Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Getting some Cultcha

I have seen two exhibitions in the last two days!  One was Louise Bourgeoise at Heide Museum of Modern Art. 
There is an amazing sculpture of a spider, over a cage.  In the cage is a seat. When you see pictures of it, you don't realise the size of it - it is huge.  I loved it.
There is a lot of old tapestry in the exhibition - she is from a family of tapestry restorers and a lot of the work we saw was using recycled materials.
There were also some patchwork pieces, using her old clothes, that I particularly liked.  They weren't called patchwork but that is essentially what they were.  Mind you, she must have had some lovely clothes, the fabrics were gorgeous.  I especially liked the ones where she laid transparent layers of chiffon over each other.  They were my favourite pieces in the exhibition.  We weren't allowed to take photos, you'll just have to try to get there yourselves.

There is an article about in The Age today - the reviewer writes about the 3D pieces, rather than the 2D.  I must admit, I was drawn to the less disturbing images.

The second exhibition I went to was Capturing Flora at the Ballarat Art Gallery.  It looks at 300 years of botanical art of Australian flowers (and some mosses). It finishes on the weekend.  I have been meaning to go for ages and nearly left it too late.  We went up on the train, a very comfortable and stress-free way to travel.

The art works were amazing, all that intricate detail.  The process of taking sketches, writing notes and using colour cards, then painting it later was well set out.  They must have had very good visual memories, as well as the drawing and painting talent.

It was interesting to see this just after having been to the Napoleon exhibition which also had engravings and drawings of the early European settlement of Australia.  It is strange to think that wars and revolutions so far away were in any way related to Australia and impacted on the journeys of discovery of botanists and other scientists.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Suspension - our exhibition

The flyer for our exhibition has arrived.  Great excitement.  

There are 8 of us taking part.  We all graduated last year from the Studio Textiles and Design course that we studied at RMIT.  It has been a great experience and has kept me focused this year.  The sharing of ideas, helping each other out with resources, encouragement, etc, has been invaluable.

Ilka White is our curator and has been inspiring and pushing us throughout the development of the show.

Now all I have to do is finish the work in time!
It is at the Tinning St Gallery in Brunswick and runs Thursday to Sunday for two weeks.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dyeing with gumnuts

Waste not, want not .... maybe that means don't throw anything out!
Quite a few months ago, I noticed that a tree in our street had had a branch broken off - probably by vandals but maybe not as it was hanging over the footpath and the only branch broken off was the one that was in the way.  This particular tree has spectacular red gum blossoms, I'm not sure what variety of eucalypt it is but it is gorgeous. It might be Eucalyptus Ficifolia.

It also has large clumps of big gumnuts after the flowers die away and there were heaps (literally) of them on the nature strip.  They were there for days and eventually I couldn't resist them.  I took our green recycling bin down and cleaned up most of the mess but kept a bucketful of the gumnuts, just to see if I could ever do anything with them.

There they were, looking at me while I was playing around with the mulberry dyeing.  As I had been researching the mulberry dyeing, I had noticed that someone had said that you have to soak nut casings before you used them so I thought I would see if that worked in this case too.
I left them soaking for a couple of days before boiling them up.  I put a silk scarf in there to see if it would take up any dye.  Not much happened so I turned it off after a couple of hours of boiling - the silk was a dirty white colour.

Being ever hopeful, I decided to leave the silk in the pot and see what would happen.  It is spring here and the sun is shining frequently.  My dye setup is in our glasshouse, so it would stay warm during the days (and not that cold during the nights).  After another day, I noticed that the water was a bit darker.  Not being totally a patient person, I took the scarf out and rinsed it.  It is a pale brown colour, quite pretty really.   Eucalyptus being a substantive dye, I have used no mordant.

I have left the gumnuts to soak some more and will see what sort of dyebath I get.  Then I will try some more silk pieces and see what eventuates.

As with the mulberry dyeing, I am not sure why I am dyeing this fabric, I have no particular project in mind and hence am only dyeing scraps, not specific types or sizes of silk.  But it is all interesting and satisfying.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

RMIT Textile Graduate Show

Ooops, I forgot to go to the Australian Tapestry Workshop Open Day!
But I did get to the RMIT Textile Graduate Show which opened last night.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get to the opening but the young man who was envigilating the show told me that it was packed.
It was at a new venue for me - Goodtimes Studio Basement, 746 Swanston St, Melbourne.  Thanks goodness for Google Street View, I was able to see what building I was looking for.  It is opposite Melbourne University, beside the rather large tram stop.  It is on from 17th to 21st of November.

