A “Stitched Up” surprise and completion…..

The ‘Stitched Up’ project continued to surprise me right up to posting the artworks to Newcastle, Australia, last week.  While working on pulling the artwork together I had many discussions with my husband about which images to include in the final piece – but I couldn’t leave any out.  The final artwork felt dense with imagery and story and  the surprise was that I felt compelled to create another image about the sisters – a more focussed and simple -yet still complex!- response to their time at the School.

The first artwork I titled “Layers, Labels and Paper Dolls – The Story” and the second one is titled “Layers, Labels and Paper Dolls – The Confusion”.   There are so many layers to the story of these girls, so many layers to the research, and many layers of fabric used in the construction of the artworks.  I took the title(label) that was given to the sisters by the original researcher, Jane Ison, of The Most Confusing research, and focussed on ‘Labels’ and ‘Confusion’. There certainly appears to be much confusion around the Young sisters, mostly due to inaccurate records being kept. Confusion around lack of clarity regarding arrests, around accurate birth dates, around accurate names and which of the sisters actually attended the school.

Paralleling the confusing research I wanted to explore the confusion that the sisters may have felt about the circumstances and challenges they faced in their young lives.  One of the definitions of ‘confusion’ that seemed appropriate to these girls was: “a situation in which people do not understand what is happening, what they should do or who someone or something is…” (Google) How do children/teenagers make sense of their world if they do not have responsible adults/ authorities to guide them?  In this sense they have been betrayed by the adults in their lives.

The second artwork came together relatively quickly and easily – and I loved the hand stitching! Not only many layers of fabric but many ways of ‘Stitched Up’!  It has been a most fascinating project……

In fact I even entertained brief thoughts about creating a series of artworks about the sisters……but at this point in time I cannot give those thoughts head space!


‘Stitched Up’ progress report….

The deadline for the ‘Stitched Up’ exhibition is drawing near and I have been busy pulling together all the images I’ve created.  Creating the images has been the easy task – pulling them together into a cohesive artwork has been more difficult.  Perhaps this parallels with the challenges of the original researcher encountered in unearthing the stories of the girls who attended the Newcastle Industrial School!

As mentioned in a previous post on this exhibition, my original concept was to use the ‘paper doll’, a childhood toy, as a symbol of childhood; of fun, of playfulness, of imaginary worlds.  Yet the clothes to dress the ‘paper doll’ in this artwork symbolize either domestic service or the garments made by the girls for the ‘well to do’ and speak of the freedom of childhood perhaps not experienced.   A childhood that appears to have had many labels attached; poor, destitute, impoverished, vulnerable, convicts daughter, drunkards daughter, brothel owners daughter, inmate…to name a few.  It has been difficult for me to ascertain exactly what the Young sisters were arrested for,- was it because their mother was unable to care for them?  In fact the four Young sisters first came to the attention of the authorities on 31st July 1867, they “appeared on the list of children at risk” (Wikidot.com) According to the same research “no reports of the arrest of any of the sisters appear in the NSW Police Gazette” but “newspapers report the arrest of two sisters in Sydney” and these two sisters have been identified as two of the Young sisters.  They “had been arrested in Sydney by Sergeant Goldrick, who stated that they had come to him at the Central…and that they wished to give themselves up in order to be sent to Newcastle”.  They also stated they had no parents and had been sleeping at the racecourse.  In checking their story the truth was revealed that they had been ‘in service’ and had run away. The two sisters arrived at the Industrial School in January 1870.

From what I read they were apprenticed to domestic service a number of times but plans fell through each time.   It appears that the sisters I have chosen to focus on have had a somewhat different journey to other girls from the school.  The records suggest that the girls gave themselves over to the police and requested to be sent to the Newcastle Industrial School.  Was home life so tough that they were looking for something better??? One of the sisters married illegally – under age – without the consent of parents.  Was this another attempt to escape ….

Both sisters went on to marry, have children and live to old age.  Charlotte’s obituary records her as Charlotte Elizabeth – an interesting fact considering the confusion over whether it was Charlotte or Elizabeth who attended the school.  It also records that “she was unselfish, active in the Labour movement and a worker for the relief of the poor.”

A fascinating project that has kept me busy for many hours, stretched me out of my comfort zone and taught me a great deal.

On Holidays, and Travelling Art Quilts…..

Much has happened since I last wrote my last blog; my art quilt “An Ode to OZ Flora” was accepted as a finalist for the Australasian Quilt Convention challenge – “Made in Australia Flora and Fauna (see my blog from 11th Feb 2017 to read about the story behind the art quilt) and will become a travelling art quilt. We have also had a much anticipated(especially the children!) holiday to Australia.

The Australasian Quilting Convention premiered in Melbourne from the 20-23 April 2017 but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get to the exhibition. However I am hoping that at some stage I will get to see the Challenge exhibition in NZ; apparently it will travel to various venues across Australia and NZ and also includes a trip to Mexico at the beginning of next year.   If you haven’t clicked on to the AQC website and had a look at the 30 successful art quilt entries, they are worth checking out….and enjoy the variety of theme interpretation by the Textile Artists and Art Quilters . The theme could be interpreted using flora or fauna or  include both.  If you do check out the art quilts let me know what you think.

