Friday, December 31, 2010

Hello Crewel World...

I quite desparately wanted to look normal when meeting the relatives in Perth, and hunted high and low to find summer tops that covered the heavy ink on my upper arms. I found a couple of cotton/linen tops in a chain store and wore one for a day or so, then started to customise.  More than once I asked myself what I was thinking when I cropped it to just above the hip bone - I think it was a reaction to all the longer lines around. I have a long body, short legs and a pear shape, and tend to get weighed down by mid hip lengths. 

The embroidery started with cross stitch on all the hems and then carried on to flowers.  As I worked I remembered the jeans I did back in 1991 (images of sitting at The Tapas Bar in Johnson Street embroidering them while I was still wearing them).  The jeans went to my friend Ariad, who took them to Queesland.  Ten years later I bumped into writer and emerging arts advocate Sally Breen at a regional arts conference in Albury -  she noticed my Alexander McQueen rip-off suit covered in liquid paper insults and subsequently commissioned ten cross stitch pieces for a show called "Celebrity" with the ARC collective on the Gold Coast.  Many drinks and half a manuscript later Sal and I joined up the dots... she'd bought my embroidered Levis from Ariad way back in the days of West End grunge.

The blouse was embroidered in time for Christmas morning, and decorated with a little red leather wren brooch from The Den in Fremantle.  It was still too short, but I wore a knit dress underneath and was almost content.  Yesterday I found a broad tan leather belt and things got a whole lot more interesting.  I am half-way through sewing the cut-off piece of linen into a tie that will pull the blouse flat across the belly, gather it prettily at the back and finish in a broad bow. I am, as usual, time travelling.  And regretting all the floor length full skirts I've piffed in  earlier attempts at normalising my wardrobe.

I have a commission for the next blouse.  Guess the Elizabethan bed spread and four poster curtain project will have to wait.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sometimes a Great Notion...

Surveying the rows and rows of carefully bagged silks, cottons, wools and twines at the Good Sammy in Fremantle, the title "Sometimes a Great Notion" came to mind.  It's the title of my favourite Ken Kesey novel, a book about a logging family with the motto "Never Give an Inch". The passage about a logger getting pinned down in a rising river is horrifyingly powerful, and reading it was an experience that has stayed with me for years.
After one visit to the Sammy, I found just enough cotton to embroider this doll.  It's caveman quality work, but so tactile and comforting.  Compelled to go back for a second hit, I came across this shortbread tin.  I'm more of a hoarder than a collector, but this is my second tartan tin in a month.  I sense a collection coming on.
This doll, the threads and the tin also echo a secret family story that was unfolding over our visit in Perth - blood ties, a young man with a bag pipe and a kilt in Derby in the early 1940's, a baby.
The Good Sammy craft section contained a host of unfinished craft projects, but I resisted the urge and added a macrame chandelier to the list of lost things that haunt.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Good Sammy

They called the op-shops "Good Sammy" in Perth. I liked the ones in an arcade off High Street, in Fremantle.  There was something unusual, but perfectly logical, about the way things were arranged....

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

little green mirrors

I like little green laundry mirrors so much, I'm thinking of devoting a whole blog to them. 
This could be a side affect of the jet lag.  
Our trip to Perth and back was amazing, inspiring and deeply refreshing. 
Words and pictures to follow soon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

photos not uploaded

what was grey and gold
is gold and blue
the reds are faded
the strangers are related
the whites are peeling

we feed the seagulls chips
and watch the fish
and talk of lines and rods

pink and gritty
we paddle with the brown men
swap stories about fathers
and despite the shirts and creams
and hats and parasols
we let the sun seep feel it
even in the cool bedroom

on the high wall
through a little vent
cast flowers
play wings onto the ceiling

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Joe and I leave for Perth on Monday, which means we've had to get organised for Christmas earlier than usual.  We delivered presents to Granny and Pa this morning, wrapped in paper that looks like it's been languishing in the storeroom at Tallangatta IGA for the past twenty years.  Of all the purchases and constructions, this flimsy paper ($1.99 for five scant rolls) pleases me the most.  Right. Now back to packing, cleaning and going round in circles.  See you on the other side.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's not art if it's useful...

