Friday, December 12, 2014

Vanitas oh Vanitas

In researching Dutch still lives I came across some wonderful Vanitas painted in the early 1700's by Herman Henstenburgh (1667-1726). He painted in watercolour on velum which gives the flowers surrounding the strangely smiling skull, a wonderful luminosity. (See photo below, provenance unknown). My reinterpretation of the Vanitas, in reclaimed needlework, is the first in a series of 'cornucopia' works planned for my next solo exhibition with Gould Galleries in 2015. On a recent trip to my mother's home in regional Victoria, I found some exquisite needlework including Chinese silk embroidered birds with tree and sunset and cross-stitched Hummingbirds with Honeysuckle. These are being incorporated, along with other pieces from my collection, into the floral arrangement adorning the skull. On my return to the studio I backed the fragile pieces with Vlisofix and silk to stabilise them for extraction. They are temporarily pinned directly to the wall of my studio while I work out their arrangement, which is reminding me of the floral bathing caps my mother's generation wore, to keep their hair dry whilst swimming, hense my working title, 'The Bather 2014 after Herman Henstenburgh c.1700'.

For photos of my work in process please go to my website

Monday, November 10, 2014

Magnolia fully blooms

'Magnolia georgiana 2014 - after Georg Ehret 1743' is finally in full bloom, just in time for the end of Spring and after work was delayed by my wonderful residency Mexico and time in NYC and Boston. In March I began reinterpreting the magnificent Magnolia grandiflora, first painted in 1743 by Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708-70), which continues my well worn relief/assemblage technique, but uses a cropped image to fill the whole picture plane. I'm also using whole flower and other motifs to build the image, rather than always dissecting them into tiny fragments as I have done previously and vintage velvet to build the leaves. The cropped nature of the work is a reference to the wonderful Georgia O'Keefe. Photos below show the last stages of development.  I hope to have it photographed next week and framed before Christmas! This work forms part of my next solo exhibition, "Wild" to be held at Gould Galleries in September 2015.

Mounting the vintage velvet leaves on the bottom layer
of the backing mounts - the velvet had to be backed
with a layer of silk to stabilise the cut edges.  I've used
stainless steel lace pins to define the veins of the leaves.

The Magnolia's three-dimensional quality shows in this
birds-eye-view on my work table - it seems to float above
the lush bed of velvet leaves

The work appears to not be square, but it's just
the illusion created by it leaning against the wall.
Its very hard for me to capture the variations in the 
green velvets, but my photographer Gavin Hansford will.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Maravillosa México - part 1

360 Xochi Quetzal Artist Residency on the shores of the largest freshwater lake in Mexico, Lake Chapala, was my home for one month in August this year. A beautifully decorated and perfectly appointed little casita, perched on the third floor with views of the mountain range, the lake and the Red Cross clinic, was truly a home-away-from-home. This was made even more so, by the residency patron Deborah Kruger who is an established artist from North America working in fiber, digital and installation and her partner Christian. There were two other inspirational artists on residency at the same time - Gloria Clunie, playwright from Chicago and Yen Hua, porcelain/installation artist from Taiwan.  The purpose of the residency is "to support artists, writers and musicians who would benefit from having uninterrupted time to devote to their creativity. By providing free housing and a generous food allowance, we hope that our residents can make artistic progress without the stress and distractions of daily life."

My purpose for applying for a residency in Mexico was to experience a culture which still has a living tradition of embroidery, but finding this tradition in Chapala proved trickier than I anticipated.  A lot of the embroidery found locally is made solely for the tourist market - blouses, dresses, table runners, pillow covers etc - but I met some very generous people, both connected to the residency or in chance meetings, who were able to direct me to artisan pueblos and galleries. I was also very fortunate to meet an embroiderer who I commissioned to make several Mexican flower embroideries in silk.

The residency afforded me time to relax, explore, experiment and enjoy life "without the stress and distractions of daily life", although there were many wonderful distractions which took me out of the studio and into the streets of this wonderful, and very alive, pueblo!

Here are some photos of my time spent in Chapala and surrounds: 

My casita lounge room / studio

The view from my bedroom window - local casas and the mountain

Jesus on the Lake - a huge statue of Jesus, usually surrounded
by water, but sadly Lake Chapala is very receded at present.

