Sunday, 12 November 2017



Lately there has been another tsunami of posts on the interpixies by various people operating in the creative arts whirled, complaining about copyists.

The funny thing is that many of them derive a living from having either copied someone else's work from a book, poached a successful business model (in one case, together with the email list!) from an associate or are directly teaching exactly what they have learned in a class.

I stopped giving printed handouts in the year 2000, when someone at the textile forum who had not actually been in my class, helped themselves to a copy and then advertised and presented the class (verbatim) a few months later.

Sometimes people still ask for them...and I can't help but raise an eyebrow when they add "because I've been asked to teach the class to   my quilt group/local school/in a workshop   next whenever.

I have been teaching creative classes of one sort or another since 1986 and have participated in many (over thirty) classes as a student, most recently one with the lovely Lorna Crane. Next year I'll be back at a student. Will I be sharing directly what I have learned? No.

I choose to attend classes that will add to my practice, in a kind of personalised ongoing post-graduate professional development program. Sometimes I learn more about the practice of teaching than about a specific technique. Either way, the experience is invaluable and improves the way I present classes, but indirectly so.

That's because the experience is filtered through my life, not simply reproduced.


So when people ask me outright to explain exactly how I make my personal work (which is what happened at the opening of my current exhibition 'refuge') I politely decline. There's enough information freely available about 'ecoprinting' online and I don't care if you are "just a painter and unlikely to use it" because I'm sorry but my bullshit detector redlined when I saw your partner's ears pricked and alert. I wouldn't have explained it anyway. To say that it's a contact print is enough.

Also, I am now wise to the practice of inviting people to lunch to talk about the possibility of working with their firm...and then having your brains thoroughly picked. Lunch is not a sufficient payment for my time (and airfares). I prefer my own cooking most times anyway. In future, persons wanting to "consult" will need to substantiate that interest with appropriate reimbursement for my time and travel. Your lawyer isn't going to drop in for lunch to tell you exactly how to manage a situation either. The other thing I will not allow is prospective hosts to "sit in on a class" to see how it will "fit with their program".  I'm not so much green as I'm cabbage-looking.

On the sunny side, I do love teaching, and that is why sharing the class 'being (t)here' makes me so happy. It changes with each location, and grows as I dream up new techniques and practices to add. Each one is different from the next. The poetry writing, though it fills some with trepidation, has become a rich and fulfilling part of the event. Participants still learn how to print on cloth and paper, but also develop more confidence in drawing and writing. Many tell me that they come away from our time together with a deeper knowledge of themselves and with a clearer vision of where they want to take their own work.

Things like that fill me with a deep satisfaction, gratitude and the feeling that my time on this wondrous planet is not being entirely wasted.

Next year will take me to France, Canada, New Zealand, and Scotland

(look for an announcement soon about

"wayfinding between time in the outlands…" in Orkney)
 as well as (a little closer to home) Queensland and Western Australia.

Maybe I'll see you somewhere out there?

'Albertine' doing her thing

Saturday, 16 September 2017

a catalogue for disquiet

I've made a catalogue for 'disquiet'
you'll find a preview here

so grateful to the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery
for allowing me the space and time
to create a story of sorts through my work.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

where did the day the week the year my life go?

the title of this post is running like an earworm in my head.

since we last met
I have been in the west of Scotland
and also in the west of Australia

both beautiful.

I took a few days on my own after teaching at Newburgh (the two reddish pix are details of 'shibusa felt', followed by printed paper and then some stitched and dyed organic eri+cotton cloth (acquired from Maiwa)

we had students from all over the whirled...both coasts of the USA, as well as the south-west, Australia, New Zealand , the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as lovely locals.
all gathered together in happy community around a dye cauldron
(and the delight, for me, of bilingual teaching...good practice!)

then I sailed for Harris
where I exhumed last year's bundle
and made a small film
and thought about music

it was hard to tear myself away
but journeying through the Wester Ross brought other delights
notably the extraordinary Inverewe garden, just north of Gairloch
where I spent a happy morning dodging midges

before driving onward for a glorious studio visit
exploring common ground with my friend Kerstin Gren

home again
I was called west, to the Dryandra Woodland
where we had to step carefully, with tiny orchids underfoot
and were required to apply for a permit to gather windfalls
(which, technically, all leaf printers in Australia gathering anywhere that is NOT private property, are legally required to do)

and where we found the perfect pot, with only one small leak that was successfully plugged with clay, scraped from the edge of a nearby dam

now I'm home again, briefly
and thinking about next year.

because I can no longer teach in the USA
(the current regime is not keen for wandering dye-stained gypsies)

those who wish to spend time with me
may like to hop the pond to Scotland (November next year) where
plans are afoot for some new explorations (details to follow)
or Norway (September)
when I shall be adventuring with Arts and Cultural Travel

Monday, 24 July 2017


my exhibition 'disquiet' :: observations on a changing landscape

formally opened at Murray Bridge Regional Gallery yesterday, July 23 and runs to August 26

