Sunday, 7 February 2021

Life slowed down

 I think this has been one of the least active years for my blog posting - with no travels to incorporate, and some trying times in the studio, there hasn't
always been a lot of fun stuff to share. Not that there is any great news now - I am bogged down in gallery applications and the tedium of finishing, framing, and photographing work in order to promote it. The making of this body of work has been an interesting journey, which I brought to a partial close today as I put away the rack of fabrics I had hanging up for use in exhibition pieces. In tidying up, I have pushed it one step further away, and hopefully created room for new work to begin percolating in. Clearing space is important, as I have been feeling a little overwhelmed with the amount of 'stuff' I have, and am supremely conscious of making more 'stuff' - where is it all to go? This has been further compounded by works returning home from the World of WearableArt Museum - with more to come later this year! The large box to the left is clogging up the entrance to StudioSvenja! I no longer op-shop, nor go to Reverse Garbage unless I have a specific need, and felt I was quite brutal in some of my decisions today - perhaps driven by the heat?

However, it was worth it, as I now have a clean desk and floor in the studio, and a little more room sans fabric rack. Yet the office is filled with stacked works waiting to be seen, and I continue to work on the more sculptural and installation pieces. They have been the most elusive for me, as they require a level of abstraction which is certainly challenging me. Above the stack of paneled work are my most recent works - moulded leather on a wire base for hanging as-is on the wall, as yet unpainted. I still haven't found the perfect way to convey the lushness and solidity of fresh kelp hanging on the racks without simply trying to re-create it. 

A little detail of one of my mossy works.
Spirits were also lifted this week with a Peking Duck lunch with Lyn Baxter and Sharyn Hall - mates from the early days of the QLD branch ATASDA (Australian Textile Art and Surface Design Association). There's nothing like connecting with those who understand the creative mind and who can relate to the sometimes elusive search for artistic mojo.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

One year on from King Island

One year ago I was packing my duffel bag full of not much (15kg limit) to head to King Island on my very first Artist Residency. Since my return, every day has been touched with the memories of this unique place, as I scroll through photos, draw designs, dye and stitch, trying to capture the essence of the place in my works. As the year closes, I reflect on the work that I’ve created – nearly a full exhibition’s worth. The challenge now is to find venues to exhibit in – I do hope I get to share my creations soon.

I currently have about forty works - mostly panels featuring dyed silk, satin, free-motion embroidery work and leather, as well as some paintings. I'm on the cusp of working out some special sculpture/installation pieces - I hope - they just haven't been able to make their way through my brain until other pieces were done. Here's a sneak peek of one of my favourites - moulded and painted leather on a dyed and stitched background. So much of this has been about capturing the sense of movement left behind on the shoreline, and I think I can see it here.

I would love to have the opportunity to participate in an experience like this again, and I treasure my King Island adventure memories

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Painting Process

 A while ago I started this acrylic painting of a photo of kelp I took during my time on King Island in December last year. I have many such images, of almost abstract-quality due to the cropping of the image and the movement it contains within. They don’t lend themselves so well to expression in textile, but I do love them, so I thought I’d try and paint them. Slightly terrifying, having only done a very limited amount of painting before. However, I needed an activity to keep me busy whilst I kept an eye on the new kittens, and I could do this on the verandah with them, so I began. 

I quite liked the light, watercolour look of the first step, but knew that I wanted to create the depth of colour in the photographic image. All went well for a while, with pleasant afternoons spent listening to music, sipping bubbles, adoring the cats, and painting. 

As the layers started to build up, I started to become frustrated with how quickly the paint would dry, both on the canvas and on the palette, as I was wanting to create some soft, blended effects. I decided to invest in Golden Open acrylics, although concerned that the problem lay more in my ability than the paint. They are delicious, and especially with the transparent ones, I can see my next painting being built up in quite a different way – however, I need to finish this one first. 
After a lie down to prepare myself, I went down to the studio (it’s getting too hot on the verandah) and returned to the old acrylics to get the job done. A couple of hours later I was pleased with the way it had all come together – enough to share. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I feel like it’s in a much better place and on the road to completion. I’m looking forward to beginning some others with my new knowledge and paints!

The printed photo in my King Island photo collection.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Botanical drawing and memories of WOW

Last time I wrote, I was about to start my botanical drawing workshop. 3 weeks in and we’ve covered drawing in graphite, stippling in pen, and last week, watercolour. Graphite was cool, stippling was a struggle at first, but the watercolour killed me. SO precise. I just don’t think it suits this organic girl, lover of serendipity. However, I have gained quite a bit out of the experience, mainly about ‘seeing’, and processing the information that I see. It has related well to my painting experience too. This reached a point last week where I just wasn’t happy with what I was able to do with my el cheapo acrylics, and decided to upgrade to Golden Open Acrylics, which purported to offer more working time before drying for better blending. I was concerned that this might be a case of a poor workwoman blaming her tools, but am pleased to say that they have made a difference, and I will approach the painting this week with a little less fear and loathing.

