Sunday, 10 March 2019

Seriously? WOW 2019. I was not supposed to be doing this.

It seems a very long time since I’ve written anything here, although it also seems as though things never stop on my planet! The textile work last described, Dame Detritus, has this week been accepted for judging at the Wearable Art Mandurah event. I did my own photo shoot for the entry photos – as in me as photographer – normally that would be ok, but for some reason it just didn’t happen – a combination of camera and operator error! I felt so bad for the lovely girl who had agreed to model for me! (Random niece of old high school friend visiting from Canada)!! I’m still not going to show you pics as I would like to maintain a little mystery for the event! Anyhoo, the next step is to wrap DD up in cardboard and send her over to Mandurah, Western Australia - I’ll be trying my best to get around Australia Posts’ cubing rule!! At least I know they will do a fabulous photoshoot of her over there – SO amazing! It's such a valuable part of entering this.
After barely a week on the road, the Sturmpanzerwagen has already been employed as a wearable art carrier again! With only the headliner and carpet kick panels on the (unicorn skin) doors to fit, he is damn near complete. Going at the speed limit for once seems adequate – perhaps we have seen the last of my fast car speeding fines?! (But please be assured, I will still drag you off and WIN at traffic lights! Suckers!)
My driving view now. SO happy.
On Friday I packed up the two metal and plastic bodices for my WOW creations and headed off to TAFE to receive the sage advice and phenomenal skills of Carol Costa in creating the underlying bodysuits for these twin pieces. Magic. I can sleep well tonight! Some of you may have seen my tribute to her for this work on FaceBook – Carol to me is the unrecognised face of TAFE over all my many years of attendance there. In the face of programmes lauding ‘Higher Education principles’, I cannot say enough regarding the teaching of, and acknowledgment of, amazing practical skills. If you don’t have this, you have nothing. This is a teaching mode never to be repeated - I feel like I am one of the last products of a 'making' era.
My hands and forearms are brutalised from pop riveting plastic pieces onto my metal bases. I was kind of hoping it might make me stronger there? Whoever made this ridiculous tool which spans more than any human hands?! I would love to have at least four arms, as I hold the work in one hand, the tool engaged in the other, with only the chin left to complete the action. It seems as though I am on track to finish just in time!
This! Who the heck did you make this for?!!

I have to admit, I have also been buoyed by the release of the current (March 2019) publication of Textile Fibre Forum. Front cover and an 8 page spread – it ain’t too shabby! It’s a little bit of a ‘moment’ for the gal who grew up in the pre-internet age where this publication was the font of all textile knowledge!

As we approach the final fortnight before the WOW photoshoot, I am once again reminded, not by himself, of the tolerance Matt affords me in ignoring my daily mess. The studio he lovingly built me has become a storage area, currently not used, as the burning of plastic has required working on the deck, with a fan (but no mask - sorry to all my mother hens!) Wonderful as this situation has been, there have been moments where all has had to be abandoned as a tropical storm has swept through….. The dining table is covered in layouts, as is the lounge-room floor. The back deck is covered with boxes of plastic bottle pieces, paintbrushes, spray cans, tin snips and pop rivet guns. Sometimes I emerge from the bedroom in the mornings, look around, and wonder what the heck happened out here....
The hand of secrecy - sorry!
Lounge room floor
Dining table
 I really appreciate the excitement and support you all give me for my creations - it really lifts me. Thanks, and happy creating, my creatures!!

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Dame Detritus - working title.

