Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Bower Bird's Delight

So, where to store all those bits and pieces that I just can't bear to throw away?

I mean those shells with interesting patterns; tiny pieces of driftwood with an interesting shape and lines of texture; a tiny bright coloured bow that once topped a gift; a Buddhist prayer bead bracelet given to me in Kyoto; a dragonfly that was made from green, pliable leaves and has now totally dried out but is so cleverly made that I have to keep it so that I can continue to admire it; seed pods collected on walks; tiny offcuts of painted and stitched textiles; the top of a miniature teapot that belonged to my grandmother - all that was left after it was knocked to the floor; a gold paper doily that my mother-in-law once made into a little basket to hang on the Christmas tree; brightly coloured feathers from the local parrots;... and butterfly wings.

Well, I decided that it was silly to have them cluttering up boxes in my studio, so I put them in a typesetter's drawer, and sat it in the middle of the dining table. It's easy to move when there's more than two of us for a meal, and it often provides me with inspiration. Guests wandering by the table love to inspect the contents, too.

Of course, it gets dusty, and the dust storms that we've had in the last few weeks added quite a bit to the layer already there. So, I emptied it, dusted everything, and changed some of the contents around. This time, each row has a colour theme.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Self Mentoring

I recently came across a commencement address given by Paula Jorde Bloom at Louis University in the US. It resonated with me for a couple of reasons, firstly because it encompasses much of the discussion I see on Art Quilt discussion groups about developing oneself and one's art and secondly because in viewing my life in retrospect I realise that the times I learnt the most have always been the times when I was furthest from my comfort zone. If this extract resonates with you as well, you can read the full address here

".... we acquire wisdom by affirming our ignorance. You know, all our adult lives we strive to become knowledgeable, competent, and skilled in our professional practice. We pat ourselves on the back every time we achieve a new credential, certificate, or degree. We applaud our achievements as though filling up the shopping cart of our accomplishments is the mark of an educated mind. The irony is that true wisdom comes from the admission of our ignorance, from being open to discovering just how much we don’t know, how much we still need to learn....

"I believe the most vibrant people I’ve met in my life hold a transformational view of human growth and change. They see themselves as active agents in describing, interpreting, and shaping their behavior. In other words, they are self-mentors. The great Roman philosopher Cicero is credited with saying, 'No one can give you better advice than yourself.' Well, that is the essence of being a self-mentor. Self-mentoring means taking stock of the parts of yourself you relish and want to preserve as well as those you’d like to change or toss out the window. It is a conscious commitment to move toward personal excellence by celebrating ignorance....

"Being a self-mentor rests squarely on our ability to be reflective and be self-aware. It means knowing our needs and values, our strengths and limitations, our passions, and our idiosyncratic quirks. It means having a deep appreciation of what makes each of us a unique specimen on this planet. On a deeper level, it means knowing how we react in different situations and accepting full responsibility for our feelings and actions.

"Being a self-mentor is difficult because it involves an ongoing assessment of our assumptions, beliefs, and values, and the mental models that shape our behavior and guide our actions. It also means having a clear picture of our internal motives — those things that drive us to say what we say and do what we do. Peeling away the layers of our motivations is not always a comfortable process, but it is necessary if our goal is to become a person known for personal integrity."

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

What a Difference a Week Makes

This time last week, I was in Sydney for 3 days attending a conference and some training. At Central Railway Station, while waiting at the taxi rank, these doors caught my attention. The decoration and detail are amazing. The doors are at the part of the station where the country trains depart, and must have added that certain amount of glamour to a train trip.
Today I was a long way from Sydney! I drove north from Dubbo (which is 450km north west of Sydney), through Gulargambone to Coonamble (about 170km north of Dubbo). At the approaches to Gulargambone, these sculptures start to appear - first one, then a couple, and then a whole flock. As these represent galahs, and locals refer to the place as Gular, it seems most appropriate. Galahs are a type of parrot, are a very pretty pink and grey colour, and are a familiar sight in this part of the world. They're mostly seen in large flocks, and I see them every morning on my walk.
Here's a closeup of one of the sculptures beside the town cafe. Yes, they're made from corrugated iron - but just look at the way it's been used. It's such a clever design. I just think about what could be done with striped fabric...

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Playing again at last!

The last few months have been a frustrating time. I injured my arm and ended up with a type of tendonitis. At one stage, it was so sore that I found it painful to do most daily tasks. So, any type of sewing was totally out of the question and I did everything my physiotherapist told me to do. Fortunately, it's coming coming good.

So, I've spent today making a couple of bookmarks that I am going to use as thankyou gifts for friends. The orange and gold one has a mixture of handmade papers as a background. They were covered with some sheer fabrics and I did some free motion machine sewing over the top. I then couched down some threads and added some beads and a few handstitches in places.

