Archive for the 'ATASDA' Category

Exhibition – Façade

Façade – ATASDA Exhibition

The NSW branch of the Australian Textile Arts & Surface Design Association recently presented its bi-annual exhibition at the Palm House in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. (Links: ATASDA, and NSW blog FibreTribe).

The theme was Façade and I was impressed by individual works and the exhibition as a whole.

Kay Murray The Garden Palace

Kay Murray
The Garden Palace

Kay Murray used free machine stitching on rust-dyed cotton to show the façade of the Garden Palace, an exhibition building built in the Gardens in 1879, based on London’s Crystal Palace. It was destroyed by arson in 1882. Some sandstone gateposts and wrought iron gates remain, the destruction and the remains symbolised in the rusted fabric.
Gloria Muddle

Gloria Muddle
I Blue Print and Instructions
II Supports and Structures
III Scaffolding

Gloria Muddle

Gloria Muddle
II Supports and Structures

Gloria Muddle took ideas from building sites in responding to “façade”. A variety of materials and techniques were used in this hanging triptych. I like the strong rhythms created with repeated geometric forms.
Claire Brach

Claire Brach

Claire Brach developed an architectural motif, apartment blocks under construction, to consider the networks between apparent strangers in society. We often focus on our individuality, overlooking our close links, our interdependence on those around us.

Claire use paint, pencil and stitch on paper, and it was interesting to see a new mix ideas, materials and techniques emerging following her OCA work. (More on Claire’s blog, including

Nancy Conboy

Nancy Conboy
Public Façade, Private Despair

Other artists explored ideas around the personal façades or faces we show to those around us.

Nancy Conboy shared a difficult personal story, a loved relative who presented a beautiful, controlled persona, hiding ill-health and solitude. The layering of this wearable art reflected the layering of the individual, elegant clothes covering the fragile person. Nancy used a wide range of textile techniques, beautiful construction, thoughtful choice of materials and colours, to represent, celebrate and mourn.

Debbie Morrison

Debbie Morrison
Dress of Apparent Happiness

In Dress of Apparent Happiness Debbie Morrison showed a more positive aspect of the façades we use to disguise inner turmoil.

While maintaining connections and sharing our difficulties with those close to us, there is often still the need to maintain a composed, deflecting persona in professional and social situations. The façade protects our vulnerabilities at such times.

This hanging was skillfully felted wool and silk, with machine and hand embroidery, beads and gems. I like the use of scale, pattern and line. There can be no doubting the sorrow and anxiety in the face and stance of the woman depicted, but from a distance the colours and exuberant flow of her dress dominate.

Cathie Griffith

Cathie Griffith
Excuse me….have I taken you for someone else?

A still more colourful and cheerful view was presented by Cathie Griffith in Excuse me….have I taken you for someone else?. This self-portrait shows all the different facets of a life, environments, relationships, experiences, coming together in an individual. Rather than a barrier, mask or defence, this is a joyful fusing of self, showing openness and pleasure in integrating with the wider world.
Kelcie Bryant-Duguid

Kelcie Bryant-Duguid
Yellow Protest Dress

Kelcie Bryant-Duguid took a political stance, highlighting the deceptive façade of government – in this case penalties, fines and jail, on peaceful protest against mining operations. Whose interests are being protected with these laws?

Kelcie references the “established history of feminist activism using thread as ink” – particularly interesting to me given last week’s musing on text in art (22-May-2016)

The dress is striking, direct, purposeful. This is a protest banner with the person fully involved.

Diana Booth

Diana Booth

I was first attracted to Diana Booth’s work Hidden by the shape and colour. There’s a quirky, independent elegance which appeals. At the time I took it to be felted – later reading my reference photo I see the artist’s statement mentions felt, wool and silk, but also the felt-like Koomchi paper, so I’m not sure.

Another thing I didn’t appreciate at the time was that the object displayed is a cover – a façade. Inside is a milky white glass vase, revealed in the surface design of holes. I really enjoy this literal response to the theme of the exhibition, especially given that literalness is obscured by the beauty of the mask/disguise.
Overall I thought this one of the most successful ATASDA exhibitions I have seen. There was a good mix of traditional materials and techniques with strong moves into mixed media and more conceptual work. There is clear depth of talent, skill, ambition and creativity among ATASDA members. My only hesitation is that all of the works were domestic in scale – suitable for the venue, in fact the exhibition felt crowded, but it would be good to see what could be done with more space.