I've been making Christmas presents this year, which has been a scary process.  I only have one friend (I think) who would appreciate a pot holder made out of patched overall pieces, so I had to change my ways for the rest. Some of the ideas have come from a year's worth of blog following, which has meant a fair amount of agonising over being derivative.  I also adjusted my choice of materials - my construction skills are dodgy, so I had to compensate with finer fabrics and papers.  I've had a metre  and a half of vintage linen mangle cloth in the collection for a while, left over from a little puppet restoration project. It was about $45 a metre from The Growing Suitcase in Beechworth, and seemed like a wickedly decadent purchase at the time. I find it so luxurious to handle, which is interesting when you think that the fabric was so work-a-day when it was made.  For a while it graced my wooden ironing board and I really treasured it, so cutting it up was a bit frightening.  Sewing it into useful things made me feel a bit better, and I hope the people who receive them enjoy the waxy feel of the linen.  Cutting the scraps into useless things that have been "done, done and done" by a thousand other crafters was almost breathtaking and the end result looked so familiar I was downright cranky about it. Walking back in the rain, from a late night visit to the main homestead, I saw the useless things hanging, illuminated, in the heart of my house.  The wonky Christmas lights were flashing in another  window.  "Deceptively warm and festive," I humbugged to myself as I opened the door... and realised I had not been deceived.


On the last of the blue and green days
we put our feet in the swallowing river 
and now the misted landscape moves
like a house with sliding paper doors.
Beneath a flock of butterflies,
a claustrophobia of school sores.
A  cop car pulled out from under the desk, as I swept.
I am angry and I don't know why,
despite cherries and loquats
and the thrush that perches and hollers at our back step.
All aches in places, fever and suitcases,
as the magpies whinge up worms,
I stitch up the shimmy trees in constant breeze
and curse the threads that knot
and curse the threads that don't.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

go grass go (ten things)

1. I knew a man who carried seeds in his pocket. When he found cracks in the concrete he sowed them.
2. We were just getting the car jumps right when I heard the clapped out Briggs and Stratton over-revving over the back lawn.  I went out, cursed, and took over the mowing.  The machine started easily, which was just as well. It stalled 15 times on the 15 square metre lawn, then I took it down to the shed and swapped it for the new machine. Another Briggs and Stratton.  I asked the folks why they'd bought another one and they said the old one had been alright. 15 years ago.
3. In 1990 I mowed protest spirals into the front lawn stripes, my Grandfather made me a large gin and tonic and then I hitched to Queensland. 
4.  Joe stood on the porch and pointed at the bits I missed, over by the cattle yards.  He gave me a thumbs up when the job was done to his satisfaction. Then he went inside and spread peanut butter on the table.
5. We have both been sick and my room smelt like old fever. I stripped the bed and pushed it under the windows.  Then I let the sunlight disinfect it while I read a bit of Faulkner and Hemmingway. Joe found me. A banana and coconut muffin picnic seemed like a good idea. Now the mattress cover is clean, with a light crumbing.
6. I know a woman who is quite old and frail, but every now and then she has a bottle of champagne and a think. I did this last night.
7. I watched Liam Neeson in Taken and barracked as he shot every bad guy. I cried because Cary Grant was married to a plain woman and the judge wanted to take away their adopted baby. I went around the house taking photos of the composting clutter but everything came out yellow but all the other bloggers don't use flash so I didn't. I thought about the last four years and swore a bit, gave more thanks (because this is what the taxi driver outside the Royal Children's hospital told me to do) and went to bed.
8. Joe woke me at seven with a demand for electrical tape. I was not hungover.  I repaired the broken wire on the Christmas lights. Then Joe slammed his finger in the fly wire door and I dropped the Christmas lights' adaptor on my foot. It was really heavy.  We were both screaming. The lights didn't work.  It appears that one pin on the adaptor was driven back into the adaptor when it landed after its fall.  The broken lights are intricately strung up with the fibre optic garden lights and they look alright against the curtain, even though they don't flash.
9. Joe and I had a fight. It's called Mosquito Finger Wars. One person makes their index fingers into probosci and one person has to slap the mosquitoes down. When  a mosquito gets slapped it makes a raspberry sound.  I made the mosquitoes, but the slapping really started to hurt.  Then we both started to laugh, round and round, cracking each other up.  I could be wrong, but I think this is the first time we've done this.  Really really both laughed.
10. The bitumen was freshly laid, outside the pediatrician's rooms, back in autumn.  I had decided to stop trying to convince the pediatrician about the importance of optimism. His need to be right was greater. For him. The bitumen was freshly laid, but boy, the grass was fresher.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

