Thursday, September 29, 2016

Phew, Finally a Few Days to Unwind

The last two months seem to have been a whirlwind of  planes, trains and busses , quilt  and craft events in between ,and dyeing and printing and making new linocuts and actually making two quilts whilst demoing for Bernina France at the Carrefour Europeen du Patchwork at Ste Marie aux Mines,that I felt exhausted. Finally I have a few days to unwind because, I  have not had a day off since the beginning of August. And then because I found an exceptionally good deal for accommodation in Florence I find myself back here. I had intended to do things cultural yesterday after a visit to the Fabriano shop, but instead found myself engaged with the more prosaic side of the city - food and wine! But nothing is as it seems in this city.

I was out and about relatively early yesterday, but as the weather is stunning- bright and sunny it is not great for photographing. Walked past the Basilica di San Lorenzo

 I am always bemused by people around the facsimile statue of David outside the Palazzo Vecchio- most people simply ignore it- everyone is in such a rush to get to the queues for the Uffizi or to crush amongst the crowd on the Ponte Vecchio that but few stop to admire this most highly revered of human forms by Michelangelo- even the facsimile is pretty impressive!

But all good cultural intentions aside I decided to just walk around and enjoy the sunshine, and a coffee and a lovely lunch at a favourite restaurant.And then do some more walking.

There is relatively little graffiti in Florence- I guess it gets cleaned off, but one thing that does appear is a kind of graffiti poster on some of the utility doors/hatches. These seem to change over time with the ones this year being different to the ones from last year.

The posters appear in different colours and in different spots around the city. I am not sure what the significance is of the snorkeling mask?

Then onto a favourite restaurant  Toscanella Osteria on the left side of the Arno ( depending on which direction you are coming from) I found this little restaurant last year when I spent a month in Florence. It's day menu is exceptional value, always freshly cooked and changing every day and the ordinary menu also has many enticing dishes. I loved it for it's ambience and the friendliness of the wait staff and as I returned there several times. I got talking to the owner Fabrizio Gori- who it turned out, is one of Florence's living artists.He has been involved in many projects over the years ( but like many of Florence's living artists there is little internet presence of their work ) and now he has returned to the profession of his parents. The  restaurant is housed in the building that was the birthplace of Bruneleschi, and the decor  pays homage to this as well as  showcasing many of  Fabrizio's paintings and a delightful array of lamps. The wait staff are the same as they were last year, always a good sign, and I simply enjoy going there because largely the locals eat out at this restaurant. Fabrizio collaborated with several other  Florentine artists to recreate the book about Pinochio- all hand printed and bound into a book the shape of the nose of the famous puppet and in the collection of MOMA. There is even a library of artist's books along one wall of the restaurant.

At the suggestion of Fabrizio I went to see the Incredible Florence multimedia presentation at the deconsecrated church Santo Stefano al Ponte. I wasn't sure what to expect as I find multimedia presentations can be a bit over rated ( apart from William Kentridge of course) but found this one fascinating, as in 45 minutes it traced the history of this fascinating city. One thing that kind of  stood out for me was, though the Medici were tough and despotic, they viewed art and culture as being an important part of their rule to enrich the city as well as their rule- so they gathered around them some of the greatest artists in the western canon of art- something that might be pointed out to more mediocre embodiments of power of the present day- for their foresight still provides enlightenment to students of art of the present and indeed income for the city which they were so instrumental in shaping. A 500 year legacy is not bad!

And last but not least- a coffee shop- yes I know bars and coffee are the heart and soul of the Italian morning ( and cornetto's con crema), but this coffee shop is a little different. I have found myself staying in a part of Florence, that isn't touristy though not that far from the pedestrian precinct of the old city.  The shop looked enticing and upon discussion with the barista it turns out that his passion for coffee is quite different to most  Italian coffee places- his is a passion for blends and new blends and sourcing the finest coffee beans and selling his own blends and roasting.It turns out that he learnt some of this passion in Melbourne- he says it opened his eyes to what coffee could be and so he has brought it back to Florence and has established Caffetteria Piansa. I did try the coffee of course- and the filtered coffee was delicious ( what not the espresso???, but he assured me this his filtered coffee was the best way to experience the subtleties of flavour). However it was also evening, and I had done a lot of walking so i also decided an apero was in order- which comes  accompanied by a selection of savouries at little extra cost!

