Sunday, January 31, 2010

The colours of summer...and a Bedroom makeover update!

So my little ones have spent a week with their grandparents in the south west, it's back to school tomorrow, and my baby will be in school full time this year.  There is some gorgeous countryside around where my in-laws live, and so every time we visit I daydream about one day owning my own little patch of serenity.  Though of course, reality is not quite the same as fantasy, and there are things that are not so wonderful about living in the countryside...the threat of bushfires is very real.  But I love the way the countryside changes through the seasons, and though summer isn't my favourite season and generally I prefer rolling green hills to sun-scorched ones, there is something beautiful about the soft yellow of the dry paddocks against a cloudy sky threatening (but, unfortunately, rarely delivering) rain.
In the winter, these hills will be carpeted once again in bright, soft green grass, the breeze will be crisp and cold instead of hot, dry and oppressive...and the snakes will be hibernating.  Then you can light a campfire and sit and watch the sparks fly, but not now...not until March or April, no fires are allowed at all till then.  Just off to the right of the top picture, there used to be an old barn leaning precariously towards the road, and every time we drove through we'd wonder if it would still be there, as it leaned further and further with every trip.  In the last school holidays, it finally gave up the ghost, slipped sideways and crumbled to the ground, though thankfully not all over the road.  If I'm driving through here in the late afternoon, I always slow down way below the official speed limit.  For two reasons.  Because I want to take the time to see the long shadows creeping up the hills, and the setting sun breaking through gaps in the trees.  But also because it's 'roo' time.  I almost hit one on the last trip down here.  Luckily I was dawdling along.  It's not the first roo that's the problem.  But they travel in small groups, and though you brake as soon as you see the first one, there'll be a second and a third right behind it...I almost hit the third one.  And emus too, like to wander onto the road at any time of the day.  And there are the old houses too, abandoned now for newer and bigger premises.  I often wonder about the people who lived in them, who more than likely built them themselves.  Whose castle was this little one, where did the people who built that one come from, as so many people from all over the world have come here to build new lives.  Sometimes I pass by a gate with a name of a faraway country or city on it, and I wonder how hard it must have been to leave that place, leave family, friends, familiar surroundings, and how homesick those people were, who called their new home after their old one.  Sometimes I dream of finding a little one and fixing it up, making it into a home again...I wonder if houses have memories, and miss the sounds of the children they once gave shelter to?
But speaking of homes and doing things up, the super-bedroom-makeover is coming along a treat.  I took these photos a couple of weeks ago, as the super-clever husband was putting the joists for the bed platform in.  The platform is now finished, all the floorboards are in, but still a lot of work before we can actually sleep up there.  But there's something delicious about sitting up there, reminds me of a treehouse.  It's going to be lovely when it's done.  A little unconventional perhaps, but then, who wants a house like everyone elses?!
And an exterior view of the lovely new window, also made by the super-clever husband.  Now all we need is a pergola over it for the poor wisteria to grow on.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hello and welcome to all my footloose new followers....

I just wanted to say hello, and thank you so much for stopping by!  I'll try and pop in to visit you all when I can but it may take a while to do a complete tour, as my Followers widget is a flighty, timourous beastie that is frightened of bright lights and loud noises.  Consequently it lurks in the dark and only appears (and erratically at that) in the late hours of the evening, shortly before bedtime (for me), so my window of opportunity to go visiting is short.  During the bright hours of the day, it, and therefore all the identities of my fellow revellers, is noticeably absent.  Sigh!  But fear not, I know you're out there somewhere, I just don't know who some of you are...yet.

And also a big thank you to all the people who've popped up the stairs to the attic to throw their names in the old top hat to be in my OWOH's wonderful to meet you all, and I must say, as an ego massaging exercise this is par excellence...everyone has such lovely things to say about my work that at this rate, I won't be able to fit my head down the stairs soon!

