Sunday, May 03, 2015

Florence and the Museo Stibbert

In Florence in a small apartment about 2 km away from the San Maria Novella Railway station. I did an overnight bus trip from Narbonne and as the bus was full, the trip was not the most comfortable- then add the fact that arrival day was 1 May a National Holiday in much of Europe and well nothing much happened on my first day here. As it is a holiday weekend ,all the main museums are free, so I thought better of  standing in a queue though I will do some of that later in the month.In fact i was not going to do anything at all, except have lunch at the little restaurant I found yesterday- but I was 10 minutes too early( hey my stomach has turned french on me lol!) and  went to the market instead and bought fresh vegetables and cheese and wine. Cooked my lunch and then thought I should walk and see the Museo Stibbert which is not far from here and which the owners of the apartment had impressed upon me as a must see, and you have to listen to local people right?

Well what a delight it was and I seemed to have missed most of the costume collection somehow. The museum was a gift to the city of Florence  from Frederick Stibbert who was born of an English father and  Italian mother in 1838. He rode in  Garibaldi's campaign to unify Italy and collected widely though mainly suits of armour and  things associated with those, though there are also a large number of paintings in the collection, as well as collections devoted to particular countries such as Japan. During his years of collecting , his collection outgrew his first house so he bought a second, which he connected with a grand hall which was designed to house a life size cavalcade.So i have to admit armour is not my thing at all, nor are pieces of equipment of war, or things that kill people, but I have to admit the collection was pretty amazing- sheer size, idiosyncracy and well passion saw to that. You get a sense of his passion because it is housed in his original house to which he added bits in order to house more things.And then the decoration of the house to support his collection was of itself amazing. My only complaint was the completely awful lighting- things can be improved a great deal in that department!


We were guided through the museum by a guide( they only let in 25 people at a time and the tour takes an hour and is in Italian, so it is not packed at any given time) and the gardens are free , used by  the citizens of Florence and visitors alike.Most of the outside of the house is nineteenth century and nineteenth century renovations.The plaques on the wall are heraldic plaques.

These images are from the Islamic room in his house, replete with carved walls. The texture on this foot soldiers costume on the left was just gorgeous. The horses are life size and the models used ( which were created to  Stibberts directions as he was also a keen equestrian) are very realistic- marvellous in fact. Even the faces of the people riding the horses were meant to represent real people.





 The photo top left is in the hall that was built to house the cavalcade- life size horses- my goodness quite powerful really and the horse above in its suit of armour- what wonderful texture and sheer visual gorgeousness. And the appliqued details of a saddle cloth in the photo on the left- worn so that the threads of the embroidery are clearly visible.


A lot of the house was renovated to suit the collection but also contained many elements of pure decoration. To say that the experience of entering a room was one where decoration was over the top would not be an understatement- every spare inch has some sort of  decorative element. The image left above was painting on the windows- I could not get close enough but no doubt hand painted. The images on right is of panelling on the walls- which were not your usual wall paper but patches of leather which had been embossed and hand painted- literally hundreds of these panels over many of the walls.




 The photo left above was an alcove covered in tiling and majolica ware- it was like walking into a peacock's tail. And the panel on the right was painted onto the wall- it was quite large, but who painted it? There was little information on the provenance of some of the material in the house itself. One can only imagine the number of artisans and artists who must have worked on this house at various times. And the bed cover on the right is a quilt- it seems very modern and out of place but was made especially for Frederick from silk and velvet sometime in the late nineteenth century. Isn't it gorgeous?


detail of the quilt- unfortunately my detail of the centre of the quilt was out of focus but it almost appeared to be the labels off something( which made me think of it as a late twentieth century quilt)
And last but not least the gardens are a haven of cool in the afternoon sun- almost forlorn and kind of forgotten with elements crumbling and large shady trees which were supposed to be like an English park.All in all an unexpected joyful kind of day filled with a lot of inspiration really.