The gallery is quite large and the work was easy to move around.  Being a textile exhibition, some of the pieces cried out to be touched.  But I restrained myself, except for a couple of books to look at.

The techniques were mostly print and weave and there was a wide range of applications of these techniques. Well worth a visit.  Congratulations to all the graduates.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The advantages of a small tapestry

I was able to take my small, portable loom outside recently, to enjoy the beautiful spring weather.  I am still struggling away with the experimental piece that I am not sure will work.
Can you see the bit on the right that looks like city buildings with a path leading up to them?
It is getting closer to being finished.  If I don't like the way I intend putting it together, I suppose I can go back to something like this flat look and mount it more traditionally.

As I have posted recently, we have mulberries in the front yard and I was a bit wary about sitting out the back in case passing birds did colourful droppings. But it was such a lovely day, it seemed a shame to be sitting inside, so I decided to risk it.

This loom is small (most of my designs are based on A4 paper that fits across the loom - approx 30cm) and I have a little table that I can attach it to.  It, too, is portable.  It was a tv dinner table, I think.  I can take it apart and put it in the car quite easily.  That is how I get it to Cozmo's house.  As you can see, it keeps all the wool cones, bobbins, etc together quite nicely too.  It keeps me (relatively) tidy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chances to buy Christmas gifts

Christmas is coming!  Fortunately, there are some places to go for those lovely handmade gifts.

The Ivanhoe Makers Market will be on, as usual, on the third weekend of November, 17th and 18th.

The Alcove Art Shop, at the Box Hill Community Arts Centre, is having the opening of its Christmas exhibition - CHRISTMAS A'FAIR on Monday, November 19th. It will run from November 19th to December 1st.

The Alphington Open Studios is on again this year, on the weekend of November 24th and 25th.  I went last year and visited a few studios.  They are all very close to each other, easy to get to.
Hand made jewellery and ceramics by Avis Murray, whom I visited last year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dyeing with Mulberries part 3

The dyeing continues ...

Of course, I had dye left after my last go and couldn't bear to throw it out, especially as some of the sites say you can continue to use it.  So I have soaked some more fabric in the salt solution and dyed it.   I didn't think there would be enough for the silk I decided to use, so I picked some more berries and boiled them up too.  So now I have two lots of silk soaking.  I noticed that the pot with the used dye is looking a bit lighter than the newer dyebath.  So I will have to wait and see what happens.
used dye being reused

new dye bath
Later ... 24 hours later.

I had left the silk in the two pots and rinsed them out today.  There is a noticeable difference in colour intensity but I like them all.
Not only the used and new dye baths caused different colours but the different types of silk took up the dyes differently.  I had some samples of silks and some offcuts from a wedding dress studio that I had been given, so I do not know what all the different silks were exactly, but they are interesting in their variations.

From the new dyebath, I had twisted some of the pieces of silk to get variation in the dying. 

You can see two scarves of the same fabric beside each other, the new dyebath is at the front, much darker.

The two lots of silk together, quite a bit of variation. The lighter pink on the left is part of the stronger dye bath and is slightly overlapping the same fabric from the lighter dyebath.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dyeing with Mulberries part 2

Well, I took the fabric out of the dye today - it had been soaking for close to 24 hours.  I rinsed it thoroughly (I still have trouble with the amount of water that this takes, drought hang-over I suppose).  Then I hung it out to dry.
The colour is rather lovely.  A couple of the pieces have blue areas and I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it came from the piece of brick I put in to keep the fabric under the dye.  I have used it previously and it may have had some residue from other dyeing.
I did not move the fabric around in the dyepot as I wanted it to have a little bit of texture.
The different fabrics took up the colour differently but they are all lovely.

Velvet, habutai, crinkle silk and organza.  All silk.

