Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gayle de Angelis

Blogging about the artist's talk by Gerda van Hamond reminded me that I recently heard another very interesting talk by a textile artist - Gayle de Angelis.  It was at The Alcove Art Shop's AGM, not a meeting where you would expect to be inspired.  But she was the guest speaker and very entertaining and inspiring, especially for the wearable art people I was with.

Gayle talked about her artistic journey, she even had a textile visual that accompanied it to outline the ups and downs in her life that have influenced her work.

Gayle aims to repurpose materials, without cutting them, by sewing them by hand.  She makes wearable art, some quite wearable and functional, some less so. A lot of her work uses old ties but she also uses scarves, tablecloths, gloves and doilies, among other things.

Gayle talked about different ventures she has undertaken, different directions for her work.  It was inspiring to see what she is achieving with such a simple-seeming idea. She was most generous with her information too. She showed us some images for calendars she has developed.  What an amazing imagination she has.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dyeing Time

The pressure is on - the mulberries are ripe and they don't last long, only a couple of weeks.  They have already been ripening for a week or so. Fortunately, they are delicious.

Some are falling to the ground and I am feeling the need to pick them up and put them aside for dyeing.

Actually, I went out today, after days of procrastinating, and there weren't that many on the ground. The birds and insects have done well. I collected some but they are in the freezer at present while I decide if I can be bothered collecting more. There were quite a few ready to pick from the tree, they are being eaten, not used for dyeing.

The glasshouse has been fixed - but now it is being used for its original purpose so I am having to mark out my territory.

To add to all the dyeing thoughts, the hollyhock is in flower again.  It doesn't seem all that long ago that it stopped flowering.  There aren't many at present but that will change.

So thoughts will have to return to dyeing - then to what to do with all that fabric.  That is one challenge I haven't met yet.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gerda van Hamond artist talk

I was lucky enough to be able to attend Gerda van Hamond's artist talk today.  She has a show on at Hawthorn Studio and Gallery.
(If you follow the above link to her site, use the links below the image to see more or her work, the front page has nothing on it at present.)
You can see images of her work on the gallery website here.  Not sure how long this link will last though.

I asked for permission to take these photos for this blog and she said yes but to remind you that her work is copyrighted.
It was interesting to hear how she works and how long it takes her to do her tapestries - 500-600 hours each for the large tapestries. And that is just the weaving, not the art work, designing and dyeing of wool - yes, she does that too!
Actually, it was great to hear that she doesn't stress too much about getting exact colour matching with her dyeing because of the way she blends her colours on the bobbin and the way she designs her work. It is not essential that the colours match exactly.  Mind you, she has been doing it for a while now and probably knows what she is doing so that the colours will be similar anyway.

Gerda began by working with oil sticks and making artworks of approximately 24cm square, on paper. This show was also made with the gallery space in mind.  She said that she knew she could have several large tapestries with accompanying small ones, two for each large piece. For most of them, she worked on the large piece first and then did the smaller ones. The smaller ones are larger than the original artwork but not by a lot.

Gerda also said that she prefers not to work on a theme for all her work and so there were works with different stories behind each.
I loved hearing about the ideas behind the images.  The titles give clues but to hear the back story makes them even clearer. It is great hearing about the thinking that goes on behind the work, that you would never know if you weren't able to go to an event like this. It is also more personal to hear it rather than read it in a catalogue, as you can do at some exhibitions.
What was also interesting was hearing what people saw in the works and how sometimes that had nothing to do with Gerda's story but more to do with how the viewer was approaching the works. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Making the parasol

I have beavered away at my parasol. There has been a lot of unpicking but I have finally finished it.  It is my first attempt at a parasol and has taught me lots - if I ever decide to try again. I might decide that this is only a sample and make another one, I am keeping my options open.  But it would need to be a much quicker process if I do another.

I pulled apart a child's umbrella and have used the frame for my design.
I used polyester organza which is amazingly slippery!! I made my design using reverse appliqué.  I drew it on soluble fabric and pinned it to the four layers of fabric, which I pinned to the ironing board to keep the layers from moving too much as I cut through them.

I sewed the design and then cut back the layers once the soluble fabric had dissolved and it was dry.  
There are eight pieces which I sewed together only to find that they weren't all exactly the same shape. Close but not exact. Hmm, what to do about that? Oh well, sew them all up and see how it goes at the end. 

