Sunday, 27 May 2018

Kotare Studio open for business

It is with great pleasure, not to say a sigh of relief, that I finalised the workshop and retreat programme for Taking Textiles Further at Kotare Studio 2018. As ever, deadlines are what make things happen, and enjoyable deadlines still count!

The lead up to Creative Matakana during the first week of May was a little busy as we had to finish the toilet block attached to the studio. It is a 'vermiculture' design and took some creative construction ideas in itself. Brian did the elephant's share of the work (as usual he would say), with me holding a few pieces of wood in place and adding (not so welcome) ideas about d├ęcor. All done, worms installed and toilet open for business!!
Creative Matakana is in only it's second year. It comprises of a huge effort by local enthusiasts for art, food, landscape and gardening. A week of workshops held around the area, national and international as well as local tutors are involved, several meals, exhibition openings and talks during the week and an open studio event at the end of the week. I was incredibly pleased to be asked to be a part of the week, and to be looked after so well by organisers and support volunteers. My students were able to settle down and enjoy their time without a care in the world - coffee, tea, homemade biscuits, lunches arriving daily …
This gave us time for 2 workshops of 2 days each. First were 2 days of metal embossing and colouring, silk fibre paper making and stitching.

Impressive Metals for Creative Matakana

Impressive Metals for Creative Matakana
Perfect inspiration for a marine biologist on the course, see how it develops below ...

Silk fibres, Angelina fibre, embossed metal ….

A little stitching, and a fabulous piece.

And there is always one going her own way! Careful, considered wire constructions were happening here.

After that, 2 further days of metals. This time using weaving techniques with metal, wires, beads and other media. This was also perfect for the floral artists who were on the course as incorporating different media and structures is a key part of their contemporary floral art.

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 1. Samplers

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 1. Samplers

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 1. Samplers
Wild Wire Weaving. Day 1. Samplers
On day 2 everyone was able to pursue a project of their own in scale and intensity. Brilliant, creative results.

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 2. Personal Projects. 

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 2. Personal Projects. 

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 2. Personal Projects. Going to be a butterfly ...

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 2. Personal Projects. 

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 2. Personal Projects. Destined to wrap around driftwood

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 2. Personal Projects. 

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 2. Personal Projects. Floral Art additions

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 2. Personal Projects. 

Wild Wire Weaving. Day 2. Personal Projects. That marine biologist at work again!
Then a quick change and set up for open studios. It was a great chance to get out a real range of my work and show visitors work which has not been seen in NZ before, saying hello to new faces and farewell to some work off to new homes. 

Thank you so much again to Jo Connor, Viv, Kathy and the rest of the team, Creative Matakana was a lovely week.

Next up is a series of contemporary textile workshops held at the studio:

Taking Textiles Further 2018 Workshop Diary
One of the hardest things about deciding on which topics and techniques to plump for in this starting series has been the breadth of options that I want you to have a go at. For 2018 I have selected workshop ideas to give you a a taste of what is yet to come. For future workshops, sign up to the newsletter for events in 2019 and beyond. There will be workshops, masterclasses, creative retreats and self-directed down times. If you have a group of friends, of any experience, who would like to learn together, or simply can’t make the dates I have selected, do get in touch to see what we can work out. Perhaps you have a birthday or special occasion you want to mark with friends but want an alternative to drinking too much(!), come and have a great time being creative. 

Saturday 9 June : Getting to know you.
Confidence in your equipment takes away significant anxiety when creating artworks. For textiles and mixed media, your sewing machine is a basic tool which should be your friend! This is a day especially created for people who are less confident with their free motion machine embroidery skills. You will discover how to be in complete control of your sewing machine. You will use different stitches, change the tension and use a variety of threads to create intricate details on your piece. Sewing machines can be provided, but bringing your own is better as you will learn how to make full use of it. You will benefit from a machine which is able to drop the feed dogs (or has a plate to insert over them, and have a darning or embroidery foot).
No prior experience required. Some sewing machines are available to borrow.

Sunday 10 June : Flower Power
Take your machine embroidery skills further with a day creating a fabulous flowers picture with 3D elements using soluble fabric, beads and wires. You will need to have a working knowledge of your sewing machine and it is helpful to have a drop feed and darning foot. If you are not sure whether your machine is suitable, we can find out. I have a selection of machines for you to borrow. No previous art or textile skills required. If you take this along with ‘Getting to know you’, get a 2-day workshop discount.

