Thursday 30 April 2015

Why I do these things

I am often asked why I make the things I do, especially as there is very little financial gain in it. I find it a difficult question to answer, as I know that this is the recognised way of determining worth in our society.  I think it might be simply because I get great pleasure out of making something beautiful. Beautiful things make me happy. My goal in life is to be happy.
There are other factors involved too. I relish a challenge, and enjoy the process of problem-solving to a successful resolution, which gives me a great sense of satisfaction and achievement. I like using my brain in this way. This is perhaps why I keep experimenting with different techniques and media. I'm also quite passionate about learning, then educating others about the many labour-intensive textile techniques perfected over the centuries which are so beautiful and which are at risk of dying out. Another wonderful advantage of working in textiles is that the process and materials themselves are also, usually, quite beautiful.
Often people question why I am not working in film or theatre costume departments, and my answer to this is that it is not always the fabulous pieces that are being worked on - there are a lot of hum-drum tasks involved of which I am all too aware.
I'm sure many of my works would be financially lucrative if I could reach the right audience. It takes a lot of work to do that, and I'm afraid I have been more drawn to creating things than marketing. Marketing is what makes people spend thousands of dollars on a 'designer' hand bag, yet hesitate to spend a few hundred dollars on an original hand-made item. I'll never understand how an item, replicated by the thousands in a factory, is perceived to be more valuable to the consumer than an original item designed and hand made by an artist. An original.  I know what I prefer.
 This is why I tend to place myself more as an artist than a fashion designer. I don't follow trends - I don't understand them. If something is beautiful, it is beautiful. What I make is more an expression of my ideas and an exploration of techniques than anything else.
Whilst I'm waxing philosophical, I'll discuss another part of my life. Pink hair. Every day, and I mean every day, someone will comment on it, more often than not saying "You're so brave to do that", and "I'd love to do that but I'm not brave enough/too old etc". This happened to me again yesterday, and I very nearly replied, very genuinely, 'Brave? The only thing about this that involves bravery is dealing with the number of weirdos that come up to me in car-parks and tell me how brave I am". (If they're not doing that, they're telling me about how they once had red/green/blue/purple hair. That's nice.)
Having had highly coloured hair on and off for over 20 years, I have experienced the whole gamut of reactions. Back in the 90's, people openly stared, pointed, and made fun of me. Why, I'm not sure. Now the reaction is wholly positive, with old and young commenting on how lovely it is. For those that don't vocalise and simply stare, I have to remind my companions that they are simply in awe. I always like to err on the side of the positive these days. I've never done it for attention. I do it because it makes me happy. You can't look in the mirror when you have pink hair and feel particularly glum. It's uplifting. That's why I do it.
Here are the pink lights I just bought to decorate my display at the Craft & Quilt Fair this year. Why? You guessed it.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Hervey Bay Workshop

