Thursday, September 19, 2019

Playing and filling the empty creative well

Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it.   
Andy Warhol

After exhibition exhaustion has crept in.  And a few weekends away haven’t helped.

I have spent way too long trying to tidy my workspace and completing a work for the Margaret Oppen competition (Embroiderers’ Guild NSW)  and now I have began to play.  

I’m not much interested in doing anything too serious.  All the things I put off for the last six months are on the table.  

Polymer clay earrings

I have pulled out my polymer clay and fired up the toaster oven and made some jewellery.

I looked through all that crewel wool and started some simple meditative stitching.   I am a few stitches away from completing a panel.   I think it will become a cushion.

Bargello in browns and greens

I have heaps crewel wool so another is planned.   This one will be a palette of blue greys and planned a little more rather than the serendipity of just grabbing a colour and stitching with it.

And yes, there are projects in the wings.   I am thinking about a small body of work for a joint exhibition with several felters in the middle of next year.  As the primary focus of these textile workers is wool the aforesaid cushions may end up being part of that exhibition.   Or they may end up on my couch.  Time will tell 😊.

I have postponed finishing/starting/making some soft sculpted dolls and have a “Sweet Alice” pattern printed out begging to be made.   The pattern has been shared by doll artist Sharon Mitchell on her Facebook group Cloth Doll Crafters.  I have been a member for quite a while and enjoy seeing what people create.   Now I’m going to indulge myself. 

Cloth over air dry clay
And I have a rabbit head sculpted in air dry clay that has been waiting for a body for 12 months.   His time has come.   I have missed doll making.   Yes some of them are cheesy but so much fun.  Doll making involves practising observational skills, thinking in 3D, painting, sculpting, fabric , found objects and stitching - just about everything that floats my boat.

The balance of this year is going to be play.  But play with a purpose.   Whilst playing I am thinking about future works.   I will use the play as a way to sample/process some ideas.   

Some polymer clay jewellery WIP - just to show I venture past black and white !
There are four local exhibitions and/or competitions I want to enter next year.  And I would like to continue exploring bees in fibre art form with perhaps another exhibition.  But not till mid 2021 .  Lol.    I did learn some lessons about over extending myself this year.

I have been negotiating with a public gallery towards a group exhibition in 2022!  Yes, that’s miles away but galleries plan so far in advance it is absolutely imperative to plan ahead.

And did I mention I am so excited to be going to the Contemporary Craft Retreat at Canberra in October and a mosaic play weekend with my sister at Moulemien in November.  Yep.  Its all happening!  I'm filling those wells of inspiration with activity.  And there will be one last hurrah to Sydney to catch up with fellow artists and collect my Off the Beaten Track works after they bump out of the last exhibition space there.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Reflectiions and ruminations on exhibition, processs and theme

As someone who has no formal art training and plays in different mediums I still struggle with the definition of art and craft.   And whether what I create is art.   And whether what I create is worthy.

I am still coming to terms with what “process” is and wonder whether I have partially confused it with theme.  And the fact that I like to work in several mediums and hop from one to the other and then back again doesn’t help.

This year I have been exploring bees as a subject.   I really enjoyed my research and what I learnt.  I will continue to explore bees (and consequently gardens and the environment) as it has given me so much pleasure.   It also fits with my concern about global warming, climate change and species extinction.  My study of bees and my consequent exhibition gave me a chance to be a voice and raise concerns without preaching.

My exhibition also gave rise to some comments which gave me cause for thought.

By way of context I said tell you that my works were in a number of mediums which included:
·        Works based in textiles and fibre: some classic stumpwork embroidery and some more contemporary installation styled works;
·         Collage involving paint, pastels, paper and stitch;
·         3D works using contemporary mediums such as polymer clays, hardened fabric and various “products” that are available to crafters; and
·        Words which included information about bees, newspaper clippings, identification pamphlets  and snippets about bees over time.

My exhibition was always intended to include mixed works, be informative, be fun and raise awareness about the loss of bees due to habitat change and pesticides.

