Saturday, January 13, 2018

Urchin Traveller's Blanket


This Urchin Traveller's Blanket has been inspired by early morning walks on the beach at Atauro Island, it was the only time of day you could walk because it was very hot the whole time I was there. Each morning I would hope to find an urchin- I just love the shapes and patterning. There is a zillion colonial knots  as the piece measures 60cm x 85 cm .I wasn't looking to make them anatomically correct- just the feeling that they inspired. The background stitching is done with a feather stitch in a very thin silk thread as I did not want the stitching to overwhelm the urchins.. When you hold this piece in your hands it feels amazing and matched my delight and amazement of encountering the urchins on the beach.

There is still time to join the online  Traveller's Blanket class which starts on 21 January. I will be  joining actively into the stitching this time as I have many traveller's blankets to make this year for an exhibition at the end of June.  The class fee is $75AUS and will encourage you to tell your own story using simple shapes and simple embroidery stitches. Email me if you are interested in joining and  I will send an information sheet.

The photo below is of the back of the  TB. I am  really quite chuffed with the back- it has a very different feel to the front , and I like the way things have become a bit more abstracted. The last two photos are closeup so you can perhaps see the texture of this piece.




 Now onto the french roadside weeds and grapevines travellers blanket. Have to print some fabric first and then  more stitching!

Monday, January 01, 2018

Travellers Blanket On-Line Class

Happy New Year to all my followers, friends and family! I hope it is creative and fun. Last year was very very busy for me and culminated in  a two month residency at Atauro Island which was an unforgettable experience which stole my heart.





 The coming year is going to be almost as busy, but I will actually be in Australia quite a lot more. I hope to be able to build an ablutions shed at some stage this year money and time permitting, as I will have to get a workman to help me do that- having no tools or building skills. I think I have worked out what to do about the skylights in my shed which make it incredibly hot in summer- too hot to work.

But meanwhile I have decided to rewrite some of my Travellers' Blanket on-line class, as my stitching has progressed since I first wrote it and ideas have progressed as well. I will be offering this class starting 21 January and it goes for 4 lessons delivered fortnightly as a pdf file. The cost of the class is $75AUS.I set up a private Facebook group to share information and images and I keep the group opne for quite some time as stitching a blanket takes quite some time The idea of the travellers blankets grew from the notion that if you travelled in times past and you wanted to make a memory cloth to record what you had seen you would snaffle fragments of fabric to  detail your journey. The idea has grown and the blanket I am working on at present is of sea urchins. Urchins studded the beach on my dawn walks on Atauro island and I love their shape and patterning- so in a sense it is a reminder of those walks and the feeling  that watching the sun rise evoked. In a sense anything can be made into a travellers blanket.It is a visual form of story telling which dictates its own pace and reflections. I call them blankets because someone referred to one of my quilt art pieces as a blanket- so that was grist to the stone! Email me if you are interested in joining the class and I will send you further details , how to pay and a materials list.

The images are of work/travellers blankets I worked on in 2017.

  The blanket above was exploring embroidery to encapsulate the idea of communities, in particular indigenous communities  which are whole systems of information.


  The blue travellers blanket is quite large and is a journey through  the years of printing and linocutting I have been doing since I began with textiles as my full time work.

The piece below is inspired by the urchins encountered on morning walks on Atauro island. There is a lot of colonial knots on this piece!


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Finale: Boneca de Atauro Exhibition

 I apologise for not posting more during my residency at Boneca de Atauro. I did so want to share the experience. But technology defeated my intent and in a way that was not surprising. Yes I could post from my phone- mainly on facebook- but the connection was 2G and so I could not get the hotspot connection to work with my laptop, as Windows 10 decided to update whilst I was fiddling around so that was the end of any meaningful connection with the internet. I am afraid I cannot type anything of any length on my telephone no matter how much I try. I still actually like to write down thoughts by hand before typing them onto my laptop. I find the act of writing by hand helps me to think.



Anyway the  internet connection whilst a bit frustrating is hardly surprising given that Atauro island is really quite isolated. It lies 25 km off the coast of Dili and on the dragon Boat ( fast boat) it takes an hour, on the ferry it takes about 3 hours. In Portugese times it was used as a prison and during the Indonesian invasion it was used as a prison for the families of the Resistance fighters on the mainland thereby more than tripling the population of the island and causing great hardship for the existing inhabitants and the imprisoned ( this was because of its isolation and also lack of resources to  support so many people).

