Looking forward – looking back

First, looking back. Today is the last day of the year and this day is always tinged with sadness for me, as it is the anniversary of my mother’s death – seven years ago now. I have been feeling restless and annoyed that I am not producing anything, while at the same time whining endlessly about not having time to do anything. So today I resolved to make a small piece in the style of Lesley Riley’s fragments to honour my mother.
I wanted to use some of the rust dyeing I have done recently -so used a piece of silk organza and some wide silk ribbon that I quickly rusted up. I transferred a favourite photo of her aged about 3, with teddy, using solvent, onto some smooth shiny fabric to get a clear print. Then I had to decide what fabrics to put with it. One of the limitations of rust dyeing is that it is orange – no two ways about it. I had previously paired some rust dyes with blue, the complement of orange, but didn’t want to use blue in this piece, so was scratching my head, when my eye fell upon an article by Lesley Riley in a recent CPS on rust dyeing. She had done a piece in rust dyes, purple and aqua and I suddenly realised I should have been thinking of a triadic colour scheme – which would give me much more scope.
So, I rummaged in the scrap bag and quickly found some pieces. I had a beautiful piece of lace that I was determined to use, but alas no matter what I did it just didn’t seem to work. In the end I discarded it in favour of the scallop trim which seemed to fit better. Along the bottom are five little flowers cut out of copper tissue with one of those little stamper cutter thingies you get in scrapbooking stores. On to the rust dyed ribbon I transferred her family motto ‘”to the valiant heart, nothing is impossible”. In retrospect, I should have used a slightly larger font, but it does invite the viewer to move in close to read it. All in all, I am happy with this piece, and glad I just told myself to ‘do it’ and stop procrastinating.

As for looking forward – I plan to take more of the ‘just get on with it’ approach in the coming year. I am signed up for Liz Berg’s class and she has a good line in just do it, work quickly, produce the work. I also have realised I have to accept Rayna Gillman’s sage advise to accept the crap quota. Apart from a tendency to over analyse, I also tend not to want to start something until I am sure I am going to get it exactly right. This is a terrible trap, because of course half the time I don’t start, and when I do, and the end result is not perfect, I get very despondent. Rayna’s advice is accept that there will always be a crap quota – do the work – lots of it – sift through the crap and find the gems – the more you do, the more gems you’ll get.

So – that’s what I will try and do more of in 2008 – and if you hear me starting to whine about not having enough time, feel free to give me a very sound telling off.

Happy New Year


Book review

I just love books, they are always a main feature of my birthday/Christmas gifts. One I received this year is Alysn Midgelow-Marsden’s new book on working with metals. I settled down with a cuppa to enjoy it and was immediately alarmed to read the dedication “I would like to acknowledgement the many people…..” – oh dear, I thought, that doesn’t augur well for proof-reading.
With advances in technology, self-published books are becoming more popular, and are particularly noticeable in the textile art world (well, that’s the one I inhabit, so that is what I have noticed – for all I know they are all the rage with the antique toy train collector set too). There is nothing wrong with self-published books per se, but it is important that basic standards aren’t disregarded in the process. In my view, that is what has happened with this book.
Basic proof-reading would have picked up straightforward typographical errors, including the one noted above. The author needs reporting to the apostrophe protection society – apart from two very doubtful instances on the cover there is a real clanger at the top of page 8, and assorted other superfluous examples. Like Joan, I found the conceit of using lines from Shakespeare’s sonnets (real, or imagined) highly irritating – it adds nothing.
Most of all the book would have benefited from the attention of a good editor. Some of the sentences are so long, and syntax so tortured I had to re-read them several times to understand what was being said. A good editor would also have known to use ‘complement’ instead of ‘compliment’, and someone with an eye for design and layout would have provided the much needed white space that Joan points out is missing. The book lacks a tight, logical structure. If you are new to using metals in textile work, this will be a confusing introduction. Copper curls are mentioned on page nine – in bold letters – I have no idea why, but aren’t illustrated until page 34.
Not all the pictures are captioned, so you aren’t always sure what you are looking at. I particularly noticed the lack of a suppliers list at the back – something commonly found in most books of this type. The only supplier mentioned is an English based company called Art Van Go, which I have heard of. But this is little use to Australian/NZ or North American readers, who, I am sure, would have appreciated a supplier in their neck of the woods. Then I realised that the book, which written by AMM is ‘in conjunction with’ the owner of Art Van Go.
On the positive side, I enjoyed being introduced to the work of other artists in the medium who I had not encountered before, and a couple of the resolved pieces appealed, partcularly the one called ‘on sea’s rich gems’. On balance, however, I didn’t feel that I got anymore from this book than I already had from Maggie Grey’s “Paper, Metal, Stitch” which suffers from none of the aforementioned shortcomings.