Only recently returned from ConTEXTart, and with the WOW shoot only just behind me, on Wednesday I drove up to Hervey Bay, about a four hour drive - due to some roadworks and dodgy drivers! Around half way I got quite sleepy, but then I re-discovered the stash of music on the car stereo system, (I had Matt's Chrysler as Storm the Kombi is not at all well) and so began the Svenja-Karaoke entrance to Maryborough! It was almost 1:30 by the time I drove into the Spinners and Weavers venue, to meet 2 of the participants and off-load my gear. I was then quite excited to drive on to find my digs on the Esplanade, before getting back into the car and familiarising myself with the area. As dusk fell, about 2 million Rainbow Lorikeets descended on the area, shrieking their heads off. (It seems they don't actually sleep, and seem to go all throughout the night at a low level before cranking back up at dawn! Along with the rubbish trucks!!)
Thursday dawned looking absolutely splendiferous, and I set off for a walk along the Esplanade - first stop - coffee! I was not disappointed with the brew at Bayaroma, also served with fun and vitality - noice!! I loved the way the tiny waves peeled along the beach in a hypnotic rhythm, and just look at these mesmerising patterns created by the receding tide! It was hard to drag myself to work, but I knew I had 10 eager felters to attend to! When I arrived at 9 they were eagerly rummaging through my samples - no surprise there! I teasingly named them a bunch of ferals, and began to set up, but it wasn't long before we simply had to begin! As usual, it was an interesting mix of people working in
different colours and materials, and, by the end of the day, at different paces. This is where I really start dancing around - trying to keep my eyes on a variety of stages from laying out to wetting out and rolling!! At about 4:30 we wrapped it up, and I returned to base, absolutely exhausted!! I managed to sneak in a quick beer in the dunes as the sun set, but unfortunately was soon set upon by bities, so returned to base! There I spent the evening dealing with filling in customs forms for my shipment of good currently held up and awaiting approval - grrr!
Friday dawned just slightly less magnificent than Thursday, and I eased myself into the day, again
with the assistance of Bayaroma. Unfortunately they were very busy, and my eyeballs were nearly out on stalks by the time I received my caffeine embrace - but bliss! I arrived at the venue by 9:30 to find everyone hard at work - scary!! These guys are hard core - you've got to watch them!! They're dying to be violent to their felt, to rough it up and beat it!! Luckily I caught them in time :-) This was a really exciting day, as we had many 'reveals' as we turned wraps over to see the decorative elements, and started to see creations changing from wet, flat, fibres into crinkly, delicious textures. I was very much kept on my toes as again, we had many different stages happening at once.  I think I was excited as much as anyone, seeing these amazing
Mindy's rich layout
Margaret Reed's colourful layout
changes. These pieces change so much from 2 metre + fluffy layouts to much smaller, textured pieces. I rejoiced in the smallest of elements, a crinkle in this fabric, a successful adherence from this one. It truly is a fascinating process, and the beauty of a workshop is that every participant gets to witness so many 'free trials', seeing what happens when others are using different materials and techniques.
By the end of Friday, we were all quite exhausted, and I think we were all quite pleased to finish a little ahead of schedule. Some were not finished but were 'finished' - as discussed with the lovely Margaret, she had simply "run out of Margaret". Fair enough! Her wrap was almost finished, and I
The end of Margaret!

The two sides of Stuart's wrap
Annette and her wrap
can't wait to see the end result. Stuart had started to get a bit of a wild look in his eye shortly before this, and admitted he was wanting to 'throw' the felt! Hopefully his end result made it all worth it - a stunning wrap that you just can't decide which side you want to look at, richness of colour and richness of texture doing battle with each other. Yum!! Unfortunately Mindy had to leave early, but her richly textured wrap was finished! Annette finished this delicious very Svenja-coloured wrap, and sadly I didn't get a shot of our first finisher, Kim! We even got a visit
from the local paper, so keep an eye out for us, Hervey Bay!
It was a great couple of days, although hard work for all, and I do hope my class enjoyed it as much as I did. I also learned some neat tricks and ideas from them! I have to share this marvellous image of some dyeing experiments they are doing - truly grotesque!! They remind me of specimen jars in science labs.

Saturday was of course, ANZAC day, so weary as I was, I went to the local dawn service, which had a wonderful turnout, and some excellent speeches. I never quite saw dawn, as it was still dark, and as the sun began to rise, I curled back up in bed for some more zzzzz's!

Thanks Hervey Bay for a great few days!

Monday 20 April 2015

Cirque du Soleil, more eco-dyeing, and packing for Perth.

