Travel and Teaching – Ocean Grove to Melbourne

I went off Ocean Grove to teach Memory Vessels. Here are some pictures of the area.

A wine tasting house….clever!

One of many things in the Kyo shops.

Nice sculptures using old bits. Wheel barrows in this one.

Outside Studio54 where I taught.

Patsy’s books.

Heather’s table.

Julie’s pages.

Jo’s stitched map.

Kaye’s forest figures.

Some of their sewing gear.

Having a farewell coffee with Kerrie.

Train ride back to Melbourne.

Greeted by Borris.

My scones served to friends at “morning tea”.

Miss Fisher’s house from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries just up the street from Anne’s.

Brunch this morning of edible crumpets and the lovely poached eggs.

And my own attempt at being a barrista by re-configuring the heart into a person/angel.

So far a really good trip. I have some new shoes, wine to take out to the Grampians, a smallish bottle of Jack Daniels in lieu of a single malt, lots of billy tea to send home, some gifts bought that will be mailed from Halls Gap, and a nice pop into Melbourne Etching Supplies for just the right thing. Anne’s hospitality makes it a wonderful and relaxing trip down under.

Until next week when I am deep into teaching the master’s class, “An Expedition that Begins with One Square Metre”.


What Is Wrong With Just Looking Within For Inspiration

This is a corner of my booth when I was in Southern Highland Craft Guild. I think this was my last fair with them and it wasn’t too many years later that I turned in my membership. I was making layered papers jewelry, cards and collage. If you were to step back from my booth, it looked like I was all over the place. The jewelry and cards brought in consistent funds but the collage was where my interest truly lay. With these I could add whatever felt right to tell my story…..and I never lacked for a personal story.

And that sort of brings me to something I saw this week. Someone posted a picture of the worn and patched clothing of Bernuthsfeld Man…a discovery in 1907 of this fellow that lived somewhere between A.D. 660 and 870. Her goal is to match the fabrics as best she can and patch her own garment in the same way. I don’t know if her intention is to wear it….I am not sure what her intention is.

Of course when I saw her drawing of all the shaped pieces in place all I could think of was, “Here comes another pattern”. Remember those early folk wear patterns? Authentic clothing that we could all make if we cared to. I think reenactment costumes was where they were used the most. Much as I loved the Turkish Coat, I knew it was not only difficult to make but had limited use if one was the least bit self-conscious.

Anyway, before I get too far off the track here, let me say I succumbed to making a comment. Somehow it struck me as a bit of appropriation if her intent was to create patterns for sewing circles looking for something different. After all it might just have the appeal of the popular boro stitching craze happening now. And then there is the Kantha stitching from India that is commonly used among textile workers.

And I have used both. First the boro one. A friends sent me a boro coat that was completely patched with many worn through places. I could smell its history. If I wanted to I could hang it on the wall, which is where most of these pieces end up. But I wanted to feel it on my body like its intention was to begin with.  I reworked it in the way it was originally done. I added my own old clothes in places and made it fit my body. I love wearing it.

Here it is being modeled.

And I used the Kantha stitching in this piece yet to be finished.

On this piece I was taking scraps of cloth colored with the soils of where I live here in western North Carolina and torn up old clothes that felt lovely and worn. The running stitches reinforce the cloth as well as keep it attached to the worn shirt that is the base.

Both of these pieces are unique to me. They tell my story. The boro piece demanded that if I wanted to wear it, some serious restructuring had to be done. Keeping with its tradition, I used my own old clothes to expand it after taking the bottom of the coat, cutting it into two pieces to add front and back centers. The Kantha stitched shirt brings back so many memories through its frayed cloth patches.

So back to Bernusthfeld Man. She probably is not going to make a pattern. There probably is not going to be sewing circles all sharing cloth so they can create their own tunic-like garment. But then again maybe there will be.

Here was my immediate response:

I am not so sure of this idea. It seems like an appropriation of some sort. Old worn and patched clothing has its own history of necessity. Like boro and clothes of my childhood patched to continue its usefulness. This does seem contrived to imitate those necessary and needed stitched stories of history.