Christmas treats – and turkey dyed fabric

The smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns heralds Christmas morning at our house – it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them! Except my girls have never been partial to cinnamon, so I make one batch with a rich chocolate filling – they disappear so fast, you wouldn’t believe it!
Later in the day we have more traditional fare – which for us, means turkey. Except I can’t be bothered with a whole turkey, so just cook a whole breast on the bone. This year I stumbled across advice from Stephanie Alexander, a renowned Australian chef and author, on how to cook the perfect turkey. You wet some cheesecloth and soak it in a herbed butter mixture, then wrap the turkey. Bake for 30 mins per kg and rest for half an hour before removing the cloth. Here is what it looks like straight out of the oven. Thos wrinkles are the cloth.
When you peel it off, you have a beautifully cooked turkey – no basting!! I did keep adding a cup of water to the pan (the turkey was sitting on a rack), to stop the juices burning, and I ended up with a beautiful thick rich turkey flavoured jelly, after I had drained off the fat. That went into the gravy. So, very successful, and it kept the oven clean as there was no spattering like you get when you baste.
I washed the cloth to see it if would keep the gorgeous mahogany coloured marks, and it did, but the cloth disintegrated. Shame – I thought I might have discovered turkey dyeing to complement my rust dyeing!

Merry Christmas – and first anniversay

It is one year today since I started my blog – on Christmas Eve – why wasn’t I stuffing a turkey or making mince pies?? I can’t do either of those things today as I have to go work, unfortunately, so it will be a mad rush this evening to get things done. Never mind. Thank you to everyone who has visited and left comments – I don’t have one of those counter thingies, so have no idea how many of you are out there, although I suspect, like me, there are lurkers who visit regularly but don’t leave messages. It has been fun becoming part of blogland – I will try and post more consistently next year, although I have averaged one a week, but need to do better, I know. I’ll start thinking about new year’s resolutions later in the week – for now, if you celebrate Christmas, have a peaceful one with family and friends. I have my three girls home this year, which is lovely (albeit noisy!).

Isn’t this postcard fun? I got it at the Melbourne Museum on my recent visit – one of those freebies. I like the ‘delightfully poised and all set for fun’ caption -she looks like she is determined to go out and party. Here is a link to the blog of the talented creator, Tamsin Ainslie.

Back from Melbourne

Here is Clare, the proud graduand with her Dad (the rusty fish maker). I have to say the ceremony was horrendous – they graduated the whole university and TAFE in one mega-ceremony at the Telstra dome – 30,000 people were there, it was ghastly – completely lacked the intimacy and appeal of other graduation ceremonies I have attended. But never mind, she was one happy little girl and as soon as she got her award we got the hell out of there as we had already been there three hours at that stage and the end wasn’t anywhere in sight.

The next day we visited St Patrick’s cathedral in Melbourne – a great gothic building in the centre of the city – Clare and her fiancee Luke are getting married there in just over a year. Very impressive.

Then the next day we spent the whole day at the Melbourne Museum – I hadn’t been before, and was very impressed. Lots of really interesting exhibits. As soon as we walked in the door we saw this – a giant, non-rusty fish! Apparently these were part of the opening (or maybe closing) ceremony for the Commonwealth games held in Melbourne last year.

We also saw this interesting collection of various types of barbed wire

I had no idea it came in so many varieties – wouldn’t these make a great inspiration for interpreting in stitches? If you have been following TAST on Sharron B’s blog, you could try applying some of your new found skills to these!
Couldn’t resist a photo of this – some wag at the Museum decided to get the pet dinasour into a festive mood!