Journal making with Adele Outteridge

Last month I attended a two-day ATASDA workshop with tutor Adele Outteridge, learning how to make personal journals. I had a mix of motivations:

* to create something rather than reading about other people creating things
* to mix with real live people rather than sit at my computer
* to extend my work
* to learn techniques that could be useful in presenting my work
* to find a way to ramp up my journal usage

For the first book we used coptic stitch with multiple needles.
journal_01We started by preparing multiple sections of torn paper. I went for a wide variety of different weights and types, many of which I had prepared ahead of time in my theme of bush walks near my home and in particular wattle. I covered the board covers with some lovely imported handmade paper.

journal_02Stitching was done with pairs of needles – mine used two pairs, so four needles in total. Once you get into a rhythm (cross-over, link; cross-over, link) it’s a pleasant process. Adele had a particularly effective teaching process. She would talk about and demonstrate just one or two steps, we’d each go and repeat on our books, and we wouldn’t continue until we were all ready and she’d helped anyone with problems. Then we got the next step. It meant we fully understood each part, because we did it ourselves. There was very little confusion, no frustration, and everyone in the class was happy with their results.journal_03

Most pleasing of all to me is that my new journal is a work in progress. It’s come on walks, had bark rubbings added, flowers encased between pages, and here a “page” of gumleaves supported on open-weave hessian added to the tabs / spacers conveniently included.

journal_04The second method we learnt was stitching over tapes. This is simpler as you only use one needle in the stitching.

The starting point is the same – preparation of sections of paper, cutting and covering of front and back boards. I wanted to use this journal as an ideas book for weaving – just because I never get/make time for weaving nowadays doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it, and I want to remember potential projects when the time comes. I used alternating folios of gridded paper followed by drawing/watercolour paper.

journal_05I continued the tapes on the covers, making a woven pattern to fit with the theme of the book. Both the board covers and the tapes are more of the imported handmade paper, which has a wonderful texture to it.

journal_06Again the great thing about this book is that I am using it. As hoped, the blank page encourages me to think visually as well as verbally. The page size is just about right to catch a single idea. It also feels much more convenient to have ideas “condensed” in a single book instead of scattered through day books or in the margins of OCA course note-taking.

Very enthused, once home I got onto a supplier for waxed linen thread ( and extra information (books by Keith Smith,, recommended by Adele).

journal_07On the right is my first home-made attempt. It’s a little sketchbook, with alternating sections of grey and off-white paper (foolishly I didn’t make note of the specifics of the paper when I bought it). I used the four needle coptic stitching again. I think I got quite good tension and stitch-formation on this one.

journal_08Once again the exciting thing is that having this special journal is encouraging me to use it. The watercolour on the left is based on a section of Grace Cossington Smith’s The Lacquer Room (see 24-Jul-2014). In the past I’ve deliberately used a variety of papers and media, often A3 since I felt more comfortable at that scale. This smaller scale makes it easier time-wise, and I don’t end with oddments of single sheets floating around the workroom.

journal_09My most recent creation has a link to OCA coursework.

The next (and final) project is Landscape, and in one of the exercises we are asked to visit a landscape and draw or paint it for ourselves. As it happens in a couple of weeks I’ll be travelling through Western Australia on holiday, so I decided to make a sketchbook especially for the trip.

journal_10All the materials used were already in the house, which gives a nice feeling of self-sufficiency (quite illusory really, given the thread recently arrived in the post etc). The paper on the cardboard covers was protecting the table in past painting exercises. The ribbon tie weaves through the back, and I’m hoping will add some stability and protection on the trip. The paper is alternating 160 gsm drawing paper, which holds water colour quite nicely, and brown kraft paper, for note-taking and pencil sketches.

journal_11The basic format is landscape of course, but what I’m very smug about is the central folio of each section. Instead of just being folded in half, the paper is folded so it will open up into an extra-wide landscape format. After all, I’m expecting to see some very wide country!

I love, love, love this feeling of control and ownership. I’m able to consider my particular needs and to make something that I think will work for me.

The workshop was a great couple of days. For another view and some different books, see fellow-OCA student and ATASDA member Claire’s post I’m looking forward to using some of the new skills to enhance presentation of my college work, although postal weight considerations will always be in play.