Fulvia Mantelli, Associate Curator, Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, University of South Australia kindly did the honours... and has agreed I may publish her speech in the catalog that I'm putting together (which may not necessarily be available before the exhibition closes - good things take time)

meanwhile here are a few images 

'counting the days'

'drawing the line' detail

'riverbed' detail


'waterhole' detail

Monday, 17 July 2017

feeding the indigo vat

when Ma left us to go on her next big adventure, among the stuff she left behind was a modest esky (across the ditch you'd know that as a chilly bin, across the puddle it might be a cooler, and I've never encountered one in Old Blighty so I've no idea what you might call it there)

it's a well-insulated device made of plastic. Ma used hers for fish bait, possibly also for gin.

the extendable handle is a bit rusty (and cannot be removed for restoration by boiling in a eucalyptus bath) but inside it was squeaky clean. as I pondered it, I had an idea.


it's very cold here in winter. we don't get snow very often but it's pretty nippy. I decided to liberate the esky and give it new life as an indigo vat. the insulation helps keep the temperature up and it's quite easy to rewarm it when it does cool down (three days of neglect and it's down to lukewarm) by standing one or two old wines bottle full of hot water in it. (hot stones are good, too, but more difficult to handle.)

and while my favourite indigo vat is made with bananas, they're rather pricey right now (usually cheaper in school holidays, as less lunches are being packed!) and so I am nourishing the vat with other substances. I'm a bear who likes to make the most of local resources, so (thanks to a conversation I had with Charlotte Kwon a few months ago, when she said the vat would probably be just as happy eating compost) I've been experimenting by boiling up the vegetable trimmings and feeding the liquor to the vat.

the chickens are delighted because they're getting cooked scraps :: much easier to eat!

celery and sweet potato

beetroot and pineapple peels

pouring in the brew (better to hold it closer to the surface and thus introduce less air, but trickier to photograph if you happen to be doing it all yourself)

the main thing is to keep it warm, check the pH and, as Michel Garcia so charmingly says, remember to feed the donkey before you put it to bed.

what are you feeding yours? I'd be interested to know.

Friday, 30 June 2017

who knows where the time goes

it's been a while since I've published anything here , and the field of the year has been very thoroughly harrowed in the interim, beginning with the passing of my mother in February. 
not something I am ready to write about yet. so I will not.

in May I travelled to Vancouver, to give my first two-week class at the Maiwa School of Textiles

the magical view from the air as you fly into San Francisco

as Qantas only flies there direct in midwinter and midsummer, I had to travel via the United States.
in the past , my arrival at SFO has been met with a cheery "welcome to the United States".

not this time.

I was accused of lying about my tattoos. seriously??? I have a tattoo of a maple leaf on my wrist. it was drawn by one of my daughters, based on a leaf gathered from under the beautiful Acer palmatum atropurpureum that lives at the foot of the Vallejo Steps in San Francisco. the officer asked me what the tattoo was, I responded with "it's a maple leaf, sir". whereupon he informed me that he was a patriot from Ohio who had seen plenty of maples in his time and that it was his duty to keep undesirable elements out of his country. and that he did not like to be lied to.

it IS a maple leaf.
(and my hands were squeaky clean at the time)

the officer continued to insist that it was a marijuana leaf (which, even if true, should not have mattered as Cannabis sativa is legal in California). he wanted the names and addresses of my friends in the US. he demanded to know if I were an activist or an environmentalist. I responded truthfully that I was a tree planter, then he sent me for "secondary questioning".  hours later I was released into the USA. if you want to know what those hours were like, read Mem Fox's account of her experience. it's quite similar, except that in my case there was no apology (and I haven't given any books to Prince George).

curiously, everyone else in that detention room was brown, too.

I wasn't even wearing my amulets, but clearly I look like someone to be suspicious of. 

happily I had had the foresight to book my onward flight to Canada for the following day, otherwise I might well have missed my connection. but as a result of this experience, and given the current administration's attitude to aliens sharing their skills in the USA (although apparently it's ok to have your hats, handbags and suits made in China and Mexico) I shall not be teaching there again for the foreseeable future which is ironic, given the number of people who have set up small businesses churning out ecoprint textiles, teaching workshops and e-courses; none of which seemed to be around before Eco Colour was published. I like to think that I'm actually making a useful contribution and doing a bit of good around the whirled. I could just be misguided.

enough of the sad ranting. I'll miss all y'all.

now back to the story.

having two blocks of five days to work together, with a weekend off in between was just marvellous. I was there to teach feltmaking, of the kind that doesn't require truckloads of soap (but DOES need a bit of stitching and is a splendid means of using up little scraps of cloth. I call it shibusa), but there was of course lots of other dyeing on the side, including in a deliciously fragrant banana-based indigo vat. 

beautiful student work, printing on (unscoured) linen
the students worked like beavers.

on my weekend off I was spirited away to the most gorgeous island , where I slept in a dreamtent

we all found it a wrench to part company on the last day.
happily I've been invited back for next year and the class is in June, so I can fly directly to Vancouver from Sydney on my favourite airline.

after a few other adventures, early June found me in the Netherlands, where I was included in the exhibition 'Earth Matters' at the Textile Museum in Tilburg. 
at the opening I met Christina Kim (whose work appears below). I'd visited her Dosa space in Los Angeles a few years ago going to cross paths, but she'd been out of town at the time. I also met Birgitta deVos and acquired a copy of her gorgeous new book. 

