Thursday, September 25, 2008

The comforts of home ...

Here is my son Marcus, all of six and with his own definite sense of style. I finally caved in and let him dye his hair. He wants a tattoo and an earring too. Yes, I concede he may be tattooed when he is 18. We have a dear friend who specialises in Pacific Polynesian designs and when the time comes, if the boys wish, will be responsible for their Niuean / Tahitian / Maori designs. I think Marcus wants a skull tattoo. We'll see ...

I found this tiny felt monkey and terrier dog skulking around. I made them one night when I couldn't sleep. Funny that these small creations took around two hours at least each!
My two favourite new books, again purchased from Minerva bookshop on Cuba Street. Visual candy to say the least. I am so inspired but need to spend some time finishing my current projects.

One cold day I had some mince (ground beef to you Americans) and a few potatoes. Looky, my first cottage pie. I made it in my favourite Crown Lyn bowl I found at Trash Palace for a couple of bucks. Only because it is the closest thing I own to a casserole bowl. Very delicious and a favourite of the kids.Tea anyone? I drink copious amounts of hot sweet tea at the moment. It must be Earl Grey Tea too. I found the tea cosy in a bin that said "10 items for $2" at the local barn-sized recycled clothing centre. Total cost: 20c. I then had to look for a teapot and found a purple one at Trash Palace for $2!!! The tray was handpainted by my mother. The little beaded doily sugar cover also made by mum. And the teacups, well, another gift from my mum. Making up a tea tray has become a 'several times a day' constitution in our home. The biscuit jar is constantly being refilled.

And look what other treasures I found today. The flowers came from my garden. The little kitsch Hawaii tiki milk jug from a garage sale for $1 last year. The groovy retro yellow teapot was found at the Plimmerton Salvation Army Family Store today for $2!!! Bonus!

I have been blessed with so many second-hand clothes for 'Knuckles' to the point of excess. I love pre-loved clothing and it's exciting because I can pass it on as well. It serves me a sense of doing good to my planet in that I am recycling and not giving in to consumerism.

Those baby shops are full of goods that are tempting but honestly, do people really not understand that we cannot keep making processed goods and tossing things out without serious consequences. Landfills cannot cope with all the plastic crap going into them. People work in underpaid and unhealthy conditions in third world countries to provide us with whatever we want.

I love the concept of slow-fashion. The idea that we pay a little more for handmade quality goods that go the distance and the money goes into the pocket of the maker. And on that note, I would rather pay $20 for a free-range organic chicken and only eat chicken once a month, than eat a freak chicken that is fast-fed/grown in terrible conditions. That goes for pork and fruit and all the rest of my kai. No, I am not a purist but I am definitely more conscious these days.

Ok, definitely off to bed now. Toodles.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

India drops by ...

What a blessing last month to have dear friend and guest artist India Flint spend a day with Whitireia art students and friends on her way through to Nelson where she had an exhibition with fellow felt artists.
I always think India is slightly Amazonian in stature. Marcus, my six year old is always up for a photo opp. India wears her signature eco-dyed couture. I love her clothes.

She is a calm soul, quiet and peaceable (well I think so), and is one of those people who walks the talk. Her work is a natural extension of the lovely person she is. I always feel inspired when I am with her. Some people are like that. Brings out the goodness in me. Plus her art work is accessible to those of us who prefer things simple and uncomplicated. I get really annoyed with the fine arts sometimes. There are those who like to make it exclusive, as if art is some mysterious force that only the enlightened are allowed to participate in. Bollocks I say! Everyone can be creative and everyone can do it if they so desire. And one doesn't need to go to art school (although it does help deepen ones knowledge of the bigger picture I feel) nor does one need to be rich or to have lots of fancy materials. People like India keep it real for us souls who just want to make meaningful things.