Oh, and yes, there really is a top hat (though not the best pic of me...yet another photo of Chris with her eyes shut)!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cross-eyed and brain dazed.........

....I've been looking at too many blogs, all giving away lovely stuff as part of the One World One Heart Giveaway, and I think my brain is likely to pour out of my left ear at any moment, because I'm having peculiar notions.  Like, if one (and no, 'one' isn't, this IS hypothetical)....if one was writing a large blockbuster fantasy novel involving vast tracts of time and innumerable characters with impossible names, one could probably use the comment verification codes on blogs as a kind of instant impossible name generator.  So far this evening I've had 'Sineshe', 'Culanitr', 'Eleshem'...and they're just the ones I can remember now that I'm dazed and confused and in need of a cup of tea and a nice lie down.  I wonder if anyone has actually done that?

And goodness, I've 39 followers...where did they all blow in from?!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One World One Heart 2010 Giveaway


LATE LATE LATE NOTE!!:  I've just posted some 'teaser' pics of my OWOH giveaway, so if you want to have a little peek, try here!
LATE LATE NOTE!:  Don't panic if you see 'Comment Deleted' messages in the comments.  I've just deleted some double posts, as there were some people who had trouble with the verification codes and ended up commenting twice.  I thought it would be fairer to all if everyone had a single chance to win!
LATE NOTE:  It occurred to me today that those of you who have popped over here via the OWOH link on 'A Whimsical Bohemian' will only see this post, and of course, have absolutely no idea what it is that I do! So to save you having to poke around the attic and try and find some examples of my work which of course are buried under piles of books, bits of interesting fabric, old furniture that I inherited from my grandmothers, and all the other usual things you find in an attic, I thought I'd add a little sampler of some of my work, so you get an idea of what my giveaway MIGHT look like.  And if you'd like to see more, here is my website!
Well, I JUST found out about this fantastic blogging giveaway, starting 25th January (which may be today for some of you, but is yesterday for me!) and it seems like such a brilliant idea I had to get involved.  For more detailed information about 'One World One Heart', and for links to all the other bloggers offering OWOH giveaways, click on the link in the sidebar and it will take you to Lisa's (the founder) website.  But essentially, it's about creating links between bloggers, meeting new people all over the world, and discovering all the things we have in common, instead of worrying about the things we don't.  And how does it work?  Well, I'm offering a giveaway, something special I've created, and I will choose a winner randomly from the people who leave a comment on THIS post, saying they'd like to be involved.  Most important to remember, you need to have a blog to be in the draw, and a way I can get back to you if you've won (a contact email through your blog for example).  Now, because I've only just discovered OWOH, I can't post a picture of my giveaway, for the perfectly logical reason that I haven't created it yet!  But, if you have a look back through my blog posts, you'll get a feel for the kind of stuff I do/make, and I'm hoping you'll be intrigued enough to sign up anyway, and think of it as a mystery gift, a delicious parcel that arrives in the mail from exotic parts (unless of course you happen to live in Perth!) and covered in intriguing stamps, mysteriously addressed to you...but you have NO idea what treasures might be inside, waiting to be discovered.  There now, does that whet your interest?  I hope please leave a comment and let me know.

And if you're new here, please consider checking out my 'Painting for Haiti''s a lovely way to help out those in need, and you get to keep a beautiful original painting as well!

Oops, forgot to mention, you need to comment before February 15th, as winner will be announced then!

A painting for and help!

I've decided to offer the purchase price of this painting here as a donation to the relief appeal for Haiti.  So if you'd like to own a beautiful original acrylic painting on gallery wrapped canvas (so no need for framing!), and help relieve their suffering, please follow the link to my etsy listing.  The list price is $100USD, and this is what I will donate.  Postage costs will depend on where the buyer lives (see listing for details).  The painting is 20cms high by 10cms wide and is on canvas stretched on a wooden frame wide enough so that it can be sat on a shelf if you like, or hung.  The special Haiti listing is till the end of February.  I'm intending to donate to World Vision Australia's Haiti Appeal.  Once the painting is sold, I'd work out what the exchange rate of USD to AUD is and donate.  I'll post a copy of the donation receipt with the painting so you know your money has gone to a good cause.  Please have a think about it's a win-win offer!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The beauty of the ragged edge, the limitless potential of the unfinished line...