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Aussie Bush Project Happening!

I am at the Craft and Quilt Fair in Hamilton New Zealand at the moment- where once again the Medieval project is being much admired. It is always such a rich display and viewers are amazed at the variety and creativity of the participants.

This will be a quick blog post as I have to head off to mind the exhibition. I then set it up again at Porirua(Wellington) New Zeland next week and then hop on a plane back to Australia swap suitcases and then fly to France on the same night so that I can demonstrate for Bernina France at Ste Marie aux Mines ( Carrefour Europeen du Patchwork). It's been a hectic six weeks or so.

I have stitched my first Aussie Bush piece and I think there will be a few more to come- in fact I can see a bush blanket in my minds eye. I used flannel as wadding as I wanted it to stay reasonable soft and drapey so I was happy that the stitches still created texture.

I have been developing designs for the Aussie Bush project and can confirm that exhibition life for the project will start next year in May 2017 at Brisbane and it will tour around Australia. I will also be searching for a European venue when I am over this time. I will be setting a page up on my blog with details and information but so far the rules will be similar to the other projects- you can do  anything you like to the printed pieces ( but nothing fragile as they travel in a suitcase) and no side larger than 70 cm- but apart form that you can let your creativity be as wild and bushy as you like.  You can add other fabrics- you can collage elements- it's up to you.There will be a fee payable to join the project of $20 but this to defray the cost of signage/packaging ,pins, admin, and return postage to you.I am also thinking about that  you sign/or initial the front of your piece in the bottom right corner- some thoughts on this would be appreciated.

The three designs thus far are gumnuts, banksia and  unfurling fern frond. Each is 30 cm square and hand printed on hand dyed fabric. The blocks of nine  are each individual panel which I have collaged  and these are the colours I have available at present. Each square cost $20 plus postage( they can be sent as a letter- so this is not very expensive). Just email me if you are interested in joining.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Aussie Bush Project

I have been working on magazine articles these last weeks but have also been thinking about what new project I would embark on when the Medieval Project finishes its travels later this year. There is no doubt the format offers room for lots of creativity- I make the prints and then people embroider/embellish/bead/ do all sorts of stuff to improve my prints. It's been a pleasure to see what people have come up with, and the Medieval project and the Sentinelle Project before it attracted lots of attention and positive comment, and I am amazed at how varied the exhibition looks even though the same prints have been used.The medieval project will be shown at Canberra next week and Newcastle  the following week and then in Hamilton and Wellington in New Zealand in September. The events are organised by Expertise Events and there is further information on their website- just follow the link.

So earlier this year I was playing around and making Babbling Banksia quilts and prints and also did quite a lot of reading of French Botanical books as some of the first images of Australian flora appear in in the book of a French botanist. It made me wonder about  what they thought of the Australian bush with plants so strange and so different to what they would have encountered in Europe, and then I wondered how do Australians themselves view the Aussie bush? What is the first thing that springs to mind when you mention the words The Aussie Bush and how do they envision those things?

So I decided that my next project would be The Aussie Bush. In my minds eye I can see a wall of wonderful stitched panels depicting the Aussie Bush. So I started creating prints with the Aussie Bush in mind. The first two  prints are 30 cm x 30 cm and have been inspired by gumnuts and banksias. I can see lots of opportunity for embellishment of these panels. Panels are for sale for $20 each plus postage- and I have dyed a load of Aussie bush colours ( and some others as well) .I am also making enquiries if there is any interest in exhibiting the Aussie Bush Project - if I can get people to join into the project. Email me if you are interested, and I would love some feedback  on what you think about the project!

I usually do my first trial print on newspaper- not sure how that habit started, probably because I used newspapers as printing mats.I think I will be making these trial prints into some kind of hand made book. These two prints are  hot off the press ( well in my wishing world there might one day be a proper press !) and I will be working on another one over the next few days. As you can see from the last photo I am using an empty wine bottle to roll the backs of the lino when printing as I left my barens that I normally use in France and haven't had a chance to get to a shop to buy some new ones . I love those Japanese bamboo covered barens.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016


I wanted to share this image of angels  from the Pincoteca in Siena by Sano di Pietro from the Cinqua Cento- I have it as a screen saver and every morning when I open my laptop I take a moment to reflect on its serenity, its beauty and sweetness. And when I look through my recent photos whilst I was in Italy I notice that I am much taken by angels- I seem to have noticed them everywhere I went.