I am so very grateful to Iris de Voogd for organising a workshop at such short notice, which meant that my airfare was covered and I could attend the exhibition opening. also I had a chance to catch up with lots of people I had not seen for a long time, some (Geesje and Dorie) not since 2011.  Marijke (who joined me in Newburgh a few years ago) was there as well, and her daughter Caitlin (she's the one who led the singing in the riverbed) has woven me the most glorious scarf and given me permission to dye it! do stay tuned for developments on that front, we are now treating it as a collaboration!

anyways Iris and I had been having an extended email conversation for around two years about the possibility of having a class there and May 2018 had already been inked into place...but she enthusiastically leapt into action a whole 11 months earlier. (and even let me play her saxophone).

Dorie van Dijk's enormous studio amidst the flowerhouses is a fabulous place for a class. I'm already dreaming of a return, and Marijke has been kindly murmuring about organising something in her region too. 

the seeds are planted, we'll see what blooms.

one of my lovely students, Dajana Heremic, with her delicious apron

the ridiculously bright #nofilter colour from Italian eucalyptus, a surprise delivery at Dorie's studio.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

learning life lessons

it was a splendid road trip
pootling across Australia with Kubbi the One-Eyed Wonder Dog
nine hours on the road (punctuated by frequent stops to
wander in the bush and gaze at flora)
is a lot of thinking time.

there and back again is twice that.

I always learn something new from teaching workshops
what became crystal clear to me during the three days at Beautiful Silks Botanical Studio
is that the work I do
is also my own big life lesson.

that the act of teaching is my personal journey to be the best person (in this life) that I can be.
it isn't all roses, and it's hard sometimes to resist being catty about the way that the "ecoprint", a term I optimistically coined in 1999, has been hijacked to be anything but "eco-friendly" or sustainable.
because when I hear of the mountains of plastic and the bucket-loads of adjunct mordants being used out there I do become quite despondent.

but then I read this

"Thank you, for another brilliant, creative soul feeding workshop, that brought a group of strangers together but leaving as friends"

and it warms my heart because it reminds me of what is really important.

it isn't the brightness of the colour (though we certainly had that) or the volumes of product ... it's the connections we make when we gather together around a cauldron.

in this instance, a "second skin" class, it was also about the empowerment that comes with the simple skills of making.

I'd probably have made truckloads of loot over the years if I had just kept the botanical contact print process a secret and churned out yardage or silk pyjamas and a squillion printed wool scarves, but for me the greater satisfaction comes with seeing the happy smiles that bloom when dresses grow using simple running stitch, lovely threads and beautiful cloth. (all all we need, really, is 'enough')

in "second skin" we make string, measure with it, make a few marks with graphite and then boldly cut and sew.
no clatter of machines, just the quiet ebb and flow of conversation, and sometimes simply gentle silence.

and magic happens.

in this last class people shared so many life skills beyond just sewing and dyeing.
friendships were forged, wisdoms exchanged.

and that makes my life worth living. with bells on.

and then (fresh from the cauldron)
I was given the most magnificent present hand-stitched
with so much love, and dyed in my favourite colours.
 thank you, Robyn.
it's going to wander with me.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

reira he makutu i roto i tenei wahi

I cheated.
I used google translate in the hope that it would find the correct Māori words for
"there is magic in this place"
(although I will confess that when I pasted the answer back in, and asked her to detect the language,
Granny Google came up with 🌸 Hawaiian)

forgive me. 

there IS magic in this place

...the place being the wonderful garden in the lovely Lud Valley that Judy and Michael Keylock have been opening (along with their hearts) for over seven years now, to let me play with leaves and words, paper and cloth while Chloe cooks up the most delicious food. 

we eat the food that has been grown in the garden while making colour from leaves that drift underfoot. 

there is a particularly special plant, Griselinia littoralis, that doesn't get a mention in any of the traditional New Zealand dye books...but contains a rather fabulous colour (first discovered thanks to my friend Rachelle, who bundled leaves from it during a class I taught in the Whitireia Summer School at Kapiti in 2009).  cooked in water it turns the colour of tea...but bundled it delivers the sweetest pink.

only two species occur in Aotearoa, with a further five in South America. 

sometimes they are epiphytes and live on a friend.  rumour has it they arrived with the Māori (apparently a decoction of the bark could be of use against venereal disease. hmm.)

at the end of each day I went to my favourite place (in the whirled) for a swim. there's something about diving into cold water and bursting up into air again that makes me feel like a new woman. 
and that experience is not only fabulous, but free!

wandering in the Suter Gallery on my way to the airport, I encountered a painting of Huria Matenga who looks astonishingly like my maternal grandmother

even flying in and out is a wonderful experience, as the land and the sea unfold below

though it's so very hard to leave.

which is why the four of us made sure to find a time that suited us all for a return, which looks like being in the third week of April next year (when we can once again have an open fire)