a festive little spirit

I tried to sit down to my over-due tax forms last night, but wound up clearing my desk instead.  Then one of these little creatures came to visit, rapidly followed by many more.  I think we might send Christmas cards this year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

wonder walk

On Saturday we take the perfect antidote to stalled projects - a walk in a magnificent garden. It's impossible not to marvel at the creative forces at work in nature, and, me being me, I get a bit jealous. Why can't I make anything that approaches the beauty and complexity in a garden? My inanimate manipulations seem so very primitive.  I find myself on the point of becoming competitive with a flower.  Then I realise that we, as we pass through the garden, adults and children at various ages and stages, are not so very different to the garden.  Complex, beautiful, changing creatures, created partly by nature and partly by the sheer hard yakka of the gardeners around us.  
And besides, a flower couldn't even begin to make a quilt.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wannabe Straight

I don't sew straight, I don't cut straight, hell I don't even stand straight. What was I thinking when I started to piece these overalls? Something about men, work, scent, redundancy, loss and lack. No wonder I came over all wobbly.  This piece has reminded me of my dangerous ambivalence when it comes to form.  My head, heart and soul are cluttered places and my projects are sorting processes.  I start with a goal that is about 66.666% unachievable - some massive material object to be generated while I think things through. Along the way, the scope shrinks, the form shifts and if I'm lucky I'm left with something that resonates with at least one other person on the planet. I'm always running out on time and patience. A novel becomes a sculpture, a poem becomes a rug, a quilt becomes a paragraph. This is not the path to artistic excellence, it's the art of failing well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sill Quips

There are five in our family - Mum, Dad, me, my brother and my sister. Back when we all lived together, we also had a couple of shady boarders. They were called Somebody and Nobody. Somebody was the one who broke things, lost things, took things and left things lying around. Nobody never did anything.

It's just me and the four year old, here in the shed, but I think Somebody has a bit of a sense of humour.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


It's done. Finally.  
I've been working on, and talking about, this one for months now.  
It's a 200x140cm  knitted rag rug that sits happily on a floor, but is also pleased to engulf any comfortable but ugly piece of furniture that needs covering.
The themes, inspirations, origins and processes behind it could be a small novel, but narratives annoy me right now.  A friend came to view it today and commented that it was the kind of rug that things would get lost in.  She was right. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

book keep

Past the dragons, the brides, the babies and the dancers, 
a mouldy little tower in a dank part of the wood that surrounds the shrine.
It's where they keep the books.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Junior Hi

Junior High School art project, photographed though a dusty toy shop window in Mishima.

mountain home

The rice is bagged
and the sheaves are dry.
How the wild grass waves.

(I can just imagine what the neighbours would say about the
 way that new house echoes the mountain)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oh Sha Cho, I just don't know

say it's only a paper moon
hanging over a cardboard sea
but it wouldn't be make believe
if you believed in me

The president asked me
 if this song would be appropriate
played at his wedding anniversary.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Potted Bear

Once upon a time, there lived a brother and a sister. They were partners in the same business, but they had different ideas about how to do things. The sister seemed more cheerful and welcoming, but if customers actually asked for anything, she'd direct them 200m up the road, to her brother.  He also liked fairy lights and pot plants, but didn't believe in over doing the decoration. He concentrated on plants in two big white urns and tended them carefully. They began to look like bears, which was interesting, but a little bit frightening.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tick Box

There is no journey without jolts. Moments when little details rise up, loom large and threaten.
On embarking, we are handed a card, and on the back of the card is a question:
Have you ever  been deported, deported under a departure order or denied entry?
There are boxes to tick. Yes and No.

Eight hours later I join the queues at immigration.  At the end of the queue, a young woman checks my papers and directs me forward.  I step onto a piece of floor marked STOP, behind a thick yellow line, and a man gestures right.  All the other foreigners have been channelled left.  I stand in front of a desk marked out for nationals.  The immigration official looks at my card and gestures to another officer.  Wordlessly, he walks me out across the lino towards an office door.  Just before the office door, he gestures left and I find myself at a desk marked CREW.  I put each finger on a fingerprint scanners and look at my own face on a screen as the digital camera takes a picture.

"Harder please," says the man, holding up his index fingers.
I press harder.
"Thank you," he says, and hands back my passport.
I am through.

