Saturday, 29 September 2007

Time flies...

....and especially blog time. I haven't blogged much lately because I haven't made any small art, and I haven't finished anything big to share. I stupidly overdid the detailed machine stitching in July and August, and injured the tendons in my hand, so I haven't been able to do any machine embroidery or machine quilting this month. Rather annoying, as I have Ben and Lee's quilt ready to sandwich for quilting, and also the Cross and Crown one from the 2007 Kambra Challenge. I don't like to pin quilts unless I'm ready to quilt them. And a lot of my other projects require intensive stitching.

I have still been busy though. I can hand piece, so I've been continuing on with a long term project that's been my hand project for most of this year. It's a signature quilt from the Southern Cross Quilters list. For several years, the list ran a monthly signature swap, in which members made a 6 1/2in signature block and an accompanying square of a specific colour. These sigs are from 1999-2000, and were accompanied by a yellow fabric square. I decided to set those aside and use a more interesting scrap setting. I might add that I also have SCQuilters sig swaps from 2001 (blue and yellow squares) and 2002 (various colours), not to mention two sets of Christmas sigs, ICQ SCQ sigs from when we used to chat live, sigs from the spin-off Year Quilt list and a top made from the original blue sig squares, from 1998 and earlier. I could be making SCQuilter signature quilts for a very long time! Isn't it good to know I will never run out of things to do? Here's what the current top looks like:

Sorry about the foreshortening, my design wall isn't big enough and it's been too windy outside for photography. I'm really enjoying hand-piecing this top, and I don't really mind how long it takes me to finish it.

I've also been working, very slowly, on a quilt for my sister-in-law. I've made just one block, so this is likely to take me some time too!

It's going to be very pretty, isn't it? It's progressing slowly because I need to concentrate to do needleturn applique, and I need good light, so it only gets done by daylight. I make lots more progress on things I can do in front of the TV at night.

I've also fitted some pants, and have the first pair almost finished, and the second pair cut out. I've made more quilt blocks for the secret swap - only two more months to make before we swap them in early December. My veggie patch has bean seedlings and tomatoes and squash and lettuce and silverbeet and parsley, and some potatoes.Growing my own vegetables is one of the great pleasures of life, exceeded only by the pleasure of eating food you've grown yourself. I really missed doing this last year!

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Art Gallery

Back last weekend, when the Art Gallery was available to the people of Sydney, David and I went to see the Arts of Islam exhibition. It was truly stunning. Beautifully painted Korans and other books, luscious textiles and carpets, delicate glass, beaten and spun and inlaid metalwork... it was just a feast for the eyes. I filled several pages on my sketchbook with motifs and patterns for my textile work.

I don't want to wax lyrical for too long about it, so I'll just mention some things that really intrigued me. Korans which, although works of art, were clearly also working books, marked with the hands of users over hundreds of years, and sometimes annotated by different hands in the margins. And the one with such large print, it had to be delivered to the palace in a wheelbarrow! The intricate woven textiles, with extra weft threads making complex patterns. These incredible daggers with jewelled handles and scabbards. The excerpts from a pilgrim's manual, a sort of Baedeker or Lonely Planet Guide for the 17th century pilgrim, including street maps of the towns and detailed illustrations of what the pilgim might find there. One page showed "Other Sights to see" - things in the Mecca area that weren't part of the hajj but might be of interest to the discerning pilgrim. And "the book of postal routes and kingdoms" dating from around 700AD, showing rivers, mountains, towns and, most important, the routes the messengers should take to deliver the mail. Just amazing, all of it.

We also had a look at a much smaller exhibition of Chinese jade. These pieces dated from Palaeolithic to modern times. It's easy to forget that when the Egyptians were still figuring out how to put one stone on another, the Chinese already had a complex culture. The pieces really illustrated the history of jade work in China - how they learnt to work the stone, and how to produce a rich red colour by heating the jade - first as a piece and then later selectively, so small areas of the designs were highlighted. And the development of jade inlay. The works were just so intricate! The crowning glory was the Jade Throne and lacquer and jade screens of the Emperor. I imagine it would be pretty hard to remain unimpressed when you were brought before the Emperor as he sat on this throne with this incredible jade all around him!

We also looked at the scupture work of a man called Mackennal, whom I'd never heard of, but he's famous, being the first Australian admitted to the Royal Academy and the first to be knighted. He produced the equestrian statue of Edward VI and many works for George V, including coins, medals and postage stamps. Plus lots of portraiture and works based on mythological themes. He was on the cusp of the huge changes in art at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, so his themes are classical but the works have the detail and drama of the pre-Raphaelites. They were very interesting works. However, I think we were not quite serious enough, because we are Doctor Who fans. The most recent episode featured aliens that masqueraded as statues to attack people, and the trick to outwit them was not to blink. David and I saw his life-sized statue of Circe, a famous work but she has her hands held out in a rather menacing way. We both said simultaneously, "Don't blink!" and cracked up. Some other sculture lovers glared at us, clearly thinking we were not treating the great man's work with due seriousness, so we had to slink away into another room !