Life is very simple on Atauro Island. There is a weekly market at Beloi, there are shops, more like kiosks, and no supermarket. A lot of fish and chicken is eaten, vegetables, including potato are those grown on the island ( and are very good ) and rice. There are few cars because there are not many roads, most transport it by tuk tuk or on foot.The electricity is powered by a generator which operates from 6pm to 6 am, so there are very few fridges, washing machines, though I did notice quite a few tv's.


Maturina Ajuoro showing where to stitch on the linocuts to one of the Boneca ladies.

 The island has no rivers so water is from springs and is used carefully because there is not a lot of it. For example showers were with a bucket and scoop and with cold water, although given the heat that was very refreshing . I remember bathing like this in childhood and I still do it down at my shed. So the Australian habit of showering so long that you almost wash down the drain hole is cleverly averted. Cooking at Manukoko-Rek restaurant was done on a woodfire- and a number of times I saw impatient western tourists complain about how long it took for their food to arrive. Well the pasta is made completely by hand with a hand cranked pasta machine and then it is all cooked on a woodfire- it is a truly hand made pasta experience like an Italian mamma from the early part of the 20th century would have done- and it tastes as good! ( and the signage everywhere including the blurb in Lonely Planet says to preorder- but yep tourists are always in such a hurry that they often don't take in that detail or read anything properly)

The temperature ,the entire time I was there, was around 30 degrees Celsius day and night , and sheets were useful for wiping away perspiration , but way too hot to sleep under. When it rained it pelted down like an avalanche. The first day or so I was there  I wondered at the very deep drains that ran alongside the road, when the rain came I understood why.

So this makes, what the women at Boneca de Atauro do all the more amazing. They do have a generator but that is only run sometimes, because the Diesel comes form the mainland , and it is not exactly easy to bring over. There is no petrol station on Atauro Island. All their work is done on treadle machines which they maintain themselves and repair themselves. The materials they use are also not easy to obtain though we are going to look into what can be done about that. It seems to me if the Bali Batik patchwork fabric comes from Bali ( or probably Surabaya) there must be avenue to explore getting better fabric.

Eva proud of her stitching she did on a commission of Mount Fuji for a Japanese customer.
Stitching on a linocut printed fabric with hoop and bare needle- it takes great precision and  your fingers are always in the danger zone!

The people themselves are quiet people. They attend mass on Sundays, and I could hear it every morning because the church has a loudspeaker. I also attended on occasion. The thought that crossed my mind was, that surely there are not many priests in the world who would experience such beautiful singing every morning in such a simple church. The people love to sing and do so beautifully, and timorese music definitely has its own flavour and  spark, even the national anthem is quite lovely.

The Vila Mau-Meta end of the island is Catholic and at Beloi it is protestant dating from some  seventeenth century missionaries who settled  there . And herein lies another one of my pet hates about tourists. The people are conservative and ask that tourists respect this so whilst it is ok to wear a bikini on the beach ( where there is great snorkeling) they ask that you not walk around the market or town in your bikini or skimpy tops and shorts. And that is exactly what some tourist do- total disregard of local habits and customs and then wonder when the local people don't want much to do with them.

So during my residency we worked hard creating a new product, making linocuts, learning printing. The residency is all about passing skills to the women at Boneca. They do not have the opportunity to learn these things on Atauro Island or indeed Dili ( which is still recovering from the damage of Colonialism, the second world war when it was invaded by the Japanese and the  Indonesian invasion until recently), and so they are like sponges to learn new things. I worked with 3-4 women who will then pass on what they learnt to the other women. But because i was there every day working with the women ( 6 days a week) people inevitably came to see what we were doing and  because they also stitched the linocuts the interaction was far greater because they were keen to learn how to get best results for this. The women work on Singer treadles machines with embroidery hoops and bare needles- this takes some skill- I know because I tried it and it was not easy!

Jacinta de Costa printing a piece of cloth with the linocuts that she and Virginia Saldahna made during my residency. We are using a wine bottle filled with water to create the pressure- This works really well.




 We also ended up working with Rapan Hirik which is a fibre woven on the island made from the rapan hirik palm and which sews remarkably well. I had hoped to stitch a travellers blanket at night but the reality was that it was too hot to do anything meaningful at night except read or write. The drape of any additional cloth on your body was just too much.