Workshop with Mignon Parker

mignon_parker01A few weeks ago I went to a weekend workshop with tutor Mignon Parker, organised by ATASDA. The class was primarily experimenting with rusting techniques and on the left is one of Mignon’s samples.
mignon_parker02Mignon added an interesting painting technique plus some gilding, and the second photo shows some of the other samples she brought.
mignon_parker03Here you can see my initial experiments – at the top on calico, and the lower samples handmade paper (from the ATASDA day at Primrose Park a couple of years ago). On the left of the fabric I used a sealer, on the lefthand paper sample a turquoise acrylic paint as a base. Iron filings were mixed with black acrylic paint, then painted on both sealed and unsealed fabric and papers. The final step of the process is to paint a weak acid solution over the dried paint. The iron reacts with the acid to form rust and possibly also water – the acid solution was thickened, but one of the interesting effects was from a rusty water that spread across fabric and paper.
mignon_parker08I experimented a little with other fabrics. On the left is a silver lamé which has some interesting contrasts with the still shiny areas, black discolouration and the actual rusty sections. I applied the paint using a fibrous, holey paper as a stencil and the pockmarked effect has potential. However the rust is quite brittle and seems likely to flake off if one handled it a lot or tried to stitch through it, plus Mignon warned us of potential damage to washing machines which made us worry about danger for our sewing machines. I decided to focus on paper.
mignon_parker04mignon_parker05A couple of flocked papers gave good results when the iron-laden paint was put just on the flocked sections. I tried two versions. The first actually had a light silvered card as a base, and once again the contrast of silver and rust was quite attractive. As you can see in the closeup of the second photo, the flocking gave additional height and emphasis to the crusty rusting effect. One consideration in the technique is that even if you try to keep the rust effect to a small area, it does tend to spread with the water (or whatever it is) produced. Also the acid solution we used had a blue colour – it may have been a safety feature – and this had an impact on the colour of the base.
mignon_parker06It was difficult to apply the iron/paint mix accurately with a brush – and quite hard on the brush hairs too. I found it more effective when stencilling – better control of patterning, plus the stencil brushes had hardier bristles. This sample used a small paper doiley which I tore in half as stencils. I like the patterning on the paper, and the doily itself looks good – rusted colour but not too crusty or brittle in this instance. It could provide a good way to suggest rusted hinges etc on a mixed media wall piece, without any weight. Using a sealant on the rusted paper would help durability.

mignon_parker07A light-but-strong japanese paper made an effective stencil (see the insert lower left of the photo), but given my previous interests it’s no surprise that it’s the light and shadow possibilities that caught my eye. I haven’t got a particular application in mind as yet, but surely the right opportunity will come up sometime to use this.
mignon_parker09On the second day Mignon showed us a way to mix and apply paint using a credit card (or similar) cut to various widths. It gave some interesting colour effects, but I’m not going to show either of my two samples in their entirety. I need a lot more practice and control, and while Mignon had a system which allowed her to produce a very attractive little italian cityscape on the spot, my determination to make my own visual statement(s) did not go so well overall! I also remain unconvinced that rusting and gilding effects should ever be used in the same piece. To me they are so different in appearance and in what they represent (the decay of rust, the luxury of gold) – even going for some kind of contrast or statement would take just the right situation and a lot of finesse to pull off.
mignon_parker10This is my second attempt with the credit card painting idea, on one of those cheap ready-stretched canvases. I didn’t use rust on it, but did try some areas of gilding. They looked rather trashy, so I used some of the acid to knock back the shine. Looking at it now I might even try (one day) taking it off the frame and machine stitching into it, just to see what happens.

I can’t say I’m really drawn to any of the techniques we tried – probably more than anything because the rust (what interested me the most initially) seems to have some limitations and drawbacks for general use on fabrics. Still, it was a very nice group of women, a pleasant way to spend a weekend, and maybe one day one of these ideas will turn out to be just what I need.

Small tapestries – Yvonne Eade

Yesterday was ATASDA NSW’s quarterly meeting. Lots of chat, fun and inspiration.  The branch has been going through a process of consultation and planning, and the energy and enthusiasm in the room was infectious.

It was good to catch up with Yvonne, who had a display of her small tapestries (Yvonne will be giving a one day “taster” class later this year).