And the visitors have arrived...

Sydney is in "lockdown" (as the media keep telling us in excited tones), in honour of APEC meetings being held over this weekend. This means that Sydney's citizens, those of us who actually live here in this beautiful city, are being encouraged to go away, lest our activities impinge upon these few world leaders and their entourages of literally hundreds of people. The Art Gallery is closed over the weekend, but that's understandable as most of the roads allowing access to it are closed too. The Opera House and Darling Harbour are closed to all but our special visitors, and nobody better think about going to Bondi for a swim, because apparently someone is having lunch there and it's closed too. Bad luck if you are a tourist visiting Sydney - many ferries and all the Jetcats are cancelled and you have little chance of seeing any sights, as they are closed off and obscured by a lovely concrete and metal fence, designed to safeguard these important visitors. Ain't democracy great?

Just how effective this fence is has been amply demonstrated. Yesterday evening, two blokes wandered off the street into the Intercontinental Hotel, where George Bush is staying. They had a drink in the bar and then ate dinner in the restaurant. As they were leaving, they were approached by security, demanding to see their security clearances (which they obviously didn't have). They were hastily hustled out across the road and told to go away. Well, they were going anyway, weren't they? They'd had their dinner. I bet someone got a tongue lashing for that one! Meanwhile, this afternoon, the comedy team from The Chaser's War on Everything apparently drove up to the hotel in a motorcade, and got within metres of the building before someone twigged that they were not, in fact, a Canadian delegation. They were last seen "being interviewed by police", who were not amused. But gee, a lot of the rest of us were!

The only good part of this is that we get a public holiday tomorrow, which we're using to help Karen move house, in Wollongong, which, being all of an hour away from the action, doesn't get the public holiday.

The lull after the storm

I've just finished a period of frenetic activity and gee, it's so nice to do nothing for a bit! Well, nothing with a deadline, anyway. My design wall is empty - well, as close to empty as it ever gets!

You can see Mistrise is still being considered (I had some new ideas about where to take that, just this week), and it's partly obscuring a woven piece with added applique that is being contemplated upon before more action happens. The flock of butterflies is still flying south, though sometimes they move to other places on the wall. Some have been made into brooches for myself (they live on a gorgeous evening bag made for me by Rhonda a few years ago) and friends. And the quilt block designed for me by my clever daughter Kas is still on display.

You can also see a piece I made in August 2005, as part of my personal Journal Quilts project. It was for a challenge with friends called "I Get the News I Need on the Weather Report". Each of us chose a month of the year to represent in journal quilt format. Mine was August in Sydney, which is often wet. It's based on a photo of mine of leaves in a puddle, overlaid by a map of the coastline of Sydney. It's rather dark so it's not a really successful piece but fun to do. Here's a better view of it:

It needs overpainting to give a value difference between land and sea, to emphasise the coastline aspect a little more. One day when I have the paints out..

Almost hidden is an anti-Iraq war piece I started in 2004 on the theme of Purple Prose, which required a combination of text and a purple fabric, for my quilt group. The rhetoric about the war was very purple at the time, so it seemed appropriate! So far it looks like this...

It's based on many news images on Arab woman with their children and the woman's pose is based on a photo I saw of Palestinian refugees just after World War II. Some things don't seem to change. It still needs to have its painted background, which I envisage as a wall, in some disrepair, perhaps with bullet marks or other damage, against which the mother is leaning so wearily. And of course, the detail will be added with stitch, my favourite activity! It will be quite small, 23cm x 30cm (9in x 12in), including a border, which will incorporate purple and probably black, and probably the text. The words I want to use are a quote from Sir Horace Walpole in 1772, "It was easier to conquer the East than to know what to do with it." This pithy remark seems to sum up most attempts by western powers to influence Middle Eastern and Far Eastern politics, and yet it's a lesson they have signally failed to learn in the subsequent 235 years. Don't get excited though, it may still be some time before this piece rises to the top of the pile!

I'm also thinking idly about May Gibbs because ATASDA has been asked by the May Gibbs Foundation to mount one of a rolling series of exhibitions called "Inspired by May", in honour of the sesquicentenary of May Gibbs' birth. It's a little tricky because her artwork is still under copyright. I'm reading her biography and learning about her passion for the Australian bush, at a time when children's books in Australia were generally derived from English sources and images. I have an idea of what I want to do, and it will be small, as the display space is not large. But I'm not sure I will go ahead with it, as it's so nice not to have a deadline!

I wonder how long my wall will stay empty like this?