For this one, I laid down some hand-dyed silk tops and covered them with silk chiffon and free-motion machine stitched over it to hold it all down. Then I couched down some hand-dyed silk ribbons, and added some beads.

It feels good to be playing with fabric and thread again!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Autumn on the Western Plains

...and the garden breathes a sigh of relief.
It rained a little on Friday night, the daytime temperatures have fallen from the mid to high 30's back to around 26 degrees today, and my lilies are reminding me that Easter is nearly here.

The lavender will continue to flower until the worst of the winter weather arrives -

And the geranium / pelargonium (I never know which is which) is still as bright a pink as ever -

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Painted Surprise

Digging through a box for some fabric, I came across this piece which I painted a few years ago at a weekend workshop where we were just playing with fabric and paint. I'd forgotten all about it - probably because I wasn't sure just what to do with it at the time.
But now, when I've been thinking that I wanted to try something a little different with the beading, I think this is probably the jumping off point that I need. It's already been ironed and tacked to a backing and is ready for me to get started.

It may have to wait a couple of days, though. The Sydney Travelling Film Festival is showing here this weekend, and I've just come home from seeing the most wonderful film. It's Lemon Tree, set on the Palestine-Israel border, it tells the story of a Palestinian widow whose lemon grove is considered a threat to the security of the Israeli Defence Minister who has just moved in next door. It's the story of her fight to keep the trees that her father planted by appealing to the Israeli courts. It shows a side of the conflict that we often don't think about, and the acting is superb. Definitely worth seeing - a refreshing change from mainstream Hollywood films. I'm really looking forward to seeing the others on my program!

Tuesday, 31 March 2009


The latest bead embroidery is finally finished and I'm quite pleased with it. This is the one that I showed a glimpse of about a month ago, to prove that I hadn't just been twiddling my thumbs.

I really like the effect of the silvery metallic beads in the lower left hand corner. I have a few ideas for the next one, and am thinking about combining beading with some embroidery stitches, but haven't quite decided yet. I think it might be time to move on from this format, too...

The purple and green one that I made for my sister-in-law's birthday was a huge hit! I've been told it's hanging on the wall above a favourite purple and green lamp, and has a ceiling spotlight focused on it! I rather think she likes it...isn't it great when all the work is worth it?!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Almost Beading Again

"Only as far as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be" Karen Ravn

I haven't been totally idle over the last few weeks, although the constant tiredness from my bout of Shingles has meant that I've done lots of reading (finding this great quote in the process!), but very little beading or embroidery.

I've also had lots of thinking and planning time, so I have some ideas that I want to develop, and a trip to Canberra to visit Our Kid and the Gorgeous Daughter-in-Law allowed a trip to the Bead Shop, and the photos show some of the results of that. They've now been decanted into containers, waiting patiently for me to call on them.
A trip to Canty's Secondhand Books in Fyshwick, resulted in finding a copy of Bead Embroidery by Valerie Campbell-Harding and Pamela Watts. I've been looking for a second-hand copy of this book, so I was very excited. It must have been waiting for me to get there and claim it!

I also managed a visit to the Degas exhibition at the National Gallery, and discovered works of his that I didn't know existed. Many of the photographs that he'd taken in the 1890's showed friends in their own homes. So, rather than the very stiff studio portraits that we're accustomed to seeing from that time, these are much less formal photos of friends composed with an artist's eye, and with interesting lighting. His sketches and paintings of dancers are still my favourite Degas works, though. Gorgeous.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Savouring the moment

The work I do involves coaching others. As part of the ongoing training for the job, we have been introduced to the concepts of Positive Psychology, so I have been working my way through the book Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligman. The chapter that has resonated with me relates to savouring the moment, being mindful. I think the appeal lies in the fact that creativity, for me, relies on slowing down and being mindful. I'm trying very hard to apply the principle to more of my life, because it's something that makes me feel calm and relaxed.

As part of applying the principle, I have been deliberately slowing down my reading. I've always been a fast reader - I can read a book in an afternoon. So, I am taking my time, and considering passages that appeal. I'm currently reading The Other Side of You by Salley Vickers, and the following passage really made me stop and consider -

I've always thought it remarkable that, while our bodies stand in the visible world, we ourselves are not in the world of three dimensions and our inner life has no direction in space. And, equally, how little of another person's reality is visible to us. We see their form, their features, their shifts of expression but all that constitutes their sense of self remains unseen. And yet this visible self is what to the individual constitutes their real identity.

Just typing this has made me resume my contemplation of this statement...

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Normal service should resume shortly...