A beautiful meal prepared by Yen Hua 
for the residents and associates

My favourite colours from childhood on the
garden wall of a neighbouring casa

Local flora

and a local fence the same colour!

experimenting with lung forms - I call them 'Lung Flowers'
reclaimed needlework, lace pins and nylon tulle

Lung flowers floating in the window space -
with a view across the downstairs roof tiles
and beyond to the Lake and Sierra Madre (Mother Mountain)

Day of the Dead paper cuts, bought locally,
and doily brought from home, ready for deconstructing

One of a series of Day of Dead Doileys….

The front wall of the casitas with a mural painted
by a previous resident, from Japan.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Home again

It's been months since I wrote a post here.  I've been in Mexico, New York and Boston and couldn't work out how to post using my iPad, which was very annoying, but gave me time for other things!

This is a very brief post before I dash off to the studio for the first time in two months, to say it's great to be back home, but it was fabulous being away!  I will post about the wonderful residency in Mexico SOON.

NEWS:  OPENING AT MOBILIA GALLERY, Cambridge BOSTON  10 October - 15 November

24 September - 11 October

my work (centre) a homage to Lucy & John Audubon
 of the 'Birds of America' - installed along side Julie Bradley (left)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Snowy and Bubo go to Boston...

The Snowy owls I've spent 10 days on so far, took a recent hiatus while I was laid low with a winter lurgie, but they are back and almost finished, in terms of the painstaking pinning. They will soon be extracted from the surrounding tulle and backed with silk and then pinned to foam core before mounting and framing.

I'm thinking of calling this intimate pair, 'Snowy & Bubo - after Edward Lear c.1843' - Snowy as they are Snowy owls and Bubo as their latin name is Bubo scandiacus.

There are some very precious and unique materials used to re-create Edward Lear's watercolour, including; antique needlelace collar from Belgium, for the black and white owl, which I purchased at an Embroiderer's Guild market; a vintage lace doily for the body of the white owl which has been pinned to my studio wall for at least five years; Hungarian black and gold 1920's 'flapper' lace from Budapest, which I purchased on Etsy, as highlights on the black and white owl and for the rock on which it is perched; Hungarian silk embroidery is placed under the 'flapper' lace to give the rock form and under-colouring; Japanese gold couching for the eye and French Chantilly lace for the markings on the black and white owl; a raised floral lace for the top of the branch, which came from a vintage dress which a friend gave me; and a very unusual Irish (I think) long thread-work, cotton doily for the face of the white owl.

The owls will soon be migrating to Boston USA for exhibition with Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, later in the year. My plan is that they will travel with me in my suitcase to Mexico, NYC and finally to Boston where I will have them framed.

These are the owls at day 10 - just before cutting off the tulle and below is a link to my journal entry on the website.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Part of a rich history

I was happy to discover that the beautiful Heide Museum of Modern Art, where I exhibited 'Sanctuary' in 2012 have included me on their "Heide Story" page on their website, as one of the emerging artists to have shown in the Project Gallery since 1996. This is a great honour to be named as part of the rich tapestry that is the Heide story!

To read the full story of Heide go to:  Heide Museum of Modern Art

To see the Sanctuary collection and other aspects of my career go to:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus)

Antique riblon-lace collar becomes an owl (left owl)

and a vintage lace doily becomes another (right owl)

The website journal entry above

and a shot of the work in progress 
on my studio wall below

Monday, April 28, 2014

NEWS - Mexico 2014

I am so thrilled to have been awarded a month long artist residency in Mexico in August this year.  I am one of 8 artists selected out of 180 applicants from around the world for a residency in the idyllic central Mexican location - "The 360 XOCHI QUETZAL Artist and Writer's Residency Program is located in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico on the shores of the largest lake in the country where the perfect year-round climate and stunning Lake Chapala and mountain views have long established the region as an international artist mecca."  The aim of the residency "… is to support artists, writers and musicians who would benefit from having uninterrupted time to devote to their creativity….and make artistic progress without the stress and distractions of daily life."  This unique opportunity is courtesy of the generous patronage of North American artist Deborah Kruger and the Juror for the summer visual arts residency was Jeannine Falino, Museum of Art & Design, New York City. 
I also need to acknowledge Janet De Boer from Textile Fibre Forum through whose newsletter I discovered the residency program.  Janet has continued to support my work through publishing since 2009.  (Images below are from the residency website: Deborah Kruger - Fiber & encaustic Artist / Xochi quetzal Art Residency in Mexico).