This piece for WearableArt Mandurah began in response to their section themed 'Movement'. I envisioned ostrich feathers bouncing lightly in the breeze. A headpiece echoing the movement on an even larger scale with a delicate ‘boing’ of motion enhancing the movement of feathers with every body move. 
Nope. Was not going to happen. It was a topic I had approached enthusiastically and openly – perhaps too openly. I tried many sketches, decided ostrich feathers were indeed the perfect medium to convey movement, spent $120 on a massive bag of feather seconds, and countless hours stitching them into ordered rows onto tubular crinoline, before glueing, dyeing, and covering them. I pinned them to the base in a variety of ways – they just weren’t going to convey movement as I had hoped – it was looking more mis-shapen feather duster! So I changed my theme to Avant Garde instead, maintaining the feathers – still, it didn’t work. Finally, I had the courage to make a complete break from my original ideas, strip it back to its base, and start again - with no feathers, no movement, no goal in sight. Let the materials do the talking. 
I had a well constructed garment and headpiece base – let’s see where this can go.  Well my goodness, these ideas can lead you on a merry chase! And so, the Trash Goddess finally came together. A dress form evolving from a pattern made at TAFE (2014), modified to create Freyja (2017), modified again to create Beyond Chrysalis – Emergence(2018) , and now to create Dame Detritus. Cut from awning - blind material sourced from Reverse Garbage, (for stiffness), lined with a layer of wadding, then metallic foil fabric – to create a surface to stitch into. Covered with scraps of lace from a local bridal designer stitched together over the surface. The headpiece beginning from a discarded bicycle helmet found in curbside rubbish, lined, adorned with riveted aluminium strips to create structure. Plastic drink bottles had tops and bottoms removed, were ironed flat, then cut into shapes and distorted with a heat-gun before extra texture was added on some pieces with a glue gun, before being spray painted, then hand-painted with acrylic paint. Strips of black vinyl, again from Reverse Garbage, were cut and glued into guipure-lace-like swirls which created a focal point across the bodice, and around the garment. At this stage, the garment, now in control, asked “where to go from here?”
This is when the shibori pieces came into play. After an initial experimentation with the previously discarded organza shibori pieces from a potential WOW entry, I decided to try different colours, and experimented using organza leftovers from many previous works, such as my first WOW piece, (2 colours!) and my 2012 piece. Finally, I returned to the original black and silver pieces, integrating them into the work with acrylic paint. In a final tribute to the initial calico TAFE creation, the shibori pieces were stitched over the bodice in an organic trail as per the original, taking into account the vinyl ‘lace’, which had been glued together, stitched, amalgamated with gel medium, painted, and stitched to the bodice. With this done, it became apparent that more of the actual guipure lace was needed on top of the plastic pieces to help integrate it, and so a skirt hem was re-called from a very understanding friend!
To bring it all together, the guipure lace was brushed with acrylic paint in the same shades of mint, purple and gold, with pieces glued to the plastic ‘armour”. 

No StudioSvenja piece is complete without bling, so paillettes and flower sequins were sewn around the vinyl 'guipure' areas. Although I don't believe it is a requirement of WAM to keep our work hidden, out of respect to the show, I'm only showing snapshots for now. 
I found a pair of heels in my stash - second hand, but barely worn, which I stitched more shibori organza onto, and painted.
So here she is. The magnificent lady born of scraps. Since letting go of the driving factor of the ‘Movement’ theme, this has been a pretty wild journey – the first experience in a very long time of letting a piece drive itself via materials and aesthetics with no conceptual basis. It has been a challenge for me, as I have always held concept and research as essential tenets of good, true, and real design, and for once I found myself floundering at the hands of aesthetics alone. There was no research, no meaning, to find answers in when questions and directions were raised.
I count myself as blessed in having a stash of stuff to play with to find the answers – I have long been aware of the bonus of having sample pieces to experiment with – my studio is not just full of fabric, it is full of answers. I also credit my years of experience in making such works – I am never one to go against a gut feeling. After this amount of time in making things, I feel pretty secure in trusting my judgement as to what is right. Sometimes you have to stop pushing and let it go.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Offerings to the Magnificent Pizza Oven

*Warning - completely non-textile related blog-entry. Food lovers keep reading. *
After our family pizza gathering last weekend, Matt was inspired to try his bread making skills in the magnificent oven he built several years ago.
  The thing with the oven is – because he built it at restaurant scale, we can’t help but make the most of its capacious size! So, I tried a spiced honey glazed chicken, some roast pumpkin, capsicum, tomatoes, and smashed potatoes with rosemary.
Don't mind the kombi washer bottle  in the background!!

 I had some fillo pastry that needed using too, so with the apples leftover after making Peter Cundell’s cabbage salad, made a couple of strudels. I sliced one eggplant, and put the other in whole, to make baba ganoush this week.
What a feast! Everything was cooked perfectly, which is tricky enough in a standard oven, let alone this. The bread was fabulous – only a second attempt – and such a lovely, cake-like texture. A beautiful breeze cooled us on the deck whilst we ate the feast, and I stayed out there afterwards with my plastic bottle pieces and soldering iron - see, work was done!! A magnificent weekend of good work and fab food!!