Blue stains on the velvet silk

Blue stains on the habutai silk

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dyeing with mulberries

We have some mulberry trees in our garden because we used to keep silkworms in our classrooms.  The eggs used to hatch before the leaves opened on local mulberry trees (there are a surprising number of them around the streets nearby).  So research was done (by the gardening enthusiast in the family) and it was found that there is a different sort of mulberry tree that has its leaves earlier than the ones we had been using.  Three trees were planted in our yard.
Over the years, we haven't had a great crop of mulberries for humans - the possums and birds and rats have loved them.  Maybe it was the breaking of the drought or maybe the rumour that there is a Powerful Owl in the area and that it has reduced the possum and rat population is true.  Whatever the reason, there is a good crop of berries this year.  We thought about eating them but a) they are not that tasty, b) there are a LOT of them and c) the stems are really hard to get out.  So, as the birds do very colourful dropping on our washing at this season, I thought the berries might be good for dyeing.

Important note:  after picking the mulberries, check the bottoms of your shoes before walking around the house!!

I looked up my Eco Colour by India Flint, various online sites (eg, here and here and here) and have come up with some varied instructions for using berries in dyeing.
Several of my resources mentioned that a good mordant for berry dyeing is half a cup of salt to 8 cups of water.
All the sources say to cut up the fruit, or mash it, and boil it to get a dye bath from plant material (except India Flint, who recommends freezing it. I have put some aside in the freezer, that will have to be a different experiment).  Most say to boil the dye bath for an hour but one said that for red and yellow, you shouldn't do it so long, the heat destroys the colour.
Because I have used various sources, and because most of them say to experiment, I have made up my own way of doing it.  This is partly because I think I didn't read all the sources correctly and so have made some errors.  I get a bit confused when I switch back and forth between 'recipes'.
However ... this is what I have done.
I put 3 cups of berries in 6 cups of water and brought it to the boil for about 5 minutes.  Then I let it sit overnight - one of the links had said that I could get stronger colour if I left the plant material in to soak longer.
The various sources say to soak the fabric in the salty solution but they are not consistent on how long, whether to boil the fabric in it or to put it in the dye solution.  So I have soaked the fabric (did I mention that I am using silk?) in the solution overnight also (only because I had already put it in before I decided to let the dye bath soak overnight). The salt solution and fabric were brought to the boil and let simmer for an hour.  I did this because I thought the heat might help the fabric to absorb the mordant better but I don't want to boil the dye bath any more.  There are various sources that suggest that you can prepare the fabric with the mordant before putting it in the dye bath, so I hope that it will work for a salt mordant.

Now it is sitting in the dye bath and I am waiting 'patiently' to see what will eventuate.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ballet and Fashion exhibition

I just have to blog today with the date being 10/11/12.
A friend and I visited the Ballet and Fashion exhibition at the NGV a few days ago.  It was not very large but it was interesting to see the various costumes and the materials they had been made with.  They all had to be rather sturdy to stand up to the rigours of the dancing although there were some that would have been impossible to dance in, they must have just strutted around the stage.
The other thing that surprised me (it does every time I see an example of it) is how minimal the designers' ideas are, just a sketch.  The costume makers must be extremely talented to be able to translate some of those ideas into usable costumes.

We didn't spend much more time at the gallery as we agreed that it is best to see the exhibition you have come to see and them move on - too many exhibitions make you forget what you have seen.  But you can't walk around the gallery without see other things, they are just there!
Of course, we went into the great hall and enjoyed looking at the stained glass ceiling, especially as it was a lovely sunny day.  The tapestries on the walls in there were a must see also.
And the water wall was even more interesting than usual because it had artwork on it.  It is part of the Rally: contemporary Indonesian art exhibition.
From the outside

From the inside

Then we moved on to Federation Square to see the woven installation of Patrick Dougherty.
It great to see it on such a beautiful day, in such an interesting place.

So, despite our desire to limit our viewing to one specific exhibition, we managed to see lots more. Not only that, we were very taken with the shadows on the ground at Southbank, made by a verandah roof.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lino cutting part 3

The last part of the first lesson was to use a different substance for cutting into.  I used Soft Cut carving block, which I got at Zart Art, one of my favourite shops! I learnt about it when I was teaching, it is a school supply shop that also sells to the public.
It was easier to cut into - I think.  It is softer and thicker and does cut easily but it also moves a little more than the lino does.  Each has its advantages I suppose.

It was suggested that we do a pattern that could be repeatedly stamped onto the fabric.  I used a Charles Rennie Mackintosh design (that I had played with previously). I thought I had cut the carving block square but obviously I didn't, the last row of my printing did not match the rows above as I had changed the orientation of the block as I was printing.