Saturday 16 June : Zipperdy do dah
Upcycle old zippers by creating a needle felted surface using lovely coloured wool tops which twist and swirl around the zip. Add simple, bold stitching and beads, and - viola!  A brooch, necklace, embroidered panel, book cover  - the choice is yours. No previous art or textile skills required.

Saturday and Sunday 30 June & 1 July :  Mixed Media Layers
Use an exciting mixture of different paints, resists and glazes, make your own stamp blocks and creatively use
preformed stamps, embellish with embossing powders and texture gels to create densely layered and textured background fabrics for stitching and beading. Expect to get messy and finish the first day with plenty of
experimental surfaces. On the second day, continue to develop these or use them to create your own artwork.
No previous art or textile skills required.

Saturday and Sunday 7 & 8 July : Take a line for a walk - designing and stitching with doodles
It was the famous, innovative artist Paul Klee who suggested that creative, spontaneous work should be developed by allowing yourself to ‘take a line for a walk’, and we have all created doodles and scribbles. In this workshop you will develop this idea further and with simple devices learn to develop your own designs starting from doodles! Everyone can do it. Develop designs and patterns, then paint and print, layer and stitch your designs onto paper and fabric. No previous art or textile skills required.

Saturday and Sunday 14 & 15 July : Object to Art
Tutor: Di Halstead
Take photography a little/lot further! When we more closely everyday objects, even quirky, discarded or junk ones, there are a fascinating breadth of textures and forms to be observed and recorded. By looking through the camera with macro equipment, by altering the lighting and the composition we can really bring out these details. You will concentrate on methods and equipment you can find at home and use again later, whether natural lighting, homemade filters or domestic lights. Over these two days you will look at the effect of composition, lighting and macro photography, then use your resulting images, we will deconstruct them and reconstruct, playing with ideas of 3D structures, books, boxes, attachments and ideas to personalise your images with paint effects. No previous experience necessary.

Saturday 1 September : Instant Attraction
This is the classic starter day for Angelina fibres developed from my bestselling book ‘Between the Sheets with Angelina’. It is a veritable romp through as many ideas and techniques as we can squeeze in a day showing some of the range possible with this fibre for textiles, papercrafts, cards making, scrapbooking and more.  End the day with a reference notebook full of samples for future projects. Angelina fibre is a polyester fibre with a supersoft handle, much like cashmere. Angelina Fibres can be spun, woven, layered, trapped, bonded etc. Its applications in textile art, embroidery, papermaking, papier mache, modelling, card and candle- making etc. are endless! No previous art or textile skills required.

Sunday 2 September : The Crown Jewels Gone Mad

Developed from a commission where my client wanted to vamp up her room, saying she wanted ‘the crown jewels gone mad’. Exploit the textured surfaces which can be developed by fusing and melting the Angelina fabric. Really go for it with bright, lustrous, over the top combinations of Angelina fibre, wires, beads, soldering, burning, hand and machine stitch to develop a wild embroidery by layering and stitching. No previous art or textile skills required. If you take this along with ‘Instant Attraction, get a 2 day workshop discount.

Saturday and Sunday 15 & 16 September : Drawing and Design Retreat.
It is important sometimes to take time away from the ‘endgaming’ game to which we are all prone, to increase your connection to your personal creativity and your working practices. Spend time away from your actual projects; work on observation, mindfulness, spontaneity, mark making, playing with surfaces and lines, improvisation, radiant thinking and more.  Make use of the time to reflect and try out some experimental or formal drawing and design ideas. You will find that some of these slot straight into your current practice, others take a little extra effort. Weather permitting, we will visit the marine reserve and the bush, or visit the Matakana market area for a different stimulus. There will be a mixture of directed ideas and self-directed time, discussions and times for you to contemplate and practice. Leave invigorated and with a renewed sense of understanding of your practice and ways to make choices which are deeper, more meaningful or more coherent for your art.
No previous experience necessary, you will require a commitment to concentrate and try ideas which you might not spend time with at home.

Saturday and Sunday 22 & 23 September : Sweet as …
Make the most of a reason to eat those sweets with coloured foil wrappers - do it for your art! Use sweet wrapper foils and sheer fabrics with machine embroidery (feed dogs up or down depending on your preference) to create a richly embroidered and embellished surface. You could aim for a bag, a dress panel or simply an exotic embroidered surface. Sewing machine required. No previous art or textile skills required.