Doing the structure section of OCA’s A Creative Approach (project-9) I assumed using a picture frame as a loom was a stop-gap – a way to give students a taste of weaving without a major investment in equipment. It turns out I’m wrong (not unprecedented, I admit 🙂 ).


This was Yvonne’s loom – a picture frame. You can see the scale she’s working at from the needle in the white warp (a high twist wool – the black is a cotton warp).
yvonne_eade_02On the left are some finished samples – this time the pin heads give the scale. Yvonne was wearing a piece, mounted on perspex (I think), as a broach. Very effective. I’d like to attempt some earrings… or maybe one earring with the design inspired by a really nice handmade glass bead that would make the pair.

I love the details Yvonne’s been able to achieve and the crisp shapes. These are all silk weft I think.

yvonne_eade_03There were also some examples with inclusions. The piece on the right was a little larger, mounted on some card (rag paper with painted tissue on top), and some mohair fibres woven in. I didn’t take a photo of the one with beading, but you can see it on her blog at here.

yvonne_eade_04Yvonne’s use of colour is beautiful. This is another larger piece and the camera on my phone doesn’t come close to doing it justice. The colours just shimmered, providing light and movement. The weft is primarily wool but cotton added. Looking at the photo now I can see some texture in the background, but I was too busy admiring the blending of colour to see it at the time. The top left corner shows some very effective use of colour theory with the red and green enhancing each other.

Working at this scale might seem daunting, but look at how much Yvonne was able to achieve during the business part of the meeting (which was kept brisk and not too long by president Kirry):
We have eccentric (curved) weft and soumak, plus lovely colour. Very rewarding to do in a small pocket of time.

yvonne_eade_06Yvonne does have the advantage of a wonderful palette of colours. She and Marie Clews run a business dyeing and selling yarns and other tapestry-related items at Just a few of these made their way home with me (just a happy customer. I can’t remember the expression – No Commercial Affiliation??).

Anyway, the moral of this story is – it’s the weaver, not the tools. You can do amazing, finished work on a picture frame.

Effie Mitrofanis – Enrich the Surface

Last weekend I went to an ATASDA class with Effie Mitrofanis, who does beautiful, rich and colourful embroidery. It was a really lovely couple of days.

It was detailed work and I am slow, so nothing came close to finished. Subtract the orange stitching near the top and the beads, and on the left is my entire production for Saturday. The stitched area is about 12 centimetres square (under 5 inches). I’m just setting expectations of what there is to see, not complaining – it was a weekend of learning, companionship, colour and fibre. Pure pleasure.

We started with a base of muslin, then put on strips of fabric – mostly dupion silk. Straight and herringbone stitch secured and decorated the edges. (Effie has some samplers showing incredible variety of texture and appearance using just straight stitch.)

Next were some tips on binding the ends of gold cord, followed by (drumroll) bullion stitch over the cord. The class was absolutely quiet as we worked on this, but I think everyone was very pleased with themselves and their results.

Dual rows of blanket stitch were worked at the top, setting ourselves up for the next day.

Some beautiful random-dyed gimp was wound over the blanket stitch base. There is also some beading over the gold cord and some bugle beads where I plan to do some seed stitch in a variety of threads.

My second sample has raised chain band up the left side. The blue thread is something anonymous that I bought from a member stash-busting stand at a recent ATASDA meeting. Very effective. On the right is wave stitch (more thread from the same stash-buster!). I’ve also added some little flower-shaped beads to highlight the line I wanted to extend from the patterned fabric. I don’t know yet what’s going to happen below.

Effie also showed us how to make a wrapped cord. My sample used six lengths of stranded cotton thread, plus beading thread and some gimp. I wanted to do at least a little of most of the techniques Effie showed, but I didn’t get as far as knotting or multiple wraps side by side. You can build up all these elements to get some really effective results.

I learnt quite a bit over the weekend, over and above the various techniques from Effie.

