Saturday 31 December 2022

Wrapping Up 2022

 I’m writing this on the day that our beautiful Main Coon sister kitties turn three. How glad I am that they are with us, and looking back today as I compiled some photos from their short life, I saw how much had happened in mine in that time.

I have become a regular writer for the magazine that helped shape my career as a textile artist, TEXTILE Fibre Forum. 

My article/column in TFF
I have created a body of work based on my first artist residency which has now been exhibited three times, with a further two exhibitions booked for 2023. During this time I revisited one of my favourite artforms, that of lino-cutting, and enrolled with Studio West End to print these – a very enjoyable interlude with Adele Outteridge and Co.

Printing an embossing at Studio West End

Algalryhthyms at Warwick Regional Art Gallery

I am currently working towards my second solo exhibition, with applications being submitted nation-wide. 

I have also continued to enjoy special moments with the originator of TEXTILE Fibe Forum and its' subsiduary interests, Janet de Boer. A woman of great knowledge and many contacts- we share a love of cocktails!!

In 2022 I became the inaugural Artist in Residence at TAFE QLD Mt Gravatt, and presented an exhibition of over twenty of my wearable art works. Sadly, I terminated this position half-way through the proposed term due to the impossible enormity of trying to get anything done under the crippling process of government bureaucracy and disinterest. So much knowlege and enthusiasm for sharing lost, a great blow to both myself as teacher, and to potential students. Such a loss to professionalism in the arts, and in the teaching institution of TAFE. I remain disturbed and enraged at what has occurred.

In 2020 I became a power lifter, and have now competed in a novice competition and two sanctioned competitions. This began in lockdown, when my friend Jenelle enticed me into her home gym… I used to be a cardio bunneh, now I like to lift heavy things. Slowly.

Jenelle and I missed out on two years of our annual SvenJen adventure at Fibres Ballarat, but finally got back there this year to enjoy Julie Ryder’s dyeing workshop. I really enjoyed learning the chemical nuances of dyeing with procion dyes, and we were very impressed with the new digs! I’ll be back there on a solo trip in 2023 to do Alysn Midgelow Marsden’s workshop, and we’ll both travel to Geelong for the TAFTA Fibre Forum in September.

I was happy to return to my beautiful home studio after the TAFE debacle, and remain ever grateful to Matt for making this custom space for me. I truly love the life I am able to lead here, able to open a door and engage in experimentation, able to shut the door when I am tired, then return again. It remains as my solace, the place where I belong, where no-one can reach me unless invited. A world of colour and sparkle behind that door, like a fantasy land. 

Bureaucracy you will not break me, you cannot have me, for your laws do not exist here, in StudioSvenja Sparkle Land.

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Layered Colour

Today should have been just lovely – no other plans but working in the studio. I felt tired and unmotivated, but went down and continued painting, working up layers of colour on the heat-distressed fabric sculpture I am working on. It seemed so flat and boring when I wanted it to be so rich and bright. It’s hard to keep going when it doesn’t look fabulous, and that’s when I have to remind myself that this is a many-layered process. It’s also hard not to doubt your colour choices – did I start too light? With the wrong colour entirely? A spray of yellow around the edge lifted it, but I soon found more to find fault with. Then I took myself back to the fabric samples I had chosen for this work, and it all started to come together. Pinned along the centre, they added the next layer of colour and texture, and a painted piece of distressed lace, the next. I’m a lot happier, but I still have to keep going down to check on it. Sometimes it just takes time and a little distance. Not to mention a little trust. Particularly when working on a larger piece, it can be difficult to continue on with what you are not convinced about, but having done it to one piece, you must do it to all before moving on.

With stitching over this, and further layers, ending with beading, who knows what other shades might be introduced? This is where I feel I have 'a conversation' with the work. After the initial concept design and vague colour ideas, sometimes it comes down to what is on hand, or what material will be the main focus. After that first step, it really becomes more of a reactive process. You can't plan the steps - things will show you what works. Sometimes enjoyable, sometimes a little uncomfortable, you just won't know until you follow your instincts through.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Moving on Up

 Here I am, happy to be working on my newly serviced machine back in StudioSvenja. Last month I terminated my residency at TAFE after three of the six months term, as it has been incredibly difficult to deal with the levels of Government bureaucracy and abominable communication. As we met to discuss exhibiting Algalrhythms there next year to finish my tenure, the thought of fighting it all again became too much. To top it all off, plumbers had moved into the studio indefinitely to work on the new fire sprinkler system, and it was not conducive to creativity. Luckily I had done a good tidy up in all the studio spaces here, so as I moved back, I was able to slot everything easily back into place. Sure, it might look a bit chaotic, but this is wonderfully ordered in my world!

I am still progressing on the new works, so nothing has really changed, although I do miss those large tables for layouts. Instead of exhibiting at TAFE, Algalrhythms has been accepted at the Lockyer Valley Art Gallery in February and March next year. Life moves on. Applications are being submitted for the next exhibition titled DistoMorph, which will feature sculptural pieces on a much larger scale than previous work, and some wild colour combinations.

