Friday, November 11, 2016

Canberra Contemporary Craft Retreat - Laughing and Learning - Dolls

Well it’s been a whirl wind few weeks.  I am exhausted from learning and laughter.  Not to mention travel.

I went to the Contemporary Craft Retreat held in Canberra, ACT in late October and did  workshops with artists Susie McMahan and Janice Laurent. 

Susie is a doll maker from Tasmania.  I only had to travel 3 ½ hours to get to Canberra.   Susie had 3 times the distance to cover.   I am so glad she did.  As well as coming home with 2 completed projects I came home armed with heaps of new skills.

Susie showed us how to make and paint two dolls she has designed:  her Sukeshi Doll and Sorry Doll.  I really wanted to learn how to draw and paint on fabric to create faces.  And I did J .  Not to mention learning some practicalities of soft doll making which I hadn’t done before.     

my Sukeshi Doll

The Sukeshi doll was fun and I learnt how to confidently apply paint to cloth.  The little doll had a simple form so I didn’t get lost – just face and hands outlined then filled in and then other decoration added as desired.  It was fun and Susie is a generous teacher.  It wasn’t until I was on my way home I remembered I had done an online class several years ago with American mixed media artist Suzi Blu on drawing faces.   I had forgotten.   Back to my notes now to combine what I learnt with Susie and Suzi J.

Embroidered but faceless cloth babushka

Some Paint applied
The back - added a kerchief
 Anyway, I got home and painted up a couple of little babushka type dolls which I had embroidered.  I was interested to see what I could apply from Susie McMahon’s lessons.   This is the result.  They need some refinement – and also the ‘canvas’ was not large.  Interestingly, the one I was least happy with and kept overpainting ended up being the one I like the most.  I think the under layers of paint give more depth. 

And that was something Susie talked about and showed us in the Sorry Doll.

My Sorry Doll

The Sorry Doll took 2 days of full on work and concentration.  Susie supplied us with a head and pattern.  The body was sewn and cut out at home.  The fun began at the Retreat.   With the encouragement of new friends Monica and Kay I made hands with separated fingers.  I had opted for a simpler hand but Kay had cut and sewn a spare pair.  Monica and Kay chivied me along when I made mistakes, burst through seams and decided to revert to the original.  Thanks girls – so glad you did!  

On the last day I did a class with Janice Laurent making a relief face in Makins Clay.  I love working with this clay and it has been a while so it was a good fun refresher.   The face is still a work in progress and I hope to finish it before Christmas.  If life events permit (which are also taking lots of time at the mo)  I will finish the face before Christmas and post a photo J.

The weekend following I went to Wagga Wagga to see “Tryp(s)tych” - an embroidery exhibition.  It was put on by a group I belong to and the work the members of the group does is amazing.  I didn’t take any photos and am hoping I can get hold of some to show you.

This last weekend I went to Swan Hill and did a gold work techniques class at the CWA Craft retreat there.   Again I didn’t take any photos. I will write a separate post on this too.      But I did sleep over with these two vintage girls at Carols house :-)

Monday, October 3, 2016

More Fey Folk = Art Dolls

Feathers from a vintage duster and an old silk scarf

Gum leaves for wings

Paper bark wings and recycled fabric

I have found that I have been working in a series by default.    I have been making these little art dolls for a while and finding that by repeating I am learning and exploring.  All that I have read and heard has said this but when I have set out to do this on purpose in the past I have failed.  I was encouraged to make more (thank you Penny) and ended up with a number of little art dolls. :-)

I have been using odds and ends, buttons collected over time, vegetation collected from walks with the dog and from the garden.  I have recycled/repurposed/upcycled clothes and fabrics given to me.
Friends know I have an interest in repurposing and I get given great things,   I love the vintage feather duster I was given.   You can see I have used some feathers in one of my fey folk above.

I have made little faces from either polymer or air dried clay and then made molds with which to easily create more faces.  They distort a little when I pull them out of the mould do they have familial sort of resemblance but are not exactly the same.  There are some that have no relatives -  the fellow with the bottle brush twigs wings in the photo above is one.

Friday, September 23, 2016

More Repurposing

Well not really repurposing but redirection.

I have a grab bag collection of threads and button given to me or so irrestable that I had to buy them. Remember I have a penchant for op shops.

Sealable and celephane bags of lovelies end up in an enormous tangle. But I have learnt to live with the fact that I am inspired by the mass (should really write "mess") of tangled colour that calls out to and inspires me.

Recently I have been making brooches.  They will end up for sale at the Tryp(s)tich exhibtion by the Wagga Wagga group in October.

Flyer for Exhibtion

Woven Brooch

Dorset Button Brooch

Sunday, September 18, 2016


I have a number of small art quilts from a course I did several years back.  I was quite pleased with them.  But have moved on a bit since then. 