And then I have been carrying around a bag of scarps for quite some years now. I carry them in case there is just the right bit in there for someone when I am teaching.  But really this time I have grown tired of it. What to do with it? I ironed all the scraps- am still undecided- who knows it may grow into something.
 Don't the scraps look different ironed... hmm maybe it will grow into something- maybe indigo background, maybe the Nepalese rough linen ( was it linen I have forgotten the name) might be interesting to use

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Books & Medieval Project

The books have all been sent to meet my Pozible commitments and everyone should have received them by now. Once again thank you so much for your support in realising our dream- it is so very much appreciated.And I am getting great feedback- so thank you for that too!

I do have some books for sale that I can send from France to Europe,the UK or the USA. The price for the book is 45 Euros plus 7.50 Euros postage so a total of 52.50. If you would like a copy let me know as soon as possible and I will send you details of how to make payment. Just email me and I can be paid with Paypal.

L'Amour du Fil in Nantes was great fun and new friends were made. I did manage to kill my camera ( and I won't tell you how) but the kindness of a stranger before the quilt event( and now a friend)  came to the rescue- so now I can continue to photograph. I was having quite a small fit  as the trip to Florence for the month of May is all about research and very much photographing for the next book.

The Medieval project looked terrific and thank you all so much for sending your work. I know there are more coming and a few did not arrive in time, but they are safe with my friend. They will tour Australia in any case and another event in France at Aixe-en-Provence. I have photographed every piece ( some photos are not great because of the lighting at the quilt event) which I will put up on the Medieval project page in the next week or so. Many people enjoyed your work and your creativity.! The black background worked great for the brilliant embroidery!









 I  am at present in Moux staying with my friend Margo Bimler before I head off to Florence on  an all night bus trip  on Thursday.

There are poppies everywhere... what can I say they need to be photographed and the angel in the little church next to her house is looking over things.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pour L'Amour du Fil- Nantes

Firstly the good news- the book Musing in Textile: France is finally out of customs and were delivered to my friend Margo Bimler in the South of France last  Wednesday- she has been busy parcelling books ( they need to be in protective wrapping so they don't get damaged in the post) and finally  books will be posted to all the outstanding  Pozible supporters. My most sincere apologies for all the delay but much of it really was beyond any logical control- they were stuck in customs in Marseilles for 6 weeks... and they took their own sweet time to do what they  did  and no amount of jumping up and down was going to change their time. Very frustrating but in the end I am extremely relieved the books were safely delivered. I hope you will enjoy the book when it finally gets to your door.

Meanwhile I had arranged for some other books to be delivered for sale at L'Amour du Fil from 22-25 April 2015 where  the Medieval Project will be launched ( I shall be  blogging about this in the next few days- so many fabulous inventive  rich gorgeous pieces- I thought women had outdone themselves with the Sentinelles- but the pieces that have been arriving daily are simply marvelous!) Those books arrived in 3 days.... so no rhyme or reason. But I am glad to say the boxes passed the "cat inspection"!


I am also teaching at L'Amour du Fil-  Transfer  Painting/Printing and Stitching on the Wednesday 22 April and Tifaifai on the Friday, 24 April. There are still places available and details  are on the website

Teaching in Mons was fun- it was part of the 20 year Celebration of the Embroidery Centre in Mons which also has a wonderful exhibition of work on display. A great variety of different textiles, some of them stunning and well worth a visit. The exhibition  is being held in  what was once a  nunnery- so very atmospheric in Mons Centre.


I love the onion shaped domes on many of the churches in the town.



 Mons itself is a charming town with a central square boasting some medieval buildings and a monkey which adorns  the Hotel de Ville. No one knows from whence it has come, it has been there for many years but the story is you must rub  it's head with your left hand in order to attract good luck. Of course this was duly done- I need some in my quest to find an affordable house in which to live ( I am afraid that whilst travel seems exotic and wonderful and it often is, that the lack of a permanent abode is playing with my mind a little especially as the bureaucratic nightmare surrounding my block of land which I had hoped to sell by now will continue for at least another 12 months at a conservative estimate, so it feels like the only thing I can keep doing is keep moving- peripatetic)