It has turned out ok but caused a bit of a problem where the pieces meet at the top as I had four layers and it was a bit bulky.  And, as I said, they are not all exactly the same shape. I was pleased to discover that it was really easy to sew the knobs on.

I sewed on them at the ends of the seams but found that the struts did not stay in place because the slippery fabric caused it all to slip down from the central hole, causing the tension to lessen.  I made a small circle, three layers for stability, and sewed it to the top, to stop the slippage.  The tautness of the fabric then held the knobs in place.

The circle worked ok but you could see the stitches, and the messy joins.

So I made another piece to sit over the top.  I decided to put in some shisha mirrors, inspired by my research for the assignment.  There are some interesting sites (here and here) telling you how to do this.  My sewing is not as perfect as on these examples but I don't mind, it suits the feel of my parasol. Also, I didn't sew the four layers of fabric together, I left them loose and slightly raggedy looking.
Then I slipped the top knob on and it is finished.

However, there was yet another problem because of the difference in the shapes - the struts did not all fit exactly along the seam lines.  As it was necessary to stitch the fabric around the strut (the original umbrella had this) I used this stitch to ease the fabric as close as possible to the strut.  It all works ok, I just hope it holds up to actual use.

Some doubters have meanly said it won't provide any protection from the sun!  I'm hoping that the double, triple and quadruple layers will.  It is just the single layer of yellow that may not be that effective.  So there should be some protection there.  Maybe I'll just try not to go out in the sun at all. And, anyway, it is a work of art, not an actual artefact.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Starting the Parasol

Well, I have bitten the bullet and decided to have a go at making a parasol.  So far I have a rather basic design and am just trying to see if I can do it.
First of all, I looked around on the internet and found some interesting tutorials on how to make your own parasol - thank goodness for creative goth girls and historical costume sites.
Here are a few: How to Make a Small Victorian ParasolDIY Parasol: StRazor

There are quite a few more sites with info but it is generally the same - find a suitable umbrella or parasol and strip the fabric off, put your own on.  Sounds easy!

The first problem is to find a cheap umbrella that looks like I will be able to take it apart without wrecking it.  After lots of asking around and useful tips from friends, I went to the Victoria Market and found two different sorts of parasol at reasonable prices.

I have started on one by taking off the little knobs, etc.  This turned out to be surprisingly easy but I did pick the sort that looked as if it would be. They are attached by the sewing, through the hole in the shaft. 
Next I looked at how the fabric was attached to the spokes - surprisingly, only one stitch.
I even remembered to measure how far below the hinge it is. 
Then I had a look at how it was attached at the top and how the hole for the central part was handled.
I measured that too.

It is sewn very strongly from the inside and outside, then the knob on the end is pushed on.  It came off fairly easily, here's hoping it goes back on easily and is secure.

Luckily I remembered what StRazor said and had a good look at the piece that I had cut out of the umbrella's fabric. Because I have chosen a child's umbrella, the piece is smaller and the fact that it has a curved edge is not all that obvious.  I don't think I would have noticed if I hadn't read her blog first.

Now I have to make the pieces and then hope they will fit together on the frame.  At least I have started.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Instant Colour Lesson

At the workshop we did with Joy Smith last Sunday, we discussed colour. Joy showed us lots of examples and we discussed how intensity can be changed by colours nearby, by texture (textured weaving)  and by the type of yarn used - whether it is fuzzy, twisted, smooth, shiny, etc (which I suppose is also texture).
Then we looked at the colours I was weaving.  I am trying to do a sample that graduates from yellow to blue, just like the patchwork one I did recently. I had some colours but had to go to the Australian Tapestry Workshop to buy some to carry the colours through.  I thought I had chosen a reasonable range, they didn't look like the colour change was too marked.

When I wove the colours though, the fourth one from the right was very different.  The change was much too noticeable.  Instant lesson on how the weaving can affect the perception of the colour. 
I then blended the the two colours, to see if I could lessen the large jump in tone. I started with two strands of the lighter colour, one of the darker.  Then I changed it to two of the darker and one of the lighter.  This was in the midst of counting the passes and half passes that make up the change in colour.
It is 6 half passes of colour 1, 1 of colour 2, 5 of colour 1, 2 of colour 2, 4 of colour 1, 3 of colour 2, 3 of colour 1, 4 of colour 2, 2 of colour 1, 5 of colour 2, 1 of colour 1, 6 of colour 2.  Then start with the new colour. The notes I had were written in half passes, so that is how I have counted it.