I think I've had a revelation...or at least a personal lightbulb moment.  One of the reasons I love using gallery wrapped canvas is that they don't require frames, and I always paint right right round the edges, continuing the picture.  It has nothing to do with the fact that framing can be expensive, I simply like them that way.  The difficulty is, of course, when working on paper or any other medium that requires protection.  I love paper, I love working on it.  But I dislike frames and mats, and will always choose the simplest, most plain one I can, yet it still seems a terrible shame to cover up the lovely raw edges of the paper.  It always seems to somehow diminish the piece, make it smaller and...just LESS.  There are nicer frames that suspend a paper or textile piece, so the edges can be seen, but it still boxes them in and tends to make them look rather like scientific samples or museum pieces. At the top of this post is a detail of the little scrap of embroidery I've been working on of late, and one of the things I'm really liking about it so far is the lovely raw edge of the gold/rust coloured silk, the unfinished swirling lines, even the raw edge of the calico backing.  The blanket stitch neatening up the edge between the plain calico and the tea-dyed calico is less successful, to me at least.  Below is the whole piece as it is so far...still unfinished I think, but perhaps it should stay like that.
But I started thinking about it, trying to pin down exactly what it was that really bothers me about frames.  And it dawned on me.  As long as the edge remains ragged or raw, as long as the lines aren't quite finished, as long as there is no clear cut boundary, the piece remains ALIVE.  Dynamic, still full of potential.  It's MAGIC; because it still has the ability to shapechange, any and all change is possible therefore all possibilities are contained within it, and the potential is limitless.  As soon as you 'finish' it, sign it off, stick it behind glass, hide its rawness, hide those blurry edges where things are not so cut-and-dried, those liminal spaces where anything can dies.  The magic is gone because all those possibilities have been dispensed with.  It's the difference between a live tiger and a stuffed one.  I suppose that might seem a little extreme and I'm not expecting everyone to agree with me, but I really think it's the reason why framing a piece bothers's like catching a butterfly and pinning it to a board.  I think it's the reason why I find sketches more beautiful than finished paintings (look at Leonardo's sketches for example), why having the opportunity to peek at other artist's journals and sketchbooks is often far more interesting to me than seeing their finished work.  I even feel this way about my own work, there is a kind of magic in the accidental sketches and unfinished scraps, in the journal scribbles, the working through an idea that is only half formed and still growing and changing and evolving.  Some of my favourite pieces are odd, slightly unfinished and raw edged.  Like these.


I've been fascinated with the notion of boundaries, liminal spaces, for so long.  If you think about it, all the most interesting things, no matter whether it's art, science, social change, medicine or whatever, happen at the edges, away from the mainstream, the middle-of-the-road.  It's often those who exist on the edges who give us a chance to see the truth more objectively.  And of course, we're terrified of border places, where one thing bleeds into another, where you're not quite sure where one thing ends and the next begins, where we cannot categorise and box things up neatly.  Where the line between 'me' and the 'other' whatever that might be, is blurred.  Where things are slippery, the ground is shaky, and nothing is fixed.  Think about every fairytale you've ever read, the most dangerous times are sunset, or midnight, or dawn, where it is neither day or night, neither morning nor evening, yet both.  The water's edge is always filled with danger, the beach is sometimes sea and sometimes land, depending on the tide.    When you stand waist deep in the sea, half of you is in another world where you could not survive for more than a couple of minutes without special breathing apparatus.  That's kind of freaky if you think about it.  Imagine how strange and terrifying it might be to someone who cannot swim at all, to be able to see to the bottom of a pond, yet not be able to get there...what if you dropped something precious?  Lost forever and yet still tantalisingly visible.