Much of our holiday was spent catching up with friends and family, however I did manage to find time to photograph inspiration for my solo exhibition in September this year.  I have been working towards this exhibition, titled “Natures Exuberance” but it  was a bonus to get a little inspiration injection to keep the creative juices going….

So the holidays are over and it is time to get back to work.  This term promises to be busy with continuing to work towards group exhibitions and my solo exhibition, teaching workshops, and generally getting down to business….

In my next blog I might share some of the inspiration collected from my holiday but I will finish off this blog with some glorious sunrise and sunset images that we enjoyed on our holiday….just to keep the holiday feeling going a bit longer…..














“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…..

‘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.

Whats new? The current NZ Quilter magazine….

After several weeks of ill health I am finally feeling ready to face the world so took myself out and bought the current NZ Quilter magazine.  It is a beautifully presented, glossy and colourful magazine and I am sad and disappointed to learn that the magazine will cease to be published once it reaches the 100th issue.  The current issue is No 97, so only three more issues to go….img_20161019_155022-600-x-450 Inside the current issue is an article on the NZ entries to the 2016 World Quilt Competition XX called “A Celebration of Colour”, written by Anne Scott.  I am delighted to see a photograph of my quilt in the magazine…..img_20161019_084559-450-x-600The diversity of the quilts representing NZ is wonderful to see.  One day it would be amazing to see the World Quilt Competition and exhibition!  Just to recap: here are some images of the journey in creating “Dancing Kangaroo Paws”….FullSizeRender (58)20160106_200959 (600 x 450)IMG_1343 (1)20160516_113740 (600 x 450)20160622_120021 (600 x 450)

Visiting and viewing the ‘Yellow’ and ‘Floral’ Quilt challenge….

Here I am shaking Catherine McDonalds(from Mallee Textiles) hand and receiving  my prize, after visiting and viewing the Aotearoa Quilters ‘Yellow’ and ‘Floral’ Challenges at the Auckland Flower and Orchid Show last weekend. Catherine donated the prize I received and I am excited to be receiving some of her beautiful hand dyed fabrics – thank you.  In the background you can just see two of the three mini quilts I entered – the ‘Peace Lily’ and the ‘Ginger Flower’.  The third quilt; the ‘Calla Lily’, had sold and gone to its new home.img_20160924_153746-600-x-450

What a wonderful variety of work was on display in the two exhibitions, and the Orchid and Flower Show was also stunning; the colour, the variety, the scent…it was all a visual feast.  Here are a few of the many photos I took of the Orchids.  The designs and markings in these flowers are wonderful and very inspiring.img_20160924_130542-600-x-450


‘Dancing Kangaroo Paws’ Art Quilt off to the States…..

Great news to end the week and begin the long weekend with – my art quilt ‘Dancing Kangaroo Paws’ has been accepted into the 2016 World Quilt Competition in the USA! In a few weeks time it will be off on a journey to at least four different venues across the States and be away from home for approx 7 months.FullSizeRender (2)

On having a stall at HAN(Hunter Arts Network) Art Bazaar

Last Sunday(13th Sept) the Hunter Arts Network had one of their three per year Art Bazaars at Morpeth, a lovely little art/craft village on the river in the Hunter Valley.  A very picturesque little village, a destination to visit for a long lunch and a stroll through the boutique shops.  It was a stunningly gorgeous spring day, in a beautiful setting and the first time Art Bazaar has been at Morpeth.

One of the most delightful aspects of having a stall at the Art Bazaar is the people I get to meet, and the conversations I have with strangers or regular Art Bazaar followers.  It is, of course, always wonderful to make sales but I also appreciate thoughtful feedback on my work.  As an artist I work quietly away in my studio, so an opportunity to present my work, get some feedback and meet interesting people is always good for helping me work towards developing as an artist.  20150913_093020photo (79)


And meet Max, our friendly pirate…actually he is our HAN Acting President….but you have to agree he makes a dashing figure as a pirate!!20150913_094857

Exciting News….”‘Leafy’ Sea Dragon” wins 3rd place in World Quilt Competition!

Today I feel completely humbled but also incredibly excited by the news that my art quilt “‘Leafy’ Sea Dragon” has taken out third place in the Innovative Section of the World Quilt Competition in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA.  Humbled because I cannot imagine the challenging job of being a judge!  I have no doubt that there are many stunning quilts in the exhibition and it would be wonderful to be able to see them.  Alas not this year!

Many, many hours were spent in the making of this quilt, it is the largest hand coloured wholecloth quilt I have created.  As an artist I spend many hours alone creating and today has been a lovely day of sharing with family and friends and receiving some lovely heartfelt feedback.  Thank you to all my family and friends who support me on this creative journey.photo (36)photo (38)

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