Saturday, 29 December 2018

2018 in review

As the year draws to a close, I start wondering where it all went, and what I did with it. This is more for my own benefit than anyone-else’s, but some of you may enjoy my summary.
I began the year deconstructing my unsuccessful WOW entry, Aotearoa, into components, and working on a sample of the shoes for Matt’s medieval costume for the Abbey Festival.
Aotearoa reduced to rubble!
As usual, the first three months were largely occupied with making the 3 WOW entries, involving as usual, a high degree of intensive handwork including beading, before photographing and documenting them, and finally, packing off one.
Sadly, our chooky Sheena didn't make it any further into the year, 'falling off her perch' in March.
The other chooky Ginger didn't like being on her own, so now lives down the road with a gaggle of bantams (floofs!), and stays in regular touch on Facebook Messenger. Here is a selfie she sent me at Christmas, looking rather magnificent!

The second quarter of the year began with more deconstruction – this time of the wire armature of my 2014 WOW entry Isolda, who was transformed into Lichen Morphology. This was quite a time-consuming piece to make, as every piece of ‘lichen’ was created by wetting and ironing gummy silk fibres into organic circular shapes, dyeing and painting them, singeing the edges a little with a heat gun, free motion embroidering each one with hand dyed crochet thread in the bobbin, sewing on dyed and painted pieces of silk cocoon, before stitching onto the armature itself. All the hard work was rewarded though, when she won the major award of paper on skin in Burnie, Tasmania.
Before that, I managed a trip away with Jenelle, where we set off for a week of hilarity and relentless upz in the Dandenong Ranges.
On my return, I was invited to give the alumni address at the TAFE mid-year graduation.
The rest of June was filled with preparations for the Abbey Medieval Festival and making all the accoutrements for our outfits, as well as working on 3 different embroidered kaftan yokes.

 In August I continued working on the kombi, as well as branching out into a new field – acrylic painting on canvas – making a portrait of Matt as a gift for his 60th birthday in September.
That busy month began with a wonderful week in Caloundra, before our annual WOW/ Birthday/ Wedding Anniversary trip to Wellington, where there was much partying, as well as the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on wearable art hosted by the Australian Embassy, and a third place for my work, Coccinelle.

October was filled up with a lot of writing – my first application for an Artist Residency, result to be announced late January 2019, and another article for TEXTILE magazine, to be published 2019. It is amazing how long the process takes, from dredging up the actual facts and dates, to fashioning an engaging and effective article. Work continued on the kombi in November, and I was fortunate enough to have another wee holiday, this time accompanying Matt to Melbourne for a weekend, as well as dressing these two gals for Melbourne Cup.
At the beginning of December, I was again invited by TAFE to have three of my works modelled at the graduation parade, and the month continued with work on my entry for Wearable Art Mandurah, as well as a few other designs.
Yesterday, the kombi was unwrapped from it’s masking, as I decided not to cut and polish it, and all the extra bits are being bolted on – it’s getting a bit exciting!

Along the way there has been much time spent designing and making pieces that never came to fruition – yet.
Thanks for indulging me in my justification of the year, I think I’m feeling okay about it. Add into it the many social events with the people I enjoy spending time with, and it’s been pretty fabulous. See you next year, thank you all for your support and inspiration – you know who you are!! XXX

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Dress Code - an MoB Exhibition

Today I ventured into the city to attend the curator's tour of Dress Code, an exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane. It's always a bit of a weird trip down memory lane going there, as I was a part of the MoB Store team when both it and the gallery were being created in 2003! 
Comprised of the work of 5 artists, 2 in particular resonated with me. The first was Hannah Gartside's installation of repurposed animal-print clothes and scarves, hauntingly wafting in the breeze created by three mini-fans. I liked it. It made sense to me. It pleased my eye.
My eye was also very pleased by the work of Grace Lillian Lee. In a small room, these five wearable works rested, whilst a video of them created an atmosphere with sound and imagery of the pieces being worn. Fascinated by the colour and texture of the work, it was not until I was taking photos that I really appreciated the effect of the shadows as well.

The technique to make the pieces was referred to as weaving, which confounded me - it looked like a wrapped/stitched/shibori type technique! Weaving?! I think the curator referred to it as 'caterpillar' weaving, but searches this afternoon have thrown up the term 'prawn' weaving, a traditional Torres Strait Islander palm weaving technique. I have only just begun my investigations! The tight and sinuous structure reminds me of the work of R.R.Pascoe, an Australian designer I have met at the World of WearableArt over the last few years, who uses hemp braid to create these award-winning sculptural works.
Mollusca, 2017,  International Award, Australia and Pacific

Absinthium, 2018, International Award, Australia and Pacific
Back to the studio for me tomorrow, perhaps even a little more stitching tonight!