Weaving questions

Weaving of emotions (29-Aug-2022) has reached an end for now. I found a response of sorts to each of the 18 planned emotion segments. I wouldn’t call it finished. It feels like there is a next step – but I’m not sure what that might be. My reaction to it at the moment is…


Definitely not Disgusted.

I’ll wait for an idea to present itself. There isn’t a swatch for Patient. Perhaps I don’t spend a lot of time in that state…

A friend pointed me to multiple weaving references in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and in particular chapter 47, The Mat-Maker. I found both spoken (https://www.mobydickbigread.com/) and text (https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/2701-h/2701-h.htm) versions. I decided to make my own sword mat.

The printed text provided the warp. On the right of the printout is a graphic representing the spoken version from the Big Read.

An interesting exercise, but a little flat.

The swirling maelstrom suggested the perils of fire at sea.

Coffee aged, candle-fire singed, seared plastic threads (to me suggesting the fallen wreckage of masts and rigging).

Perhaps poetic, but fragile – and shedding.

In honesty, a solution to a practical problem. But perhaps suggestive –

  • ship in a bottle
  • message in a bottle
  • catching lightening in a bottle
  • not storm in a teacup
  • genie in a bottle – be careful what you wish for
  • bottling up emotions

Finally, an idea or perhaps a question that appeared from nowhere while drifting to sleep.

(Always pen and paper nearby of course).

Could I make a something, could it hold together, just beads threaded onto wire?


The central part is the purest version, simply following the sketch.

After threading the beads I wanted to make it more 3 dimensional, to get some height. To do that with stability I added some twisting of the wire, controlling spread by limiting material.

The finial idea was another night’s drifting. The main form uses 20 gauge artistic wire. The cut ends at the top are bound together with 32 gauge. The beads are polymer clay – made from left-overs of past experiments which were marinating in the stash. I didn’t have any more to use at the top, and in any case had concerns about weight. I think this solution fits well.

Weaving emotions – work in progress

In June I mentioned ongoing development of a personalised wheel of emotions. Single words became lists on cards.

Translating words and ideas into objects is becoming a go-to strategy. The process of working with my hands creates time and space and in some way a means of both focus and play for my mind. I decided to weave the wheel of emotions.

The weaving is slow. I’ve gone back to my student weaver notes and textbooks and samples, trying to find colours, patterns and textures that somehow speak to me of each emotion category. I chose a rosepath threading – an old favourite, plus the verbal links to a compass rose, the path of a journey, the mix of thorns and blooms…

It’s about half done. I’ll put some progress shots on the loom below. I wonder if anyone can pick the emotions (using emotion / feeling / state / … loosely). The draft list of key words: Angry, Balanced, Caring, Confused, Creative, Delighted, Disgusted, Energetic, Exhausted, Fearful, Frustrated, Grief-stricken, Lonely, Melancholic, Powerful, Powerless, Remorseful, Surprised. The first snap is a freebie, given it includes the card.


A video may, or may not, appear above. A friend suggested this vessel, this idea of maelstrom, appears best in motion. There is clearly much to learn – formats, the quality/size tradeoff, editing software…

The clay discs with wire connectors used techniques from a workshop with Lynn Yuhr via Metalwerx. There is some netted wire-work, made a few years ago when I was building an inventory of component pieces. All put together using random weave and some twining for extra stability and linework.

Navigating the Maelstrom – a process

Swirling energy and emotion.

Over the past couple of years I have experienced, and attempted to express in my making, various forms of swirling energy.

The storm of grief
The swirl of steps and energy of tai chi
The ringing circle, cycle of method, energy gathered and released as the bells swing
Spiralling energy of new growth

My current and ongoing investigation is “maelstrom mind” – the overwhelming, destructive, swirling force of thoughts and emotions that can overtake us. It’s a response to lived experience, and a conscious use of the whole of life model of creative practice taught by Ruth Hadlow.

The vortex of maelstrom?

Some of the actions so far:

  • Formulated a research plan, with a range of different forms of activities and investigations
  • Instituted a weekly field report – for myself plus using the creative research group as an external touch point.
  • Developed a series of strategies that can be deployed as a preventative or response to maelstrom mind.
  • Researched the etymology of maelstrom
  • Developed an emotion recording tool based on Plutchik’s wheel of emotions, and trialled used. (Thanks to Riki, and also noting the impact of Richard Powers’ Bewilderment)
  • Based on those results and further research of many wheels of emotion/feeling, I’m in the process of developing a personalised wheel. The emphasis is on my own language, habitual emotional states, and aspirations, plus producing input suitable for creative exploration in data analysis and in making.
work in progress