Having returned from the SvenJen adventure on Thursday, we were together again on Saturday to enjoy the inspirational Cirque du Soleil. Having worn sensible shoes/boots for the last week, I was eager to get in to some tizzy killer heels. Slight mistake, as the walk from the restaurant at Portside to the Grand Chapiteau was 1.5km. On a lot of dirt paths. And lumpy road. I wore through my heels and got blisters. Oh well - at least my feet looked fab! Cirque was fabulous, having me gasping and clasping hands many a time - at the acts themselves - not just the costumes!! These however, did not disappoint, and I think I nearly overdosed on the amount of bling - spectacular!! Check out this blog here for a wonderful behind the scenes and up-close look at them.
Sunday was scheduled for this year's WOW shoot, which got reconvened to one of Matt's sheds due to a bad weather forecast. I was pretty relaxed about it, until it started to happen. As usual, there are always a few issues as the pieces fit on to a human body, and there were enough issues to start to stress me out. As soon as Chantal starting shooting though, I felt a whole lot better, as they began to look rather marvellous through the magic of her lens! Of course, you know I can't post photos until October, so for now, a big thank you to Chantal, Callum & Liam Pettigrew, Rose Haynes, and of course, the man who without none of this would happen, Matt Pettigrew! Mwuaaah!!
Before the shoot I had put a few eco-dyed scarves on to simmer, and really enjoyed opening these delicious bundles up when I got home.
Matt also earns major kudos for his work in preparing me for my Australian tour, in making bases for my inflatable mannequins, a rail in my travelling cage for my garments to hang on, and all sorts of things which took most of his Sunday! He also organised some of his staff to take my cage down to his shed, where I spent several hours this afternoon fitting everything in. Done!! On Wednesday I leave for Hervey Bay, where I am to teach my Precious Fragment Wrap workshop, returning Saturday. Sunday will be spent packing and making notes for the WOW shipment, due at the wharf Monday morning. I am really looking forward to drawing breath at that stage - update you then!!