Despite appearances, I haven't disappeared from the planet. I've just been rather sick for the last few weeks. Fortunately, I'm improving day by day, but today is the first time I've had the energy and enthusiasm to return to some embroidery. The piece I am beading is far from finished, but I'm giving you a peek at one corner, just so that I had something to share.

The buttons are the same as those on a red cardigan which my grandmother knitted and wore for years (she must have had a few buttons left over, because there's no sign of wear on the ones I have). Those of you who remember the red, translucent cough lollies called Throaties, will realise why Mum and I always referred to it as her Throaties cardigan.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Number Three

This is Number Three in the series of abstract beading that I've been doing. This one seems to have taken forever, but the beading has had to take a back seat on a number of occasions - work, family obligations, fitness routines, etc, etc, but it's finally finished! It's intended as a gift for a sister-in-law's birthday, and I'll be framing it in a similar way to the ones below. A local framer made a number of frames for me a few years ago, to frame the mixed media embroideries that I was making and selling at the time. I still have a number stashed away, so I've put them to good use. Once again, I've raided Grandma's button jar, but I used a few of the very pretty glass buttons this time, and a bottle green silk for the fabric background. It uses colours that I know my sister-in-law likes.

Here are the last two that I've done, framed and hanging on the wall along with a goldwork dragonfly that I made a few years ago. There's a close-up of the dragonfly below. I cut the mat boards myself for the two lower ones. I used to be able to buy ready-cut mat boards in this size at Crazy Clints for $1.50 each, but they no longer stock them. A friend has a hand-held mat board cutter which I used to borrow to make larger mats, and it's fairly easy to use with a bit of practice. So, I've invested in one of my own. It makes it easy to do my own framing, and saves a lot of money on framing costs!

As you can see, I've changed the orientation of the blue and gold one. I think it looks better this way around, with the beads "exploding" at the top... (the mat board surround IS even, although it doesn't look like it in this photo, because it's on a bit of an angle.)

And here's the dragonfly.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Beading Again

I've decided to work in a series with the beading, as I think I'll learn more that way. So, this is number 2 in the series. Each one in the series will be approximately the same size. The design had a mind of its own and has escaped my marked borders at times, though, as you can see. My starting point was an old button again. Unfortunately, these colours aren't photographing nearly as well as the last one. The blues are much brighter than they are appearing on my monitor, anyway!
And thanks for all the encouraging comments on my first attempt at beading. I took your advice and left it as it was - no added beads. I've framed it, and am very pleased with the end result.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

I think it's finished...

It's rectangular, because I started off with the idea of making it into a box top, so the rectangular shape was marked on the fabric. I'm not sure that I'll use it for that now. Maybe I'll frame it. Whatever I do with it, I'm quite pleased with the end result...and it was a lot of fun to do! Although maybe it needs a few more beads at the top...hmmm...

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Two in one day!

Please prepare to be amazed. This is my second post today! Don't get too excited though because, as I didn't win Lotto on Saturday night, I have to go back to work tomorrow. The number of posts per week will slow down again then... sigh.

In the meantime, I used my last day of freedom well and made a book cover for a friend's birthday gift. The book I used has a flower print on occasional pages, so I used that as my inspiration. Even though the flower I made looks nothing like the one in the book, it saved me sitting there thinking " Now what am I going to do this time?".

Transfer Printing

This is for Lisa, who was asking on her blog about transfer printing. I did this a number of years ago, at a workshop on using paints in embroidery. As you can see, it's been tucked in a corner of the studio ever since, although I notice that the needle and thread are still there, ready to go. No wonder I can never find my good embroidery needles when I want them. I have started the embroidery...that's the outline of a shell in the foreground. One day, when I retire I'll be glad to have this to keep me occupied, I'm sure! (That's a good enough excuse, isn't it?)

Anyway, I used a large, smooth ceramic tile for this. The design was painted onto the tile, the fabric was carefully laid on top, and then gently smoothed. When the fabric was lifted up, there was the design, transferred. I used acrylic paint mixed with textile medium, and could have used a pane of glass to paint on, if I'd wanted a larger image. However, you can get such large tiles that it's probably not necessary to use the pane of glass and the tile is much safer to play with.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Buttons and Beads

This is fun!
Following the ideas in Robin Atkins' book on beading (see my last post), I started with one of my great-grandmother's buttons and just started adding beads. I don't know where it's going next, but that's the fun of it.
I'll show it to you again when it's finished, whether I like it or not. I rather think it needs some gold beads now, to reflect the gold of the button. Hmmm...
The theme of Creative Every Day for January is "play" and that's exactly what I'm doing. Leah's playing with drawing and it's worth having a look.