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.


Jackie said...

So much to comment on. I don't know where to start. I love your blanket, the colour and the assymetrical design; the pebble vessels are wonderful, and I agree about India's stature..even in the first picture.
Stay well and blooming.

Penelope said...

This is such a lovely and insightful post, I agree with it all! I love India, felt, eco dyes, white tones, earth tones (I'm torn as to whether to 'let' you dye the piece or not!) and I love the confessions you make about how we waste so much energy on things.

I used to be like that, worrying and hating so much about the modern world, and in my good intentions to always do the green thing, I ended up missing out on alot, sabotaging my artwork and on some days not even leaving the house from the depression of it all! These days I am much more relaxed- like you said, one bite at a time.

I totally agree about hand-sewing being an obsession! It's one I've recently passed on to my housemate, and now we both sit there like old maids, watching TV and sewing!

And one more thing- the rationalisation about being on drugs instead- I TOTALLY do this. I always used to think to myself when I flop into bed at 5am totally exhausted from art...'well, at least I'm not on drugs'. :)

india flint said...

look to the west...see that rosy glow on the horizon? that's me blushing at all the kind words and compliments. haven't been near electronic media for a week or so, but instead was tutoring at the Geelong Textile Forum...our class became an extended sewing circle (no machines permitted) which organically reconvened each evening after dinner; where we sat and stitched until the pumpkin hour sharing tea, talk, technique and many jokes. oh and chocolate also.
blessings, me dear.....

Arija said...

So good to see you back on line again and doing sooo much work. Glad you had some time with India and I'm happy to see that all is well with you.
Must have been fun to go hunting around all the op-shops.