“Stitched Up”…. an exhibition…

At the moment I am working on a challenging but fascinating project for an exhibition called “Stitched Up – Bringing to Life the 193 Girls from the Newcastle Industrial School 1867 – 1871”.  As one of 25 invited international artists we get to chose a girl/girls from that time and give them a voice.  What does “stitched up” suggest to you?  In relation to these girls and this exhibition we are looking at the idea of ‘accusation and betrayal’.

I love reading historical novels, especially ones that give voice to a woman or women of a different era.  I find it a fascinating way to learn about the history of the time, it makes history come alive for me.  So when I was invited to be part of this exhibition I was immediately drawn to the idea of giving a girl from the 1870’s a voice.  It was a challenge to decide who to chose but I have chosen the Young sisters, two of four sisters who spent time at the Newcastle Industrial School.

So often I get asked how long did that take, or how long does it take to create an art work? I have several answers to that question: how long is a piece of string?, twenty years – because it has taken me twenty years to get to this point in my art career, or I go into a more detailed description of what goes on before I even start a piece of work…..Recently I was reading a book by Bethan Ash, an Art Quilter, and she sums up very succinctly in one sentence – “The final piece of work exhibited in a gallery is really only a small part of the artists labour.” (Pg 88 Vibrant Quilt Collage, Bethan Ash).  Before I have even started this exhibition project:  I have spent hours researching what was happening, and what life was like in Newcastle, and in Australia around 1870, I have researched Industrial Schools of the time and what was happening with regard to children at risk, I have researched clothing worn by girls at the time, I have researched what domestic servants clothing was worn at the time, and researched a particular toy that I wished to use as a symbol to represent the girls I had chosen.

I remember loving dolls in my childhood, they represent my early childhood, I loved to make clothes for them.  As a child I also loved ‘paper dolls’ and I wondered if they could be used to represent the girls and idea of stitched up.  I discovered in my research that ‘paper dolls were first officially printed in the early 1800’s, however they weren’t always paper, sometimes they were fabric or wood.  I also discovered they represent childhood for many people……Stay tuned, it is my plan to document the process…..

‘Orange’, the Aotearoa Quilters colour challenge…..

Orange is the colour  for the 2017 Aotearoa Quilters colour challenge…..their colour choice is indeed a challenge for me because in the past it is not a colour that I have found easy to work with.  We all have our own colour pallette that we feel comfortable working with – I am naturally drawn to blues, greens, pinks and purples.   However because I like a challenge I find myself actually looking forward to creating an image and using orange as the predominant colour.

Although I am not automatically drawn to the colour orange and have to consciously make a decision to use it, at times I have recognised that my work needs a little orange to make the other colours sing.  As a young textile artist fresh from Art School I was given some very simple but effective advise about how to make colours sing – the current terminology is about making an image ‘pop’.  These are the colours opposite each other on the colour wheel – a little orange will make blue sing, the difficulty can be in knowing how much of the complementary colour to use.

Colours evoke different emotions for each of us and I have always felt orange to be a frivolous colour with not much depth.  As I am reflecting on my past difficulty with using orange I wonder if it was influenced by the gaudy use of it in the 70’s?!  Here is a quote from ColourMatters (www,colourmatters.com) on the colour orange : “is vibrant, its hot, healthy,fruity and engaging – but it can be abrasive and crass.  Its a polarising colour – people either love it or detest it.”

However in the last few years I have been looking more closely at the subtleties of orange and find I am enjoying the range; from terracottas, to persimmon, to pumpkin, to mango, to salmon and melon.  Today I went through some of my photographs and am pleasantly surprised at the amount of images that have the colour orange in them…..!! Obviously I am not able to include them all – I have transferred 104 photos from my camera alone today!  I am wondering how I will chose what subject matter for the challenge……

‘Dancing Kangaroo Paws’ returns home…..

“Dancing Kangaroo Paws” returned home today from being exhibited in the 2016 World Quilt XX New England, USA. What an adventure my art quilt has been on, traversing the States; from World Quilt New England, to Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza, to QuiltFest Oasis Palm Springs, to the Pacific International Quilt Festival and finally to World Quilt Florida.  Some interesting information gathered from reading the Program booklet that came with my artwork:  there were 255 quilts accepted into the twentieth annual World Quilt Competition from 9 countries- it would be interesting to know how many initial entries there were before being juried in.