Outside the airport hotel there is a massive cigarette vending machine. 
Next to it, a machine offering portable de-fibrillation. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Party Past

The pub is low and dark and carpeted with a scatter of screen eyed boozers. It's my friend's birthday and she should be here, but she isn't. I make a phone call and a ladder appears before me and takes me up to a room I never knew existed. It's gracious and high ceilinged, cheese is out on the tables and drinks are for sale.
"You're too young to be here," says a man I've never met.
"Come here and talk art," says a woman.
"Weren't you in another state?" asks a man I once knew.
"I am in another state, " I answer. This is the end of our exchange.

My friend, magnificent in sequins and raspberry plush, laughs loud as her son brings out a cake. A rich, dark number seventy studded with handmade chocolates. I slip back down the ladder.

"Terrible rain," says the cab driver.
"Beautiful rain," I say. "We all need to drink."
"Good girl," he smiles. "You are the first to say this today."
Rabbits on wheels, we swing out of the traffic, into a narrow tiled tunnel. We curve away under the heart of the metropolis, merge, and emerge into a green place. The roadside is laced with many-trunked trees, there are moored yachts in the bay.

I buy a small dark cake, and after dinner I share it with my brother and his friends.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

block ache

Today, all edges are off. The sky is a gentle grey, the air is mild and the rain is soft. Red lit orange light traffic goes by in wet whispers, and I'm meeting memories at every corner, bend and roundabout. A girl in impossible shoes hails a cab. A chocolate cake is peeled out of its little box. Pasta boils. Children are put to bed. The kerbside couches soak up whatever's going. Young men stagger on root buckled concrete and dance behind windows in over lit and under furnished lounge rooms. A black plastic hut with a palm tree roof has been erected in a front yard, for religious purposes. Calm, traipsably laced up, at peace, beside my brother, I walk my aches around these blocks.

Friday, October 1, 2010


The spare bedroom is not just a spare bedroom. It houses fishing rods and line and tackle. I push open the sash window, lower down a length of nylon line, and call out to the grinderman. He lends me a drill bit. I clamp a pair of rusted pliers around the bit and make my own door handle.

Before going out, I carefully make up my make up to look like no make up. There are marle mummies everywhere this morning, me included. At the stop, an old man lets the
others get on the bus first. I let him go ahead of me.
"See, gentlemen everywhere," he says.

Hours of browsing later every item of apparel in the centre seems about to rise up and smother me in blended arms. I buy myself a bag. Then I buy three singlets, three pairs of socks and a loaf of irish soda. The man who sells the bread has blue eyes. Like mine. I'm not Irish, he's not smiling, but anyway, the bread is good.

Grinders, Paper, Lock

I picked up the currency I'd ordered from the bank in Wodonga yesterday. As the teller counted out the notes I was stuck by how beautiful they were - delicately, intricately designed and subtly coloured and printed on such fine paper. It took me back fifteen years to a little spare bedroom, where I'd worked, and to evenings after work when I would stack those brownish notes into a small box. I'd never earnt money like that before. Not as beautiful. Not as much.

I went to bed early last night, in a spare bedroom in a city. I pushed the door firmly closed and crawled under the quilt, knowing that when I woke up I would not have to get up. There were dreams: an endless search for a bamix in cupboards full of baby clothes and chocolate; massive bowls of parsely getting chopped with a milk frother; a parade of lovers, televisions and angle grinders. When I came too, the angle grinder was still at work, three floors below. There was no knob on the bedroom door.

For weeks now, I have had this unhealthy craving for isolation, stillness and containment. Planning a trip seemed like the only way to beat it. I'm seeking people, action and expansion. It's the first morning of my quest and I'm locked in.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Five Things about Camellias

1. The fully blown flowers drop like severed heads - some Japanese think this is bad luck.
2.There is a cafe somewhere, inside a great camellia bush. Everything is wooden. They serve sweet bean soup with rice cakes.
3.There was once a reddish tea dress with a drooping bias hem that would stir up and then soak up the wild nights and bruise like a wilting bloom. We all wore her.  She would take us out and we would rarely come back.
4.Some Camellias are sporting.  This means that they throw random blooms, like the pale pink one in this photo.  If grafted, the new plant is genetically different.
5.Ms Hillside has two sporting camellias, escorts to the great magnolia in her front yard.  She reckons her nan chose deliberately over the top shrubs because she was by no means an over the top woman.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


my happiness is like this sand
I let it run out of my hand

John Gould Fletcher

On the way home we pulled over. Joe wanted to visit someone and there was no-one else to visit, so we visited the river.   We found the first warm patch of sand for the season, watched two young ducks bathe in the shallows, and met a few rocks. 

