Saturday, 17 March 2018

the school of nomad arts

I am pinching myself ... but it is true.

I have taken the plunge.

(what on earth is she on about, I hear you mutter)

Thanks to my friend Christi Carter telling me about Seasonal Affective Disorder, (something that was unknown to me) which prompted me to dream up a February project to help keep the February blues at bay...and then her insisting I really needed to make a video for the FB group (created for those who invested in the Bagstories book)

and then the darling Bagsisters being so very kind about my filming skills (and a bit of pride myself because I was able to make a wee film without saying UM or anything naughtier).

All of this gave me the confidence to create a virtual campfire that I am calling

the School of Nomad Arts.

it is the place you can go to learn and to make, all while curled up in your armchair, wearing your favourite jimjams and without having to brush your hair if you can't be bothered.

the first ever class is

the Alchemist's Apron

starting on March 22 (but open for enrolments now).

care to join me there? I hope so.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

blogger must be getting past its useby date

Blogger has decided this week that it will not let me respond to visitors comments.
Which is a bit frustrating when there are questions to be answered.

So after typing answers several times (and forgetting to copy them!) and then losing them again
I decided to sort it out by posting screenshots.

fingers crossed the people concerned swing by and find em. But if this situation continues I fear it may try my patience...

Monday, 26 February 2018

gardens of the heart

staying at home for the summer has made so much sense.

it's given me the space (and grace) to play :: to make new work and to dream new ideas.

in January I made the wee book 'bagstories' and was stunned to find the welcome it received, and then delighted to see how the 'bagstories' group (on Facebook) so quickly became such a lovely supportive gathering of like-minded spirits.

that foray has led to me deciding that I should make a February project every year. Also, at long last, I will offer distance learning for those who suffer physical, geographical and/or economic difficulty in getting to a class.  more on that very soon.

but for now, let me tell you about 'gardens of the heart'...a  project in poetry and cloth that will culminate in an exhibition for the 2019 Adelaide Festival Fringe, that I am coordinating with the h.ART group who have been the backbone behind the establishment of an Artspace in the old Onkaparinga Woollen Mills in Lobethal, South Australia. You can sign up via the Facebook group, or (if you aren't on fb) leave me a comment below (or email me) and I will assign you a 'line number'. Why line numbers?

it's because 'gardens of the heart' is based on the three-line poetry that I have been sharing with students in recent years...which results in collaborative aleatory poetry...beautiful words gathered by chance from groups of (three) people.

each person stitches their line along a piece of cloth (450mm x 150mm  :: 18" x 6") together with the number of dots they've been assigned.

then all the pieces will be stitched together by me (and some friendly volunteers) next February to form three-line poems, which will be installed at the Woollen Mill Artspace in Lobethal, South Australia together with a cloud of suspended flowers.

are you in?

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

at high noon on February One

at high noon on February One this year (central standard time.... a silly zone really, half an hour different from the actual meridian on which South Australia sits and initiated by a bunch of businessmen in 1899, when the speed of communication/travel was so slow it didn't make a difference anyway), the 'bagstories' group on Facebook will revert to secret.

why is this important? it's because on that date (as soon as I return from a family airport run) I shall be posting the next instalment of instructions for a lagniappe project I am guiding purchasers of the 'bagstories' book though for the month of February. (it's a project that is not actually in the book, as it would have added too many pages and thus too high a cost to the consumer.  It is an invention of my own that has roots in Japanese traditions and a few nods to other cultures...that I am very excited to share)

corner snippets

those people who have already bought the book and let me know (via forwarded receipts) that they have done so, have been admitted to the group and are busily preparing a small collection of stitched cloth squares in readiness. well, mostly cloth. One is working with Japanese paper and another will doubtless be using her lovely shifu.

another way of joining is to find the bagstories group (there's a link at the bottom of this post) and to show your proof-of-investment by cutting and pasting details from your receipt into the space that FB provides for answering questions.


I know this is a slightly fussy and irritating beginning...but I think it's worth the effort, as it means you'll have lifetime access to the bagstories group and can continue your conversations there long after the February project is done. Already I'm seeing that people are planning to meet over cauldrons here and there. I'm hoping others may gather for stitching sessions (or coffee, or a cocktail)... the more different people we meet, the more we find we are the same at heart...