The next step planned is a detail vocabulary of mild, moderate and intense variants within each segment (Tom Drummond has inspired here), which should also help confirm overall segment names (and yes, I need to be careful about adjectives, nouns, …). I’ve deliberately stepped away from any optical or light based colour wheel. Also there’s no sense of polar opposites, or a continuum of positive and negative across the wheel. For example an intense “invigorated” could be recorded as part the sensation of being thrilled and of being agitated. I see both as high energy, one replenishing the other draining. (OK, writing this clearly there’s a labelling issue). This suggests clusters or constellations of feeling (nautical, mapping and navigational analogies abound in this project). Perhaps:

high energy + different levels of (confused + angry + invisible/lonely + exhausted) = one form of agitation

I really want to get some trial data and fine-tune the tool. I can see myself weaving an emotion constellation, and perhaps a woven diary – full of the colours, texture and form of emotion.

Energy, growth


This dish is around 17 cm diameter and 4 cm high. It uses techniques learnt in two classes I took with Lynn Yuhr earlier this year. See some of Lynn’s fabulous work at https://www.instagram.com/lynnyuhr/

Lynn is a great teacher, very knowledgeable and organized, and she has clearly put a great deal of effort into making sure her virtual classes are a good experience for everyone. Metalwerx, the provider, supports with a great environment for virtual learning. I took another class with Lynn and Metalwerx last week – given current time zone differences starting at 6am Sydney time. Absolutely worth the effort.

The dish combines polymer clay, including liquid clay, techniques and design ideas from Lynn, and basketry in wire.

I sit

I sit in my new Drawing Room. It’s not for drawing in, although I might choose to do so at the old white melamine desk. Drawing happens in my Work Room (previously known as the Dining Room). Instead here I can withdraw and sit. Private, quiet. Not busy.

I sit in Grandma Goodyer’s dining chair. The two carvers are here. The other chairs, and the table, are going to my nephew. I have no Dining Room for them. My father’s bookcase is in here. My mother-in-law’s needlework. Some of my sons’ toys and books. So much from my mother and generations of her family. It could be deemed a Family Room of sorts.

I sit here reading, the morning sun fractured through the faceted glass of the east-facing wall, brightening the yellow walls. It is lovely in the morning, although I worry about the treasures in mum’s display cabinet, the delicate old books, the textiles, the fine leather gloves held in walnut shells. A Morning Room then – except my mind goes immediately to Mourning Room. I may mourn in here at times, but now I sit as if in a nest of nourishment and love, a place of joy and light. A Sun Room. My son’s room. The plaque is still on the door – Kenneth’s Room: Happy Memories Brighten Quiet Hours; the image a small boy sitting, fishing.

I sit with a folding wooden table beside me – a wedding gift to my parents. It holds my morning cup of tea, my book. On my lap this chilly autumn morning is mum’s cream blanket which I darned with coloured wools. My drawing board, complete with smudges of charcoal, lies across the arms of the carver – an improvised writing desk. I am comfortable. There is lots to do outside this room, lots I want to do, but it is not demanding my attention. I can remain in stillness a bit longer in this Sitting Room.

I sit and consider possibilities. It’s not a State Room, Salon or Parlour. This is not a public space. While there is a bed for guests, especially visiting sons, it is not a place for lounging.  The built in wardrobe holds my art supplies, but it would be a disservice to call this a Store Room.

I sit and let my eyes and mind wander. I reflect on my life, the people I love and who love me. This room, containing so much of others, reflects my tastes and interests, my place in life. A Reflection Room? The light glinting off glazed cabinets and mirrored wardrobe seems to echo my soft chuckle.

I sit beside one display cabinet, another is on the opposite wall. They were joined in my mother’s home. By the door is her corner cabinet, a fake antique – my brother has its match, the real one. It welcomes me to the room, showcasing all the vessels of cloth, resin and clay I have made over the past fifteen months of mourning. Mum’s skirts and blouses, my hands and heart. At the moment the other cabinets are a jostle, but over time I plan to curate an ongoing series – my life, my work, my family. So a gallery or museum – an Exhibition Room.

I sit in my Drawing Room. It is a place to rest, to reflect, to read, to write, to stitch, to withdraw to, occasionally to sleep in. It is a place to simply sit. A place from which I can venture forth.

Line, pattern, index

line, pattern, index; palimpsest and piecing

That was the title of the mini research project I drew up for March.

There were some beginnings:

All above but the writing square are samples based on two classes with Lynn Yuhr (https://www.instagram.com/lynnyuhr/), presented online by Metalwerx. Lynne’s teaching and notes were exceptional. Metalwerx provided excellent support and admin.

Sally Smart
The Artists House

Work by Sally Smart at the Art Gallery of NSW thrilled.