This is another of India's books, a joint project with Toyoko. I think Toyoko wanted to learn from India so much, she flew from Japan with little means of support to meet with India in Australia. She learned how to felt and created goods she could sell. Then a publisher saw her goods and to cut a long story short, this book was created. I highly recommend it, it has lots of lovelies from felted river stones, felt beads, bowls, bags and mats. I do suggest that for the novice felter, a workshop is imperative. I am like that. Once I have the basic skills, I can venture out on my own, but prefer to see how it is done first and be guided by an expert. I know India is here for Whitireia Summer School (approx $300 for 5-6 great days) to repeat her eco-dyeing workshop followed by another week's workshop with a different slant. I am not sure what, but if you go to her website ( there is more information. I would love to go but think I am dreaming because this baby will only be a few weeks old, plus my two school children will be on summer vacation unless I can convince Rich to release me (which he will if work allows - he's so good to me).
We sat down and crafted some lovely felted vessels, formed around stones that were chosen because they 'sung' to us.
Step one: Lay out the wool tops in a crosshatch fashion, several layers deep.
Step two: In a fashion much like wrapping up fish'n'chips, roll up the stone inside the wool.
Step three: Using random strips of silk, sew the stone up in a silk-pieced fashion. We used a mix of new and recycled small silk pieces. We also used silk thread.

Step four: Using a small amount of warm water and soap (Lux flakes are good, although u can use anything sudsy, even liquid handsoap), start agitating the ball in your hands. Keep going until the whole thing starts to feel more compact. The wool shrinks causing the silk to shrivel up and have a neat wrinkly effect because silk doesn't shrink. (Ok, I am sure there is a better way of describing this but for the life of me I cannot remember what this effect is called - possibly related to Shibori technique but who cares ... you get my drift).
Step five: Go for a walk and find windfallen leaves. Using some twine, wool or whatever, bind the leaves around the stone. For our final layer, we sourced some onion skins and bundled it all up to in the pot for around 30 minutes. The longer the better but we were on a time limit. I reckon an hour wouldve rendered even better colour, and if we had turned off the pot and left the whole lot overnight or for a few days, might've been even stronger hue.
India and our lovely little serendipitus bundles. This is by far one of my favourite parts - unwrapping those bundles and seeing what magic has occurred.My one. I love the way the twine gets dyed too - I have a whole bag of little bits of twine and wool that have held many bundles together. They are so precious and get used to sew book covers, etc.
This is my felted stone's big reveal. The leaves I collected created a resist, so the dye only occurred where the onion skins had direct contact with wool.
India cut her felt open, and removed the stone to reveal her container.
Behold, a gift from India for our baby 'Knuckles' hanging from silk string she made. I did a blanket-stitched edge around the opening with silk thread dyed at last years summer school and added the shell embellishment from a repurposed Samoan necklace - just love that fusion of Pacific and Latvian aroha. It is a lovely object and hangs from a nail in my kitchen where I lovingly touch it throughout the day as I pass by. Thanks India.

