Friday, May 29, 2009

I won an award!

How cool is that? I won the Photography award at the Pivot exhibition at Red Earth Gallery for The Afterlife Ball.

I didn't get to the opening, but received it in the mail last night. I'm so happy! Here is the award winning image!

That's so cool :)

And now, back to your regular scheduling...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

holidays are so nice

So we went on holiday. A 3 day whirlwind tour of the antique stores and wineries of Tasmania. Weirdly enough, with lots of craft.

First antique store we stopped in, I found this:

I've never seen an old crochet hook. Loads of old needles, and loads of those hook-y things for latch rugs, but never an old crochet hook. So I bought it, and it was exactly the size of the one I was using to crochet the rug with, so I swapped over. The rug is getting huge, it's got about 6 balls of wool in it. I've got 3 more of each colour and then I'm hoping it's done. It takes so much wool!

In Hobart's funky arts and crafts region, I found these awesome needle felted owls in the window of a closed shop:I love the expression on their faces! Makes me want to start needle felting right away! But I'm already working on several projects for different exhibitions and theatre shows and I jsut can't pile on any more. But I SO wish I had time!

We also found this in a gallery:
Machine quilted artworks. I love the textures, and the range of colours!
At Port Arthur, there was an interactive museum and in it was a schoolroom. At one end were these:Apparently when an overseer of the young boys would fall asleep on duty it was not unusual for the urine bucket to be emptied over their heads. This was the modern day, genteel approach, you were encouraged to throw beanbags at these guys. Unfortutanly someone had nicked all the beanbags, so instead I took photos. They're filled with bean bag pellets and they have painted faces.

And lastly was this. A machine stitched Duck in a small folk museum in a tiny Dalesford like town. The whole thing is created by machine stitching. I was blown away. Imagine trying to stick the duck's body under your machine foot! Ok, well, it was probably stitched flat then assembled, but still it's pretty damn impressive.

There was also an amazing quilt in four huge panels done by the YARN collective, which was four different vistas in different seasons of the town. It was really beautiful.

These things were double the height of a tall man. I know, because there was a tall man standing next to it at one stage. The amount of work was mind boggling, and it's now there in the folk museum for generations to come. It's mainly silk!

The frustrating part was that we were there at the same time that an old trio of people were there, and although there were stern signs not to use FLASH photography, these guys happily flashed everything they wanted to photograph. The lights in the special theatre/veiwing room were bright enough that you could photograph without flash, but they kept doing it. Even going way close up to photograph individual things POP the flash would go. Now, firstly, you're jsut going to blow out the image with flash that close, secondly you dont need flash, the lighting is good enough and thirdly, you were asked a number of times before you entered, NOT TO USE FLASH, because it'll slowly fade and thus destroy the very thing you're Ohhing and Ahhing over.

People boggle the mind at times.

There was also much wine tasting (not so much for the driver, of course) and then wine buying, cheese tasting, buying and eating and in between, some lunches, dinners and breakfasts. And much coffee.

And can I just say that, as a vegetarian, going on holiday anywhere that's not Melbourne or Sydney kinda sucks in the food department. Room service on the second hotel had NOTHING without meat in it, and most of the restaurants and cafes we walked into (and then back out of) had one to none veggie dishes. We had a nice time, but it's nice to be home where the food is good, plentiful and actually able to be eaten.

Thus endth that rant.
For now.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

OOooooo... I hate it when that happens

It was bound to happen eventually. It always does. But that doesn't stop me every time wishing that it didn't.

No Idle Hands finished. I hate when good books do that. I remember in high school having a favourite series of 3 books by David(cough)gemmel. The Diamond Throne series. When he bought out the second series to it, I read the first book in a night. With the second book I paced myself. That lasted a couple of days. The third and final book I slowed right down, because I didn't want it to end. I got about 3/4 of the way though it, reading slower and slower until I... stopped. I wanted it to never end so badly that I just couldn't read any further.

I realised at the time it was kind of silly, but at the same time, I still did it. So in a way, the book never ended.

It's like my cat. When I was growing up, I had a cat called Amelia Jane (after the Enid Blyton character) and she got older and I left home, leaving Amelia with my mum. Then, for some reason that I've never been fully appraised of, my mum swapped my cat for a caged bird with a friend of hers. Although I know the bird died, I never had another update on my cat, due to a falling out between mum and the friend. So for all I know, Amelia is still alive out there. Thus I have an immortal Schroedinger cat. Amelia Jane lives on, because no-one can prove any different.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I hate when good books end. Idle Hands was written in the 80s, and I found myself wondering - what then? What happened after that?