The end result of the residency was to be an Exhibition at the Boneca shop in Dili to celebrate the 10 years that the co-operative has existed ( with no NGO funding and very little other funding so it is actually sustaining itself and the work of 60 women) In the last year or so they have received some funding from MDF  which is a Market Development Fund  funded by the Australian Government and is very much about market development and learning those skills. The other exciting thing is that the ladies from Boneca de Atauro will be coming to the Australian Quilt Convention in April 2019.

So the photos I am sharing are of  some of the work they created for their 10 year exhibition. The applique on rapan hirik is new work for  the ladies as is the linocut printing and stitching. It was lovely to display it in  a gallery like space next to the Boneca shop in Dili and were were chuffed that a third of the pieces were sold on the Opening day of the exhibition. The work they created  included some of their earlier style of work as well as work that developed during my residency- we wanted to show the variety of 10 years of work! If you are interested in the Boneca de Atauro story please read some of their history on the Boneca de Atauro website- it is a wonderful story of love and commitment and of women doing what they can and creating something super special . I am extremely grateful to Ester Piera Zuercher- Camponovo and David Palazon for thinking of the residency idea and of course to all the Boneca women for the wonderful experience- one that will continue into the future.I loved working with women who were so keen to learn, their willingness to step outside their comfort zone, to my students who brought gifts of baskets and mangoes and pineapples and their smiles and laughter and songs.And thank you Virginia Soares the president of the co-operative for your help , and your willingness to learn and your dedication together with Maturin Araujo to the women at Boneca!

 The Boneca de Atauro shop in Dili in Pateo Square- we are all set for the exhibition Opening!

The long spindly tree is the Atauro Island kapok tree which is used in making the Boneca dolls. The positive has been put onto the rapan hirik and the negative has been appliqued. likewise with the rapan hirik leaves.



And of course I have a wish- that involves older Bernina Sewing machines. As I said the women do have a generator so they can power some machines sometimes. I am looking for anyone , in Australia , who is willing to gift  their older mechanical Bernina machine with a darning foot- I ask for Bernina  machines because I know what workhorses the older machines are and are also easier to maintain ( there is no dealership in Timor closest is the east coast of Australia). I have already been offered one machine by Doreen Dyer in Darwin ( thank you Doreen )- I would love to get a few more and then find a way of getting them to Atauro island. I know two or three young women who will be singing songs on  those machines.

Dawn was the only time cool enough to go for a walk !

And last but not least I wrote an article about Boneca de Atauro for Handeye Magazine which was published for their last edition for 2017 . It took quite some doing getting the images and writing to them due to the internet difficulties- but it did eventually get there and how lovely to be in their  magazine just prior to Christmas!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Week 4 and 5 at Boneca de Atauro

 I started making walks at dawn, as I was finding the rest of the day too hot to walk around much, and I really enjoyed the walks. There is so much to discover on the shoreline including incredible amounts of  plastic bottles and dead shoes, especially flip flops. There is no rubbish collection on the island so the rubbish has to go somewhere. Also unless the water is filtered it is probably best not to drink it. I loved finding all the shells or bits of shell and urchins who hang around in colonies with starfish. I often see fishermen head out to sea at dawn to catch fish for their meal during the day, and everything is so peaceful and calm.








I had to look twice when I found this on the beach close to the urchin colony- it looked like a mask of sorts until I realised what it was- part of the rubbish that collects on the shoreline.

We have been working hard at making linocuts and new glasses cases and ipad bags printed with the linocuts. We have also been doing a bit of hand stitching. I have tried to encourage my students to be inspired by what is around them and also how they see the world around them. The first image is of a little hand stitched piece by Jacinta from a linocut she made. These little pieces will form part of our exhibition at the Boneca de Atauro shop in Dili on 15 December.

The two images below are of the work the ladies do every day- as you can see everything is very heavily free motion stitched in hoops and on treadles. Each design is hand drawn onto the fabric before being stitched by one of the ladies.



I had to return to Dili to pick up my emergency passport which was issued as a result of losing my passport wallet on the day I arrived. Things went a bit downhill from there. It turned out that the immigration authority were not able to give me a visa to be able to stay until 18 December because there had been a change in immigration law. In fact I had to leave East Timor by 11 November so that I would not be an illegal visitor. I was insured, by my insurance did not cover my return to East Timor to finish the project- it was an insurance that I transacted when I purchased my original ticket as I thought it would be easier to do it all in one transaction ( I don't normally do this) so the insurance was contracted before  reading the policy. I did skim through the policy to ensure repatriation was covered if needed and what losses were covered ( during the cooling off period)but did not see the bit that the only way resumption of journey would be paid for was if the interruption had been caused by medical reasons- sigh....So I will never use that insurance again! I am still waiting to hear whether they will meet the rest of the claim even though I was advised by telephone that my change of booking would be covered.

