Wednesday, 28 December 2016


 For me, the week between Christmas & New Year is a strange kind of no-man's land.  This is   because... in my head... Christmas marks the end of one year & New Year marks the beginning of another. This is a week outside of the usual routine, & because of that it is both unsettling and exciting. 
In my workroom (aka the studio) I like to use this week as a preparation time for the art making year ahead.  The room gets tidied & the floor gets swept.  The whiteboard is cleaned off ready for a fresh lot of dates, deadlines & 'to do's'. Random piles of fabrics & scraps are sorted & put away.

But the fun preparing my journals for the coming year!

My workroom is attached to my home.  My home & garden are quite big,  and I could easily spend every minute of every day doing some sort of work relating to my home & family. When I enter my workspace, I need to get myself OUT of the' house' mindset & INTO the art one.

 Journals help me to do that.

One form of Art Journalling I use is purely meditative. Each morning I start my art practice with a 10-15 minute drawing/stencilling/collaging/writing... of whatever pops into the end of my fingertips... onto a previously prepared piece of painted paper. Each piece of paper represents a month.

After trialing a variety of  drawing based meditation ideas, this one was inspired by the book 'A World Of Artist Journal Pages'.  Although a lot of the images included in that book are from artists who clearly create these pages as an art form, that is not the case for me.  I just flow with whatever comes into my head at that moment.  It most certainly is not great art... a lot of cases it's purging whatever is going on with my art or how I am feeling about it. It's an exercise I began  in 2016 & it has really worked for me, although I have to be very strict with myself to NOT try & 'compose' a picture!

Another form of journalling I use is collage.  This is something I start each new year with & then I use it again throughout the year if I have a particular knot to sort out. I find it helpful to use a technique that I dont employ in my everyday practice. Sometimes it loosens my brain up!

 I also use it in conjunction with a timely quote that speaks to me in some way!

By far the most important journals though, are my written ones.  They are beyond price in value to me, because it is here that I record my ideas, struggles, lessons learnt, questions & inspirations. Each one is housed in covers I hand stitch myself, using fabric I love. They are art vessels that I am invested in.

In these blank pages I will wrestle with technique & design issues. I will confront myself with options & decisions that need to be made.  And hopefully...I will also be writing..."YES! IT WORKED"!
Oh boy...I hope there are LOTS of sentences that say that this year!

Monday, 19 December 2016


Having just returned from visiting my New Zealand family, INTO this frenetic pre-christmas week... my thoughts could be described as somewhat predictable!! WHAT GIFTS DO I STILL HAVE TO GET??????? ARGHHHHHHH!

Therefore, today's 'weekly challenge' is inspired by a grouping of garden ornaments I have hanging from a tree in our courtyard.  They were given to me over a number of Christmases by my sister. They come from my favourite shop in Mt Maunganui & if my present-guessing skills are as good as I think they are... I'll be welcoming another one into the branches in a few days time!!

I enjoy artistic additions to our garden.  The accessories in our courtyard have a colour theme of blue & green, which go so well with the abundance of green foliage we have there.  These dangley glass ornaments catch the light & look fantastic & fun.

After a series of quick design sketches, I pulled out my blue & green scrap bins......and found supplies & my colour palette!

Working on the background first, I sewed in the lines & then cut back to reveal just little slivers of the fabric below.  In this case, I wanted the top fabric to still be dominant.  The grey represents the tree bark & the green represents the tree foliage.

Using  2 or 3 layers for each 'glass' fragment, I slowly produced a foreground.
I could have left it there, with the grey section remaining free of ornament, but...

...I didn't! I wanted to reference both the green glass danglies & also emphasize that the grey was a background.  However, the blue was still supposed to be the star attraction!

Therefore, in finishing off, I added hand stitch & glass beads to the blue .  These additions give that little bit more oomph!!  I am quite pleased with the results, especially given the short space of time & many distractions I was also juggling, along with fabric & thread!!

To me Christmas is about being thankful, so I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Brenda Gael Smith for suggesting this weekly art challenge in the first place.  In trying to explain to my parents what it was about, I described it as akin to piano practice! Whatever art form we create, we need to keep the practice up.  Not everyone develops with the same practice methods & sometimes it takes a while to find the right  style!  For the past few months, this challenge has worked for me & at this stage, I plan to continue it into the new year.

Have a very merry Christmas everybody & thank you for your support & encouragement!  Cheers!

Sunday, 18 December 2016


Last week, instead of dedicating Monday to do my 'weekly art challenge', I chose to produce my piece over the whole week, as I was visiting family in New Zealand.

I also chose to take inspiration from a plant that does not dwell in my garden at home!  It does, however, have a firm & deeply rooted place in my 'spiritual' garden!  This is the garden where plants that we associate with people, places & memories exist. It's a garden where we don't need to worry about soil quality, rainfall or how this plant will survive the summer! (Wouldn't the spiritual garden make a wonderful subject for an art project!)

The Pohutakawa was my inspiration.  It is one of a few trees & plants that represent my homeland to me.  These trees, dressed in  bright red splotches greeted me as soon as I left the confines of Auckland Airport.  They kept me company in the Bay of Plenty & a few could even be spotted in the Waikato!

These tennis ball sized blossoms are actually made up of a cauliflower!

On a previous visit to New Zealand, I had pressed one of these florets & drew a sketch afterwards.  This sketch was used as a base to start the process of developing a design.

During the flight over, I started playing with the floret design.  I find that repetition is a good way to get to grips with the essential lines & shapes of a subject.  Playing also allows thinking space....especially as to HOW this might be represented in fabric & stitch!

