The tyranny (or not) of distance!

Yesterday, after wading through rivers of water during the storm at 5.30am to put our horses out into their paddock (they were most indignant at being woken at that hour and very reluctant to join me in wading!) I set off for a cross country drive to Narrogin in the heart of the West Australian wheat growing area.  Narrogin is a country town, some three hours drive from our capital city of Perth.  The drive was very pleasant, the weather being kind to me, there were only a few sprinkles of rain on the windscreen.  The paddocks are all looking green after recent rainfall.  I arrived in the town with plenty of time before the workshop started and was pleasantly surprised to find a coffee shop open at that time of day.  The coffee was good and the roaring fire was very welcoming.

It was easy to find the venue for the workshop in Narrogin’s main street.  The Artspace is a wonderfully welcoming, large space  and ideal to hold any workshop, also a great meeting place.  I understand ARtS Narrogin is run by volunteers and they are planning all sorts of exciting events – the Ten Sopranos will be performing in Narrogin on Wednesday – if you live in the area check out their FaceBook page at https://www.facebook.com/ARtSNarrogin.

I had a fabulous day teaching lots of simple book structures – using some recycled items, and shared lots more ideas.  Some of the workshop participants had travelled a considerable distance to attend and I think they all had a good time – they worked really hard and produced a considerable collection of books during the day.

Despite being a considerable distance from the capital city and having limited access to art supplies Narrogin has an artspace and organisation to be proud of, and lots of enthusiastic and very talented people.  I love rural Western Australia.

working hard in Artspace Narrogin

working hard in Artspace Narrogin

The fantastic work space at ARtS Narrogin

The fantastic work space at ARtS Narrogin

making mini books for necklaces

making mini books for necklaces

luscious leaf prints

I had not fired up the dyepot since May and quite a lot of eco dyed scarves have gone to other homes lately, so I took advantage of a day with not a lot of wind to cook up some eco dyed bundles.

I was thrilled with the merino wool sleeveless top that came out with some really clear prints, and before I had a chance to take a photo – it was sold.  I will have to try and find time to dye again next week – I am sure nature will reveal some more awesome prints but can guarantee they won’t be the same as this week!

This is a detail of my favourite scarf from this dye batch.

Eucalypt print on silk scarf

Eucalypt print on silk scarf

Australia Wide Three

I tripped down to Art Geo Gallery this evening – their current exhibition is “Australia Wide Three” a wonderful selection of art quilts by members of ozquiltnetwork inc.

Margery Goodall, a Western Australian quilter, current president of ozquiltnetwork, and artist with work in this exhibition gave a fabulous talk about the exhibition.  Those who attended gained some insight into the makers of the quilts, a history of the organisation, and explanations of some of the techniques used in the construction of the works.

These small works are, without exception, beautifully executed  – the more you look, the more you see.  It is an exhibition worth seeing, even if you work in media other than textiles.  If you live in the South West you will need to be quick. The exhibition is at Art Geo, Queen Street, Busselton until Sunday then it travels to Wanneroo.  Check out the ozquiltnetwork at http://www.ozquiltnetwork.org.au

Keeping it local

You may have heard of the idea of slow food – the idea of eating food that has been grown locally and is in season – something that has not travelled halfway around the country or the world before it gets to you.  Take that idea a little further into cloth and clothing, this is what my friend Marina from http://handmadeandmarina.wordpress.com has been doing recently.  Marina has sourced Merino fleece from sheep living in Burekup – a small town near Bunbury – and has spun that fleece into yarn, then woven it on her backstrap loom into fabric.

I am lucky enough to have some of that fabric at Folios and Fibre – beautiful hand woven scarves, natural in colour, one with lanolin still in it – the other has been washed a little more and is beautifully soft.  Something really special for a gift, or treat yourself to one to keep the cold at bay on these chilly mornings.  These are one of a kind – take a long time from fleece to fabric – I feel very fortunate to have them in the gallery.

Beautiful hand spun, hand woven south west western australia merino wool scarf $48 - by handmade and marina

Beautiful hand spun, hand woven south west western australia merino wool scarf $48 – by handmade and marina

 

hand spun, hand woven merino scarf - detail - by handmade and marina

hand spun, hand woven merino scarf – detail – by handmade and marina

 

Scrumbling

I have been having great fun creating this collar/shawlette from a huge variety of fancy and plain yarns.  I have been playing with this technique for a number of years and have created enough scrumbles for a jacket for myself – I just need to find time to put them together!   I thought it  would be quicker and fun to put this together for the gallery.  It sits really nicely around the neck and is comfortable to wear.  I have to acknowledge Prudence Mapstone of Knot Just Knitting who travels tirelessly teaching and promoting this fun method of creating garments.  She has published some excellent  how to books on the techniques too.