It is always good to get feedback from the judges, this year the judges were Frieda Anderson and Pat Harrison.  I have long admired Frieda Anderson’s work so it is extra special to have her and Pat Harrison’s comments on my work.  To have one’s work judged and critiqued is one way to get some feedback on what is working (such as composition, techniques used, technical skills, etc)  and what needs improvement.   However as the form states at the bottom – ” The quilt you have submitted is the work of your talents, and you are the final judge of your own quilt.” I love that statement and I remember commenting on it when “‘Leafy’ Sea Dragon” returned home from touring the States.   At the end of the day I have to ask myself – “what did I learn from making this quilt?”, “was I able to do visual justice to my concept or could I have done something differently?”, “can I improve on my technical skills?”…..

I have just hung “Dancing Kangaroo Paws” up in my studio and I feel the thrill of having it home after having it present my ‘voice’ to the ‘world’! Welcome home and just in time for my presentation ‘Art Quilt Journey’ at the Tauranga Patchwork and Quilting Guild meeting on Tuesday 21st and Friday 24th.

My latest art quilt…..An Ode to Australian Flora

The latest art quilt, “An Ode to Oz Flora”, is a visual poem expressing and reflecting on my love of Australian native flowers.  It is designed as an ‘inspiration board’ and is a compilation of a number of designs that I have developed from photos taken and drawings created over the years while living in Australia.  While I am enjoying very much the flora of New Zealand this art quilt shows me that I am still deeply connected to Australian flora. 

The floral images are stylised and portray the uniqueness and delicacy of the Australian natives.   The art quilt is a combination of raw edge applique, free motion embroidery and quilting. The background is made up of commercially purchased fabric and hand treated fabrics by Mallee Textiles(NZ).  I have used three of the gorgeous hand treated fabrics that I chose as my prize with the Merit Award for my Peace Lily mini quilt last year.  They were so delightful to work with.  The dusty pink/bronze background fabric is one of those from Mallee Fabrics and it shows off the black kangaroo paws and white flannel flowers beautifully.

The process of making this quilt was interesting in that I needed to work on two blank “canvas'” at the same time. Perhaps it was the result of six weeks of school holidays crowding out time for creativity and therefor given the chance it literally spilled out onto two canvas’.  The second art quilt is very different – it is based on the mandala structure and it uses many of the same floral designs from the first art quilt but in a different way.   I am constantly amazed at how the same design can be pushed in new and different directions.

 The second quilt (draped over the ironing in this image) is waiting to be free motion quilted and having a little more free motion embroidery embellishment added.   This image speaks more of the way native Australian flowers are small and delicate.

Natures exuberance…..natures inspiration.

Later this year I am heading back to Timeless Textiles, Newcastle, to again stage a solo exhibition which I have titled “Natures Exuberance”.  I have been blessed with  moving into a home last year that has an amazing garden and I have enjoyed watching and photographing as the seasons unfold. Over what seems like months I have watched these lilies grow and yesterday they began to open.

Their colour is exquisite and they epitomise exuberance and luxuriance to me.


There are a few meanings of the word ‘exuberance’ that appeal to me and because it is my exhibition and I can choose to suit – here are a few:

“the quality of growing profusely; luxuriance”(I love that word also!)

“effusively and almost uninhibitedly enthusiastic, lavishly abundant”

“abounding in vitality, extremely joyful and vigorous”

I also checked out the meaning of “luxuriance” :

“Luxuriant growth or productiveness; rich abundance; lushness”

“Abundantly and often extravagantly rich and varied”.

Definitely they are effusively and almost uninhibitedly enthusiastic!

While writing this I am reminded of a thread painting I did many years ago and while the thread painting has sold I still have the original cartoon painting.  Meanwhile these stunning pink lily flowers are food for my creative soul and I know the possibilities are germinating as I write!


“Peace by Piece” Art Quilt has been shipped…..

Firstly Happy New Year to you all….may it be a healthy and creatively enjoyable new year….. my latest art quilt,”Peace by Piece”, has left the shores of NZ to be exhibited at the Blessington Quilting Academy in Brisbane, on 11/12th Feb 2017.

This art quilt design is the continuation of the Peace Lily theme which began with the small quilt entered in the Aotearoa Floral Challenge.  The title is a little play on the ‘piecing’ terminology of quiltmaking but as artists, as quilters, maybe piece by piece we can make a difference.  Change the world one quilt at a time! I enjoyed every bit of the process in this quilt; working out the symmetry, the colours, what flowers and foliage to use; pushing the peace lily design; and finally the quilting. There is a small amount of hand colouring in the peace lilies.