It was a good book, there were holes in the information, or offhand references to things that weren't explained which I found frustrating, but overall I loved it. I found out that during the Boston Tea Party rebellion that people refused to keep buying British cloth and clothing and instead felt it was their patriotic duty to hand knit and sew clothing of their own. Rebelling through craft! There were also a number of snippets of interviews from older ladies as to why they crafted and how they came to, which I found interesting. I'm a big fan of the personal histories of craft. There was heaps of information about America during the two world wars, and how people knitted for the soldiers as well as the injured and the war affected. It also chronicled the rise and fall and rise and fall of the popularity of knitting, which is a cycle that still occurs today. We're certainly riding a crest of it at the moment. All in all it was a fascinating and well written study and I'd highly recommend it.

So after finishing that, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to read next. I've ordered a bunch of books off amazon, but none of them have arrived yet. So I finished Years of Adventure the 50 year history of the CWA, which has been kicking around for a while. Since I got Idle Hands actually. Again it's a frustrating book because it mentions tonnes of things that it doesn't explain. For instance:
In September 1940, the Country Women's Association Home Help Scheme was inaugurated...(p28) It goes on a little about where the funding came from, and how in 1970 they closed it down as local governments were now running a Home Help Scheme. But it doesn't specify in any way what that scheme did. I assume that it was ladies going out to help people who were having difficulty running their homes. But I would have loved details. What types of things they did, where they did it, why they were needed ect. But none of that is mentioned. There's also the fact that in the State Exhibition in 1951, "three loan exhibits, one from the United States Library of Information, and two from England, greatly delighted all who were privileged to see them. The American one showed examples of several most attractive American crafts, one of the English exhibits was bought out to the C.W.A of Australia, and the other one from England came from members of the Surrey Women's Institute. (P15)
It doesn't say WHAT the exhibits were, just that everyone loved them.

The book is filled with names and dates but only sketchy information, and really, it reads like an old lady reminiscing to her friends about things that they all did when they were young, which to be fair, I guess this book is. But I was looking for a book that described what the CWA is, what it does now, why people join, I was looking for an outsiders guide to the CWA, which this book just simply isn't.

I recently met a member of the CWA, and I asked her all the questions that the book doesn't really answer, for example, why she's a member. She told me that they have lunches and dinners, they have speeches and lectures from people, they do charity work and learn about other countries. Only one of these things is really covered in the book, which is the charity work.

Anyway, enough of that. There were some charming stories in it, and it was an interesting read at times, and I like history and craft, so it was ok, but not really what I was looking for.

The other book I was reading this morning was the first chapter in Patchwork Basics with Australian Patchwork and Quilting Magazine, which is a history chapter. I like the idea of a beginners book that gives you a little history before diving into the art form itself. The chapter, History of American Patchwork, by Jan Baker, is interesting and informative, but again suffers from either pre-supposed knowledge or simply the sin of omission. Whichever it is, it often refers to things without explanation or an accompanying photo. Now I can google the missing information, but I don't think that needing a computer by your side makes for a successful book. Either explain fully what the hell you're talking about or omit it entirely! Especially for a total beginner book, the expectation that they already have a bunch of quilting history knowledge is just plain silly.

So that's the end of the book update for the moment.

The crocheting is rocketing along. I'm addicted to it. I've been crocheting pretty much non-stop since Monday night and Brown Owls. Here it is at the moment:

I've found I can now crochet without looking, so I can read and crochet, hence the large amount of reading this morning. I also took it to a theatre show last night and crocheted before the show started and during intermission. Oh my god, this thing has taken over my life. And I love it!

The other thing I finished today is a birthday present for a friend of mine. I gave him a knitted cocktail a few years ago (see Patty Mae's Domestic Punch, the title was a nod to the wife of Australia's 12th PM, Menzies) but it hasn't stood the test of time (and several interstate moves) so well. So I've made him another one, this time his favourite non-alcoholic drink. Hot chocolate with marshmallows and grated chocolate floating on top:
It was a quick knitted rectangle for the mug and then crochet for the handle, mug bottom, hot chocolate and the marshmallows. And I was smugly pleased it stands up by itself.