Happy birthday to me – look what I got!

Just had to show you what I got for my birthday from my husband – rusty fish!!
There can’t be too many women in the world who would be thrilled if their husband gave them something made from recycled rusty tin cans – I guess that’s why textile artists are special!!
And check out the ingenious birthday tag – he has been making spatulas for christmas presents, and this is a bit of left over nicely polished wood that he – not sure of the right verb here – embossed? Anyway, took individual letters in cast metal and whacked them hard with a whacking tool. Clever, huh??
I haven’t got time to put the fish out on fabric to rust before we have to leave for the airport – will do it when we get back on Saturday.

Off to Melbourne tomorrow

Tomorrow is my birthday, and, even better, the day our youngest daughter graduates from RMIT. She has been studying photography – check out her website here – not bad for a 20 year old who upped and moved away from home at 18 – a thoroughly indepedent Miss — and if you live in Melbourne and want someone with personality plus to photograph your kids, pets or wedding – give her a call.
My favourite part of my birthday is my telephone call from my dear friend Gay, – we became firm friends fifteen years ago (OMG – can it be that long?) when my family was living in Virginia for three years while my husband was with the Aust embassy. Gay and her husband have now retired to North Carolina. And speaking of Gay, here are a couple of gorgeous postcards she made for me

At the beginning of the year we made a pact that we would make a journal quilt each month, then make a postcard size interpretation of it to exchange with each other. Oh dear – I only managed one (January), and Gay managed two (Jan and Feb). What happened? I do think one of my big problems is simply DOING stuff. I spend too much time thinking about it first, and then run out of time to DO.
For my birthday present, I have signed up to do Liz Berg’s online course on the Elements and Principles of design. I love Liz’s work, and she had a series of great articles on design in QA a while back.
I also love Melody Johnson work at Fibermania . Check out her great tutorial on making stacked, fused quilts. This looks like more fun that should be legal. I plan on giving this a go over the Christmas/New Year break.
And finally, I am not having much luck with my Pay it forward challenge. It is gratifying to find that other people do actually read my blog – thank you, but worrying that they don’t want to put their name down to participate. Trouble is, I feel an obligation now to PIF – I have in my hands a lovely gift from Gunnel, and the deal was that I pass it on – if no-one signs up, how can I? If you are worried about over committing, think of this – the deal is that if you sign up, I have up to 365 days to send you something – and it follows that you then have up to 365 days from receipt to PIF – that gives a window of opportunity of up to 2 years!! Surely you can find time to do something – and you don’t even have to make something specially – it can be something you already made! So come on guys, help me out here and let me salve my conscience by signing up so I now longer feel I am in debt. If that doesn’t work, I guess I will just have to send Gunnel something back, so I don’t feel guilty anymore!
And speaking of Gunnel – check out the cool stamps that came on her envelope! Those Swedes have got it right – hot chocolate with cream and …more chocolate – with cream – what a civilised country!

Now it’s my turn to….

Pay it forward. Here is the deal:
“I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.”

I responded to the same call on the lovely Gunnel’s blog, and look what the postman brought me:

So, if you want too keep it going be one of the first three to leave a comment and I promise I will send you something special I have made – I have no idea what yet, but I sure do know it won’t get there in time for this Christmas! …..but it will definitely get there before next!!! Now I suppose I will get to find out if anyone other than Doreen actually reads my blog !!

It’s beginning to look a lot like…..

Christmas! In my family, from when I was a little girl, the Christmas tree gets put up on the weekend before my birthday – so, here it is. Step 1: Assemble tree, adding lights as you go, so you can get them right into the centre of the tree, not just looped around the outside.
Then add strings of beads and a wide, wire edged ribbon
then the candles in their little holders
Here is a close up of thoseWe never actually light these, of course! although we did know some crazy Canadians once who used to light theirs – and on a real pine tree – just for a few minutes each Christmas eve, then turn off all the lights in the house to appreciate it. Given that Christmas is right in the middle of our bushfire season, I don’t think any Ozzies should try that at home!
Next come the decorations – a host of heavenly angels to keep watch over us
Then come the precious handmade ornaments from dear friends and my mother
And finally, a star to light the way.
And here it is all finished