My hunt for tangible, constant, rock-like happiness is ill conceived. Today, I'm thinking of happiness as sandy. It's shifting. There's plenty of it. It gets into everything and anything. It's the product of a watery grinding process.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hello Dolly

I  looked at the calendar today and realised I have been moping, miserable, and maudlin for one and half months straight.  Almost a personal best.  Dear Ms Hillside made us lunch and we ate under the tree she calls "The Dolly Parton of Magnolias". Hard to keep up the weeping when large pink and white petals are slapping you across the cheek. And your very healthy son is stuffing grass down your back. And the air, like the best of friends, is not too cool and not too warm. And the hard boiled yolks are as yellow as yellow.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bondi QA

This photo has a soundtrack - girls from southern UK
 blagging about the night before and the temporary week to come.
 I was mesmerised.

Monday, August 16, 2010

sometimes the camera

sometimes the camera is just too slow
but that's ok

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dear heads of medocrity...

Thank you for following begborosteel.  
You are our first stranger. 
I am so excited that such an urbane, highres blog
 could be a little interested in hillbillies like us.  
I love your experiments in people, place and form. 
Back when I was your age (which I am guessing at) the only experiments I managed where based on body chemistry, boites des nuites and highways. 
The documentation is long lost.
Here's something for you, from the archive.  
500km northeast of Alice Springs, not so very long ago.

xx Charlotte

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mojo Neckpiece

I've been attempting to incorporate this little wonder into the clothing I've been working on, but it completely upstages everything I set it against. 
I found it on an otherwise disastrous trip to the Op Shop at the end of Clarendon Street in South Melbourne, just after being forced to relinquish my bundle of treasures to tend to a three year old who was determined to become, screaming, one with the pavement. For some reason I went back inside and saw this wooden poppet under the glass counter.  Scraped back sides, red soled feet, no arms.  What stories it could tell.  
Somebody said "hot chocolate" at Zappa, next to The Butterfly Club, and the three year old turned back into a perfectly sensible little man.
When I got back to the studio I tried pushing in the wooden dowel, thought it looked wrong, and then found that it refused to be drawn out. So I  felt compelled to continue forcing it through with hits from a meat tenderiser (hammer gone awol again), praying with every hit that the doll wouldn't split in two in the process.  
I wonder what our futures hold?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Auntie Sha Sha's Domestic Wish Box/Mother Creation

Auntie Sha Sha made big money back at the turn of the century, and she threw it around Surrey Hills and Glebe and the City.  She could be often be found window licking at Dimitri's Pizzeria, frittering afternoons away at The Cricketers Arms, diving off patent platforms, slapping her leather skirt around the NSW Rail Infrastructure Corporation, dragging hard garbage through Bondi, and performing for the 6am cleaners at The Pink Pussy Cat.  She made her first forays into mojo manipulative sculpture in the Matron's Flat behind Glebe Library. Now she's back.

From this Friday at 6.00pm, Auntie Sha's Sha's Domestic Wish Box may be visited at The Creator's Gallery, on  The  Lincoln Causeway in beautiful regional borderline Wodonga. Inspired by european and japanese house-hold shrines and god shelves, The Wish Box is a home for the ancestors, a place to stand and call for help, a meditation point, and somewhere to put the physical, spiritual, and mental clutter that all houses attract. Visiting domestic gods and goddesses are invited to record their wishes, hopes and secrets on the tags that surround the box.

The Wish Box is installed as part of the group show Mother Creation, an annual event that is much anticipated by mothers, artists and friends in The Border Region.  Last year's opening   night  attracted 120 folk to the tiny Creator's Gallery. This year, doors will be opened between the gallery and La Maison cafe and the opening event will merge with a contributing artist's birthday party.  Artists will be wearing an apron collection that spans 40 years, crafted over a lifetime by "Nan" Turner and kindly loaned by Ms Hillside.  And did I forget to mention the play corner and the legendary Champagne Sorbet cocktails?....all very over-exciting.