I came across them when I was fossicking around  for fabric to make a couple of small tote type bags for the pop up shop at an exhibition in late October of the Wagga Wagga Group of the Embroiderers’ Guild of NSW (yes a mouthful I know). 

I had put the little quilts carefully away as I couldn’t throw them but have new stuff on my walls.  I suppose I could keep them in a folder them as a record of technique etc but I have photos.
So the long and the short is that one little quilt has become a lovely big feature pocket for a bag.  I recall I had a heap of fun playing with potato printing using acrylic paint.

I also came across a bit of wrapped cord that I hadn’t been able to toss.  I loved the colours and made a fabric pendant out of it.  It was going to go into the pop up shop but I liked it so much I have kept it for myself and made another.  I used some commercial lace which I had thrown into a dye lot ages ago.  It came up a treat.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A day out and Inspiration

 After a visit to the Woolpack Inn Museum at Holbrook last month I came away inspired to create ... something, anything relecting the lines and angles I had seen.

The two story heritage listed building is operated by volunteers and contained items collected locally.  Many of the items stories  were written up and made interesting reading.  I was intrigued by the old slab school house which had been moved and reconstructed with the aid of many locals including primary school children.  The origianl ceiling was made of claico dipped in milk.  When the milk soaked fabric dried it became taunt and helped both dust and weatherproof the interior.  (Kept the spiders  and possums in the roof cavity I guess).

The 20 plus rooms in the old hotel were set out in themes.  It goes without saying that the sewing room had a pretty good look over.  It was good as visiters could actually get up close in that room.   I wasn't at all prepared to make notes or quick sketches but managed to get a couple of photos using my phone. It was a beautiful spring day but a bit dark inside.  The outside images had a lot of contrast and the inside images were lost in shadow or behind glass.

The Museum contained lots of interesting items which caught my eye and led me to think  “I could….”.   

Not sure what this implement was but I loved the cogs, angled and arched lines

more cogs and saw tooth edges
wheels and spokes caught my eye here

Rusted iron and high contrast

Detailed edging on this 20's style dress caught my eye.  It was a feature  repeated all over the dress.  And the self covered buttons were a gorgeous feature

Edging on dropped waist line

Side slits and skirt 

This button was about the size of my palm!  It was a feature item on a ladies coat that looked like it was circa late 1920's

This sort of follows on from my last post when I talked about filling stitches which were largely couched lines.    I think I wouldlike to try and explore this a little more using some of the lines in  the photos above.   Next step is to get them down in my sketch book and see where it goes from there.

And another visit is called for.  :-)

Cheers all

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Filling Stiches by Edith John

I am a bit of an op shop addict?   I can browse and touch. And if you buy, it’s only a couple of dollars.  Every so often I come across a wonderful find.  In a holiday in Anglesea (Victoria) I discovered some wonderful pink dupion and old linen begging for a new life.   

sample worked from
Edith John's book
More recently I picked up a great book - Filling Stitches by Edith John.  The book was published by Batsford in 1967 in with black and white diagrams.  As a result, it has wonderful contemporary graphic images.   The instructions are clear and easy to follow.  

I have played with some of the patterns with perle, DMC and machine threads and they create striking patterns.    I like to do crazy patchwork and I can see fillings and seam embellishments on every page.

I couched down the threads but why stop there?   All sorts of lines could be made with thick and thin threads and heavy and light stitched lines.  Why not raised chain band and chain.  Or couch with detached chain.  Or…

sample worked from 
Edith John's book 
I think the book should have been called ‘Design by Default’.  When I see the drawings I think I could…

·         make a quilt
·         play with twine and raffia on hessian and make a hanging
·         branch out and couch down chop sticks (wrapped or not), textured wool or something found
·         applique in the traditional sense or
·         make a Mola design applique with embroidery.

Old Chiltern Cemetary, Victoria
Wroung Ironwork - Grave surround
More recently, I stapped at an old cemetrary by the Highway.  It was closed in about 1860. I had a browse around the surviving head stones and thought how I could transpose the ironwork patterns into something textile.

Edith John had a number of curvey line ideas in her book. The wrought iron could be easily transposed as  couched threads or applique.

 But for time being I will continue to make 5 cm squares and mount them on my workroom wall and enjoy the changing patterns.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Winter palettes

I have moved some 6 hours south of Sydney since last winter.   The colours are different.  I am relishing the chill, enjoying the frosts and but i'm not so keen on the cold winds that blow on occasion. We are inland and not on the sea so at least the antarctic blast is lessened.   But snow is starting to happen in the highlands and soon, cloud coverage permitting, we will be able to see it in the distance.