I am so addicted to this crochet thing. I can't believe it took me this many years to get around to trying it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gran-gran-grannying along

Last night I went to my first Brown Owls meeting! I know, I know, it's May already and I've not been to any yet (apart from the very first meet-and-greet one) but I've been so darn busy. But they had a Granny Square lesson, so I signed up. I turned up to the Carlton Library, biscuits and wool clutched in hand, and off we went.

There were some lovely ladies there, I don't know which blogs they own, but I found out about the ladies themselves. There were 2 Special Ed teachers (I couldn't see their nametags because of the angle I was on), a primary school teacher at a Stiner school named Kate, a children's book publisher (again I missed her name) and another lady, Sophie, who worked in TV as a floor manager and camera operator. There were some other ladies but they were further down the table and I didn't get to talk to them.

I found it fascinating that the jobs I did learn of are all sort of nurturing or creative. And don't get me wrong, I'm sure accountants and lawyers craft too, but it was so lovely to sit in a room full of lovely ladies and craft along.

Cheers to the wonderful Pip and Kirsty who took the time to show us how to Granny Square. Although I'd sort of taught myself from YouTube, it was good to have someone show me how the hell to hold the yarn and hook (I was doing a weird thing involving all the wrong hands) and how to go from row to row, which I'd sort of worked out myself but it seemed to be spiralling out rather than the nice neat squares you're used too.

To the right is my granny square. I crocheted to the outter gray row at the meeting, then came home and did some more. I love learning new things, but it's always a danger to other work I've got going on. Artwork A (it's still a secret) went by the wayside as I started on Artwork B for an exhibition, which has been sidelined as I crochet this granny square. I need more hours in each day dammit!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nerdy obsession?

On the weekend I attended a fancy dress party with the theme of Nerdy Obsessions. In between the storm troopers, star trek uniforms, miriad of Dr Who's and random Lord of the Rings characters, there was one girl in blue jeans, knitted cardigan, with beanie, scarf and clutching double pointed needles which had the beginnings of another project on them. Who would have thought that I would have met another girl knitting at a party? I went up excitedly and asked her what she was making, which turned out to be a matching beanie to the one she was wearing, which she'd finished that afternoon. We had a quick chat about knitting in general and then suddenly, a horrifing thought dawned on me.

"Did you bring your knitting because you carry it around or because it's a nerdy obsession?"

She grinned and said, "Because it's a nerdy obsession."

My heart sank. Not only because craft is kind of a nerdy obsession, but also because inbetween all the geeks chatting to each other about their favourite star wars villian and arguing about the best Bab 5 episode ever, that I'd spotted a knitter and rushed over to talk about knitting in exactly the same way. Also, because I had my knitting in the car purely because I carry it around to do when there's a couple of minutes of downtime.

Needless to say, Jude found the whole thing hilarious.

I sat down for a minute and then decided that if she could knit at the party, then I'd go get my knitting and do it too.

After a couple of hours we decided to leave, so I packed up my knitting and started the rounds of goodbyes. I went up to the young craft lady and asked her how many rows she'd done. She replied that she'd been mostly talking so not many.

I'd been talking all night, and still did 47 rows.


Never mind. We all have our obsessions.

Speaking of which, I'm most of the way through No Idle Hands, the social history of knitting in America. It's an awesome book and I've really enjoyed reading it. There was a quite a lot on pioneer women and children, and necessity knitting, blankets, stockings ect, and how during the Civil War and then again during the first world war, it was considered a lady's duty to knit as many socks, jumpers, helmets (balaclavas), scarves and mittens for the boys overseas. It was all the rage to hold Knitting Teas where all the ladies sat around and chatted while knitting. Aside from those nation-wide orgainsed knit-ins, it also talks about fairs and markets where knitting and craft work was sold, usually for charity, and how after the families needs were met, that ladies often got together to create things for those less fortuntate than themselves. Just like in Pollyanna, Ladies Aid societies sprung up all around the country.

Although it's strictly an American History book, I do think that a lot of it would be true for Australian women too, and reading it only feeds my desire to find out more about Australian craft history.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More purchases from the heart of the economy

The other day I was on Redbubble and found a recently submitted photograph to a group I'm a member of. It was a card of this beautiful needle felted artwork:

Something about the farmer and the sun and the garden spoke to my heart. And I loved the fact that there was a real spade incorporated into the work.