I think this is an idea I'd like to explore more, use it in my work, now that I've worked out what it is that bothered me...see, it was lurking there on the periphery, on the edge, in that liminal space between awareness and knowing.  It's always so much more comforting to be able to bring an idea in from the cold dark, and sit it in front of the fire with a hot cup of Milo.  Then you can see what it is and how big it is.  It's much less threatening that having it lurking outside in the night, just out of sight, running with the wolves somewhere between the first and last strokes of midnight!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Masks and Minotaurs and Spells of Making!

I feel as if my blog is missing something.  Though I know I warned you all that there probably wouldn't be any new artwork posted till my little people were back at school, I think it needs something to brighten it up, or it will be in danger of becoming a 'what-I-had-for-breakfast' kind of journal, which will be of no interest to anyone, even me!  So, here are some bits and bobs, some recent(ish) and some not, to provide a bit of colour and interest, until I can get back into creative mode.

Back, oh, years ago, I did Theatre Arts (and Literature) at uni.  I was working part-time and studying part-time, so it took me six years to finish my degree and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way, in fact, I would have drawn it out even longer if it was humanly possible, because it was the BEST fun.  Because I loved art and design, one of the things I enjoyed most was designing for theatre productions and assignments, and MAKING stuff.  This is a mask designed for a group assignment based around the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.  It's made from papier mache on a card base, with wire netting down the front to allow the wearer some vision (though not a whole lot!), and was wired onto a bicycle helmet (pushbike, not motor bike) so it was stable to wear but quick and easy to get on and off.  The hair is red wool 'rug-hooked' into some old net curtain fabric, then spray painted black.  I have to say though, my favourite bits are the eyes...plastic icecream scoops with the handles sawn off!

The small brass wire boat was a little exercise in working through an idea...I want to make a bigger version sometime.  I can imagine a fleet of them sailing through the air...hmm, so many ideas, so little time!

And finally, another glimpse of that magical beach house.  A watercolour from 1992 of the view from the front verandah to the gate, back when the front yard was a little less civilised than it is now, the gate always got half buried in sand so that it was easier to climb over it than try and open it, and there was nothing between us and the sea but sand dunes and daydreams.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Returning to childhood...again!

Crikey, it's a week since I posted last!  I'm sure many of us have had the experience of returning to a place we knew as children to find it changed, sometimes beyond recognition.  Less common I suspect, is when you return to a place to find it has seemingly been frozen in time.  Well, almost.  My girls have been doing VACSwim, pretty much as common a summer holiday tradition as running around the back lawn under a sprinkler.  My eldest is doing well, having completed several lots of swimming lessons before, during holidays and at school, and is diving and swimming like a little fish, though I'm not sure how perfect her 'style' is.  My youngest has just begun this year, still tentative about putting her face under water or getting in any deeper than chest level, but she'll get there.  But they are doing their lessons at the swimming pool I grew up with.  I remember long, hot, sticky walks up the hill in the shimmering heat to spend time cooling down in the blissfully cold water, only to get hot and sticky all over again on the walk back home.  Back in the days when it wasn't 'cool' to wear a hat, or a rashie...or sunscreen.  And the best thing to eat after splashing about or doing 'bombies' off the boards for several hours, was a bucket of hot chips.

The pool today looks almost unchanged.  Not necessarily a good thing, because it also means it's rather run down...when I came up here last year, the old (and now rather rickety) tiered seating that I remembered from swimming carnivals 30 years ago, was still there, though this year it has gone.  But it is somehow comforting to sit on the grass, watching my girls (here my youngest has found a friend in the 'kiddies' pool)  and lazily drift back to a time when everything seemed, at least to me, to be simpler and less complicated, though I'm sure that's just the perspective of a child.  A time when I was actually brave enough to leap off the high board (you can just see it in the background)...I wouldn't do it now for fear of pulling something!  It's rather nice to go up there as a family too, and my beloved other half and I can reminisce as it was the local swimming hole for both of us, though we didn't know each other then.  He actually WAS brave enough to jump off the high board last year, for old times' sake.