The long and the short of it is some generous people have enabled me to raise the money for a return airfare and also insurance so that I can return to Boneca de Atauro next  Tuesday ( I leave Monday and the flights do not connect unless I pay an exorbitant ticket fee). I am extremely grateful that people have helped. This week was spent getting a new passport and because I was born outside Australia and despite having the relevant documentation of citizenship it is always a sit and wait until it is issued thing. So I did not  dare to book a ticket until I was holding the new passport in my hand.

 I am so looking forward to going back and finishing what we started! We will have to work doubly hard to get everything ready for our exhibition. The trip back to Australia has enable me to pick up one or two supplies which I think will be useful for the women.There is of course no  haberdashery store  on Atauro island, there is one in Dili but some of the things which I think would be extremely useful have never been heard of- so the only way is to show what I mean! I will write more about the remarkable co-operative at the end of my residency. Meanwhile here is a link to their new catalogue which tells some of the story and also showcases the products they make.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Week3

I can scarcely believe it is the start of the third week here at Boneca de Atauro. I have needed time to adjust to the heat- I think all the travel from the last three months and wintry conditions haven't helped  to deal with the heat and find the right level of hydration. On the other hand life does move a little more slowly here, thought the ladies on the treadles at Boneca are amazing and the food at Manu Koko-Rek has equally been amazing. Life is very simple here whilst there is water, it is not in great supply- so showers are had, with bucket and soap ( my training in my shed has stood me in good stead), likewise being frugal with water usage overall. The internet has it's problems and there is no power during the day ( so no aircon or fans during the day and no aircon in any case- the only one I have seen is at the hospital)- the generator runs at night and last week they forgot to bring the diesel from Dilli so there were also  3-4 nights without power. So come on Tesla or any other solar supplier willing to donate- solar would be a gift from heaven here! Clothes are hand washed and appliances don't really exist much except for tv's and mobile phones. I also managed to get an infection in my big toe- I sually don't get infections much but this escalated quite quickly and still hasn't entirely calmed down. There is a hospital on the island which is manned by Cuban doctors who visited the Boneca last friday and who I seem to run into every time I go for a walk. The best time for a walk is around dawn before the sun heats up too much or dusk.

I have tried to learn how to use the treadle machine to free motion  quilt/stitch, just to see what is possible. It's been a learning curve that is for sure. On my machine I just push a button and my machine goes at the speed I need with the correct tension. On the treadle on the other hand I have to match the movement of my feet with my hands whilst tensioning in a hoop and tensioning extra to make sure there are no skipped stitches, which means having fingers in quite close proximity to the unprotected needle- and then your feet slow down to avert the danger when in fact you should keep them going at a steady pace. I am slowly getting there!

The Boneca dolls  have been made here since 2007. Visitors to the  island  usually make it to Boneca de Atauro as it is one of the  craft attractions of the island, plus it employs local women as a co-operative, so sustains families as well.People are poor here but are resistant to development (a casino has been mooted)- they are proud of their island and themselves and want to keep their cultural identity intact though of course need to earn money to survive.

 The hand woven fibre below is made form palm  and the finished piece is called Hrapinhirik. I love it and it sews surprisingly well and they make tote bags with it at Boneca. It is made by women up in the mountains of the island so a very local product. This is a very small island measuring 19 km x 8 km, but is the home to about 10,000 people.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Atauro Island Timor Leste

A very quick blog post indeed. I am still here though I did manage to lose my passport and mythe american dollars I had taken to spend in the local economy- so hopefully the person who found it will spend it in the same way! It meant a day of bureaucratic running around in Dili with my help Madalena Barreto, we revisited every place where I might have left it, talked to many people, filed police report and  organised an emergency passport- which had it's own complications because I am not actually born in Australia though I have been a naturalised citizen since age 14. Anyway hopefully it is all sorted.So even though the gods took, they also smiled sort of, by limiting the bureaucratic aftermath that these things engender to a day- which is quite remarkable!

