Reflections, 2017…. a year of challenges

Reflections and looking forward to 2018…..After all it is that time of year for reflection and forward looking….In writing this blog I realise how much the word ‘challenge’ has figured in my year.The last few weeks have seen us exploring some of the wonderful scenery of the Bay of Plenty and Tongariro National Park.  Not only has it given me reflecting time but also lots of inspiration.In sorting through and filing my photographs I see many landscape images that inspire me so I suspect there will be landscape artworks emerging.  Maybe it is lining up with the fact that I am teaching a ‘Linear Landscapes’ thread painting workshop at the ANZEG National conference in July this year.‘Reflections’ – before I get too far ahead  into 2018 I need to reflect on 2017…….it was a big year creatively, beginning the year with a continuation of work towards a solo exhibition in September at Timeless Textiles, Newcastle, Australia. A solo exhibition in itself is a huge commitment of time and energy, but it is also a wonderful time of immersing oneself in the theme. I also find that the more I create, the more inspiration and ideas I get; in Maya Angelou’s words “You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.”

But alongside working towards the exhibition were other projects and challenges.  In January my Art quilt “Peace by Piece” was included in the Blessington Quilt “Secret Dreams” challenge and was exhibited in Brisbane.  Then in February “An Ode to Oz Flora” was accepted as a finalist in the AQC Flora and Fauna travelling exhibition, which then toured in both Australia and NZ.

Next on the agenda was working towards the “Stitched Up” invitational exhibition. This wonderful exhibition stretched me way outside my comfort zone and saw me working in a very different way; using words, figures and clothing as motifs in the artworks.  

The resulting two artworks were titled “Layers, Labels and Paper Dolls 1 & 2.  No 1 which had the sub-title ‘The Story’ went on to be exhibited at the 2017 NZ Quilting Symposium in Christchurch.

No 2 subtitled ‘The Confusion’ was accepted along with ‘Dancing Kangaroo Paws’ into  the 2017 Art Quilts Australia exhibition held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launcestion.

Smaller challenges were completed in and around the bigger challenges and exhibitions – I also entered small quilts into the Aotearoa Quilters ‘Fragile’ and ‘Orange’ challenges and an embroidery in to ANZEG’s ‘Outrageous Orange’ challenge.  The orange challenges also took me outside my comfort zone; it is not a colour that I have previously chosen to use as a dominant colour but what a great opportunity to explore and achieve a level of comfort with this wonderful colour. 

Phew…no wonder I felt exhausted at the end of the year and needed some time out!   I’m also thinking that I need end the  “reflections’ for 2017 and the looking forward to 2018 will be the next blog…..so till then.

 

Post exhibition thoughts on ‘Natures Exuberance’……

Last week my exhibition “Natures Exuberance” opened at Timeless Textiles in Newcastle, Australia – it was the culmination of many, many months of work. As the exhibition was being hung I could see my creative journey over the last two years documented in the work and it was a special time of reflection mixed with feelings of excitement and nervousness. Fortunately the art work was hung by Anne Kempton(Timeless Textiles) and a helper, Cathy – the decisions taken out of my hands as to where to hang – a relief!

Recently I shared TextileArtist.org’s FB post “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties” Erich Fromm, with the question “Is courage a vital part of creativity?”  My response is “Most definitely!”

Its one thing to spend my days squirreled away in my studio creating, and quite another to create a body of work and hold a solo exhibition; it requires courage to let go of certainties.  There are many uncertainties – will the work hang together as a cohesive collection, how will it be received, will anyone come to the opening, etc., but there is also a sense of excitement and anticipation that builds as the opening date looms closer.

Opening night saw me there early, the work was hung; I could do no more but enjoy the night and the people who chose to come.  Some are friends who come to support me, others I meet on the night…. Anne officially opened the exhibition and I spent my evening talking to people about my work.  It was a lovely evening and I enjoyed talking to those who had a desire to know more about my work, my inspiration, and my technique.

 

The gallery, Timeless textiles, is a lovely heritage building and some features of the buildings  worked beautifully with my work, for example the gorgeous fireplaces.  The exhibition runs till the 8th Oct 2017.

 

Natures Exuberance…an exhibition….

Several years ago I booked an exhibition at Timeless Textiles, (Newcastle, Australia), and a little over a year and a half ago I titled it “Natures Exuberance” Why?  Because I am constantly being confronted and inspired by the wonder of the natural world and natures ability to assert itself.  My mantra in the last few years seems to have been about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.  In living such busy lives we filter out much of the natural environment around us, unconsciously filing it in our minds as ordinary and unremarkable.  Sometimes we need to take the time to stop and experience the amazing natural world we live in.

