Not a lot to show…

… given how much I’ve been doing.

A couple of photos – but given this is a kind of diary for me I’m staying mostly chronological.

Last weekend I attended a Collaboration in Experimental Design Research Symposium at COFA (College of Fine Arts). It only touched on weaving obliquely – for example while focusing on collaboration, Dr June Ngo Siok Kheng’s talk “Improving lives through Songket Weaving” discussed the work at the Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah had some slides of beautiful work. She also talked about her experimentation combining batik and weaving, using batik techniques (ie wax resist) to dye the yarns. If I thought my little experiments in ikat were tricky, imagine handling and beaming a warp dyed like that! Anyway, although thoroughly out of my comfort zone I found a lot of interest.

Wednesday evening was a talk by Amanda Talbot at the Powerhouse Museum – “Preserving the Past to Make Our Future Happen“. To my taste her focus seemed to be a bit much on the value to designers (finding a source of ideas, interest and commercial difference) than the craftsmanship and preservation side. However I liked the parts about fine craftsmanship as an alternative to the homogenized mass produced articles. Amanda was very strong on the importance of provenance and narrative, and the overtones of integrity, sustainable, ethical – all in the interests of making the consumer feel good and giving the designer a point of difference.

Thursday was more fun – out to the Weavers and Spinners to work on planning for our 65th anniversary next year. (An aside – the weaving-equipment-available-for-loan area was unusually empty – apparently a dozen or so table looms had been borrowed by COFA for their students. Which makes me think (a) it’s great they are giving their students this experience; and (b) what, don’t they maintain this facility themselves?? Must ask Liz Williamson, Head of the School of Design Studies there and an amazing weaver herself, next time I see her).

Friday was a visit to the Art Gallery NSW. For the last few years my birthday-cum-christmas gift to mum has been a joint membership, and we always have a great time there. Friday was a bumper visit – not only our usual gossip (lunch and afternoon tea required), but our first view of the new contemporary galleries. Not mum’s standard cup of tea, nor mine necessarily, but work by Simryn Gill – a series of photographs of where she’d shredded books and the strips of text looked like part of the natural environment – was really interesting and broke down our reservations. Add in the tribute to Margaret Olley (a very well known Australian artist) and exhibitions of works by Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo (previously unknown to me, but obviously very influential in the Sydney art scene in the first half of the last century) and David Aspden (also new to me, and I hope it’s not demeaning to his work to say quite a few looked like they could become wonderful textile designs), and mum and I left exhausted, happy and telling each other how lucky we are to have this institution in our city.

Friday was also – major drumroll here – the day I formally enrolled in the Open College of the Arts, in particular Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach. I don’t really know what this will mean or how far I’ll go (seems like a realistic minimum of 7 years to achieve the BA Hons Textiles, but then it took me around 8 years part-time to get my BSc in computer science) – I guess as long as I’m interested, learning and enjoying it. It does help explain some of the flurry of activity above. Studying at a distance, I think it will be important to meet and listen to people, see things directly, extend myself beyond the core course material (I’m sure OCA encourage/require this). Plus studying through a UK-based institution and faculty, I think it is very important for me personally to keep being Australian and living in Sydney front and centre. Beyond this, it will take a couple of weeks for the course material to arrive and I don’t know what it all means – including to this blog, since they recommend using a blog as a learning log.

For anyone strong enough to get this far, at last a small amount of textile viewing. This weekend I went to an ATASDA workshop with Claire Brach – “Get Funky – Paper Casting and Stitching”. I jumped to enroll in this class. In fact I would take pretty much any class with Claire – very talented, just brimming with ideas, constantly experimenting with tools and techniques, heaps of fun and (a recent addition to her many attractions!) the friend who discovered the OCA course and who enrolled just minutes (well, hours) before me.

I wasn’t disappointed. A weekend of fun and experimentation with a great group of women and an inspiring teacher. A strange indicator of a good weekend – we all stood around in the car park this afternoon, chatting about this and that, just so incredibly reluctant to let it all end.

Saturday was our messy fun day. We took handmade paper (some supplied by Claire, some from our efforts at Primrose Park) and did things to it – dyed, wet embossed, dry embossed, rusting and verdigris effects, inktense pencils, metallic waxes… I was thinking of the theme for ATASDA’s next travelling suitcase exhibition: Marrakesh. With zero research, it makes me think of oranges, turquoise and scrollwork. Maybe some of this will turn into a component in a piece, and if not at least it gave me a vague end goal in my experimentation. I find it incredibly difficult to simply mess around!

Sunday was stitching day and the photo shows my entire output for one day – not much at all!! Actually I did do a little more. The idea was to use the calico as a ground for some of the paper and to stitch through that. I made a start, but found it impossible to think about design and lines and the extra complexity of working on paper at the same time as learning the stitches – especially since stitch isn’t close to my comfort zone. All the paper and stitches from the first session were pulled out – just too visually distracting.

Talking of comfort zones, all weekend I was looking for things to combine in some sensible way with weaving. This afternoon I may have found something. A number of the stitches have elements that don’t go through the cloth. Raised chain band stitch is one – in my photo the light pink and the green sections are examples. What if instead of stitching the base of foundation parallel lines I wove a set of floats? I could then stitch the top section to create a slightly raised feature element. Hmm…

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Goodyer girls long weekend in Hobart

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