As I get more experienced and confident, I might even try to utilise some of the knowledge I gained about how to design repeat blocks.  I will need to be better at cutting than I am now as well as better at stamping, to get good repeats going.  Something to aim for.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Who could resist the possibility of that header?  How obscure is that?
Anyway, Prince Charles and his wife visited the Australian Tapestry Workshop today. (One of many links here.)  It is part of a visit to Australia to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year.
Here is a quote from some information sent out by the ATW.
We are delighted to have this opportunity to introduce His Royal Highness to the Workshop, including the Embassy Tapestry program, recent commissions for Northern Hospital and Warrnambool Base Hospital, and our high-quality Australian wool. A highlight of the visit will be an exhibition and workshop by students from Coolaroo South Primary School. These students spent four days last week working with arts educators from the Prince's School of Traditional Arts (PSTA) in London, artist Nusra Latif Qureshi and educators from the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG).
It appears that the children didn't get the public holiday for Melbourne Cup day - they seem to have been at the ATW. Lucky them, what an opportunity.

Let's hope this raises public interest in tapestry weaving.

The visitors then set off for the Melbourne Cup to award prizes.  It has been a strange day, weather-wise:  mostly cloudy and humid but there are thunderstorms around at the moment, with rain.  I forgot to listen to or watch the race, so I don't know if they got it in before the rain came.
Still, most of the Fashions in the Field would have been over before the rain - I hope.  At least it wasn't cold, which it has been other years.  Typical spring weather - unpredictable.

The ATW is also going to have an open day as part of the Print Weave Make event.  The weave part will be on November 17th.

The Print part will be on November 10th, at the Australian Print Workshop.
The Make day is on November 24th, at Craft and will have two jewellers demonstrating their art from 12 - 3.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lino cutting part 2

In part two of our lesson, we had to design a shape to experiment with positive and negative - something I always have a bit of trouble with.  It was suggested we use a maple leaf but I decided to use a vine leaf as there was one growing at the back door.
I scanned it and played around with it in Photoshop, trying to get clear edges and veins.  One of them looks a lot like a mask!

When I printed it and tried to cut it out, to trace, I realised that my lino cutting skills are not up to the task.
Then I remembered the drawing I had done earlier in the year and thought that I could use something like that.

Once again, my cutting skills are not up to it.  Hence the simple leaf shape.

I realised that part of the instructions had shown the leaf print over the texture print and I might get a similar sort of image to the original drawings.

The darker background shows the texture better.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Printing with lino cut designs

I saw that Dijane Cevaal was offering an online lino cutting course and decided that I would like to have a go at that.  I saw other students who did first year drawing playing around with all sorts of ways to make marks and was jealous that when I had done first year drawing we hadn't done that - that is one of the problems with part-time study, you get to see the course changes and wish you could do some subjects repeatedly.
So when I saw this offered I decided to take it on - not that I don't have plenty of other things to be working on but you must seize the day, as they say.
I have been feeling a bit stressed by it as we get our lesson every 2 weeks and I have had mine for a week and a half now - thank goodness for this (unofficial) long weekend.

So here are the results of our first lesson.
Texture sampler, the lino cut.

I tried to make orange but it came out a bit too red, with streaks.  Of course that was a design feature, not a mistake!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Weaving with a cat on your lap!

I am not really a cat person but Cozmo has decided to ignore that.  I regularly visit his home and this week and last he has sat on my lap.  Last week it wasn't a problem as I was just talking with my friend but this week I was trying to do some more tapestry weaving.  He sat there for a good while and occasionally was intrigued by the hanging bobbins and moving yarns.  Mostly he just sat there and watched.
I suspect the OH&S people would not like to see this.  However, I managed for a while and then he decided to go out and check on the garden (thank goodness).

As you can see, I have not done a lot on the tapestry since my previous post but I have finally finished all 13 of the parts that will be twisted.  At least, the bottom parts are done, I will have to do the other halves when I have woven the middle, solid piece.  I am hoping to get a bit done on this unofficial long weekend - the Melbourne Cup racing carnival. As I have absolutely no interest in horse racing, I will be able to concentrate on my textile work.
I had to blog today; 1+11=12