I came across a recent post by Sharon Boggon ( whose inspirational stitching blog I followed for many years) about a new project she is setting up about contemporary Journaling, which I shall be following with interest. And so it has lead to some of my own ruminations about journalling.

I have kept a journal in one way or another since I was about 15 and was a writer on scraps of paper before that. My children grew up journalling, whether it was words or drawing - it didn't matter. I have kept up the habit- not always consistently, sometimes I might go a week without journalling, and then I will get back to it. I even went a few years without journalling at all- mainly whilst I was at university.

And then, just before I left France, I lost my Rhodia Folder journal. I think I left it behind in the church where I was exhibiting at Forca Fil in Mane- if anyone found it I would love it back. I had started this journal  in February after buying the Rhodia folder. I love Rhodia paper- it's so beautiful and smooth to write on with a fountain pen- you barely need apply any pressure. The only paper that offers a challenge is Fabriano- and I love the ivory colour of their paper. The folder is a new product from Rhodia and it has plastic pocket inserts which were so handy for collecting all sorts of bits and bobs, and to boot I lost my new purple Lamy fountain pen. Lamy bring out a new colour every year and this years colour is purple- it's my one extravagance apart from buying lovely journals. But losing that journal has been a bit of a pain- there were so many thoughts, ruminations, ideas and lists, and reflections and descriptions in that journal, I feel as if I have lost 5 months of myself, yet I have a lot of work I made in that time which proves otherwise.

What do I love about journalling?

Well for a start a journal is shaped like a book- I love books- I like the shape of books, I like the paper in books, I like the words , the images,the smell.

I love fountain pens- indeed I particularly love Lamy fountain pens, once in my solicitor days I managed to convert a large part of the office I worked in to use Lamy fountain pens-  they are smooth to write with and draw with. But to draw I use black ink so that does necessitate another Lamy pen. I like the weight of them in my hand.

I love blank pages or dot grid pages or little squares ( which remind me of learning to write as a child)- I don't actually like lined pages at all. I like to be able to go  all over the page without being contained by lines.

I use my journal for all sorts of things- I do record my feelings sometimes, but mostly I record encounters with ideas  and places and food and museums/galleries. I use my journal to research, though if I really want to research something more intensively I will start a separate journal for that. Right now I want to research things about Italy- things I encountered, but I forgot to bring my Fabriano notebook with me - so it's had to go on the back burner for the time being because Italy needs to be explored in a Fabriano journal- nothing else will do.

I do draw in my journal- usually mono-colour and in black  if I can- again if I want to explore something in colour I tend to do that in a separate journal, but my journal also contains a lot of writing- sometimes quotes, ideas. Actually my journals contain a lot of ideas about things I am interested in.

I write recipes into my journals- and then I forget which journal I wrote them in . And I keep all sorts of bits of paper of interest in my journal- cards, tickets- but I don't paste them in- they are usually loose stuck between the pages.

I am often surprised how I will return to subject matter over a period of time- years even and when I look at my thoughts then and now- how things have changed and evolved. Sometimes you refind things that were forgotten with the passing of time, other times it's like meeting an old friend- as if there has been no intervening years.

Sometimes I write stories or beginnings of stories.

I write about books I have read.
I bought a book whilst I was at le Triadou- well actually I bought two books. Letters to a Young Poet  by Rainer Maria Rilke... I wish I could write such letters and how times have changed that we don't write such letters. They are a exploration of his own work , his ruminations on his subject matter, even though he is addressing a young poet. And then such delight to walk the path he walked in Duino several months later.