And the response to that comment made me continue…..

 I suppose that the familiarity of the garment pictured and its purpose of prolonging life and function is something a bit sacred in my life and memory. Thanks as ever for the expansion of my own awareness of how others see an intricate part of history, mine and those from long, long ago.

There was a lengthy response to my comments that ended with the thought that the author of the article on the Bernuthsfeld Man clothing might just be “looking for meaning”. And that we are all part of a big story.

My response which seems to be where the conversation ends was as follows:

I remember a mentor I had about 30 years ago who questioned a fellow student as to why she was making “fragments”. She (the mentor) said, “Why? Aren’t there enough of them already in existence?” I suppose it is only a matter of time before people will gather to follow a pattern for the Shroud of Turin. And then maybe a book titled, “Finding Your Creativity Through Other People’s Stories”. Just some further thoughts here. Please keep posting the things that I am missing out there. It makes me think and that is the best part.

And I have been thinking about it. I never took a “creativity” class. It seems like there are more influences that are prescriptive and limited to the instructor’s path as well as the influences of pre-selected materials. Keep in mind I am not talking about a technique/process class where things are meant to be limited to learning a particular process with particular materials.

I am thinking about how many of us see something. Like it. Want to make it and lose sight of the fact that it is really not our story. We are making things to look like someone else’s story because we like how it looks.

Why don’t we spend time looking at what matters to us. Then go through our collected materials and build with our own learned technical processes, a visual representation of our own story.

I suppose this looking at something so personal as cloth that covers a body and carries the imprint of that body is the same as an old photograph. So many makers of things will easily collect these old images of a captured moment in someone’s personal existence and make it into something never meant to be. I always, without fail, feel a sadness when I see these photographs used out of time and context.

I am now going to search my blog library for some textile….one that is ugly and personal but shows promise to start to tell a story that is strictly my own.

And you know what? Looking at it just now, I think it could be the third and latest layer over large paintings coming back from a gallery that is closing. A half gallon of tinted gesso might just be the place to start. And these random stitches on the back side of a desperate attempt to hold things together could not be more autobiographical.

I will come back to this later.

Moving Right Along

I reworked this boat about memory loss and the drifting in circles. Now it is mounted on a nice river. Still only has one oar, probably to keep it off the rocks. Still has its memory bundle and not so many fish following along. I like it.

Then I took a good look at the River Lethe Boat full of passengers and decided to give them a bit of a break. I remounted the boat on the plinth and tied a rope up to a dock of sorts. Now titled, Waiting for the Ferryman. Maybe they will get some different water to drink while they wait and their memories will return.

And then on to making new boats with the same theme of memory. I revisited the boats done for an exhibit about remains and especially loved this one housing an old friend.

The house part was to hold small bits of memorabilia about the person whose ashes are in the hold.

But on my new ones that I am making for the exhibit, probably just four total, the house holds the passenger. Here are some views of the first one.

The anchor attached to a piece of written on shifu thread holds the small jingling bell that jogs our memory. It can be moved to the front of the boat or put in the “water”. By moving it about you hear the bell.

The mica window on the house part obscures the passenger inside. He/she is going it alone in this series.

And in the hold are the fragments of the passengers life or they could be ferrying other peoples’ stories along with their own.

All in all it was fun to put the papers made in Claudia Lee’s class to some good use. Making something that did not look like Claudia’s work. I also used some of my own chemically rusted papers. It will be interesting making three more of these that have the same theme, similar papers and good stories.

I am still thinking about how to rid myself of so much stuff in the studio. When I return from Australia I think I will be ready to throw out not only earlier work but a good part of what I used to call “inspirational parts”.

Part of my tidying up this week was “unfollowing” some people on social media. I am seldom interested in reading their self promotions that read like marketing themselves, or their workshops, or their books, or, or, or…..

Of course, that said, I actually was tempted by India Flint’s new venture about making bags. I think it is because I have so much respect for her, number one, and her integrity is pretty hard to beat. Plus I was thinking how nice to belong to a group of women who stitch bits together and chat about it when they feel like it.