The “index” element came from reading Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan. I was interested in the idea of indexing as an act of deep reading. Struggling to read a dense chapter in Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry as preparation for the creative research group, I decided to try indexing. Just developing a set of headwords was challenging and very effective in both engaging a higher level of attentiveness and in identifying the flow of Hirshfield’s argument.

Next I attempted to combine a few of my focus elements in building an index – or a series of indexes – of the Daily Balance photographs I showed last month.

It became elaborate. An example:

Daily balance #5
Combined with an old charcoal scribble, which was then rubbed back and covered with white paint
became a new charcoal sketch.
I then identified what most attracted my attention and…
a pattern was formed

The next step was going to be the pattern expressed in polymer clay, which in a way I can’t now see was going to become one of a set of pattern index cards. There’s a gap in my thinking here. That’s an index?

At the same time I wrote a paragraph triggered by the various elements – the story behind the glass frog which was a gift from mum.

Plus a list of materials which could feed into an index. Which could be based on edited photos of mum. The closest I could find to polymer clay was a photo of mum holding some children’s play clay. The photo has the sharp image of clay, and the pixelated memory shape of mum.

This was A Very Bad Idea. I was obliterating my mother. I’ve removed the photo from this post because I don’t want to see that again. The entire chain of work was abandoned, although I may return to the pattern generation element.

Instead I have diverted to consider a coincidence in the use of language. Dennis Duncan writes of the “compressed story telling” that can appear in an index. Major incidents in Jane Doe’s life in staccato bursts and page numbers. Jane Hirshfield writes that good poetry, and image in particular “by gathering many energies toward a single end, creates an intense compression of meaning; it carries into the mind the solidity, particularity, and multi-facetedness of actual objects.” And leads on to enlarged awareness.

Different forms of compression can distil down, or open out. Which led on to mapping and models, and how patterns can be found by drilling down into the detail of sunflower pollen or by looking up, stargazing the constellations. In Evocative Objects Mitchel Resnick writes of his attention being held not by the stars, but the spaces between. He went on to explore “systems in which complex patterns emerge from simple interactions among simple parts.

Pattern finding – the simple describing the complex? complex pattern from combinations of the simple?

And then there’s the surprise of the unexpected, a disruption in the pattern. (Explored by Jane Hirshfield in Hiddenness, Uncertainty, Surprise.)

More investigation required.

February Daily Balance

A near-daily exercise, the rules gradually refined and occasionally broken over the month.


Definition of artifact

1a: a usually simple object (such as a tool or ornament) showing human workmanship or modification as distinguished from a natural object
especiallyan object remaining from a particular period
b: something characteristic of or resulting from a particular human institution, period, trend, or individual
c: something or someone arising from or associated with an earlier time especially when regarded as no longer appropriate, relevant, or important
2a: a product of artificial character (as in a scientific test) due usually to extraneous (such as human) agency
b: an electrocardiographic and electroencephalographic wave that arises from sources other than the heart or brain
c: a defect in an image (such as a digital photograph) that appears as a result of the technology and methods used to create and process the image
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/artifact (my highlighting)

I’ve been wondering what I’m doing here – a question so big and so vague it’s close to useless. Part of the answer is that I like making: the process of working with my hands and mind and skills, tools, materials; to create something that didn’t exist before and in its small way is unique; to express myself; to connect with myself and others; to help me think. The thinking part keeps growing in importance. There’s the meditative aspect, especially with the rhythm and repetition of my preferred additive processes, keeping the hands and front of the brain busy while the mind quests. Plus there’s a focusing effect, with a conscious effort to use making as a way of extending my research, and the attempt to express abstract ideas in physical form. More and more an object at the ends seems to be a by-product of the process rather than its goal or purpose.

The dual meanings of artifact fit well. And what I’m doing here in the blog, in part, is documenting my artifacts – the objects, ideas, and making. The ratios will vary of course. This post, as you’ve already seen, is on the wordy ideas side.

Layered grief
It looks better in person


A year ago mum had been discharged from the palliative care hospital. Just a few days left, with a lot of laughter and love mixed in with the rest. I still think of her through each day. Sometimes it’s the stab of loss. Or relief that she had most of what she wished for when diagnosed – a final summer with family and friends; to die at home. I’m glad she didn’t have to go through the winter of lockdown. I miss chatting with her – her advice, her opinions on all things large and small, gossip. She was my most vocal and unstinting supporter. And I miss the sense of purpose and value and meaning of supporting her. I hate the lurch when I vaguely think that I haven’t phoned her in a while, then remember why. I miss her smile, the pleasure it gave her, when she opened the door to me. I miss the example she gave of taking simple joy in the world, curious and interested – watching children playing, chatting with workers on their smoko, enjoying the joke of chalked signs in the park.

