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.