My spirits have been far lighter lately, and work in StudioSvenja has been progressing. So much so that the engineering department (Matt) this weekend made 10 more frames for me! This should enable me to get most of the completed works together, and this week I started another triptych. Based largely on the colour and texture of rocks at Naracoopa on King Island interpreted through silk dyeing, these probably won’t have feature pieces on them as others do, but will celebrate the rocks themselves. Still a lot of machine embroidery to go. The offcuts were enough to make a rather lovely textured background for a feature work.

The pre-felted, needle-felted and wet felted piece was finished and dyed, with now little air bladders to make to attach. The colour turned out perfectly – a mixture of the Landscape Dyes ‘Lichen’ green and ‘Wallaby’ brown.

It was scary starting to wet felt all these fronds!

I'm getting a lot of reminders in my Facebook feed of WOW at the moment, and I am not-so-secretly glad that I am not actually missing out on the event this year. Even so, I am cognisant of missing the fun, catching up with old friends and new, and celebrating the crazy. Some years, we would already have seen the Preview show by now! These be strange times indeed.....

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

TEXTILE - published work

Today I received the latest issue of TEXTILE Fibre Forum magazine – the first to include my article as a now regular contributor – yay! It also features an article on the World of WearableArt 2019, including my work Odette & Odile, as well as those of three other Australian designers. Other great articles cover a myriad of topics including the effect of the pandemic on creating and exhibiting artwork for artists.

It's becoming clear to me that many other artists are suffering in a variety of ways through the pandemic - even those of us who thought there would be no impact to their already insular lives. I initially thought I had been downcast because of my change in artistic direction.  I've also been lucky enough to become mother to two beautiful Maine Coon sister kittens during this time, so the option of burying my face in a furry belly has, at times, been taken.
I’m excited to be starting something new this weekend – a workshop on botanical drawing through the Botanical Artists’ Society of Queensland.  This is a course which runs for 4 weeks, and I’m looking forward to being in a learning environment again. Although I have amazing resources here, there’s something to be said for being in at least a small group setting, sharing enthusiasm and knowledge. Who knows what this may inspire.
Things have been looking up a bit more at StudioSvenja, as I started to gather my near completed works  – what a difference it makes to start to see them together as a cohesive group – and felt a bit of satisfaction about how it was all looking. A nice change from the doom and gloom aspect of recent times. 

A sneak peek of inspiration, experiments, drawings, and near completed works on the corkboard.

Another fresh perspective has been introduced by the 3D pen. I couldn’t face the thought of free motion embroidering all the seaweed pieces I wanted, and thought this could be the answer. It adds a great new dimension, but alas, takes just as long, although at least I am not chained to the sewing machine. 

Needlefelting has also raised its head, as I work on my series of bird carcasses (sounds lovely, I know, but really, they are). I’ve finally put brush to canvas too, and started a painting of one of my cropped-in kelp photos from King Island – I’ve been loathe to do so, in case I fall hopelessly in love with painting and want to walk away from my beloved textiles! It’s hard work, but I am hopeful that it will be successful, and that I will simultaneously sustain the passion for fibre.This is one of my 'bridging' works in progress - textile texture with paint.

The other drawcard to painting is that it means spending time with the kittens on the front verandah...

Saturday, 15 August 2020


With our annual textile adventure (this year an Evocative Arts Workshop in South Australia with German tutor Dagmar Binder) binned along with everyone else's plans for 2020, we decided to do a little home state travel, and head to our beloved Caloundra, with coffee machine, suitcase full of wool, and gym gear in tow. This is the stunning view from our beachside apartment.

To be honest, there hasn't been a great deal of workshop activity, but here is evidence of the small amount that has occurred, accompanied by bubbles, of course.

The rest of these images are from our walks on the beach and rocks, sunrises, and sunsets. Ahhhh, this is the life!

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Unexpected validation and a nudibranch.

On the eve of my annual creative retreat, I received a truly wonderful email. It ended with ‘Your work touches my heart’. For a girl sometimes still searching for a true sense of purpose – well, mission accomplished. Years ago I wrote that all I wanted to do was make amazing work that would touch people in some way – that was all that I really desired. To know I have done that gives me a certain sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Reading those words have made me very happy, and have given me a lovely boost. This is the work which gained the praise. Now nicknamed 'Weedy', he is shortly to be kicking off Spring in Gallery 86, Penguin, Tasmania. I'm super pleased to see his life extended beyond the paperonskin exhibition he was created for.

I had another exciting moment this week, when unwrapping a piece of glass jewellery I had bought from glassmad, I found the artists had included a bonus gift – a beautiful tiny glass pink nudibranch! Just wow. It was so exciting to find, and really, could a glass nudibranch come to a better home than here?! Such lovely generosity – warms the cockles of your heart. I have photographed it here looking most at home near a rockpool in Caloundra, my home for the next week for the revised annual SvenJen adventure!! Stay tuned for hilarity!!