Saturday and Sunday 29 & 30 September : A sense of place : Camera, Composition and Assemblage
Joint Tutors: Di Halstead and Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
We all feel a desire to record our lives and our visual memories. In these days of mass recording options, why don’t we take these images further? The versatility of photography cannot be denied, so let’s take some fabulous photographs. Not only for their own sake but also as the starting points for other projects. Spend time either at the stunning Tawharanui park walking through bush, rocky shores and beaches, or if the weather isn’t so conducive, visit Matakana village with period and new architecture, diverse viewpoints, materials and people to record. During this time you will be helped to consider composition of images and seeing with an artist’s eye, without becoming uber-technical. Select photos to print and work directly into these or blank photo emulsion by sanding, painting and distressing to personalise images. Use assemblage and simple stitching to create a canvas which is a personal response to your memories of the original inspiration. No previous experience necessary.

If you think that you or anyone you know are interested, email me for the full details. We have accomodation, a great landscape and lots of other things to do in the area. I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Why 'Beyond The Ballast'?

I was very happy to agree to take part in an exhibition in which we would be given papers made by Zizania Paper Products in Te Kopuru. This small business creates papers from local plants such as papyrus, linseed, flax, pampas and others. 
I have shown you some images of my work in 'All Washed Up'.
What I didn't quite understand was the exhibition title 'Beyond The Ballast'. So when I popped to see it at the Muddy Waters Gallery in Dargaville (open till 9 May, 10 - 4 daily) I asked about the derivation and it is a great story, if not for the local flora, then historically and a pertinent reminder for us today as we travel around.
Dargaville was once a centre of shipping and boats came from all over (the remains of one of the earliest ever European wrecks was not long since found, possibly as early as 1705). It is a known practice that cargo boats need to carry something as ballast if they have no cargo on board, and this is often dumped at the harbour before taking on the real cargo. Boats from China were not uncommon and they used briquettes of mud and other inclusions as ballast. As these disintegrated in the harbour seeds of the Zizania grass (Manchurian Rice Grass) washed up along the river and took hold. They are now a pest species in the area. Hey ho!  So, the original papers made by Zizania Papers were taking advantage of the plant and making efforts to reduce the pest plant from the river edges in the area. How cool is that?

A selection of lovely papers - guess who brought another bundle of them home after visiting?

Here you go - Beyond the ballast!

Beyond the Ballast

Beyond the Ballast

Beyond the Ballast

Beyond the Ballast
A couple of apologies before I leave you - to be speedy I've not cropped and lightened the images, and I have lost my programme with the names of the other artists to be able to credit them. If I can find it, I'll add names later.
I hope you agree that it looks great and feel free to use the link for Zizania to get hold of their papers for yourself - I am sure they will be very pleased.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Starting to feel a bit like Autumn

Walking down the track to the market this morning it definitely felt as though the season was changing. Though the days are warm and sunny once they get going, there is that chill in the morning and evening which presages the colder months. The trees are changing, loosing leaves and most significantly and sadly the cicadas have stopped singing.
The seasonal changes here in north NZ are much less dramatic than the UK or New England, the signals are more subtle. But look closely and there are fabulous patterns and designs to be seen in the small things - grass and wild flower seed heads, patterns on the drying leaves, the delicate encasements of spider webs ...

And then in the slightly surreal way that NZ has, what was a camellia doing in full bloom at the beginning of autumn?

Yesterday seemed the right time to get into some eco dye/print/rust experiments, so a few fabrics and papers have been soaking overnight in their mordants ...

And a variety of fabrics and papers have been bundled with rusty nails and other bits and some copper scraps.

Fabrics soaked in vinegar, salt and water, then wrapped into bundles with old nails and other scraps

Papers and nails left overnight in a plastic bag and squashed with a weight

Fabric and nail bundle

Actually I love this as it is - not sure I want to unwrap it!
All I have to do now is be patient (!!!!) whilst my fabrics soak, stew and ferment for a while longer.

If you want to know more about eco printing, there are of course loads of ideas on the web, also, Decembers 'WOWBook'  has a lovely chapter by Caroline Bell.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Tea time and a stiff drink.

As part of the 'Fabricated Narratives' exhibition and collaboration, each of the group shared with another an object pertaining to our own, personal work and asked the other to develop a piece from that starting point. It could use a concept, an object, an image etc. in whatever way desired. Once this first 'passing on' is completed, another group member will receive this outcome and work with it in their own way, and so on.
I received a tea cup and a poem from Di. Her theme is 'storm in a tea cup', revolving around climate change.