Neon cuckoo bee - Raised embroidery (stumpwork)

One comment that resonated was that works on display were good explorations of process but, in that person’s view, were unresolved works.   That same person did not like the inclusion of what they considered to be “craft”.  And offered some ideas about how to improve how the exhibition was hung.   Some of them were goods points.  But views as to what was “art”, “resolved works” and what an exhibition should look like caused me some grief.  I looked with fresh eyes and agreed that, yes, some works could be regarded as unresolved.  But I couldn’t agree that the fibre works did not belong in the exhibition.   And we will not meet anywhere in the middle regarding my exploration of bees in 3D.
Launching - contemporary mediums - sculpture

To complicate matters I then actively sought feedback from those who came to visit the exhibition; some of whom I respected as creatives.   Every one had their own views.  Things I thought unresolved they loved.  Fibre people loved the fibre works.   There was mixed reaction to my small bees.   In short, people liked what they liked.  Some works provoked a response. Some didn’t.

Gum Blossoms - detail - textile hanging

So what should I take away from this?   By exhibiting we expose a part of ourselves.   I had to put my big girl panties on and suck up what was said that hurt, accept that some people have set views and that most enjoyed what they saw and took something away with them.   

I hope that my exhibition will encourage people to take up artmaking in any of its many forms, have the pleasure that I have had in exploring and creating and perhaps share what they learnt in an exhibition as well.

I thank the Albury City Council for its grant which helped defray the costs of putting on the exhibition.

And for those that would like a bit more reading on the tangled subject of art, craft and creating – here is a link to an excellent “what is art” discussion

Thursday, August 1, 2019

BEE happy - exhibition up

Still Life with Bee - Collage
Its finally up.  :-)   I will tweak a little bit today but it is now open. 

Eucalyprus Blossom detail - Textile Work

Cuckoo Bee Embroidery

Honeycomb - Collage

My exhibition essay (or artists statement) is up on the wall: 
BEE Happy – A mixed media art exhibition

Bees make me smile. A warm day you can hear them in the garden. They can be so loud. And yet almost invisible. And there are so many of them – both honey bees and the native bees.

My play with ideas about bees came about when I discovered that there was a stingless bee that could be kept in a hive and its honey judiciously collected. I lived in Sydney then where the climate suits that sort of bee.

Since moving to Albury in 2015 I have continued to think about bees. And noticed different bees in my garden.

Did you know our region has three identified species of blue banded bees?
There are about 1,700 different types of bee in Australia. They can be super tiny to quite large (for a bee).

Photo courtesy of

Most native bees are solitary. The female makes a nest in a small opening in a tree or fibrous plant stem or makes a burrow. The bees live only one season and their eggs are sealed in the nest and the next generation of bees emerge when the weather is warm enough.

I am more mindful in my garden now. I am aware that the blue banded be may be in a burrow in certain areas and that reed bees may be in canes of old plants. I understand that a messy area of foliage and ground cover can be a home to many insects including bees. I now don’t feel bad that I love daisies and I have learnt that most bees love daisies too.

I discovered that some bees are buzz pollinators and others collect pollen on their chest and legs. Bees are hairy. It’s a feature that distinguishes them from wasps.

A few native bees collect pollen by eating it. They then return to the nest and regurgitate it.
Aussie Bee has an online site with a huge number of photos and lots of information. I have them to thank for informing and fostering my interest.

Donna Caffrey

Foraging for Pollen - Collage

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Nose down working towards BEE happy -a solo exhibtion

Bees are little birds.  Lino print.

Is been a busy start to the year.   I was asked to be part of  Four legs...working with wool.   The exhibition was great fun.   It was a lovely opening night.   Five exhibitors meant we had a diverse number of people come and it turned into a party.   My works included my exploration of penny rugs and  cute pop art faces in felt.

I am part of a group of textile artists who some six hours away from me.  Our efforts finally came to fruition when Off the Beaten Track opened in Shoalhaven Regional Gallery on 8 June, 2019.  They will move on to Cessnock Regional Gallery in August and then into Sydney in October and November.

Still life with bee.  Mixed media collage.

And I have had my nose down working towards a solo exhibition - BEE happy 😊.   The exhibtion runs Tuesday to Sunday from1 to 20 August, 2019  (11.00 to  4.00) at Creators Artspace Gallery, Gateway Village, Lincoln Causeway Wodonga Vic 3690.