On a lighter note, I made some cool knitting needles for myself. They were bamboo ones marked down to $1 a pair at Spotlight, so I used up some felted scraps and stitched them onto the ends. Cleo made some for her stall and I bought a pair for a friend so full credit to Cleo and her craftiness. How nifty is that?! Now I better learn how to knit something more than a scarf.I am working on a blanket at the moment - a love/hate project that I pick up in inspirational moments and then shove away in frustration for a week or two. It's random but is meant to be a therapeutic project for me. Using repurposed silk, cotton and old wool blankets, I am piecing it together using various threads, mostly silk. The point of it is that lots of small things (sometimes even the most random) can work together to make a beautiful harmonious work of art.I didn't know that when I started it. I knew it meant something but it wasn't until it started to slowly form (because handstitching is a SLOW process) that it came to me. See most of my life I have tried to make a difference in BIG ways but often fell short and got frustrated. Striving because I believed the hype that if we try hard enough, we can have anything we want. Get anywhere we want. What a waste of time and false optimism - sometimes what I wanted was based on my need to compensate for lack in my life. This turned out to be a futile cause - my naive younger years believing that I could control my destiny and all it's outcomes. These days, I am of the opinion that it is better to appreciate where we are because we can always attain that. And better to make lots of small wise decisions, small achievable goals, small doable actions daily that lead to a better place overall. Someone once told me the only way we can eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Funny, it was meant in a different context, like how to get through hard times.
However, I have come to the conclusion that today is what matters. The small decisions, moments, actions, words I use and make today, shape tomorrow. If I have a few good 'todays', they will lead to a lifetime I will find satisfying. And then again, I may change my philosophy as time goes on, and that is our perogative. We can keep evolving, changing even when things don't work out or make sense. Boy, have I burned myself out for years over things that were not all that important like trying to make others happy, and being lead instead of figuring out what was important to me first, and not trusting my own ideas. Not only that, but I have been told by a few people that I was pretty unbearable to be around. Yuck. Don't like that. Don't desire that. Want to draw people near to me not repel them.It was definitely time for a change. This baby has been a mixed blessing. I spent 14 weeks with chronic morning sickness trying to get my head around the whole idea. Then the next 14 weeks adapting to the physicality of being pregnant, growing bigger and putting my career on hold again. And now I face the last 12 weeks feeling heavy and uncomfortable, knowing it will get tougher with the added bonus of childbirth at the end. The positives (apart from our family having another beloved member) is that it has put my life back into perspective. It forces me to make better intentional choices about the most basic of things. Paring back my life so I am not around stressful folks, pacing my days so as not to be a harridan of a mother and wife, keeping real about what I can and can't do, praying lots when I can't cope, rejoicing on the days when I can, asking for help when needed, and burrowing in when I need to feel the comfort and safety of my own personal space. Sometimes external achievements and stimulus create distractions from what is really important. Like being fully in the moment. Finding joy and delight in the simple things. Appreciating the gifts we already possess. Loving the ones around us. Perhaps this is why I enjoy the work and lives of artists like India and Nina (Bagley). They reflect this ability to enjoy life in it's simplicity and bring forth uncontrived beauty by simply pointing out what is already in front of our noses. I love Mary Oliver's poetry for this reason. I enjoy the ramblings of Bishop TD Jakes who continuously brings me into the presence of the father-heart of God. I love walking the beach with my children. I love lying on the grass and gazing up into the sky on any given fine day. I love seeing other artists and craftspeoples handmade goods.
This is what is emerging in this little blanket project I started. I pick it up when my heart is full and connected with this simple self. It is a bit like hopping in a car with a full tank and seeing what journeys can be had, adventures experienced and destinations found. And not a bit like the old me who wouldn't even get in the car until I knew for sure where I was going, what the outcome would be and with several contingency plans in case the first one didn't pan out.
I had a funny dream last night. I had this burning desire to stitch but was frustrated because I didn't want to do the projects I was working on but desperately wanted to sew. Well anyway I woke up and went to the loo because I was busting so perhaps the frustration was just my need to pee. My mind usually obsesses with whatever is my latest thing. However I rationalise I could be doing drugs instead, so sewing or artwork is an ok obsession. I think to be artistic does require one to be ever so obssessive and compulsive. It goes with the territory. Must be getting old when my stimulating dreams are no longer about doing the hokey pokey but sewing instead.
The thing about handstitching is that it forces me to slow down and the whole process is meditative. One cannot hurry but simply wait until the work unfolds and reveals itself. Each stitch is intentional and lands where it does because the hand directs it.These shell buttons are a random collection found in many op shops over time. I am the one poring through the button jars looking for the pearly gleam of a vintage mother of pearl button.
The fabrics are a combo of op-shopped silk shirts, old wool blanket scraps from other projects, vintage Asian silk from Asia Gallery in Kilbirnie, lace scraps from my friend Chrissy's silk lace wedding gown (at $200pm for the lace alone and that was 12 years ago), cotton baby sheets, old cotton lace trim, wool crochet edging (my first ever attempt to crochet, thanks Cleo for the lesson), and silk thread.
My final dilemna is whether or not to chuck this white-tone pieced fabric into a dye pot over summer. I struggle to work with the white as I am by nature a black and earth-toned girl. This is definitely working outside my comfort zone. However, all the white-lovers have objected when I hint at my final plan.
Well that is enough for tonight. I have a backlog of photos so will post some more tomorrow time permitting. I have enjoyed the process of journalling some of my ventures today but it is time this girl got to bed. This blog is so therapeutic at times.
Blessings all.
PS. Found this wee write-up regarding a piece of work I did a few months back. Click on to follow the link and have a nosey.