ConTEXTart in the Blue Mountains

The 2015 SvenJen adventure to Katoomba saw two very excited Bunnehs making their way straight
to the house we had booked in the heart of Katoomba, called The Yellow Door, already nicknamed 'The Golden Door'.
Immediately after settling in, we set out to explore, and I couldn't help but make two lovely purchases at the book shop. Study of Pose is both ridiculously beautiful, and insanely heavy, but an absolute must at $20! With the weather being so beautiful, we make sure we go and view the Three Sisters in the warm afternoon light - spectacular.
 After evening ablutions, I exit the bathroom with the door handle still in my hand, hysterical with laughter - a good omen for a trip of hilaritiez!
Friday dawned with drizzle, but we took it slowly, lingering over coffees before setting out in fine mist. Poor Jenelle must wait whilst I stop to photograph a miniscule snail, having to wait for him to re-emerge after I disturbed him! After a breakfast at The Hatter's Cafe, the morning is spent blissfully shopping at the Anglicare op-shop, where we made some awesome finds, including a brand new leather jacket for me, which will be very handy in New Zealand. After a brief respite at home, we set off to meet Janet de Boer and Co. at the newly renovated Hydromajestic  (above left, displaying new jacket!). It is very impressive, and the room for the High Tea's looks just luverly, but it is all too busy for our group, so we head down to the Megalong Tea Rooms, where all but the Bunnehs, still full of brekky noms, indulge in lovely looking soups. Next stop is Blackheath, where we spend a very enjoyable afternoon wandering the town. We particularly enjoyed the large local arts and craft shop, where we see some very beautiful botanical prints, fantastic forging, wonderful woodwork, and basket weaving. The VictoryTheatre Antique Centre (right) is all too much for two tired Bunnehs, who soon head home for some lovely vegetable soup of their own, having channelled their own mother's on the way home in conversation, and reluctantly admitted to it!!
Saturday dawns drizzly again, but we set off for the Three Sisters anyway, who are completely absent from the view! We walked out to the restaurant Solitary, which looked like a delicious option for a lunch or dinner (sadly, Breakfast Bunnehs never really made it out after their favourite morning meal!) So enjoying our relaxing holiday, we struggle to drag our pelts to Korowal School for our first morning of class with Anne Leon!! Having had a session of show and tell, our interest is piqued, and we are eager to begin, in particular, with a shibori method for creating a snakeskin-like effect that we no haz seen before!! (result - right).
Animal print Bunneh Jenelle is particularly excited, and this is the first technique we try together, as the preparation is a 2-Bunneh job. We achieve quite a bit, even getting some over-dyeing on the more subtle pieces done. This creates a lovely layering, and of course, Jenelle gets one of the most impressive results with one of her over-dyed scarves! Sadly, we both had pieces that picked up printing off the pvc pipe and nikko off the acetate plates. I was also happy with the results of eco-printing on watercolour paper, a mere 15 minute process.
Being Saturday night, we had hope to emerge from the burrow, but we arrived home to find a hip-hop/jazz concert happening at the Youth Centre next door, which we were able to enjoy from our deck - who needs to go out?!! Therefore it was veggie soup again, and having ironed an displayed our goodies to ourselves, we go to bed tired but happy!
Sunday arrives in perfect form, and we head off for our walk with some eco-print foraging in mind. Of course, we forget a bag, and after peeling our eyes for random plastic bags, actually start foraging in bins- a new low! Sharp-eyed Sven spots a discarded fabric Aldi bag in a front yard - clearly worth 100 points!! We then happily stuff found leaves in our bag, and return home for scrambled eggs on the back deck. Never before have we been so reluctant to workshop - we were just having too good a time!! We are so reluctant that we are 20 minutes late, but redeem ourselves with our awesome eco-haul  and getting straight into it.  Having brought our own lunch, we are free at lunchtime to wander the other classes and the traders, where I buy some Indian wooden print blocks. At the end of class, we take a wander around the displays of all the workshops, as well as some extra traders. We are supposed to be displaying our own results, but are so tired that we quickly head home. Not before we encounter Janet de Boer, though, in full regalia as a penguin! (below right).
The Bunnehs finish their day exhausted but happy, with an impressive stash, and enjoy an early night.
Monday morning dawns like no other Monday - we no haz to be anywhere or do anything!! Our walk leads us down past Scenic World, where there are cable cars and trains through the mountains. We prefer to walk down the slippery, steep, 'Furber Steps', (left), which Jenelle cannot wait to go back up. Me, not so much - nearly vomited!! After our two hour trek, we were very happy to indulge in some Noms at the Yellow Deli, where we also found some incredible 'Green Bars' aka crack for health Bunnehs!! (Right) DELICIOUS!! (View of the main street from the Yellow Deli, left). Back to the op-shops after this, then to book an early afternoon appointment at the Thai Massage. O.M.G. First Thai Massage ever - where have I been?!!! Delicious squishing of limbs, cracking of back, twisting of limbs, hot towels... I think I love you!!
We slid our way out of there to do a little more shopping on our way up the street, then checked out the possibility of dinner at the Carrington - closed for Private Function - typical!! Sadly, the old moles were more than happy to pick up a kebab on the way home and settle in ....
Wentworth Falls provided us with yet another variety of bushwalk - quite coastal-like - sandy, with lots of banksias. I was so cold I had to run a bit to warm up - I haz poor circulationz!! The weather was perfect, the signage not so much -  we ended up taking a path from Rocket Point which slowly became thinner, wilder, and further out along the ridge! With visions of the Westpac Chopper in mind, the Bunnehs turned their tails and headed back. On this path, we discovered a very life-like lizard sculpture on a plinth, which I laughed at and said 'Oh, I nearly thought that was real!" As Bunneh  looked up and said 'What', her brain did not catch up in time before she reeled back in shock!!(above right). There were some great cliff overhangs on the Charles Darwin Walk - here I am channeling the Great Man himself!
The way back up the steps (as usual) was to the chant of "Eggs, eggs, eggs, salmon, salmon, salmon, mushrooms, mushroom, mushrooms etc...) We enjoyed our brekky at the Blue Mist Cafe and a wander around Wentworth before heading into Leura. After a few hours of shopping, I was pleased to return home for a well earned nana nap (due in part to a little tummy trouble). I had to be roused for our final sojourn, this time to Vinnies', to pick up an extra suitcase for all of our purchases, and a final op-shop. We also stopped in at the Food Co-Op, where Jenelle indulged for us in chocolate coated Goji and Inca berries - delicious!!
Our final morning walk was to Minnie Ha Ha Falls, with yet another variation on the landscape. The falls poured into a beautiful pool, which we could imagine would be a lovely place to hang out in the Summer, if it ever gets that hot up there! A shorter walk than other mornings, we return within an hour, so are out of the beloved Yellow Door by 9am. We breakfast at the Pomegranate Cafe before checking out the last Op-Shop of Katoomba - the Boutique Op-Shop, (below left) which was just beautifully laid out.  Having picked up some new sunnies, it was time to head down the mountain. We had thought we would enjoy stopping off at the various 'Town Centre's' and 'Shops', but after the first few unnoticeable precincts, Jenelle was incandescent with rage and disbelief - "Is this some kind of  joke?", she spluttered. On a detour towards the Lindsay Gallery, we nearly killed a dog, which
decided to run out on to the road, but managed to stop in time. Still shaken, we got some giggles out of the local street names; 'Bill Barnacle Avenue, Patrick O'Possum Place, and Watkin Wombat Way'!! Springwood was the only 'Town' to have an actual 'Town Centre', which we stopped at briefly before getting our tails back on the road - don't want to be late for the airport. We were perfectly on time, until we hit the airport
surrounds, where we failed time and time again to find either a) the service station to refuel at or b) the depot itself!! Suri kept telling us we had 'arrived at our destination, but each time it was KFC!! Now 45 minutes past our expected arrival time, our stress levels were peaking as we reached a new level of desperation!!
Finally after stopping and asking for help we made it, and were shuttled in to the airport to receive the joyful news that the  flight was slightly delayed - hurrah!! Never have we been so happy to hear this! This meant we could visit the Virgin Lounge (my main concern in being late) before boarding, and restore equilibrium (with some quickly imbibed beverages). After an amazing week, the Bunnehs were as usual, happy to be headed home to their boys in da burrows!!