BEE happy came about as a result of my exploring native bees in the area I live in.  The Albury Wodonga area sits on the Murray River where the Riverina (a geographical region in New South Wales) intersects with the southern slopes of the Victoria Alps.  (Sorry, can’t help myself ‘too much information’ should be one of my middle names).

Anyway, have been on a wonderful frolic of discovery and creation and am close to being ready for hanging/installation on the 31st of his month.   

Teatree blossoms.  Stitched WIP with source photo.

In earlier posts I have been banging on about process.  It is still sort of haunts me.   However, working on BEE happy has given me another opportunity to ponder about process on an unconscious level.   I am still asking:
·       Is it sticking to one medium?
·       Is it exploring one theme?
·       How is the creative process driven?

I found that when I was working on piece for BEE happy I would daydream /zone out.  I solved problems on a previous works and thought of new works that I could create on  the same theme but exploring a different medium.  

I let myself go and revisited collage.  I forgot how much I enjoyed the process.   I stitched.   I played with fibres.   I put my hand to simple prints.   Some of the prints ended up in collage or on linen.  The linen got stitched into.  Some of the collages got stitched into too.  I used paint (which scares the hell out of me).  And I have made  sculptures using fabric and fabric hardener and/or apoxy sculpt.
Honey bee.  Collage with found papers (part of a magazine image), stitch, ink and paint.
I have been in my happy place.  And I found that having several works on the go enables me to think through and finalise or discard ideas.  It enables me to take time to think, plan and put words on paper in my morning journal. 

I have a few interesting online articles in recent times about multitasking and slow multitasking.   The bit that appealed to me and I took away was working on several projects stopped boredom and gave you time to think about all your projects on several levels.  The articles didn’t advocate that you rush from one thing to another.  Rather, it was suggested that move between projects enabled to rest/reset/refresh/rejuvenate/retune etc.   

Here are a couple of links I found interesting:
·       An article on the value of daydreaming in The Guardian, and
·       A TED talk by Tim Harford

So what have I taken away from all this?    

My answer - keep playing!

Cheers all.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Four Legs ... an exhibition

Whats is red?   WIP

I have been working on pieces for an exhibtion "Four legs..." in May this year.   I was chuffed to be invited to add a few works to this exhibition.

As my fellow exhibitors work with wool I wanted to incorporate felted wool into my stitched pieces.   

What is red?  is my first piece I have got close to finishing so I thought I would post a little bit about my process.

Yep,  I am still thinking out loud about process.   I tend to work intuitively which is why process is such a hard this for me to understand.   I struggle to plan in detail.  I am inspired by colour and form.  I find a mass of tangled thread stimulating.  Trying to sample or work a number of pieces in a planned theme leaves me cold.   The idea forms and morphs over time in my subconcious.  I have now recognized that it's then that I can start conscientously working on the idea.

Well I didn't really have any ideas tio begin with.

First I got carrried away and tried felting some wool.   Yes, I forgot I wasn't a felter!   But  I ended up with a lovely red circle which I looked at for quite a while.  And, I had lots of thoughts about what I could do with it.  Cue - start thinking out loud and deciding what to do.

Well it looks like a flower.  Stitch into it.

Did that.  Well that looks a bit dull.  What will I do with it.

I know, I will make more flowers .  Nah.  Bad idea - note to self - remember I am not a felter!

I will add text to it.   Maybe a saying?

Look at stitched shape again.   Love the scalet red colour and the explosive flower shape.

What about adding flower names around it?   Like the look of that.   White stitching on black felt makes the red pop.

What next.   More text.  Not more flowers though.   What does red mean?    Thats an idea.  Google stuff about red: phrases, poems, meanings.   Jot some of them done on the nearest bit of paper.  Decide on what is associated with the colour red.

Think about them.   Is the order important.   How selective will I be?  I took out some negative concepts and the words lost their pizzaz.

Add to all this - what do I call the work?    I have to confess most times the title will be settled before the work is completed.   I then work to the title.   Surely this forms part of process?   Not sure when the name happened in the work though.  Save that the word red was always going to be in it.  :-)

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Process - the Penny has dropped

Wall hanging - Penny Rug with a twist

As you will see from past posts, I have been trying to work out what process is and how process applies to my practice.  I think the penny has finally dropped!