In the interim I have been enjoying the muted colours of the sky, watching the rain filled clouds come over the hills and follow the sheets of rain as they move towards our house.

View from the verandah  - sun on the trees next door and rain clouds in the distance

When I walk and see the natural world around me I think life is good.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Making Fey Folk

Fairies have taken my fancy of late and I have been creating little female folk.  I have used sticks, feathers and leaves collected from my walks or garden and scraps of cloth and thread and clay in my studio.

It is addictive.  And helped me find my mojo :-).

Having made a couple of these little creatures I visited Google scholar and tried to find out a little more on the history of fairies.   It seems that fairies have been recorded as far back as the early Medieval Age. They looked like normal sized people and did not have wings. People were very wary of fairies (fey)and avoided any engagement with them.  The fairy as we know them – all sweetness and light with butterfly wings – is an invention of the Victorian era.

There appears to have been a cross fertilization between the Irish and Scottish and Scottish and Norse in terms of shared beliefs due to migration and physical proximity.  A lot of research has been done by scholars including Dr Lizanne Henderson of the University of Glasgow.   Some of Dr Henderson’s work is available online and makes for interesting reading and is a font of ideas for more making.    By way of example a paper by Dr Henderson entitled Witch, fairy and folktale narratives in the trial of Bessie Dunlop gives descriptions of fairies as recorded by Bessie’s prosecutors.   Reading it made me feel glad to be living now and not then.   

My fey folk journey started after seeing Wilma Simmons' message stick dolls.  Wilma kindly donated one of her messgae stick dolls for a cancer fund raiser and gave me permission to use her tutorial for a fund raising arty party.   Her dolls inspired me to keep playing and make little creatures in my own voice. 

I will post more photos as the fey folk family grows.

Friday, June 3, 2016

P is for procrastination

I have been busy.

Busy procrastinating.

I don't understand what I let get in my way of actually working on big projects.

I know my studio space is untidy and I don't have clear and designated space to work big.

So I play with small.    This diversion is fun but now I seem to have made a mountain out of my big projects which I am having difficulty scaling.   OK now I have said it!   It is out!  

How do you cope with procrastination?   Can you give me hints about what you do?

Small cloth doll made for a challenge based on the theme story time.   She now lives on the window of my sisters  workspace at the school where she teaches.  :-)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

eyes - scribbles in my journal

Play time in my journal.   Punning, drawing and painting for a little while.


A post card -  inspired by a visit to a touring exhibition of embroidered works called the Scottish Diaspora Tapestries.   I was surprised and delighted that this exhibition of some 300 panels was touring the world and stopped off at my regional town :-).   An amazing story of community endevour resulted in works which record the effect of Scottish migration around the globe.

I was intrigued by how the human face was rendered in crewel wool on heavy linen and gave expression and character to the individual faces.    The faces were variously completely stitched or just an outline.   The textures in pieces made me want to reach out and touch.  

Here are a couple of my favs.    You can see them all at the site  which is linked above :-)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Eyes and Eyelets

Stitching for no other reason than the enjoyment and to see what happens.  In this small sample have used cotton, perle and linen threads drawn from the fabric I am stitching into.  I will continue to add over time until I have a 10cm square to contribute to a challenge.

I have continued exploring eyes in art.   Browsing in cheap book store I came across a book about Indian love stories and some ancient and modern art.  It was a great source of images for eyes and I did some quick sketches.

Rajasthani Miniature Painting

Saturday, February 6, 2016

mixed media and themes

Well, I have procrastinated enough about making/stitching/writing.   It is February and I have no more excuses. House sold. Moved to new house. Unpacked just about everything.   Still sorting fabric threads etc. but I know what I have.

My resolution this year (which I started to visit in December last) was to allow myself to play in any medium, explore and have fun.

I have also tried to theme it – and this year will try to build my exploration around “eyes”.  I have had heaps of fun punning - e.g.  the ayes have it, green eyed monster, almond eyes.  And letting explorarion take me where ever.

So far I have
  •     sketched and doodled

  •     stitched eyelets.  Visit Sharon Boggins on line stitch dictionary for the low down on how to.   She is a fantastic on line resource.

  •     and explored on the web looking at how eyes are portrayed.  I came across a blog page featuring sculptor Alfred Parades and this image of his work Side by Side Cylcops.  Just love it :-).                                                       Take time to read the full article here.  

Of course already I have gone off theme already as I have been playing with clay a bit

but I keep returning to it with doodles.  

In between playing with eyes I will work on my pieces for a collaborative exhibition next year with five other textiles artists .   Our group name is temporarily “ Six Running Feet”   - a play on the wall space we each need to fill.  

Not quite a self portrait

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

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