The other book I bought was Six Drawing Lessons by William Kentridge. I have  been admiring Kentridge's work from afar and bought the book for greater insight ( more of his books will find my shelf no doubt)  as I liked how his ideas worked and the thoughts he put into his work- it's a long and erudite tale. I like how he draws on philosophy, on ideas of others and I even encountered Rilke in the pages of his six lectures on Drawing for Harvard University. Then imagine my unutterable delight to be able to experience some of his work in Milan- I only found there was an exhibition of his work whilst checking a website for things to do in Milan). I wrote about all these things in my lost Rhodia journal. But what surprises me even more, that ,walking the Rilke path in Duino and visiting Kentridge's work in Milan were both unplanned things- things that I only found out about  the minute they were upon me- and I wrote about how strange and serendipitous the universe can be, how these encounters turn up in my life without expecting them to and yet they somehow connect  what I am thinking and trying to understand.

 And so  whilst trying out my new Fude pen which arrived on the same day as the William Kentridge book- the two things are combined somehow, and I am trying to get to the centre of  banksias

And there you have it Rilke and Kentridge on the same page!

And then recent ruminations on Aussie bush-I am trying to feel it not only see it- I want to understand its myths, the people who have written about it. I want to create the  Aussie bush in all its weirdness and wonder- there is no other wilderness like it in the world.

So this ramble is a little of how my journals actually are- a place to explore, discover, test, think, create ideas- and the slowness of the actual writing or drawing creates somehow greater reflection, and your brain has time to evolve  the ideas, because the slowness of your hand dictates the exploration - much like stitching really.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wintry Dandenongs Blast

It's been quite quite cold this last week and so I am grateful to be staying somewhere with a wood heater and power. I do have a woodheater in my shed but no power at present which makes it difficult to sew on my sewing machine, and I need to get half a dozen art quilt projects done for  Magic Patch so they can publish them over the next year.It is great to get things published but it also means getting the work done , and unfortunately I cannot share it with you, until they are published.

This Saturday ( 30 July) I will begin a three session Travellers Blanket class at Open Drawer in Camberwell. This is the only class I have booked in Australia at the moment ( and yes I am available for teaching after the beginning of November). This is always such a fun class- because the stories really add zest and life to the stitching, and because it is hand stitched it takes time and thought- a kind of mindfulness that we don't always allow ourselves time for. Just follow the link if you are interested in joining us. We will be dying Fabric this Saturday and making a start to our stitching and story telling. I have had people do wonderful things in the past- some have used woollen  blankets, others khadi cloth or muslin, fabric scraps from  the sewing baskets of mothers, pieces of shirts for a memory cloth, bits and pieces found in a father's junkyard, flotsam and jetsam from beach combing, travel tales- there are so many ways of telling a story in stitch!

I have finally finished stitching my big tree linocut- it's all hand stitched and turned into a bit of a marathon, because well, I wanted it to look a certain way. I have also photographed the back to show you- simply because I am not so concerned about how the back looks ( but as I have been doing other magazine projects- I have tidied up the backs a bit more than I normally do) But I do like the way the back of this looks.

I have the printed tree panel available if you are interested- have quite a good range of colours at the moment or I can custom dye.The panels are hand printed. Panels are $25 AUS plus postage. Email me if you are interested in purchasing a panel.

The studio where I am staying at the moment- has many wonderful trees and plants surrounding it, including many natives and of course tree ferns. The  new fronds are just beginning to unfurl- they are such marvellous looking things! I think I can feel a linocut coming on for my Aussie Bush project!

I have also been trying to sell some older work at bargain basement prices- after all artist' must eat and live and buy materials to create further work. One of my older Hellfire pieces was bought by the friends who is allowing me to use their studio for the time being ( it will get listed on AirBNB after I move out in two weeks or so).It is so lovely to see this piece in their entrance hallway- you don't always get to see how work is hung or how it looks. The fabric has been hand dyed- and then burnt to create the reverse applique and then heavily stitched by machine and by hand.

I think the Aussie bush  project will be my next project in the style of the Medieval Project and the Sentinelles. The Medieval Project will finish later this year, but there has been a lot of interest in the works and response has been very enthusiastic, with people amazed at the variety and imagination used. I have been working on a linocut- which I finished today ( and then chopped a line through- argghh so now I have to glue a small piece of lino in place) and I am waiting on printing ink which I have ordered- so next week I hope to unfurl one maybe two new linocuts for this project.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Medieval Project- and Something New

I had intended to go back down to Gellibrand but as I have six quilts to make and six articles to write I have taken up the kind offer of some friends to use their bungalow until the Medieval Project starts touring again in mid-August. I will travel with the medieval project as follows:

Canberra- August 11-14
Newcastle August 18-21
Hamilton New Zealand September 1-4
Wellington New Zealand September 8-10
( if anyone knows of cheap/budget accommodation in Canberra or Newcastle your  advice would be much appreciated!)