I got to Atauro Island on Monday on the dragon boat- the only transport between Timor Leste and the island is a ferry and the dragon boat, otherwise you catch a fishing boat. And then finally I arrived at Boneca de Atauro. I am impressed with what the women achieve on treadle machines. The public generator only runs between 6 pm and 6 am so electricity isn't an option to power machines so hence treadle machines are used. The weather is so warm ( hot really and I am struggling a bit with the heat taking to wearing wet kerchiefs) that we have been working outside. We have been making linocuts. The idea is that I teach some of the younger ones and then they will pass on what they learn to the other women, We are working on linocuts and printing this week and then embroidery by machine and hand maybe- we will see.

It really does have the feel of a far flung place but this makes it wonderful. The people are friendly and the children curious and open.I am looking forward to seeing how this residency will develop!


The Boneca de Atauro shop in Dili. You can aslo buy their product online- just follow the link I have given in the previous paragraph- there is an online  catalogue. This weekend two of my students are going to Bail- to celebrate the win of a stop motion movie they made about the Bonecas ( dolls) de Atauro- they have won many prizes with this little film in Asia


Traditional Tais weaving from the  Museum in Dili.
  Arriving with the dragon boat.
Making designs for linocuts.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Finally

Recently someone mentioned to me that I had not blogged for 6 weeks- that was two weeks ago I think and finally I am getting to writing a post. I have simply been horrendously busy working at least 10-12 hours  a day or more and if not working travelling to the various exhibitions to which I had committed and meeting my commitments. It has not left a great deal of time to do anything else. I haven't written in my journal for more than two months and I am feeling the absence. I also managed to kill my mobile phone, though to be honest it was on its way out, but its replacement has a camera that is far inferior- or maybe it is just me the operator. As a result I am taking photos on my phone with which I am not happy and I haven't had time to give my good camera the attention it needs nor the time to take it out of my bag. I miss my old phone sigh...

Things have been very busy with the Aussie Bush Project. In the last month or so the project has been to Canberra, to Wellington in New Zealand and Hamilton in New Zealand and is at present being exhibited at the Adelaide Craft & Quilt Fair. Then after next week it goes on to Brisbane before having a rest and reappearing at Quilts en Beaujolais in France in April 2018.People have loved all the variations of the linocut printed fabrics and have expressed surprise and delight at how different each print looks in the hands of the different artists! Reasonably priced  accommodation was not so easy to find because one of the Adelaide football teams is playing in the finals in their home city.



Then last week I went to France for 8 days to install my exhibition at Villa Burrus  at the Carrefour Europeen du Patchwork and also to be united with my latest book Plaid Nomad ( I was so tired, plus I had caught a nasty cold from a sneezing and spluttering passenger in the seat in front of me- not once did he cover his mouth in all the splutterings he was engaged in, I forgot to buy myself a copy as my publishers copies were sent to Le Triadou  and I did not have time to go to Montpellier as I needed to be back in Adelaide for the Aussie Bush Project) So I think people liked the book, as the copies I had at Villa Burrus sold out by lunch time on the friday, as had the copies at the Edi De Saxe Stand at the Centre Commerciale and that was all there was!

I have started on a new Travellers' Blanket which is all but finished. I wanted it finished for the exhibition in France but I didn't quite get there. I did display it as it was almost finished but a few people did come and tell me there was still a needle and thread attached to the work! I think it will get finished this weekend. I know I started this blanket on the 9th of August and have put in 10-12 hours of stitching into it most days- so I now have a good idea of how long the blankets actually take and I am rather shocked by the amount of time they take- and in terms of  money/wages for hours of work the equation needs to change- that is for sure.




There was a moment when I contemplated making this smaller so that I could finish it- but then I felt it would not have the same impact at all. The  circles are appliqued bits and pieces of hand dyed and hand printed fabrics I have made over the years including my latest prints chopped up. Plus I have also made a linocut with circles- these panels will be for sale, I just have not had the chance to print up many.

I did actually use some circles cut from this panel in the blanket and they came up very nicely. I will share photos when I work out how to get them off my new phones memory card that doesn't involve fiddly file sharing arrangements. I will put it on my shop page soon in case anyone is interested.

I will try and be better about blogging in the next weeks as I go to East Timor and Boneco de Atauro soon- sooner than I thought and there are many things to arrange before I actually get there including getting vaccinations and malaria tablets. Will have to find a travel clinic on return to Melbourne to sort all that out! I have to keep reminding myself one step at a time.