  • I followed past advice from Claire, choosing a colour scheme and heavily editing the  material and thread I took to class. This saved a lot of time and really helped me to focus on what we were doing.
  • Zinger threads. When finished these small works can be really rich and complex surfaces. I can get lost in the detail. The use of “zing” (like the blue in sample 2’s raised chain band) brings life and focus.
  • It’s a detail, but I like the red thread used as a base for the raised chain band. It felt a bit risky when I chose it, a bit out of the main colour theme, but the small amount visible really adds some subdued complexity. My working theory is to try to be bold in the early stages. If it doesn’t work it can be covered or adjusted somehow. Better than being bland.
  • Not everything has to be planned and have deep meaning or thought or concept. Responding to the thread and work, to what is developing under your hands, is a wonderful, centering, restorative experience. I don’t know how that fits with OCA course work, where you’re trying to fulfill requirements, show development and critical thinking, develop design skills… It’s not necessarily all mutually exclusive. Perhaps it’s a matter of balance, perhaps I just need more skill / experience / development.

Resource: Mitrofanis, E. (2009) Threadwork: silks, stitches, beads & cords. (Binda: Sally Milner Publishing)

Preparation for stamping and printing

Project 5 is Painting and Printing, but I haven’t got there yet. There’s an experimentation section first, with the now-standard challenge of the open-ended, never ending exploration. Which is pretty wonderful – that there’s something I love doing where there’s always more to learn and and ideas to try.

Step one was to pull some books from the shelf and do some (re-)reading:

Dunnewold, J. (1996) Complex Cloth: A comprehensive guide to surface design. Woodinville: Martingale & Company. I think this must be one of the classics of surface design. Instructions and “recipes” for a wide variety of techniques and lots of beautiful, inspirational photos.

Grownewegen, D. (2009) The Magic of block printing: make your mark with printmaking. Australia: Diane Groenewegen. Diane is a member of ATASDA, and you can see some of her work on her ATASDA member gallery page here. Diane has self-published a number of small but information-full booklets and also runs classes in her studio and for ATASDA.

Jerstorp, K. and Köhlmark, E. (1988) The fabric design book: understanding and creating patterns using texture, shape, and color, Asheville: Lark Books. I’ve mentioned this book before here in the context of books about colour. What can I say – it’s a great book.

Next was making a padded board for printing based on a mixture of the instructions in Complex Cloth and those in the OCA course notes. I used a dense closed-cell foam for the padding (on a board and covered in cotton) and it’s providing a great smooth, pin-able surface for printing.

Now some photos of the experiments to date (sorry about the particularly bad lighting – too much of a rush). All are on calico that was left over after making the stamping surface, and I haven’t got to the fixing, washing and ironing yet. Trying different fabrics is part of the actual project.
1. I used stamp A, made in polystyrene foam, melting away unwanted areas with a soldering tool. I made the stamp a number of years ago in a class with Marion Boyling, but had never used it.

2 and 3. The same stamp, working back over it using Crayola fabric markers. I don’t like the hard marker lines with the mottled surface of the stamp.

4. The same stamp A, this time working over it with Pentel Arts fabric fun pastel dye sticks. This worked well, the colours blending in and softly filling the gaps left by the stamp surface.

5. Drawing with the pastel dye sticks. There’s some bleeding and blurring at the edges which doesn’t work with this motif but could be effective in other designs.

6. I drew the outline with markers then filled in with the dye sticks. This helped the bleeding issues.

7. Stamp B, which I used and made in Marion’s class (2004 – I found my class notebook).

8. Stamp C, carved in a plastic eraser from a design developed in my sketchbook based on a Raoul Dufy painting. The lino cutting tools have been sitting in a drawer, never used. I was a bit nervous with them – the eraser was small and I’m pretty clumsy, but I managed not to cut myself and I like the design, especially the overlapping and mottled colouring.

9. Left over paint on the foam roller I used to coat the stamps. I’m curious to see the hand of the fabric when it’s fixed and washed.

The next photos are all on a single long strip of calico.

First is shell stencils – the design from earlier exercises for the last project. I did a couple of adjustments to make them suitable for a stencil (simplifying, no “islands” that detach from the stencil), then printed the images from the computer onto acetate sheet sold as printable overhead projector transparencies. I then cut out the printed shapes. Using a sprayon repositionable glue to hold stencil firmly on the fabric, I dabbed with a sponge to apply fabric paint. There’s a little bleeding on the curved shell – I hadn’t fully sprayed the sheet and only decided later to use both shapes. I like the bold, strong blue shape. The mottled colour on the curved shell is also effective, although my stencil cutting was a bit angular and I wonder how well the stencil will last – the long bottom curve is only just attached.