I have had the thinking cap on for a new project, as people keep asking what I will do next, so I will start creating new linocuts inspired by the Australian Bush- and the new project will be called the Bush Project- so watch this space!I will be making linocuts, printing them on fabric with the idea of creating a panorama of the bush, which will be for sale-and hopefully embroidered and embellished by many hands as the sentinelles were and the Medieval project were.I hope that The Bush Project will again fire the imagination .

Meanwhile some of my sentinelles are for sale- these are the small hand stitched panels that measure approximately 8 inches x 18 inches. They are $125 each- these are the last of the small sentinelles. The photo below is a collage of the three different ones I still have left. Email me if you are interested

I have finally come up for some plans for the use of my block of land, that make me feel better about it and which will hopefully rejuvenate some of my lost dreams, but first I have to get these articles out of the way and sew up a storm!

Monday, July 04, 2016

From Mid Summer to Mid Winter

I am  writing this wrapped in a duvet to keep warm- i think I am reacting to the cold after coming from  gorgeous mid summer weather only last Thursday. I don't do cold weather well and  I am feeling a bit sluggish. I left France on the 30th and arrived back in Australia on the 2nd of July- somewhere over the Indian Ocean I lost a day. But I have to get supermotivated and get a load of work done .

There is also some exciting news for the Medieval Project. It has been touring with Expertise Events most of this year and will continue to do so. In August it will go to Canberra and Newcastle and in September it will go to New Zealand, Hamilton and Wellington- I will be going along with the exhibition as well . After the Wellington exhibition I will be returning to Europe in order to demonstrate for Bernina at Carrefour Europeen du Patchwork and teaching in Italy

My last weeks in Italy and France were busy and involved lots of sitting on  buses yet again as buses seem to be the cheapest form of transport, especially when booking at the last minute. I passed through Genoa on the way back to Montpellier-  and spent the night there as my connecting bus did not leave until the next morning. Genoa seems different to other Italian cities- very mixed- I guess a result of its seafaring past- it also seemed poor and the very narrow streets and laneways in the old part of the city were kind of eerie, with very little sunshine filtering down to the street level. The architecture of the older churches were banded black and white stonework, giving it a very middle eastern feel, yet the internal decorations - which were renovated in the baroque period- seemed at odds with the  architecture; all florid and wafting.

Then it was back to Le Triadou and  working on my quilt for Vendee Globe and then to Festival Forca Fil in Alpes de Haute Provence to install my work at the Eglise in Mane. Unfortunately the quilts I had sent for exhibition at the Musee Salagon did not arrive in  time to be installed for the exhibition- so that was a waste of postage money- thank goodness they did actually eventually arrive and I was able to hang them in the Eglise where they looked at home!The festival was disappointing as the visitor numbers were significantly reduced compared to the previous festival so with 85 artists and commercial stall holders all sharing  a smaller visitor base, sales were few and far between. I think everyone would have been disappointed.But it was lovely to catch up with a number of people!

There wasn't enough space in the  Eglise to hang my new Tifaifai quilts and so I draped them over the pews- I quite liked the look of half the design hanging as a triangle.

I managed to get quite a lot of hand stitching done on one of my linocut printed tree pieces as visitors did not disrupt my sewing too much.

The print is available for sale for $25 plus postage. The print measures 50 cm x40 cm and has been handprinted on hand dyed fabric. Email me if you are interested in buying a print( I have quite a few different colours available)

After the Festival I returned to Le Triadou to finish my Vendee Globe quilt, have my last two walks with Nesta the dog  in the shadow of Pic St Loup ( how I will miss my walks!) and to pack for my return to Australia and the long flight  home.

I still have books Musing in Textile:France available for sale- we (my daughter Celeste Galtry and I) wrote an article about our journey with the fund raising and the actual  design and publishing process for Downunder Textiles - our copy arrived the other day . And of course some of my new work is for sale on this page