freeform crochet collar/shawlette - various interesting fibres - fastens with a crochet motif pin $95

freeform crochet collar/shawlette – various interesting fibres – fastens with a crochet motif pin $95

freeform crochet collar/shawlette - a variety of fancy yarns - fastens with a crochet motif pin $95

freeform crochet collar/shawlette – a variety of fancy yarns – fastens with a crochet motif pin $95

Siena, Italy

Siena was my favourite place in Italy.  I loved the walled city, the houses, palazzos, cobbled streets and the general pace of life.  The taxi ride from the train station to the hotel was a little confronting – pedestrians, cars, taxis and buses all compete for the narrow road space – the pedestrians keep walking, the cars keep driving and somehow everyone gets to where they are going – I can’t believe there are not endless accidents and minor bingles all the time. I think driving licences obtained here are well earned.

The hotel was near the Duomo and in a great position for walking the city. Just down the street from our hotel was an upholsterers workshop – every time we walked past he was working on a piece of furniture – so nice to see that the throw away age has not yet reached here.  A little further on was the studio of an amazing calligrapher – who also dabbled in book binding.  He has the most amazing presses and equipment in his studio but told me that he has little time to indulge in bookbinding.  His time is taken up with the creation and restoration of calligraphy pieces.  He generously allows the public to watch him work and to photograph anything in his studio and encourages questions.  I spent a wonderful half hour talking to him about his craft and he gave me four of his beautiful cards to bring home with me.

Almost opposite is the Bini bakery – glorious traditional pastries and the best panforte I have ever had – I had to eat it all whilst we were there for fear that it would not be allowed to be brought back into Australia (tongue in cheek)!!

Walking the various districts of the city was fun – each district has an animal emblem and these emblems are displayed in various forms – statues, fountains artwork on shops and in these tie up rings placed fairly high on the buildings – I must try and find out what their traditional use was.

Siena is on my list of places to spend more time in.

Bini - makers of beautiful pastries and panforte - the almonds all laid out ready for that evenings baking

Bini – makers of beautiful pastries and panforte – the almonds all laid out ready for that evenings baking

this district's emblem is the giraffe - tie up rings in rows on the buildings - well above head height

this district’s emblem is the giraffe – tie up rings in rows on the buildings – well above head height

The turtle was the emblem here - obviously rubbing the head is a regular practice!

The turtle was the emblem here – obviously rubbing the head is a regular practice!

Hand painted and hand written calligraphy - intricate and beautiful

Hand painted and hand written calligraphy – intricate and beautiful

Impressions of Venice

Venice was an interesting place, the prices everywhere were inflated to take advantage of the tourist dollar.  On every bridge, street corner and about every 15 paces between are hawkers peddling their wares according to the weather and time of day – sunglasses, umbrellas, fake cashmere scarves etc. etc.  The little shops lining the streets seemed to be full of cheap imported souvenirs and the tourists who were purchasing them.

We spent our time there walking, getting lost, walking some more and getting lost again and in so doing found some interesting places.  Bevilaqua Fabrics operates in Venice and it’s retail shop is fascinating – the fabrics are all woven in silk – they supply fabrics to many palaces around the world – and if you wish to own some prices started around 1000 euro per metre with a minimum cut of 2 metres!  I would have loved to have brought some home with me!

We also found a printmaker’s studio with some delightful prints depicting Venetian scenes – the artist’s sister was manning the studio and was so pleasant to do business with – she has very little English and we have no Italian, but we managed to purchase a print from her.  Around the university we found a tiny ceramic studio with some wonderful work in – would have loved to purchase some pieces from there but was worried about getting it home in one piece.

The island of Murano of course produces masses of art glass – the island is beautiful and the glass factories interesting – here is where to purchase authentic glass.

Burano is another island on the Veneto, famous for it’s lacemaking traditions.  You do have to search hard for hand made lace – most of the shops have endless piles of machine made lace and doilies made overseas – a small lace doily with handmade lace edging was around 30 euro – anything larger was considerably more – I was shown a table centrepiece around 50 cm diameter for 600 euro.

The traditional old lace patterns are needlelace and worked in 6 or 7 different embroidery stitches – each stitch is worked by a different artisan.

Bevilacqua Fabrics, Venice

Bevilacqua Fabrics, VeniceVenice - very quaint when you get off the tourist tracks!

Venice – very quaint when you get off the tourist tracks!

Making lace by hand in Burano, Italy

Making lace by hand in Burano, Italy