I used toilet roll inserts, with raised areas created using caulking and string. The rolls fit over a toy rolling pin which makes it easy to apply to the fabric, although my choice of colours leaves something to be desired. The rolls started to soften up when I quickly cleaned them with water and an old toothbrush. I’ve since sealed them with a few coats of gloss and will see if that helps durability.

The yellow stamp is a reconstruction – the original corrugated cardboard disintegrated during the stamping and cleaning process. The original stamp came from a class with Diane Groenewegen, and there are better results in the next photo.

The corrugated cardboard makes great marks. I’ve coated the new piece with sealant, hoping for better durability.
The leaf eraser stamp looks good repeated to form a block of patterning. I also like the variation in colour that I got. The paint was applied to the stamp with a foam paint roller and the colours just mixed together on the acetate sheet I used as a palette / roller tray. The final section was simply swirls made using a foam brush with a circular end.
I did this next piece last weekend, a few weeks after the earlier attempts. The photo is actually 2 merged together, which explains some of the odd, uneven colouring. The thumbnail photo show the tools I used.

1. is the same shell stencil as above, but it occurred to me to turn the stencil over and roll over with a brayer to transfer the excess paint onto the fabric (2). It’s almost a monoprinting technique. I love the positive and negative possibilities this opens up.

3. is a new polystyrene foam stamp, from a design started in Peter Griffen’s workshop (post here), and developed further in sketchbook work. I used the polystyrene since the particular sketch I used was in charcoal and I thought the foam gives a somewhat similar uneven mark. I’m very happy with this stamp.

4. Following up the almost monoprint idea above, I stamped onto an acetate sheet then rolled the colour off onto the fabric. It gave a nice reversal, but the image is a bit lighter and different in character compared to the direct stamp.

In 5, I stamped onto the acetate and rolled off, then without re-inking stamped directly. This meant less paint on the direct stamp and the two sit together better in my eyes.

6. uses a number of fancy foam rollers, sold as children’s toys. These could be used to add some texture and interest to an area and the contrasts and overlapping have possibilities.

7. Used a wooden checkers counter (nice) and a cosmetic sponge (boring).

8 and 9 is paint rolled over plastic parts sold as a peg bag. Lots of possibilities as part of a composition, and it could come in handy to have both a square and a circular element.

10 is rolled over a paper doily. 11 was rolling off paint on the foam roller. I tried to use get variation by changing pressure but didn’t have any real control.

I have lots more ideas to try in the future and am continuing work in the sketchbook, but I think I’ll call this enough for the preparation section. More things to try include:

  • vegetable, leaf etc prints (love broccoli)
  • simple screen techniques. I’m thinking of using gum leaves as a stamp (I did that earlier in some assignment 1 work), then holding leaves down under the screen to get the negative image.
  • silk painting. This is where I started my focused textile exploration, back in 2003 (?or so)
  • thickened dyes for stamping and painting
  • shibori techniques
  • monoprints
  • discharging with stamps

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…

A Bag for all Seasons

I’ve just spent a great weekend doing Helen MacRitchie’s class, run by ATASDA. That’s Helen in the photo, together with some of the results (Kathy G wasn’t able to come the second day, and Jennifer was still madly stitching.)

Helen is an excellent teacher. She provided us with clear notes including lots of photos, so we could focus on watching her demonstrations and just jot down a few extra personal reminders. Helen makes very well engineered bags. We used a a range of interfacings, wadding, various bits of handbag hardware and a wide variety of fabrics. More important were all the techniques and options that Helen taught – for example at least five different methods to make pockets and a huge number of those small details which make all the difference in a final product that is beautiful, functional and hard wearing.

Kathy W's bag

With 2 days of focused work most people finished their bags. We all used Helen’s basic pattern but there was lots of variety in the results – with and without a frame, additional depth, the fabrics of course and all the details of handles, closures etc. I was busy and only took a couple of photos. Kathy used some lovely handwork on her bag front.

Pamela's bag

No details of mine yet. It’s the “hydrangea” coloured one on the left in the back and used the fabric I posted about here. I’ll write more about it once it is finished – I think I was the only one who left today with significant work still to be done (closure and handles). In my own defence, cutting and pieceing together the handwovens took a fair chunk of time yesterday (part of it breathing deeply before engaging the scissors!)

Papermaking at Primrose Park

Jeanette, with Dinah at the press

A total change of pace today, with a papermaking class at Primrose Park. This was an ATASDA activity and came about through the generosity and hard work of Jeanette who is a member of both ATASDA and Primrose Paper Arts.