Last week I enjoyed catching up with Janet de Boer for lunch, not having seen her since she opened my exhibition Paracosm at TAFE in August. (The 3D walk-around imaging of the exhibition can be found on my website.) I treasure the laughs we have as we discuss the vagaries of life in the arts over lunch and prosecco. Her wisdom, experience and humour are most useful! I very much enjoy writing for the magazine she created, Textile Fibre Forum, which is published quarterly, and for my  next submission I will be writing about the experiences of the many rejections from art competitions and galleries that I have experienced this year. 

Speaking of Textile Fibre Forum - Bunneh and I have decided to go to one of the original Fibre Forums as run by TAFTA, so we'll be off to Geelong Fibre Forum in September 2023 to make felt hats with Dawn Edwards. It will be great to have a new venue to explore together, and I'm sure much fun will be had in the workshop. I pinched this image from her website - I can see me spending the whole week making something like this!

Monday 26 September 2022

Meeting and Molesting fellow WOW designers

In honour of WOW opening this week for it's 33rd? show after a two-year hiatus, I present a memory of meeting and sometimes molesting fellow designers over the eleven years I participated. Designer Days and the shows grew into a really fun experience as more and more of us became repeat offenders - you can almost track this in the photos as they get blurrier and fuzzier towards the end! Wishing all the designers a fabulous WOW experience this year, from Svenja &Matt.


Thursday 8 September 2022

Paracosm Exhibition Opening

On the Friday before the exhibition week I started choosing and hauling out the mannequins from the storeroom, then placing them, beginning with the easiest – those that definitely needed space to be seen from all angles, and what should be the most visible from the doorway. 

I decided that one would be Spike, better known as Cordycephila. I began with a male mannequin, but after wrestling most of the bodysuit on, found I couldn’t complete it because of his stance. I tried again with a mannequin with straight legs, wrangling the bodysuit and the main torso piece on, only to find that I couldn’t slide the leg pieces over the giant flat feet! I undressed him, and resorted to a female mannequin who had slimmer, pointed feet. Mostly dressed, I tried to put him on a stand, but couldn’t get it to sit straight. By now it was nearing 5 o’clock, and I had spent several hours on this one work, and I was tempted to leave him on the ground – but I just couldn’t let it beat me. So I rustled up a nice straight, solid stand to hold the substantial weight of Spike and mannequin combined, and voila – I was done. Boy, was I done.

The next week was one of intense labour as I started each day with my powerlifting training before coming straight in to college to work on the exhibition. Mannequins are definitely harder to deal with than humans when it comes to dressing. Their unnatural proportions are challenging when it comes to fitting leggings and bodysuits, and the broad torso of the male mannequin meant I had to stretch out Trophy’s wire hook to secure it. I tried to get as many bottom halves on first as possible! For Fenghuang, Matt had to modify the mannequin by fitting steel rods with the same size knob that slots into the armhole, so they could support the outstretched leather wings. Without Matt doing that, he wouldn’t have looked very good.

I did have to refer to my dressing instructions for a few of them, but remembered most ok. Having got mannequins in place I just had to dress them – I was very eager to see them done. A couple of pieces required a lot of steaming – Fimbria Figura and Fenghuang, who both contained a lot of silk organza. This certainly brought them right back to life. By Wednesday I was pretty done, and got Craig in to position the lights. Although designed as a gallery, the lighting system is um, unusual to say the least. We eventually worked out what colours to use for each quadrant of the space, and how to dim the fluoros to a nice backlight. (However, turns out that you can’t over-ride the automatic movement sensor in them, and when they go to sleep, they come back on at full intensity – goodbye mood lighting!)

I think on Thursday I placed all the signage I could, having finally finished placing all the QR Logos on each one, which when scanned takes you to the webpage with more information, sketches, process photos and videos on the work. These pages remain live on the website, now under Links. I also started to make some serious noises about getting the screens working for the videos and the Artist Statement. Funnily enough, not as easy as some people thought, which is why I always want to get the tech sorted ASAP! By Friday it was all done, and, desperately tired, I had time to go home and eat, and sit on the couch for half an hour before getting ready to return.

Helen had put on a wonderful spread of food and mocktails (sigh, a bubbles-free event) as a fundraiser for her area, the TAFE Foundation, which provides scholarships for students. There was a good amount of people there, including many of the TAFE teachers, and my friends - even a surprise appearance by high-school friend Jodie and daughter!

Janet and Peter arrived early for a studio tour and the application of false eyelashes before speechifying began, and we had to be summonsed to appear at the gallery. Janet’s speech was a wonderful way to provide some context to many people who don’t really know me or my work, and she was of course entertaining as ever. 

Photo above and those below by Charlene Z.

The nine-monitor screen playing videos of my work in performance on the World of WearableArt stage (and one from Wearable Art Mandurah) created a wonderful presence, and I am absolutely thrilled that the videos were provided. For the audience to see the work moving was a wonderful dynamic to the exhibition.

I spoke to as many people as I could – I think my family was probably the most ignored! Then it was home for a sit down and a well deserved drink!