Here is my little fish, doing a handstand.  And here is a little bit of sewing I've been working on, and I actually took it up to the pool and worked on it while sitting on the grass in the shade.  It's another 'Tree of Life' design...I keep coming back to the motif, usually in paint, but this time in cloth.  Very rough, but it's been fun, using some of the fabrics I dyed in tea and Eucalyptus.  So I've learnt a couple of things this week.  Firstly, it's a lot easier to sit on a picnic blanket under a palm tree, with a stiff, warm Easterly blowing and small wet people running around and shaking like wet dogs all over me, and SEW, than it would be to draw.  And secondly...a bucket of hot chips is still the best thing to eat after a day at the pool!

Friday, January 8, 2010

A magical place...returning to my childhood...

So many of you out there have been posting magical pictures of I thought I'd post some photos of my own, of a magical place that I have been visiting since I was a small child, and visited again today, with my own children.  No snow, indeed, it's about as far from cold and ice and snowflakes as you could get...a beach.  But not just any beach.  It's where my Aunt and Uncle built a rough beach-house over 30 years ago.

It started out as little more than a glorified garage on a sand dune.  But you could drag open the front gate and run straight down onto the beach and into the water.  Every summer holidays, my mum, dad, brother and I would pack up and drive down to spend a few days with our cousins.  4 Adults, 6 kids, always at least 3 dogs, the odd cat...and even odder pets on occasion, given that my eldest cousin would invariably bring home any hurt or sick bird or animal he found on the beach.  Sand would get tracked in from one end of the house to the other, and we rarely got out of our bathers, sitting around the table on vinyl chairs that would stick to your bum in the heat, eating white bread sandwiches and drinking ginger beer or tea, everyone talking at once, with all the windows open hoping to catch the sea breeze in the hot afternoon.  I dreamed of Viking ships, and the Dawn Treader, of Anne Bonny and Mary Read.  I would stand on the verandah, hand shading my eyes, and stare out to the horizon, believing absolutely that if I could just dream HARD enough, one day I would see the flutter of sails in the distance, hear the jangle of rigging, and they might really materialise and carry me off to exciting adventures and magical places.  It's only now that I realise how magical the beach-house, and those summers, were...without pirates and vikings.

It has changed a lot, there are houses where once dunes and rough beach scrub were our playground, and a footpath between the house and the sea.  The house itself has changed too, more like a real house now, with a garden and even lawn where once we played Totem Tennis.  Eventually the metal parts rusted and the tennis ball came off, so my Aunt tied on an old thong (or flip-flop for those of you who were wondering!) found washed up, and we renamed it 'dong-a-thong' and belted that around instead.  But my Aunt still lives there, the same wallpaper is up in the loo, the sea breeze still brings welcome relief in the afternoon, and there is always at least one dog to welcome you at the gate.  So the essentials are there.  I thought I'd share them.  So here are some pics, taken today, views from the house, of the house, and the beach where I spent so many happy summer days.  Something to warm your toes if they are a little frozen after all that snow!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hy-Breasail...or here yesterday, gone today!

I'm tempted to rename my Followers Box Hy-Breasail, or possibly Brigadoon!  It has the annoying habit of remaining invisible for days, then suddenly reappearing...for a short while...only to just as abruptly disappear back into the mysterious mists of the web.  Now if it bestowed immortality on its inhabitants, this indecisiveness, this inability to stand its ground and materialise permanently, might be worth putting up with, but sadly, I think this is unlikely (though to be honest, I'm not really a fan of the 'living forever' gig...I imagine it would get very tiring, and rather boring after the first few centuries.)  After over a week of nothing but a sea of blue where it ought to be, it suddenly popped up last night, rather cheekily, as if it had been there all along and I hadn't seen it because I'd set my co-ordinates incorrectly.  I managed to see who my new Followers were, and even pop in to say hello to a couple of them, AND, as I could also see their Followers Boxes, there was even the chance to become a Follower of a couple new blogs myself.  But alas, this morning...nothing but miles of open ocean and not even a couple of floating coconuts to prove there'd ever been anything there.  Sigh...........