Lavender, bumble bees, kitten alert and thread painting…….

lavender-bumble-beeHow do lavender, bumble bees, kittens and thread paintings all come together in a blog?! I love seeing the humble bumble bee enjoying the flowers in my garden – I’m very happy to share…..Having such beautiful lavender in the garden inspired me to create a small thread painting today of lavender.

We have recently adopted a little kitten from the SPCA and she is adorable.  She is good company but today she was very curious  and attracted to the needle going up and down on my sewing machine.  I was a little concerned that she would get her nose or paw sewn to the thread painting!! img_20161212_132302 However I did manage to get some work done without an added paw or nose.img_20161212_131834


The “‘Leafy’ Sea Dragon’, art quilt story continues…..

The”‘Leafy’ Sea Dragon” art quilt story continues……  At the end of last year I was approached by the Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine to see if I was interested in a write-up about my img_20161123_153041-600-x-450work, specifically my art quilts, to be featured in the AP&Q magazine.    The article, which focused predominantly on the “‘Leafy’ Sea Dragon’ art quilt, was published in the ‘Annual Machine Quilting Collectors Edition’, Vol 26 No 3 (July/August ?).  img_20161123_153150-600-x-450I have only just received a copy, apparently I was sent one when it was published but it is out there in the universe somewhere….in other words it never arrived and I have kindly been sent another one.  It is a priviledge to be published and I felt honoured to be asked.


It is interesting to read what I wrote 12 months ago, so much has transpired in that time.  However I am still creating thread paintings and art quilts……recently I was reading a Lindsay Taylors book on her Textile Art journey(gorgeous work by this UK artist) and one thing that stood out for me was her comment on “the highs and lows of being a textile artist”.  I would echo her sentiments and add there is also a lot of hard slog in between the highs and lows!

My latest art quilt…..

img_20160924_130815-450-x-600Recently I was fortunate to win a Merit Award for a mini Art Quilt, and also at the recent Auckland Festival of Quilts I was able to redeem my prize; a voucher for some gorgeous hand made fabric from Mallee Textiles, thanks Catherine McDonald.  img_20161107_083722-600-x-450Although I liked the initial mini art quilt I knew the design needed to be developed further and that is what I have been working on.

Beginning with a single Peace Lily image I created another sample(small art quilt on left below), using raw edge applique, free machine quilting and a small amount of hand colouring. Satisfied with where this design was going I created a panel of three Peace Lilies, and changed a few details to fit a larger design.



However not content with this design I have pushed it in another direction completely and am excited by where it is taking me!  Here is the original drawing and the auditioning of fabric colours.  The process is a mix of part drawing the design and allowing the design to emerge, which always takes time.  It is ‘play time’, and to an observer this might appear a waste of time, however it is incredibly important and actually requires a lot of creative energy.  At the same time I have been reading about structure in design, there is much about my design process that is intuitive but I also recognise the importance of stepping back and considering my design objectively.  Structure in an artwork is important in that it helps to create unity; it is the bones, the skeleton, the underlying framework of the image.  The above image is a linear structure whereas the new work is circular, a mandala.img_20161109_141802-450-x-600

I never cease to be amazed how the subconscious works it way into consciousness through creativity; it is partly because of my training and work as an art therapist and because I experience it so often in my own work and others.  Recently on my walks I have been taking photos of a ‘weed flower’ and what appeals to me, apart from the white flower, is the circular structure of the flower head.  At the same time the circular structure is emerging in my latest art quilt design!  The mandala shape or structure is serving both a personal and aesthetic need at present for me.img_20161111_061444-450-x-600

The Four Seasons process…..


This isimg_0266-450-x-600 the photograph that inspired the original ‘Autumn Leaves’ and consequently the ‘All Four Seasons’ series, it was taken at the Melbourne Garden Show(thanks Sandy!) in 2012.  What I try to capture in my photographs is the ‘moment in time’ that my attention is caught by what I ‘see’. My artwork then becomes an opportunity to give voice to what I have been inspired by; in this case to portray the leaves and branches through line, shape, and colour. Beginning with a drawing I try to recapture the essence of what inspired me, simplifying as I draw, creating possibilities, stylising before settling on a design and then adding colour.





Creating a thread painting of the drawing adds another dimension, a tactile layer that also allows for another level of intuitive expression.


However in creating this series and exploring the seasons and their colours I have come to realise that there are many colours that could represent each season; we all have our own interpretations and personal connections to both the seasons and their colours.  Therefor the colours used to represent the seasons in this series are the ones that I have connected with at this point in time.


I loved seeing them completed, and on view in my hall.  After spending so much time on creating artworks it feels important – if possible- to spend a little time with them, however they have now been posted.  Bon vogage and enjoy your new home!