration work there and are splendid hosts.

i'd always considered it a kind of private and precious place to go but when Barbara asked me whether i would consider hosting a workshop there i thought about it a bit, pondered logistics and said, "why not"? sharing is a good thing.

so i've come up with

a site-specific retreat centred on the deep experience of place through immersion in this very particular landscape
it's a big venture, we have to carry in all our food for the week and also reserve supplies in case of rain.* food will be completely wheat-free and vegetarian but with side-dishes to satisfy carnivores. (there are no stores so i'll be baking spelt bread daily)
i've also had to think about the best means of getting y'all there. the outback is not to be taken lightly if you're inexperienced so i figured the safest option was to have participants collected from Port Augusta by minibus (with a trailer for luggage)
there are only nine places available, two have already been taken
as a bonus, if skies are clear we should be able to see the Orionids meteor shower on October 21 + 22 while we're sitting outside by the evening dye cauldron
* rain is also the reason participants should take out travel insurance. while the weather is likely to be fine with mostly blue skies it is, as my atheist (and metereologist) father used to say
"God's way of keeping us on our toes"
and who knows what the Dogs Above will send.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

still dancing

it's been nearly ten years since Leigh Warren kindly commissioned me to 
make costumes for the seminal work Petroglyphs 
but it feels like a lifetime ago
there's been so much water down the river since then
(including a journey to Japan for Wanderlust
and a Scottish adventure when we took breathe to the
Edinburgh Festival)

on Tuesday I pootled into Adelaide with a bagful of dresses
so Leigh could choose one for a fringe production he is involved in

Leigh playing with a frock and being gorgeous as ever

oh, and if you're looking for somewhere fabulous to stay in the inner burbs 
of the capital of South Australia (and only a brisk walk from the restaurants of North Adelaide) do investigate AirBnB...Leigh's house (draped here and there with bits of ecoprint cloth by yours truly) is listed there and it's just lovely. Leigh and his lovely burmese cats will make you most welcome!

Monday, 2 February 2015

running red lights on memory lane

so i was looking for something yesterday 
(which i didn't find yet)
and while i was rummaging 
i found some old photo albums
from a time when pictures were regularly printed
when i made collages by cutting and pasting
not Photoshop (which hadn't been invented yet)
i found pictures from nearly thirty years ago
when my friend Yasmin (with whom i also shared a house) and i
co-taught for the former Arts Council of South Australia 
(which has now been reincarnated as the Country Arts Trust)
and went out on the Tea and Sugar train
with an exhibition of T-shirts
hand-painted and screen printed by South Australian artists of the time
(don't ask me why there are Flake bars sticking out of my ears
i have no idea)
 we went to Cook, Barton and Tarcoola
Hawker and Maree
(all in the arid lands of South Australia)
 and taught workshops in lino-printing and hand-painting t-shirts
at Tarcoola, the teacher of the 15 student school
happily dumped them all on us
and went off to the public house

that was the day we realised we should have packed a first aid kit. 
all we had for cut fingers was masking tape and toilet paper
i fancied myself a new David Hockney
sticking pictures together
which is why Yasmin appears twice in this one
back then i also had a dog with a spirit eye
and a very silly haircut.

we were too young to know better
threw mad parties
drove too fast
danced too long
sang too loud
they were very fine times
we are still friends

i'm glad i was there

Sunday, 1 February 2015


image borrowed from : http://www.gondwana.geologia.ufrj.br/

the idea of Argentina has been on my mind for a while
every now and then an email drifts in across the oceans
asking if i will come. 

yesterday i decided to put a ring around some weeks in the calendar
thinking maybe the last week in November, first week of December 2016 

i would need to teach four lots of three day classes to make the trip work financially
(the fee for one class wouldn't even cover the airfare across the big puddle)
but it will be exciting to meet the flora on the other side
and to expore the Gondwana connections between our countries
and though there is interest in the basics of ecoprinting
i'd love to offer a 'being (t)here' class too

if you are in Argentina
(or would like to come from elsewhere to meet me there)
and if you are interested in taking a class
please either let me know in the comments below
or better still (because then i will have an email address to write back)
please drop me a line via my

and perhaps tell me what you would most like to learn?

Friday, 30 January 2015

blue notes and life lessons

life lessons. 

learn to expect the unexpected. 
you'd think that by now i would have that firmly tattooed inside my left eyelid. 

I have to confess I was humbled by the indigo vat last week...which for the first time since 1991 (the year I first dabbled in the blues) decided to behave like a bit of princess and consequently was a little slow to reveal the magic. 
pale blue instead of brilliant blue.

With the wisdom of hindsight I should have put the freshly prepared vat to bed overnight wrapped in quilts and blankets but foolishly (possibly thinking hey, it's summer) left it out under the stars overnight. 

An extra 24 hours and a bit more warmth yielded truly lovely results, sadly too late for my forgiving students (and me) who had already dispersed with the four winds - but very happily for Judy (see blue hand below). It certainly reinforced the rules of indigo, which likes to be warm and wellfed, just like the rest of us. Didn't do a great deal for my self-esteem, but I'm sure the Dogs Above had their reasons. I sure hope they did. The inner bear took a bit of a pummelling.

At least all present were very happy with their metalwork (guided by Roz Hawker), received the magic of string (learned originally from Nalda Searles), loved the fabulous food (thank you Chloe Keylock), revelled in the gorgeous surroundings (thank you Michael and Judy Keylock) and enjoyed the dog therapy provided by the ever joyful Molly.

photo by Michael Keylock
I'm taking my lesson in the spirit of the wisdom below 
(thank you Michael for bringing it to my attention)

and have come home to more wise words from another Michael 
(image borrowed from the Michael Leunig appreciation page)

the teapot of constancy is filled with Lady Grey tea, 
the dog of sanity (who slept on my bed last night) is by my side. 

Admittedly the armchair of philosophy needs serious re-upholstering and the rug of constancy could do with a vacuum and possibly a good beating but the vase of tranquility is full of jasmine

and happily every day is a new beginning.


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 notice...you 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