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.... burn, and cauldron bubble...or in this case, large tin billy can!  Actually, it's really "Double, double toil and trouble..." but everyone seems to remember it the other way (so much for that Theatre Major all those years ago)!  Inspired by India Flint and her beautiful natural dyeing techniques, I've been playing witchy-poo in the kitchen, boiling up dried eucalyptus leaves and rather a lot of tea bags to attempt some eco-dyeing (though I managed to suppress the urge to cackle maniacally while I was at it).  I had a long white linen skirt picked up from a second hand shop that I thought I might experiment with, given that I'll never wear a white skirt.  So while that was bubbling away, I found various other scraps of fabric and chucked them in too, to see what would happen.  The skirt is drying on the line at the moment, and it has worked OK, but the result is very subtle.  But I was really pleased with the colour of the few scraps of silk dupion.  I had a pale salmony/apricot pink, probably left over scraps from wedding fabric hunting 15 years ago (goodness!), and a crisp bright white left over from the roses on my Greenwitch hat.  The photos give a relatively good idea of the results, and aren't they lovely!  The rather bland salmon has gone quite a beautiful, rich golden rust.  You can see the original colour in the sewn circle bit (a 'petal' experiment), and the end of the small 'tie-dyed' piece, in the middle photo.  The crisp white, which in my excitement I dyed all of rather than saving a bit to compare, can be seen in the right hand photo...but it was originally as white as the paper it's lying on.

And inspired by the gorgeous work of Jude Hill (though I could never create anything as amazing as hers), I've also been trying my hand at a bit of hand sewing...sort of applique come quilting come rustic embroidery...using some calico and voile that I tried 'eco-dyeing' a few weeks back.  It's VERY rustic/rough (I've never done applique or quilting before), but I'm having fun and trying not to have any expectations or make it into a finished piece of 'art', rather just play with it and not think too much about what I stitch next or how messy the stitches are, or worry because it isn't 'working'.  My daughters pointed out that the circle looks like the moon, the cloud-like dye patterns rather like the craters on its surface, and I probably wouldn't have noticed that if I'd planned it all carefully in my head first.  So that's part of the fun, discovering things in the moment, that perhaps I might incorporate into a more finished piece sometime in the future.  It's not 'working' but that's good I think, it makes it easier to resist the urge to get precious with it and lose the sense of freedom and spontaneity.  It's evolving into a kind of landscape (and I got a little too literal and added trees), but who knows what it will look like tomorrow.  Don't laugh, but the interesting bit of maroon fluff sewn like a cloud drift across the middle is something I picked up off my floor.  I don't know what it is, though I suspect it may be the dried out inside fibres of one of my girls' felt tip pens!  But I liked the colour!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How to feel as excited as a small child at Christmas!

Well, that's how I feel at the moment, because I WON this competition over at the lovely Fairy Tale Cupboard (thanks Claire), and my prize, soon to be winging it's way out to big, hot old Australia, is this gorgeous book by the incredible Oona Patterson!  WOW...I don't think I've ever won anything before...oh, wait, I won a video of Live Under a Blood Red Sky: U2 at Red Rocks when I was 18.  But that's so many years ago it hardly counts!  I've just been having a bit of an online peruse of Oona's art with my girls, and they can hardly wait to read it too.  Today's photo is a sample of her work; amazingly detailed, teeny, tiny cutouts from the pages of books.  The figure of Ream herself (the eponymous heroine of the story), seen in the sailing boat, is only 1.5cm high.  Just marvelous!
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