But I had hoped to do a sample with no blending, seeing I tend to blend my colours all the time. I have put it aside for the time being.  I will visit the shop again and see if I can find a colour to go between these two, allowing me to use flat colours.  I will pull out the blended wool if I can find the shade I want. If not, I suppose I will just have to keep going and see how the other colours go.  I keep telling myself it is only a sample and that is what it is for. 
There will be a bit of a hiatus before I get back to it - the workshops have finished and I have a machine embroidery assignment due soon. Then I will try again.

Seeing it is a sample, I have decided not to worry too much about the pulling in on the sides.  Joy tells me it is probably because of the way I pull the shed forward as well as using only one bobbin across the piece. Who knew that I might need to use a few bobbins on this small a piece?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Still making up my mind

As I have already said, I am trying to settle on an idea to develop for my machine embroidery assignment. I had thought of trying to do something with a fan, then that morphed into a parasol (only I know the logic of that thought process).
Then I thought I couldn't justify a parasol through the research I was doing.  But I really, in my heart of hearts, wanted to do a parasol.
I even got started on making a small bag, based on a Jacobean bag I got information about on the V&A website. (What a fabulous resource.)
I have played with ideas about making cuffs for gloves or mittens.
I just couldn't get settled on an idea.
Then, on a visit to Melbourne on Monday, I saw this at Australia on Collins.
I'm pretty sure I have seen this installation before but I still really like it.

How could I not work on parasols?? Seeing this made me think I was MEANT to ditch my other ideas and go back to what I want to do.  Isn't it funny how you see omens and signs that direct you where you want to go?

So I looked around some more and came across an image at the V&A site.  Now I have an historic piece of embroidery that I can use to develop an idea from.
Here's hoping I actually get started now!

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Here I am, at the computer when I should be working on my next machine embroidery assignment.  It is giving me heaps of grief - and I haven't started doing anything yet.  I had this idea that I want to try making a parasol. Unfortunately, I can't make it fit the brief.  I keep rereading the brief, then doing more research, but there just seems to be no justification to try a parasol.
So ... after much angst, I took the day off and went out with a friend yesterday, just to give myself some mental space.
We went to a wine gallery on the Mornington Peninsula. It was a lovely day for a change.  They had a short walk through a wetlands.  We saw a moorhen and then a large sculpture of three moorhens.  There were sculptures scattered around one part of the walk.

As I was leaving my friend's place, there was a flock of cockatoos in the park opposite.  My friend doesn't like them much as they used to tease her dog, Ollie, even going so far as to swoop him when they were out walking and throwing nuts at him when at home.  She isn't sure if he was silly to be out there with the birds or if he was being clever in getting the nuts.  She used to find chewed nuts in the yard all the time.

She shooed the birds away even though Ollie is no longer with us.

Well, off to try to get started on my next idea - a bag of some sort.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


I actually haven't got much to say today but couldn't pass up the date - 3/10/13.
So .... it is spring.  Definitely NOT my favourite season.  Windy, changeable temperatures, pollen!!!
But - the flowers are blooming, we have mulberries already falling on the ground - probably because of the wind - and it is obviously time to be thinking about starting up the dyeing again.
Our glasshouse has been reglassed (if there is such a word) with safety glass.

Our gardening enthusiast couldn't wait till daylight to be doing.
Despite the high winds, the apple blossom has stayed on the tree. We are hoping to beat the possums to the fruit this year.

I was not game enough to be in the glasshouse during the high winds but I went out today to scrape the last of the old glass panes that had lichen on them.
Fortunately, I have read that you can leave the lichen for ages so there is no rush to do any dyeing yet.  I am not prepared yet, I have no projects in mind for the fabric. Not that that has stopped me in the past but I am trying to be a bit more specific in what I do.

It is Buy Nothing New month.  I should have gone to the Australian Tapestry Workshop last week to buy some wool when I thought of it but they had the Grand Final Parade on and I couldn't face the crowds, despite being a Hawthorn member and loving the football. So now I might have to wait till the end of the month before I get well into my idea.
It is to try to do the optical illusion I have just tried with patchwork.  I am attending a three week series of Sunday workshops with Joy Smith and it has been suggested that I could try out different ways of graduating the colours, using different techniques.  I have some yellows, so can start at that end, but have very few of the other colours to finish it off. I will either have to weave very slowly - not really a problem - and wait till next month to buy some suitable yarns, or just go and buy some new yarns and not keep to the idea of the month. Or I could try using mixed colours and see how that goes. Time, and energy, will tell.