I’m glad to miss mum. I’m glad to grieve for her. I’m so lucky to have experienced such love, to have known such a person. It’s right and human to honour her and our relationship.


Perhaps with time and distance I will see some pattern, some kind of stages in grieving. At the moment I see – feel – complexity and change and repetition-with-variation and layering and unexpected connections. Perhaps a rhizomic rather than linear thing (“structure” seems too strong a word). Is that something I could express in clay?

Memory is an integral part of grieving. My most recent attempt at expressing that was shown 14-Jan-2022.

My notes when beginning to plan this new experiment:

  • extension of distorted memory
  • clearer use of stencil
  • ?dark “Victorian mourning” cane
    • use as background
    • simplified stencil in gloss (?? possible?) black?
    • don’t like link of black to mourning, but works visually
    • peering into the past, overlaying present.
  • a larger, mixed bowl, or a series of cupped hands?


The clay. Once again I used leftovers and oddments from previous work.

Victorian mourning
including build-up and mop-up material
Grief, hope, energy, renewal

I focused on using as much of the clay as possible, laying out slices in a pattern, then filling in the gaps with a cane of scraps of the scraps (a Fiona Abel-Smith technique)

In the photo above the burnished disc of clay is on a sheet of Agreena wrap. Made of silicone, it’s sold as a non-toxic, renewable, recyclable alternative to clingfilm. It’s heavy enough to be able to carry the weight of the clay, thin enough to peel off easily, and is oven-safe. All very handy working with polymer clay.

I didn’t like my placement of the feathers cane at this point, but hoped it would be toned down in the next stage.

Stencilling. The John Chester Jervis jug stencils were used again (last seen 14-Jan-2022) – there is a strong link to the Victorian mourning conventions work. My largest  handheld round embroidery frame was slightly too small. On my larger ThimbleLady lap quilting frame the fabric was not held as firmly, and it was difficult to access everywhere, but worth it I think to avoid moving a frame around and having edges rest on the print. Stencilling was done in opaque black liquid clay.

stencil placement
improvised silkscreen
Left: paper cut stencils in place. Right: stencilled clay

A high level comparison shows the stencilling worked quite well. I’ll go through some caveats later.

Baking. The clay was lifted and placed in a metal bowl, in a “sling” of agreena wrap. That is, it didn’t touch the bottom, the bowl acting as a general support rather than forming the shape. Sausages of foil were used to create an unevenly undulating form, to suggest the distortions and selection that creep into even our most precious memories over time.

Fresh from the oven. The clay slipped down slightly during baking, but didn’t touch the bottom of the metal bowl.


The final outcome is one of the largest vessels I’ve made in the past year of mourning – around 19 cm in diameter, and a pleasant weight in the hand. I love the layers of connection – to mum and our family history, to various lines of research, to my ongoing life and explorations. I like the sinuous edge, and that the bowl is open – inviting, accepting.

The underside came off the agreena wrap with a pleasant shine. It’s bright and busy, but in my eyes visually coherent. Even those feathers look better, in their place like a trim on a skirt, linking clearly with the canes in the middle section above.

The interior is more complex. It is intriguing when held in the hands, moved around to catch the light and to follow lines of pattern. However…

  • the areas of liquid clay are very textured, even after light sanding and polishing. I think this is a side effect of the slightly looser organza screen, moving up and down as I dabbed on the liquid clay. I didn’t want to sand further and start losing stencilled areas altogether.
  • in most areas the “opaque” black still allows the shadow of changing pattern below. Very on theme. However there is a lot of black in the base layer, leading to a visual muddle on what is foreground and what background, impacting the integrity of the silhouettes.
  • The pattern of cane placement is obscured, creating a visual jarring effect in places where different input canes join.
  • on the plus side and ignoring those limitations, the boundary between foreground and background is crisp in all but the smallest detail areas.

As it is, with all the associations it has for me – I am satisfied, happy, when I handle, examine, spend time with the bowl. I’ve learnt in the process. There’s still a way to go in making a stencilled pattern on a busy cane ground work, but I’m getting closer and I have ideas for more tweaks.

Admin apology

A tip from a kind reader led to the realisation that a number of my blog posts were missing photos. I have a private notebook blog, and have sometimes copied photos from there to this public blog. It all looks fine to me, as owner, but leaves little blank squares for others.

My apologies.

I think all the posts impacted have now been fixed (but please let me know if you have problems 😁):

18-Jan-2022 More liquid clay experiments

14-Jan-2022 Reimagined memory

29-Nov-2021 Skills building

31-Jul-2021 Materials focus – polymer clay

22-Dec-2020 Making reading

29-Aug-2020 (relatively) recent making


No Instagram images were found.

Calendar of Posts

September 2022

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