I did go and see the Van Gogh- The Birth of an Artist exhibition at the Borinage - Mons is the European Cultural Capital for 2015 and is hosting many exhibitions and festivities and in fact opened 5 new museums whilst I was there- so culture can be a drawcard! I must admit I went ,not knowing what to expect as after all Mons is not a big city and to attract a big exhibition is a big ask for such a small place. I also suspected that the  beginning years would prove insufficiently interesting to sustain an exhibition without the luminous work of the later years. I have to say you should not arrive with expectations or unexpectations- because this was a thoughtful beautifully displayed eye-opening exhibition which did indeed play close attention to the title- the Birth of an Artist.Van Gogh spent 2 years in the region when he transformed himself from failed theology student, into lay preacher and ultimately artist. There are some letters to Theo of course, Early awkward drawings, then  the immersion in the work of artists whom he admired and copied and copied and somehow managed to emerge with his own tweaks and emotion of the later work. He had seen the work of Millet in Paris whilst he had worked as an art dealer but his copies of Millet are remarkable as they were made from engravings and his memory of the colours he would have encountered in Millet's original paintings ( which would not have been beautifully displayed in Musee Orsay as they are now). Already there is evidence of the brushwork the emotion and  his adoration of his subject matter- the ordinary every day things encountered by working people. At this time Van Gogh still thought he was going to be an illustrator rather than a painter- so the exhibition contains many drawings also done in emulation of artists/illustrators he admired and indeed some of his collection of  engraved images sourced from  the papers of the time ,when  newspapers still had real journalists and iillustrators to elucidate the articles,( Oh how I wish some of the money that is made in  Van Gogh exhibitions could have made it's way to Van Gogh's pocket whilst he lived) In the end I enjoyed this exhibition very much and came away with  food for thought! And I mentioned the radiance of the later work- I will comment on that some more a bit later in this post.

Then back to Soissy- sur-Seine, and Saturday I went into  Paris to brave the crowds and tour groups at the Bonnard Exhibition- Painting Arcadia at Musee Orsay. I hope the link works as it seems to be impossibly long. If you click on the further information ,10 pages of information about the different periods of Bonnards' painting life comes up.  Bonnard has been a favourite for a long time as I find his use of yellow to be simply the best there is. The exhibition was an eye opener in that the early work had little yellow and indeed surprising amounts of green and blue green and even turquoise- which  had not been readily  been apparent from books I have seen simply because turquoise does not print well ( turquoise is often a difficult colour in dyeing and transfer  painting as well)- and then Bonnard moves to Cannet- and literally the work becomes an explosion of yellow- it is so powerful and strong that I felt as if I was in the middle of a yellow blast and I felt incredible joy- it was wonderful- oh to be in that room without all the other viewers.... But it brings me to luminous- that explosion of colour also occurs in Van Gogh when he moves south and Dufy and Matisse. I have no photos of course so please do look at the website!

Later that day after a brief interval snuffling around a Brocante in Place St Paul  and some irresistable books( why is it that I encounter so many books that simply have to go into my luggage and when I have no bookcase to put them in). The Cahier is dated 1922 and seems to have been written by someone called Katz , who refers to some of the observations as Katzismes and  the introduction creating no less of an enigma. It continues for about 12 pages of Katzismes in conversation with  several different persons and with some diagrams of body positions whilst suffering from certain contagious diseases....well who could leave that behind??



And then onto  the Indigo  at the Bibliotheque Forney. Again difficult to take photos and it was packed with visitors. A wonderful exhibition of  indigo in its many myriad presentations across many cultures. The space, 5 rooms  is not big and in all reality not big enough for the  rich contents  of this exhibition- with many many examples of woven, printed and stitched textiles. It was also difficult to read some of the etiquettes because of the space limitations. Indigo seems to be the new must have experience so I feel lucky to have had such first hand experience with it at the Creative Arts Safari Creative Camp in India earlier this year and to hopefully go back and immerse myself some more later this year.