Thursday 2 April 2015

Reverse Garbage Giggles

Yesterday Jacqueline and I set off to the Art Shed in West End to pick up some printing inks for her monoprinting, and some watercolour paper for my forthcoming eco-dyeing workshop in the Blue Mountains. Not only did we exit with those items, but also some liquid latex and iridescent cellophane (right) - well - they were half price! No, I don't exactly know what I am going to do with them, but I am experienced enough now to know that they are worthy additions to my stash of materials!
Next stop was the main area of West End, where I very nearly allowed myself to buy a beautiful leadlight standard lamp, but somehow managed to restrain myself, then it was on to Lock 'n' Load for a yummy lunch, which just may have involved cheese. On the way home we visited Officeworks - well, there was a park right outside - I had to stop! Here I picked up  my Paypal machine which means I can accept credit card payments for all my luscious goodies I will have available on my Australian Tour. I now just have to learn how to work it!
Then it was on to our beloved Reverse Garbage, which appeared to be over-run with these lovely ribbed-cloth covered mannequins (left) , mostly female, but the odd male and child. Fashion students of TAFE - you might be interested - $45-$50 each. (There are about three times as many as in this photo).
As usual, there were a few interesting
products, as well as the signs accompanying them. This one was gold - some visceral looking plastic labelled 'Spru Poo' and, 'What can you see in the Spru'!! (right) Another box of little felt discs was called 'Wee Lickle Foam Dots'! This tragic 'Chick Family' on the wall didn't seem to relate to anything.... I couldn't even see any more of them!
The house is currently swamped in both WOW and Australian tour gear, as I trudge through the labelling and packing process for both. My latest gift from Matt, an LED headlight, is an absolute boon as I finalise linings and labels inside tricky items like headpieces and shoes - I hardly want to take it off! Why did I not have one before?!! Everywhere I look there is light, just where I need it!!