Some quick line sketches provided me with the bones to start my piece.

I'd taken 5 pieces of fabric, including a backing.  The goal was...since I couldn't fit the sewing machine in the attempt this piece using the traditional reverse applique technique ie; cutting back,  needle turning & stitching in place.

All I can say about this idea is...."Bwahahahahahahahahaha"! Let's just say that traditional reverse applique is not in my skill set!  It requires more planning than what I was able to give it.  So this piece ended up being created in a combination of applique & contemporary reverse applique.  The latter, because I lost concentration at one point & reverted to what I knew!!

Progress was slow, but I rather liked the irregular lines & naive style that was appearing.

Before leaving for New Zealand, a friend had wrapped a gift for me in this fabulous 'merry christmas' fabric.  I chose it for the background to reference the fact that outside of NZ, the pohutakawa is known as the NZ Christmas Tree.

The final result, which I finished off on my arrival home  yesterday. When I had used yellow thread for basting the red pieces in place earlier in this process, I'd liked the effect, so decided to use yellow running stitch as a feature.

Whilst this is not recognizably a pohutakawa blossom, it is the process that has been important & given the circumstances, I'm quite pleased with it. I'm also pleased to have maintained this weekly discipline. Phew!

Monday, 5 December 2016


Many years ago, I had the privilege of seeing the magnificent cave paintings of Lascaux in France.  Well, to be strictly accurate, they were the paintings in the reproduction of the cave! Never-the-less they made the type of impression that stays with one forever.

Call me crazy...(you wouldn't be the first!)...but I have a pseudo cave painting in my garden! It's high up a tree, but every time I look at it, I see an auroch or some wonderful horned beast with a fluffy white tail.

Do you see it?

This was my muse for today's weekly art challenge!

I started off with a couple of drawings, first a pencil exploration to capture tonal differences & then a play with line & colour.  Drawing is a very important component of any preliminary work I do for an art piece.  Drawing is where the eyes & the hands join forces to feel their way around a subject & then play with & manipulate it to their bidding.  It is an essential exercise.

Settling on a design & then drawing up a 'map' of how I was going to proceed, I then sorted through my fabrics & finally settled on this combination.

I like to prepare the background first & in this case, it meant a little bit of strip patchwork.

Once complete the top sandwich of fabric layers were sewn into place...

...before I started cutting back the first layer...

...and then the second.

Finally the third layer was cut back to reveal a fluffy white tail & an interesting outline.

Further stitching to one side added interest & weight.

Voila...the final result...a way to remember my cave painting in the tree!

Today's project was the quickest I have worked on one of these samples so far; what you've just witnessed is 2 1/2 hours of concentrated work!

Please respect that these photos are all taken by me & are my property. Please ask before using them.  Thank you.

Thursday, 1 December 2016


 There's a bit of celebrating going on in Adelaide at the moment... The Royal South Australian Society of Arts is 160 years old & the Adelaide Town Hall is 150 years old! ( That's the Town Hall above & I apologize for such an inelegant photo!!)

Whilst 150 may not be very old to those of you living in Europe, and only a mere drop in the bucket for ye of Indigenous us here in Adelaide...that's impressively old!

To mark the occasion the RSASA & Town Hall have joined forces to present an exhibition entitled 'Authentic Adelaide'. Last night (1 December'16) was the opening & I was lucky enough to be able to attend.

The city of Adelaide is a source of inspiration for a lot of my work, so you can imagine how keen I was to try & have some of my art accepted for this exhibition. I submitted 3 pieces & was fortunate to have 2 pieces accepted.

The artworks line the walls of the upstairs foyer & the first thing that hit me on entering was...WOW...what a great space!  It didn't take much perusing of artworks to also recognise that this is a very interesting exhibition due to the incredible variety of techniques & styles on display, all highlighting something about this beautiful city.  I was also delighted to see that I was in good company as the textile arts were well represented with; an impressive machine embroidered piece by Cheryl Bridgart, a beautiful woven piece inspired by the Botanic Garden's lotus pond by Bev Bills, a contemporary construction inspired tapestry by Katharina Urban & a clever quilt by RSASA President Vikki Waller that presents a historical snapshot of the city.

The atmosphere was fabulous, a real sense of delight & happiness.  The speeches were brief, to the point & laced with humour....always a good start!  We werent allowed to take photos of the artworks except our own, so please excuse the following!!

The event was opened by the Lady Mayoress Genevieve Theseira-Haese, who seemed very sincere in her appreciation of the arts.  She spent some time meeting & mixing with those gathered & was lovely enough to offer to take a photo of me in front of one of my pieces when I was clearly having trouble trying to do a selfie!!!  Fellow artist Swee Wah Yew then took this shot of Genevieve with me...arent I lucky!!

The piece we are standing in front of is inspired by Adelaide Arcade, and references it's coloured tiles, it's floor plan, the exterior view & of course, some of it's architectural features.

This one was taken by fellow artist Liz Stevenson in front of my other inclusion, 'Once Were Trees'.

 This piece refers to the fact that this city was once a significant  meeting place for the indigenous  Kaurna people & was covered in trees.  White settlement transformed this place into a grid of roads, then a city of buildings...a lot of the older ones bearing decorative features reminescent of architecture from our European past. The circle of ovoid shapes at the top refers to the babies that are buried in circles ( to keep each other company) in the West Terrace Cemetery.

Hmm...that wasn't very well planned was it...I've ended on a somber note!! Sorry about that.

The good news is...this exhibition is on until 15 January, week days only 9-5.  It is well worth seeing & even includes an intriguing merge of taxidermy & jewellery!!!! If you're in the city...take a peek!