Then I had another thought….what if I am expected to perform something in order and on time and answer questions!

So I am not doing it. I am not purchasing her lovely new workbook. I am just going to have to realize that I am beyond paying attention to anything other than what I think needs doing at the moment. My moments are getting pretty precious.

Not only that, but I am well stuck into the fourth of six Karin Fossum books on the kindle. They are like an Australian licorice to me. But I am pretty sure that the Darryl Lea brand no longer is in business down under. Last year I ordered a box of bags for my husband from Amazon and was told that they could no longer get it. And Karin Fossum really needs to stop writing such good Inspecter Seger novels.

Reading this blog over, it seems a bit scattered, a bit out of control. Well that’s the week. Next week I will do better. Art Group tomorrow, (they will set me straight) and a cortisone shot in the shoulder later in the week.

For now I will tidy the studio, AGAIN, and go back to my kindle with wine.

Til next week.


After Christmas

Our family has started the long drive home. The deer have come and gone. What corn and seed they didn’t eat is picked over by turkeys and anticipated by crows.

It was a fun and relaxing Christmas this year. We kept it simple. Each of the three who came to visit will return to keep Lee company while I am in Australia. After getting all the guest rooms put back together I photographed each of the kitchen cupboards and drawers with their contents. I noticed that not too many of them knew where things go. So now when they open a cupboard there will be a picture of what goes in there…..and how. A good idea I think. When I return things should be pretty much where they need to be.

Our daughter received a new sewing machine for Christmas and tried it out making catnip mice for her cat friends…our’s included. I still  had her business card from forty years ago when she hired her brother and a neighbor girl to stuff them with catnip. Her closet where the “hired help” were kept working on the line was a bit of a sweat shop with dried catnip, fabrics, sewing machine and stuffing. A local paper did an article on her entrepreneurship that resulted in several callers wanting her to come and harvest excessive amounts of catnip. Here are the three she made using a scrap of two sided cotton I bought from the Dairings in Australia and a bit of pink felt and book binding thread.

She also got me sorted out with my new computer and gave me a battery docking station for traveling and away from a power source for charging an iphone. And for fun some lenses for the iphone. Here is the studio using a combination of lenses.

Blurry but pulls a lot into the frame. And then the macro lens alone to do this detail of a luna moth wing.

I like the macro lens. And here is the new computer, an Asus Zen, that is very lightweight. The image for the wall paper or background is from a picture I took of the scarves I dyed at the Botanical Studios in Australia. The last of those were given to two of our three guests and our masseuse who comes the day after Christmas each year to give each of us an hour of heaven.

We also had time to finish off some pincushions to get in the mail.


And then before you knew it the week was over and it looks as though no one was here. In about three more hours they should arrive home.

I did have time to work on another of the boat series. Still not sure where this is going but don’t they feel like some sort of travel back to childhood? I will just keep working on them.

The next one will be air ships floating up into the sky like an ascension of balloons.

And from our son came the makings of a pretty drastically bad drink made with only the cheapest whiskey one can find mixed with diet Fresca and about four ice cubes. What makes it palatable is that is should be served in a Jefferson Cup ( metal similar to pewter and bowl shaped). He actually found a set of four to present along with the mix and cheap whiskey. We only drink these when we want to remember our friend who passed shortly before her 100th birthday. This was her favorite drink that she often served with popcorn cooked just right. She, Pacia, was also the reason we decided to come up with the book I wrote and editioned titled, The Spirits Bar. It is about a bar we open when we miss those who have gone before us. The ones we loved sharing a drink with, the ones we would like to see come back for “one more round”. Here is the book. My friend who comes each year with the kids got it out so I could read it while we ate popcorn and drank Pacia’s favorite drink.

I will take a new picture with the Jefferson Cup. I am finishing off the Aristocrat whiskey and Fresca while having a five o’clock phone visit with a friend. We usually drink scotch on these calls but Pacia is still on my mind as well as the thoughtful son who found these ingredients to make a perfect gift, not to mention his encouragement for me to write this little book.

Til next time. I am off to the Spirits Bar.