Di's tea cup

And the poem:

Cup by Di Halstead

Her finger curls
as she sups her tea

She’s classy but not posh
an old fashioned girl
with a modern twist

A styly version of homely
almost every day

BUT definitely not a mug!

 Di's words definitely caught the character of the tea cup.  The shape of the cup is quite traditional (especially the handle), it is made from china clay, but the colours and patterns are from a different period - what do you reckon? Early 70's? 
How to respond? I cogitated for a while, and initially I was very keen to smash the cup, then use the pieces in some way. However, before this, I wanted to record the design on the cup.

Beginning to draw the patterns from the cup 

Beginning to draw the patterns from the cup

After spraying and washing over with iridescent paint

After spraying and washing over with iridescent paint

Armed with these, was I ready to get out the hammer? Well, having read Di's poem, I was thinking about all of the other changes which that era brought. Modernisation was a key influence. Modernisation, mechanisation, change ... And if she was a modern tea cup, would she have preferred tea leaves or tea bags? Would she have been displayed on a tea tray with doilies or not?

Thinking about the tea leaf vs. tea bag conundrum and as a continuation of my 'Stains and Discards' work, I stained papers with tea bags and with tea leaves, I made ring marks from the various circular rims of the cup. 

Splashing, staining, dribbling tea.

And subsequently stitched into some of the stains ...

Ring marks and stitch.
The interlocking circles started me thinking about the doilies with lace edges we associate with tea pots and cups, but at the same time, perhaps, this cup is too modern for that - she wouldn't have been displayed on an embroidered cloth, or one with a lace edge. She's retro not vintage! And then, whilst teaching at the weekend, two boxes of old linen and cotton from the 'op shop' (charity shop) were brought in for us to delve into and there was a plain tea tray cloth sitting waiting for me! Serendipity at play. My paper stains and drawings I decided were going to be added onto the tray cloth to create a place to display the cup -  stained, dribbled, and patterned.

A pile of papers with patterns and stains, ready for assembly
Patterns assembled and ready to stitch on the embroidery frame

Here she is -a tea tray for a styly lady, classy but not posh.

And now I have to pass on the cup (not yet smashed), the tea tray and the remaining drawings and stains which I didn't use. And with my heart in my mouth, allow the next iteration - which might mean that the cloth is painted over, chopped up, anything. Oooh ... a stiff drink of something is called for I think.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Weave and twist, fold and cut.

A flurry of workshop weekends just past, the first being the Kowhai Mixed Media Craft Group who wanted to weave with metal and wire to create textured, sculptural forms.

Starting out

Almost finished

Wild Wire Weaving with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Wild Wire Weaving with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Wild Wire Weaving with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Wild Wire Weaving with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Wild Wire Weaving with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Wild Wire Weaving with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

The Embroiderers' Great Escape, the annual retreat weekend organised by the Auckland Embroiderers was held over the weekend.
It is always gratifying to see the results of previous workshops, and in September I got 'Hot, Wet and Sticky' in Rotorua.
Hot Wet and Sticky with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Hot Wet and Sticky with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

I have taught at the Great Escape event before and it is interesting to find myself as the 'odd' tutor, surrounded by very high quality, fairly traditional handstitch based tutors, rather than as a mainstream textiles artist which is how I conceive of myself. At least there are enthusiastic participants wanting to work in the way I do and keen to try out my ideas!
We were spending time looking at the construction of the Zhen Xian Bao Folded Thread Booklets, but bringing in materials such as silk, bonding, gel medium, kraftex paper, Lutradur and spray paints.
After some trials in plain paper, we worked into the alternative materials, developed the design and by the end of the weekend, all projects were well underway.

Folded Thread Booklets with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Folded Thread Booklets with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Folded Thread Booklets with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Folded Thread Booklets with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Folded Thread Booklets with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Folded Thread Booklets with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Folded Thread Booklets with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Great Escape, Orewa, 2018

Great Escape, Orewa, 2018
If you are interested in other workshops and exhibitions coming over 2018, here's the newsletter link:

Ah well, back to paperwork for a day or two, and I suppose I'll have to get on with finishing the toilet facilities at the studio too!

Whatever else, make sure you get time for creating and for enjoying your environment.

Sunrise at Kotare Studio