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