Art students today are taught to keep visual diaries and establish mood boards. 
But I’m a wordsmith by training and I write daily.  

I record my thoughts on anything: personal highs and lows, my view on current politics, family matters and ideas about my art,  whatever occurs to me at the time.  In the course of my writing I see that I keep coming back to certain ideas.  

For a long time I was convinced I should write in one book and that my art ideas, images and drawing should be in a visual diary style journal.   As a result, I had no cohesive ideas about my art and its progress.   I tried to take the ideas from my daily writings across to my visual diary and that didn’t really work.  I thought I had a to have a visual diary to fully explore every idea.   Then I ended up with a heap of visual diaries with only a few pages of drawings on that one idea.

Looking for help, I did an online journaling workshop with Sharon Boggon.   She gave me permission to write and draw on the same page!    

Exploring penny rug ideas in daily writing

It took a while but now my daily writings include notes and drawings of my art ideas when they come to me.   When I have an idea that reoccurs and sticks, I move onto a visual diary.  And its not a special diary, I just keep adding ideas to it.  But, by the time I get the ideas into a visual diary I am working through the ideas and how I can make my own mark.

Rough drawing in daily writing
rough drawings in visual diary

In the course of my daily writings I realised that I like applique, I like felt, I like thick threads and I prefer a number of simple stitch techniques.   When I look at what I have done in the past I see lots of applique in various formats (from traditional turned applique to raw edge collage), lots of running stitch and chain stitch and spirals and circles.

Add to this mix an invitation to participate in an exhibition with five textile artists who work primarily with wool.  My thoughts jumped to penny rugs: felted wool, applique and stitch.   Ideas started to appear in my daily writings.  Then drawings and internet research happened in my visual diary together with drawings that has started as initial ideas in my daily writings.

With the Albury Wodonga Branch of the Embroiderers Guild Victoria exhibition looming I explored the penny rug idea and created a hanging. (Photo at top).  And I revisited and explored appliqued faces again. 


I have realised that for me, process is:
·         recognising recurring ideas
.     playing with those ideas that take my fancy 
·         working with those recurring ideas over a longer period of time.

Thank you for letting me talk out loud. 😊   

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

still banging on about process

Tyvek garden

So I think this is a bit like talking out loud.   

Not having had any formal art training I am now trying to embark on a method of working that is sustainable.  It has taken more time than it should to acknowledge that my habit of diving in with a good idea and good intentions is not enough.  Making takes time and it is so disappointing when it doesn't come off.

What it is I am seeking?    A way to improve and move forward in my work.   

I really enjoy experimenting with different mediums and different styles.   Can I keep doing this?  How much/Does it distract from actually improving?  Should I stick to only one medium and one theme? Do I want too?  

I want to understand what process in art practice is.    My research tools are largely limited to the www which produces way too much information.  I have had to whittle all that info down.

Wikki has a neat definition which helps -  The term refers to the ways in which an artist goes about his/her work. Artistic practice goes beyond the physical activities of making 
artistic products and can include influences, ideas, materials as well as tools and skills.

Bu then I have discovered there is also something called process art which wikki defines as -   an artistic movement as well as a creative sentiment where the end product of art and craft, the objet d'art (work of art/found object), is not the principal focus. ... Therefore, art is viewed as a creative journey or process, rather than as a deliverable or end product.

So  with this in mind I have had a bit of a play with tyvek to see what I can do with it.  Can I push it so it is something other then the norm?   Do I need to?  I want to build on my BEE happy project and was thinking of bee environments when I made some tyvek leaves:

Painted tyvek cut into a leave shape and machine stitched to show the centre vein
Then melted with a craft heat gun

And arranged on a background with flowers 
And there is room for more play : the tyvek garden at the top of the post and some earrings below. :-)

beads and tyvek made some cute earrings

In the course of exploration on the www I came across a link to senior school  arts resources which bears a close look .  Its really a cheat sheet for students but I found it an interesting view of what should be taken into account when refelcting on process.

Not quite a self portrait

Not quite a self portrait
small 8' quiltlet with embroidered hair

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