One of the residency studios

One of the residency bedrooms

One of the residency courtyards

Lake Chapala by day and by night

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Grandiflora is coming along...

My Magnolia grandiflora - reinterpreted from Georg Dionysius Ehret 1743 is coming along, slowly but surely… 

Day 11 - today I worked on the top left corner and I embedded several letters within the white/greys - a "G" for Georg (Ehret) and Georgia (O'Keefe); a "D" for Dionysius (Georg's middle name) and an "L" for? … see if you can find them… they were all embroidered on scraps of linen sent to me from France! I am yet to find an "E"...

Day 14 below - with the chaos all around

for more information see

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vintage find at Ratty & Mole's...

Yesterday I took a country trip to the lovely town of Warrandyte with my friend Suzana (that's if a half hour drive from Thornbury is country but the air certainly felt fresher and with trees all around and river running through the centre of the town we felt transported!)  I wanted to return to the local op-shop and to "Ratty & Mole's Antiques", where I had found an exquisite Madeira appliqué table setting, when we visited four years ago (there's a link to their Facebook site at the end of the blog).

I remember at the time, what a big investment it was buying this unique set of domestic needlework, which was still in its original box with the gold labels stating it was "made by hand on the Island of Madeira" but, the beautiful blue/grey appliqué seemed destined to become something else, something that would celebrate it's quiet beauty and painstaking creation.  

In 2010 it was embedded in the second work in my Sanctuary series, becoming transformed into the central lyre in the tail feathers of Madeira's Lyre (a lyrebird after John William Lewin c1815) - see detail below and link to the full work on my website at end of blog).

And, yesterday's trip to Warrandyte was just as fortuitous as I found another (not inexpensive) treasure at Ratty & Moles - an exquisitely hand embroidered shawl on black silk, said to be Victorian Era most likely made in China or Manila for the Western market?  The price reflected this fact but was also cheaper than it could have been as the stunning black fringe was damaged in places - otherwise it's in beautiful condition. Not sure what this will become, but I am sure it will have a new life eventually - hopefully as part of my next solo show with Gould Galleries in 2015... 

 Ratty & Moles Antiques

 Madeira's Lyre 2010 - after John William Lewin c1815

Monday, March 24, 2014

Weep heads to its new home...

Weep is finally framed (by the wonderful team at
Chapman & Bailey in Abbotsford) and is shown here
in the gallery (Gould Galleries, Sth Yarra) ready to be
shipped to its new home in Sydney NSW - very satisfying!

and here it is when it was first draped over the ingenious sub-frame,
covered in Kappa board and canvas - the work was then painstakingly
pinned to the sub-frame before it was placed in its enormous box frame.

'Magnolia georgiana' 2014

After Georg Dionysius Ehret's Magnificent magnolia 1743
and cropped to reference Georgia O'Keefe

Monday, March 3, 2014

Magnificent magnolia...

Today I began a new work and a slightly new approach, in reclaimed textiles - reinterpreting a magnificent Magnolia grandiflora, painted in 1743 by Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708-70). I'm using my well worn relief-assemblage technique, but the image is cropped and will fill the whole picture plane. I'm also using whole flower and other motifs to build the image, rather than dissecting them into tiny fragments as I have done in previous works. Hopefully this will be a less painstaking, and slightly quicker process than in the past.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Marianne's clianthus - headed for Alice Springs

Flights booked for Alice Springs - to attend the opening of the 38th Alice Prize, at the Araluen Arts Centre on Friday May 9th. My work is one of 66 selected out of 490 entries and as I've never been to the desert it will be a wonderful opportunity to visit a place where this "glory flower" Clianthus formosus grows in abundance (unfortunately not at this time of year).

'Marianne's clianthus, 2013 - after Marianne Collinson Campbell, 1800's'

(reclaimed needlework, lace and beading pins, museum board 145 x 65 cm)

details showing the head of the pea (the black 'eye' is referred to as the 'boss') and the leaves

Marrianne Collinson Campbell's original drawing in the a National Library of Australia publication
'Women of Flowers'.  The original drawing is held in the NLA collection.