I have just finished reading Hugh MacKays (Australian Social Researcher and Author) book “What makes us Tick?  A wonderfully insightful book and I love that in one of the chapters he discusses our basic human need to be not only connected to ourselves and to each other but also to nature.  I know that if I take the time and wander in the bush or reserve near my home or even spend time pottering in the garden it re-centres my world and there would be very few times that I wouldn’t find something inspiring.

In a recent conversation with my husband I remarked that it would be completely feasible for me to stage several exhibitions with the same title because the inspiration is almost limitless.  This exhibition is a very minute sample of natures exuberance.  In two ways this exhibition showcases the way I work; in content and in technique.  Technique by showcasing my ability to draw with my sewing machine in both thread paintings and art quilts.  In theme; by the way I work, reducing the subject matter to its simplest form before expanding it out again, often using artistic licence to creatively re-imagine the subject.  In working towards this exhibition I have been using colour, pattern, line and structure to portray the exuberance, the vitality, energy, richness and luxuriance of what I observe or have observed around me.

“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…..

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

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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.

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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!

 

‘All Four Seasons’…a commission….

For the past few months I have been working on a delightful commission – a series of four thread paintings depicting the four seasons.  There is a lovely back story to these commissions.  IMG_20160817_142935 (600 x 450)Originally I was contacted re purchasing a thread painting called ‘Autumn Leaves’ but as it had sold we discussed creating a similar one as a commission.  I said I would email a photo of the completed artwork to make sure she was happy with the image; “no need, surprise me” was the response.  Well my inner muse had her way and ‘Winter Gold’ surprised even me.  So I sent an email and photo anyway, and gave the option of trying again for the autumn colours if need be.

Her reply was very moving; I never cease to be amazed at the power of art…… “The ‘Winter Leaves’ (which I have since renamed ‘Winter Gold’) are gorgeous, and it leads me into Vivaldi’s Four Seasons when I see this piece together with the ‘Autumn Leaves’.      I was married 25 years ago to Vivaldi’s Spring, and your creations evoke emotion and flooding memories.”     This thread painting set of four seasons are an acknowledgement of 25 years of marriage, and I think celebrating seasons as an acknowledgement of a significant anniversary is quite apt; there are ‘seasonal’ cycles in nature, relationships and life.

So….four thread paintings later and “All Four Seasons” are complete and ready to post.  The following images are partial images of either the work in progress or the finished artwork.

“Summer Verdancy”

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“Autumn Rustling”

 

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“Winter Gold”

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“Spring Blush”

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‘Spring Bursts’…..into a thread painting….

Here’s a peek at my ‘Spring Burst’ thread painting.img_20160910_073249-450-x-600

Winter Blues finished…..

imageEarlier in the year I began this image, one in a series of four depicting this leaf design but using colour and pattern to express the season.  I began the thread painting but it got put aside for more pressing matters such as finding a home.  Recently, after a very wet spell of several weeks I picked it up again to finish. It seemed appropriate to call it Winter Blues because I find constant wet bleak days difficult.  However today it is complete…..and spring is all around us with colour and new life…..

Winter Blues 2 (347 x 600)Oh and check out my gallery pages -I have been spending a little time updating images into my portfolio…well past time!

‘Winter Leaves’

IMG_20160817_142935 (600 x 450)Work this week has seen the completion of a new thread painting and it is interesting to sit back and contemplate what conscious and subconscious influences have been at play while creating.  I was trying to use greens/pink/lemons as the colour scheme but kept being drawn to these burnt reds, browns and yellow colours – I wonder why?  The obvious conclusion is that I have been heavily influenced working on the 12′ x 12′ Yellow challenge, which saw me using the colour yellow as an autumn colour.  IMG_20160822_112607 (600 x 450)

 

 

 

However when I finished this thread painting I realised the colours aren’t neccessarily autumn colours but rather winter colours and I thought of the trees in my street that I drive or walk past everyday.  Although they are deciduous trees many of them still have many brown leaves attached – this is the subtle and subconscious influences at work.

IMG_20160823_082546 (450 x 600)So here is the finished ‘Winter Leaves’ thread painting…..Winter Leaves (257 x 600)I am not ordinarily a lover of the colour brown but I do really like the colour combinations in this thread painting.IMG_20160822_125706 (450 x 600)