Funny little things ...

I am drawn to making little creatures - soft toys made out of upcycled or end of the line fabric remnants. A baby on the way, more time with my kids and time on my hands for my favourite thing - making treasures ... well as you can see, I have lots of fun with these childish creations. Above is a book I picked up last week from Minerva, a great bookshop for textile lovers located in the city on Cuba Street. I figure buying a book now and then is cheaper than workshops and I just need to sell a one or two creations to earn the cost of the book. Our budget demands this kind of logic - helps with my buyers guilt remorse. The puppy I made above was from a pair of 99c gardening gloves from the Warehouse. I cannot find those archival white cloth gloves that we use at the gallery. Anyone have any ideas?

These three creatures are my boys creations with some help from mum in the construction. We made them from old wool blankets, some of which I dyed last summer at India Flints workshop. I am trying to encourage the boys to design and draw a lot these days. I tend to make things intuitively which is fine but want the boys to start thinking early about design process. What textures, colours and form they desire and most importantly, get them thinking "why?" they want things to look the way they do. What feeling do they wish to evoke in their creations and afterwards to critique their work - have they achieved what they set out to do. Of course they are boys and would rather be skateboarding or playing games, but when they show even a glimmer of interest, I milk it for all its worth. And these are their results. If they sell these, they can have the money which adds further incentive. I don't care if they never become artists, I just want them to have those skills early. When I was a kid, my mum bought me bare wooden shelves and let me paint them, she purchased pot plants that I chose and let me decorate my own bedroom. That and creative license to dress how I wanted really boosted my own personal sense of style and confidence that drives me even to this day.

This little cutie doll was a gift from my three year old friend Phoenix for our new baby. It's made from leftover felt/knitting that's been ecodyed and sewn with her mums handspun thread. The legs are made from handspun silk twine. It is my favourite handmade thing recently - I adore its simplicity. The big buttons may have come from Spotlight.

These two pink fella's were created from a glove and bits of old jerseys. Cleverly sewn together to form these cuddle monsters by my friend Cleo. I made enough money selling my cupcake pincushions at Pataka's mid-year craft market to purchase them, having loved her toys for over a year now. As soon as I made enough money, I ran across and nabbed these two handmade lovelies of her stall for my new baby. These were my first purchases for baby 'Knuckles'. Um, not very practical but definitely desirable. The fresias on the windowsill came from our garden and are a hint of the spring season that is finally making an appearance. Roll on warmer weather is all I can say.

And here is my own little cuddle monster - Marcus who made himself a nice 'bed' with his blanket in the sun. He likes to set up these little nests, arranging his toys and himself. I remember doing this as a kid.

This funny monster is called "Pukana" which is the challenge a Maori makes when he is doing a war dance. He opens his eyes big and grimaces with his tongue out. I made him for Marcus.

And these sock creatures were inspired by a book I got from the library in Porirua called "Stupid Sock Creatures". I found some old rugby socks in St Vincents De Paul Op Shop in Johnsonville and threw in a kiwi twist. I love the big juju lips - totally Polynesian-flavours.