'bagstories' already has members from almost all over the whirled...including Iceland, Brazil, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, England, the USA, India, Canada, New Zealand forgive me if you're in and your country is not on the list yet! forming peaceful friendships through bag-making. This is making me enormously happy.

thank you, Jadranka Brown, for this Looking very much like my grandmother.

so whether you invest in a hard cover, a soft cover or the pdf version of 'bagstories', I do hope you will join me for the month of February, making gorgeous bags, having conversations across the whirled and sharing your lovely work.

thanks for swinging by. here are a few side-steps you may enjoy...

Sunday, 14 January 2018

celebrating both collaboration and compromise

it's been a while since I had anything really interesting to tell y'all but today I have two things to talk about.
one is the fabulous scarf I was gifted when I visited the Netherlands last (northern) summer, woven from her own exquisite handspun yarns by Caitlin Bongers (she's the one with the voice of the angels who started us all singing by the River Tay a couple of years back).
the other can wait for a moment.

the scarf waited patiently while I sailed in and out of home, emptying suitcases and refilling them, patting the dog, grubbing a few thistles and explaining to my cat just why I had to leave again. it was a busy year. so much so that I consciously cleared my dance card for the first three months of this one, so that I could find some space to breathe, to prepare for the next lot of teaching and to think about what my part of the collab might entail.

I should explain that when I received this gorgeous armful of softness I was quite overwhelmed. I know what it takes to warp up and weave something, and this piece is especially beautiful. I asked Caitlin if she would mind me dyeing it, and being given permission I suggested we regard it as a collaboration.

so this week, in between working on the "other thing" that I will shortly reveal, I sat in the armchair, dogs at my feet, cats and kittens disporting themselves over my shoulders, and decided that I would knot the fringe of the scarf. such gentle repetitive work is good for quieting the mind. while working I listened to a podcast from On Being, John O'Donohue discoursing gently on beauty. it was perfect.

then I was moved to take my needle and do just a little stitching into the piece. just a little.

I soaked it in a diluted iron brew (students may remember it as 'magic potion', made by soaking rusty things in vinegar, and heavily diluted for use otherwise everything can turn black)

it was firmly bundled with Eucalyptus scoparia windfall, and then cooked in a pre-loved dark brew. (it doesn't matter what your bundle is cooked in, it's what's inside the bundle that's important)

when it cooled, I unrolled it, and it just took my breath away.  THANK YOU Caitlin, for entrusting this treasure to me. it will be joining the "essential travel kit".

and the other thing?  that belongs to the 'compromise' part of the title of this post. various people had been kindly urging me to consider making an e-course, but I simply couldn't come at standing and talking into a camera. I'm not good at doing and talking at the same time. something to do with the cerebral hemispheres.

but I do like making books. so the compromise is that I have made a wee book that is a kind of workshop-in-your-pocket (or on your screen if you take the PDF version). it's mostly handwritten rather than typed but I wanted it to feel as though you were looking over my shoulder into a notebook.

what's in it? it contains the secrets of the tsunobukuro, that magical bias stitched bag of Japan that I so frequently share with students. (little ones are perfect for buying vegetables, the in-between sizes brilliant for gathering leaves, twigs or keeping your clothes sorted in a suitcase...and I always carry an extra-large one in case I run out of luggage space.)

it is available at and if you send me proof of purchase (via the contact form on my website) I shall invite you to the 'secret' Facebook group where, for the month of February, I shall be posting tips and tricks and one or three "how to's", and where you can post images of the bags that you make, and have conversations with fellow 'baggers' around this marvellous whirled.

thank you for staying with me and for reading thus far. 
here are some related links to explore.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

wayfaring in the outlands

regular readers will already be aware that I adore Scotland, so it won't come as a surprise if you can hear me dancing around my studio from a distance

because today I can finally share two classes that have been some months in the planning.

from the river to the sea(loch) :: finding your wild heart on the western edge
November 10 - 14, 2018


wayfinding between time in the outlands…
November 17 - 21, 2018

getting to each one involves a bit of an adventure and a ferry ride, but that is half the fun.

you'll find the link to the contact details here (please scroll to the bottom of the page)

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