Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rhysling Anthology

I can't even begin to express how stressful and frustrating it is to have lost my internet connection at home. I've already missed out on a newspaper interview as a result and who knows what else is passing me by while I'm off line 23.5 hours a day.

But good old fashioned snail mail is still working and today the postie delivered my contributors copy of The 2010 Rhysling Anthology: The best science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry of 2009, edited by Jaime Lee Moyer. It feel pretty exciting to see my own poem inside the same covers as work by famous writers like Neil Gaiman.

It's a marvelous anthology, packed full of juicy interesting challenging and seductive poems.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nana Core

Scraps jar- thread ends and the tiniest trimmings of fabric

Like an ice core drilled out of the Antarctic to reveal climate change through millenia, the scraps jar shows the strata of my textile activities. The bottom half of the jar is dominated by ends of white thread snipped while stitching My Antarctica. Other colours represent small side projects so far this year: mostly gifts for family and friends. At the top of the jar you can see hints of my latest projects which feature black, gold and brown threads as well of bits of wool blanket and other fabrics.

I'm still working away at mounting Antarctica, which is much harder than stitching it was. But in the meantime I'm also enjoying making little playful pieces that feel so light and easy after the great long trek around the continent. Little projects I can carry around in my bag, that I can finish in a week. They are still explorations and studies but I feel committment building as good results start showing me the way forward.

My latest completed piece is a gift for my father who turns 70 today. Happy birthday Dad.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pins and Needles

And I shall go into a hare by Jane Siddall. Definitely my favourite piece in the show.

I made a rare excursion out of Hamilton this week, venturing up to Auckland and back in an afternoon. My destination was the lovely Uxbridge Arts Centre in Howick, where my coral reef, You are an agent of change, was included in a group show called Pins and Needles. I got to see the whole show in situ before I removed my piece and slipped away to successfully beat those notorious Auckland traffic jams.

There were many lovely things to be inspire and intrigue. Beautiful miniature feather cloaks; stylish neo-retro screen printing; lots of dolls; one tiny quilt, a Wearable Arts costume made out of teabags; sluggish soft furnishings... it was diverse and delightful. Here's a slightly random sample chosen largely because the work appealed and the photos turned out well (which is a roundabout way of saying there was plenty else that I liked).

Wall plaques by Ali Davies who is also living in the Waikato, and I love it whenever I see her screenprints (Arts Post, Craft Mad)

More from Nepal by Peg Moorhouse. There were lots of lovely weavings by Peg ( b 1917).

Time for Tea by Jenny Todd who lives on a boat.

Valkyrie War Maiden (detail) by Melody Brook

Sunday, June 13, 2010


The underside of blanket stitched islands

This is the last glimpse anyone will ever have of the back side of Antarctica, now completely straight stitched onto its blue-green sea. After finishing that stage I clipped the whole thing to its board and propped it near vertical to see it for the first time from that angle. It looks good and all, but the main thing I noticed was the dangerous pressure that the continent puts on the relatively loose weave of the background blanket.

Together with its board, the whole piece is extremely heavy, right at the limit of what I can lift alone. Just the stitched continent is the weight of nearly four whole double wool blankets. Try sleeping under four old fashioned woven blankets and you'll feel how much that weighs.

My Antarctica's future is going to be all on the vertical, and the last thing I want is the ocean-blanket to tear. Figuring out a solution to this interesting problem took me a day or two, and another few days to collect and prepare the materials and tools I need to implement it.

By the weekend I will have started quilting a strong linen weave sheet onto the back, completing an entire bed-making theme. I trust that a sturdily stitched sheet will provide adequate support, though I expect to spend many hours hand sewing to ensure it is strong enough.

Once finished, all this structural support will be invisible, but I'll be sure and share the process here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Soothing stitching

Elephant Island (foreground) where the Endurance crew waited for months while Shackleton worked desperately to rescue them

Winter has set in, and my warm and wooly version of Antarctica is worth being wrapped up in. I'm hand sewing Antarctica onto the Southern Ocean background. It's awkward work to invisibly attatch two such big, heavy pieces of fabric, but now that I have found my rhythm I find it rather soothing. Truly for me, almost any fine hand work is inherently more pleasurable any other activity I could (or should) be doing.

The ice shelf gaping over the open sea; but just until it's stitched down. I wish I were small enough to creep in and rest between the blankets.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Come to a bloody end

At exactly three pm on Thursday, 3 June, as I made the last blanket stitch on the Antarctic continent, the needle slipped and scratched my finger deeply. Blood welled up onto the thread and spotted the edge of the blanket. I had been embroidering in a distracted fashion, aware that I was almost finished but not counting the stitches left, so the pain and blood brought my attention dramatically to the beginning of the end.

The blanket stitching that covers the whole continent is completed but there's still many hours of work left to finish and prepare Antartica for its future life as an art object instead of my obsessive love interest. The embroidery is the part I most enjoy, although I'm not immune to the satisfaction inherent in the next stages. So the bloodstained final stitch was a bitter sweet moment, and I admit tears pricked my eyes once I had cleaned up my finger and tied off the last thread, and looked over what I have accomplished in the past seven months.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Leaky Sink

One of the simple pleasures that I find most soothing from day-to-day is doing the dishes. Arriving at my pro-dishes stance came late in life, but the epiphany was worth writing a poem about. The poem came with a clear vision of the artist's book it should be made into. Since my vision demanded I learn letterpress printing, I embarked on that, much more complicated pleasurable pursuit, and eventually was able to print and make a small edition of handmade, letterpress books called Do the Dishes , possibly the zenith of my artists book and letterpress practice to date.

Sadly, at the moment, doing the dishes at my house is no pleasure. My sink is leaking, and even washing dishes in a bucket (not nearly so much fun) is a hazardous affair around the flooding. The plumber says he may come tomorrow. In the meantime I am trying to minimise my production of dirty dishes so as to avoid having to wash any in the next 24 hours.

Anyone care to join me in eating out?

Do the Dishes is available in my Etsy shop