The entrance to the exhibition with various shades of indigoed umbrellas ( I am afraid my flash did actually go off and I was duly told, but unfortunately without a tripod it was impossible to take any decent photos and my phone was flat as it always seems to be when I put it in my bag)

And then my own  little effort on indigo cloth bought from the Stitching Project ( Creative Arts Safaris) using the technique of Sujuni embroidery taught to us by Sandju whilst I was on the Creative Camp.


 And last ,after what seems to have been a full on essay, as I said I have been a little down in spirit lately- the worry of the books in customs and meeting the  Pozible campaign commitments and the lack of a home ( I use home rather than house- there is a difference) seem to have played  on my mind. I have also applied for many residencies over the years , but have not been successful- though have ranked highly some of the time, even missing out by one on two occasions.So I have decided to create my own experience of sorts. So, as I am in Europe for the month of May with no teaching, I decided I would go and research for the next book Musing in Textile:Italy  by spending a little time in Florence. To my surprise the cost of accommodation to go for a month, cost almost the same as going for 2 weeks  ( and I used a french speaking accommodation  site rather than an english speaking one which seems to inflate the prices)and is much cheaper than living in Melbourne for a month ( in similar abode), plus I get to experience all the glorious art of the Renaissance in one of the lovely cities of this world. I may even do a print making course at Il Bisonti all things going well- immerse myself in something other than textile, but if that does not happen then there is plenty of other things to do and see. In my search for information I came across this very informative website the Florence Web Guide.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Banksia Variation Finished

My goodness- the last 2 weeks have passed by in a blur and not without some stress either!

First an update on the Pozible books still to be delivered. We have been told by the shipping company that  French customs have  finally released the 10 boxes of books last week, but unfortunately we still did not get delivery before Easter- we have everything crossed and hope the books will arrive tomorrow and books will be sent out as quickly as possible after they arrive off course.There has been no real  explanation as to why they were held up in customs for 6 weeks, and it's been stressful trying to work out what was going on. Of course apologies to everyone still waiting but there has been little we could do until customs actually released the books.

I have been to Holland and back to teach and spent a day or two in Bruxelles so I could drop some quilts in Mons for the 20 year anniversary Exhibition of the Centre of  Embroidery. I will also be teaching there tomorrow and Wednesday and am looking forward to seeing the exhibition- the brief glimpse I had when delivering the work suggested some exciting work indeed!

I did go to the Chagall Retrospective whilst in Bruxelles- there was over 200 works by Chagall covering all periods of creation- it was well worth seeing and I particularly enjoyed the red pieces- the seemed rich and dense with imagery and pattern.

On the way to the gallery walked through the wonderful city square ( Grand Place)  with its medieval buildings and unbelievable amounts of gilt some of which you can see on the building on the far right.


On the way to the gallery  encountered an arcade of antiquarian books, but  as I definitely don't need  more books whilst travelling I had to close my eyes but oh what little treasures there were. The little folding book in the photo above was by Axel von Leskoschek and was published in 1926- I can't find much information about  him but the little book was rather lovely- just as well the shop was closed!

 And the  photo on the left was of a plaque  dedicated to one of the Mayors of Bruxelles-although it does not actually tell you why. The relief work was lovely.
















And I have finally finished my Banksia Variation piece for the Through Our Hands Exhibition which will be held at the Bilston  Craft Gallery from the 16th of May until the 25th of July. My fingers are  red  raw from all the stitching and I did wonder why I had to  work quite  so large- and entirely by hand, whilst I was on the road....it measures 53 cms by 141 cms and this is my artist' statement:

The Banksia was named after Sir Joseph Banks who collected specimens of the flora during Captain Cook’s  discovery of Australia. Myths surround the flora and indeed one children’s story features the banksia as big and bad banksia men. I have tried to recreate the  Australian landscape of high horizons and starry nights  populated by the knobby intriguing banksia pods. To me they always seem like many  mouths babbling and one can imagine stories told in the night around campfires of strange and wonderful knobbly beings inhabiting the woods, perhaps scarey but always weird and mysterious.