I went to have a look at the artist, a woman named Softearth, and found that not only did she have a number of different needle felted works but that in her profile was a link to her etsy page.

So I trundled off to her etsy site only to find that the beautiful item on the card was in fact for sale in her etsy shop. I thought about it for all of a second or so and bought it.

Today it arrived, along with a beautiful little something extra. I'm so wrapped with this piece. I can't wait to hang it in my studio and have the little farmer working on his garden watching over me and mine.

Monday, May 11, 2009

heart warming goodness

It's cold outside, so inbetween soup and coffees I thought I'd share some other warming things...

Firstly, I was walking down smith st the other day, past the in.cube8r gallery and I saw this dreadfully serious little owl staring out of the window.

It's made by Neptune's Necklace and I fell in love with it. I had to take it home. So I went in an purchased it. I'm currently doing my patriotic duty by spending my $900 on local designers and crafts people. I bought an AWESOME pair of pants from Manque the other day that are the most comfortable pair of nice looking pants I've ever owned. If you don't know about this designer, GO LOOK NOW!!! I desperately want almost every piece they make. Apparently these pants are a staple of their line, so much so they're not actually featured on the website! But they make them in a different fabric every year, and I'm hanging out for the next type...

Next in our lineup is this:
It's a medallion from a woven carpet of an old Masonic hall I visited on the weekend. Although they've redone the carpet in about the 80s, they treasured the old carpet enough to cut out a piece and frame it (hence the weird reflection on the top left corner from the glass). Imagine a whole room with carpet like this! Since the top has a black checkered pattern on it and the bottom doesn't, that makes me wonder if this design wasn't all over the carpet but instead was only the border, and if that was true, I wonder what the rest of the carpet looked like (see? The time spend reading that History of Textiles book was totally worth it!) There were a couple of old photographs of the rooms, but nothing showed the floor.

I'm thinking of making a tapestry based on this design. I'd love a recreation of an old craft work. In fact, I'm also making a quilt from sepia and white coloured material from old clothes. The pattern is based on a quilt in the The Gentle Arts. book. I'm all for using the knowledge and patterns of the past at the moment.

Last in our heartwarming series for today is this:
They're some of the many worry dolls that the ladies have made in the Knitting Workshop. This afternoon is the last class for the semester. We'll be making our favourite dolls into badges to sell at markets. It should be a fun afternoon.

If only I can find a jumper and my coat to wear...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Crocheting along

So I taught myself to crochet the other day. I knew the basic stitch, so I utalised that. I've crocheted a little demon and a long thin tube for a secret project that shall have to remain nameless for the moment.

I don't have any photos of my projects, they're not here today, but I wanted show you the result of the stitch in question.

So to the right is the work of the amazingly talented Jellibat, they're two dolls she submitted for the Totem exhibition.

I'm nowhere near that good, I can make tubes beautifully, but to increase and decrease so smoothly as exhibited in these dolls is a little out of my league at the moment. But practise is everything, and I'm doing ok.

But I was talking to the lovely Pip from Meet Me At Mikes at the first Brown Owl meet up (I haven't gotten to any since then, I've been too busy, which I'm kicking myself for, but I'm hoping a window opens soon) and she swore blind that granny squares are very simple to do. I've always loved the look of those need little squares, like square flowers of joy, and I want to make some. Pip is having a Granny-A-Long at the moment, so I figured dammit, I'm going to try.

The problem is that I'm terrible at learning things from books. Even books with good pictures, I jsut can't seem to grasp the lessons. I'm much better at learning by watching someone do it a couple of times and emulating them. So today I hitched up my crocheting pants and dived into You Tube. I found this video of a nice lady going slowly and that coupled with the wonderful photos on Purl Bee's Granny Square tute and I've crocheted myself my first granny square.

Ok, so it's not pretty, really it's a weird lumpy mutant of a granny square, but the basics are there, I jsut need to practise. Hmm. A Lot. The photo may be blurry (it's taken with my phone, my camera cord is away on holiday, apparently) but trust me, the photo does it's uneven texture justice.

Maybe go visit Meet Me At Mikes or Flickr to see some pretty ones.

I'm off to keep practising