There was a good turnout and Jeanette and the other volunteer papermakers were kept very busy teaching and helping us, including some heavy winding by Dinah on the press.

Jeanette had already processed 5 kilos (!) of mountboard to make buckets of ?? is pulp the right word? Anyway, we were able to get started straight away forming sheets of paper.

Soon boards of newly formed paper were propped outside, trying to take advantage of any glimmers of sun to dry the paper. The Centre is beside a soccer pitch, and one member has the surprise embellishment of muddy dog prints decorating her work!

Other enhancements were a bit more controlled, with dried leaves, flowers, fabric pieces, decorative papers etc being laid on the newly formed paper. We tried rusty metal grids, plant material and fabrics to emboss the pages, then towards the end of the day started dyeing the pulp.

Lots of inspirational work was passed around at lunchtime, plus Jeanette brought a big box of goodies to show us. There was a great variety of beautiful work – though I didn’t get a shot of her “feral book”.

No photos of my results yet – everything is still drying, so I’ll finish with some shots of the building. It’s a council facility, apparently originally a sewerage works that was decommissioned in the 1920s. It’s a beautiful space.



I blinked and time has passed! I’m afraid this post will be a rough-and-ready mix, catching up.

The major focus has been finding appropriate residential care for my mother-in-law. She had a rotten year with several long hospital stays – returning to her own home was not an option. She’s now close by getting the care she needs, and while not happy she is making an effort to accept what became inevitable. I feel lucky to live in Australia where aged care is heavily government regulated – complex and hard to navigate, but available (eventually), good quality and affordable.

There was also a weekend trip to Canberra with my mother to see the
MASTERPIECES from PARIS – wonderful artworks which transcended the crowds and queueing. The season has been extended to 18 April, but make sure you pre-purchase tickets and be prepared to be patient. If you have children, there is a wonderful room of activities available inside the exhibition as well as a child-friendly audio tour.

The March ATASDA NSW meeting was fun. The Maharajah’s Garden pieces were all there, though difficult to see in the crush of people. I bought these “weaving sticks” from another member. The warp yarn is threaded through the base of the sticks (see insert top left of the photo), the sticks provide a rigid form to wind the weft around, and as the sticks are covered you push the weft down over the warp.

There has been other weaving. (Sorry for the bad photos – time is crunching!)

This is one of the warps I dyed in Linda Coffill’s class in January. It’s 20/2 silk sett at 40 epi. Weft is 60/2 silk. Plain weave, with warp dominant but weft still visible. The result has a lovely drape, hand and shine. I’m really happy with it.

One interesting thing is the impact of the weft colour. It was dyed coral, the same as parts of the warp. The little dots of the weft showing intensify the colour where the warp is also coral. They dull the blue areas, and particularly the lighter greenish-blue. Overall the balance of colour is not what I planned. I don’t mind the result, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind in the future.

Another spin-off from Linda’s class was the formation of a new colour study group within the Guild. We’ve started meeting once a month in the Guild rooms – other members are welcome (we’re not meeting in April due Easter and holidays). At our first meeting we had lots of show and tell and talked about what we want to do. At our second, we brought dyed fibres, a couple of people brought their drum carders, and we played with colour blending. I experimented with blending the same colours (not necessarily the same proportions), creating rolags using hand carders and a layered bat in the drum carder.

I spun the results without plying, but was very rough when finishing the yarn so that it would felt up and not cause too many shrinkage problems when weaving. It became weft in part of my latest weaving class sampler – crackle.

The section above the dividing line was the drum carded part – texturally more evenly mixed and the brown dominant (it was the outside layers of the sandwich).

The lower part was the handcarded rolags. Lots of variation and interest. I really like that section.

I’m not going to attempt an explanation of crackle here. There’s lots of information available – Peg has a huge amount in her blog, and there are heaps of articles on

This is another section of the same sampler. The right third of the warp was plain brown, threaded to show each of the 4 blocks. The left side was a fairly random mix of 6 colours in the warp, and the threading jumped around between blocks. I did quite a bit of playing with different pattern and tabby wefts. Lots of potential to return to another day.

For today, sorry about the jumbled rush but at least that brings me almost up to date. It’s progress 🙂


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November 2022

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