I worked hard at trying to achieve the weird and knobbly effect- and the textile itself is very textural which is perhaps not readily apparent from the photo.The  patterning on the right has been printed with the woodblock I had made whilst in India, and the metallic thread in the sky was some Indian bling I bought in Delhi. It is the first piece I have finished in months as all my creative life seems to have been sucked into  Musing in Textile: France the book ( which can be purchased just email me)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Medieval Project is Starting to Take Shape

I have arrived in France ( brrr it's too cold!) to find some of the  gorgeous pieces that have been made for the Medieval Project which will be shown at  Pour l'Amour du Fil in the end of April, where I shall also be teaching. I can't tell you how exciting it is to open each package and find what new heights of inventiveness the makers have climbed to ( I feel almost ashamed of my ordinary paltry efforts) . I just love how stitch and colour transforms these pieces and that somehow they become the makers own  with a distinct expressiveness that seems to radiate from each piece.

 This queen has been embroidered and embellished by Libby Williams- and she may indeed have been these colours at Chartres Cathedral because it is now known that the gothic statues that adorn the Royal Portal were once coloured from traces of colour that have been found.I just love the sparkle and richness created in the dress.



The medieval rabbit has been stitched and reverse appliqued and some humour added by Emanda Fretwell- the detail in this is gorgeous and it so has that feel of the medieval!

And finally a king joins the ladies made by Denise Fordyce- the embroidery on this is subtle but rich with a bit of sparkle, just the right sort of feel for a medieval king!

I hope I shall see more  queens and kings and bunnies and dragons arrive- for what will hopefully be like a rich medieval tapestry.I hope they will glow and warm and inspire! The ones I already have here certainly exude that kind of feeling. They will tour in Australia after Nantes and premiere at the Berry Patchwork Shop Retreat at the end of August 2015.

And on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 I will be teaching lino-cutting and printing at Au Fil d'Emma in Orleans. there are still some places available. I will teach you the techniques I use to create my  own linocuts and how I print with them, and after the  wonderful encounter with Indian woodblocks, I think I may have a few new ideas!




Monday, March 16, 2015

Indian Fun

First of all- update  on Pozible pledges being delivered in France, Europe and the USA: I bulk airshipped books to France for posting to various places from France- I shipped before I left only to be told by the shipper that the books are stuck in customs in Marseilles- this is not unusual but simply means more delay. I am really sorry about this, but they have to pass through customs, so it is an unavoidable necessity and one which is causing more delay. We hope to have them in France this week so we can start posting finally.

The last two weeks in India have simply flown by. So many impressions and lovely experiences, and some creativity thrown into boot at  Creative Arts Safaris creative Camp- which I will share at the end of this post. We saw lots of things , and though I wished I could bring a suitcase of treasure the reality is that my suitcase already was pretty full with books, teaching materials and exhibition pieces, so I have had to be restrained! I did buy some hand made paper from Kadamb hand made papers in Jaipur. The papers are made from cotton t-shirts/jersey knit which has been shredded. This makes lovely paper which  takes stitching as well as water colour and writing- heaven!

So some impressions; people and modes of transport:

The ubiquitous motor-bike, noisy, and apparently you can ride them any where a person can walk- oh a turban helps as do super cool sun glasses!



Elegance in a little back alley in Ajmer!


More elegance whilst churning butter in Fiona's backyard!

And then there is door ways....blue is a favourite colour, and despite rubbish, electricity lines and grotty looking alleys doorways are objects of fascination.



Little shrines in every shop and on every corner- with the smell of incense wafting on the air



And bling- so much bling, that i was overwhelmed and forgot to photograph though I did buy some- peacocks. But the reds are just wonderful and this bling belonged to wedding saris.....Beaded embroidered, silk just over the top bling!


And last but not least. Whilst at the Creative camp I played around with the hand made paper and made a book of sorts. It still needs a cover, but Fiona had given us off cuts from The Stitching Project and the printed fabrics they make in the workshop. We also played around with some of the wood block stamps they have designed at the workshop.  I have both water coloured and stitched the paper and used some of the stitched  off cuts and  used woodblocks to print the paper.