Sunday, 14 November 2010

Ups and downs

A definite up for me this week was being the lucky recipient of Cynthia St Charles' mail art project.  Look what arrived in my letter box on Friday.

Lucky me!

The biggest down - not just of this week, but for a very long time indeed, was losing our beautiful miniature schnauzer, Belle, to a paralysis tick.  We are heartbroken.  She would have been fifteen next month, and she had been part of our family since she was eight weeks old.  As we are learning the hard way, the price you pay for all those years of  unconditional love and devotion your dog gives you is the gaping void they leave in your life when they go. 

Sunday, 17 October 2010


The weekend weather hasn't been as good as could be expected for this time of year.  Friday it rained most of the day with big swells, and Saturday was forecast to be pretty grim with all sorts of weather warnings, including snow - snow??  What's going on?  Various parts of the east coast did cop some nasty floods, storms and winds, but we escaped largely unscathed.  Sunday dawned bright a sparkly.
This was the view from my table as I had my morning coffee.  The white splash in the centre, helpfully highlighted - is actually a whale slapping its tail about - but you needed the binoculars to see that level of detail.  With a day this lovely, we decided to go kayaking.
Off we went down to the local lake - it is very local, only five minutes away - lots of boat trailers in the car park - many fishermen off fishing.  And a few enjoying non-motorised sailing activity.
Flushed with the success of my shakedown cruise last week, I merrily launched into the lake - and - my kayak drifted off, without me in it!  Oh dear, that wasn't supposed to happen.  I stood, rooted to the spot with my feet stuck in the mud watching it drift away out into the centre.  I finally yelled to Karl who was busy unloading his kayak and he jumped in his and pedalled off to recover mine.  Lesson learned - always have the kayak between you and the shore when attempting to board!

After that misadventure, I went off paddling in some quiet spots and he kitted his out for fishing and ventured off to somewhere he hoped the flathead were lurking.

I got tired and decided to come in before he was ready so I got the camera and wandered around the shore taking snaps of textures that caught my eye.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Printing on fabric - and a new diversion

I have mentioned from time to time that I like to ride my bike - in fact I love my bike - it even says so, right on the handlebars!  Which, I have noticed, are starting to show signs of rust.  It is wonderful living by the sea, but it is an unforgiving and very harsh environment - still, that's good for rust printing fabric - I have to admit I have my eye on the grid that goes over my neighbour's drain - it is wonderfully rusty and would look great on fabric - wonder if they would notice if I borrowed it for a few hours next hot sunny day we have??
Oh sorry, I digress.  Well, I now have a new mode of locomotion to entertain (and occasionally terrify) me - a kayak!!  There is no shortage of waterways down here - in fact, I believe that Eurobodalla, the name of the shire, means land of many waters, and ain't that the truth.  There are lakes, inlets, rivers, estuaries and all sorts of other watery bits, the correct geographical description of which eludes me.  There is of course also the mother of all watey bits, the Pacific Ocean, but I have absolutely NO intention of ever venturing out there!
So here is my new baby -- a Hobie Lanai kayak.  Mine is yellow - I figure if I do ever get swept away and lost at sea, the yellow will be easier to spot than the grey one behind, which is Karl's and intended for fishing - apparently you are supposed to sneak up on the fish and not draw attention to yourself, so yellow kayaks are not popular with fisherpersons.

Now as a woman of a certain age, let me tell you that getting in and out of a kayak is no mean feat.  Fortunately, my first attempts last weekend when we borrowed a neighbour's kayak to have a go were not captured by video - at least I hope not - if you have heard of a You Tube video of a large middle aged woman trying to exit a kayak and not succeeding going viral - don't tell me.
There are countless helpful (not) videos on the internet showing the 'correct' way to enter and exit a kayak, but I note that these all feature young, supple, strong 'fitness instructors' who lithely and gracefully lower themselves into the vessel and then effortlessley lift themselves out.  Well let me tell you, that doesn't work for someone my age as my knees are well past the stage of being able to effortlessley lift me from a position of sitting on the ground - assuming I have managed to get myself onto the ground to start with.

After a bit of experimenting, I have found that the best way to enter is to walk the kayak into water just below knee depth and then back up to the boat, drop my backside into the seat, then swing my legs in.  I didn't initially try this approach, as I assumed that it would cause the vessel to tip over, but these touring kayaks are so stable, that doesn't happen.  Exiting is pretty much the reverse, but with the added assistance of sticking the paddle into the sand and using it like a staff to help me get up and keep me stable.  It works so far.  I saw another lady my age getting out of her kayak yesterday and she pulled into shore, worked here way from sitting to getting on here hands and knees then eased herself up from there.  Fortunately all our watersays have sandy shores - don't think that would work so well in rocky places, or with mud or mangroves.
Okay - so now I can get into it.  The instruction manual says to take your kayak on a 'shakedown cruise' before venturing off on a big trip, to make sure you know how it works and how to handle it etc.  So off we went on our shakedown cruise, five minutes from home, along the estuary between the local lake and the sea.  We had paddled about there last week in our borrowed kayak and found it accessible and safe.  Unfortunately, this time, we went when the tide was running out very strongly - as I tootled down towards the mouth I got caught up in a strong current and nearly came up close and personal to a large concrete pylon holding up the pedestrian bridge.  So, shakedown cruise behind me, I guess I am ready for my maiden voyage!  Trouble is I don't have a life vest yet, as they didn't have my size (they only stocked small/medium - doubtless to accommodate all those lithe fitness instructors). I will be picking it up next week, so for now, I am not venturing anywhere out of my depth or where I run the risk of getting thrown out of the kayak - that leaves pretty much everywhere down here, except for the ocean, which is fine by me.

Oh, and I found out that life jackets aren't called that anymore - they are PFDs.  Now in my world, PFD means prepared for dyeing fabric.  I couldn't immediately see how swathing myself in undyed Kona cotton was likely to keep me afloat, but in the seafaring community, a PFD is a personal flotation device.  

But in relation to PFD fabric, I have been playing with printing on soda soaked fabric using thickened dyes - the ones that arrived from the US a couple of weeks ago.  I had an urge to play with letters and numbers.  These have been screened using both positive and negative images.
 These are largeish wooden numbers I got at a craft store.  I place the '0' under a screen and screened through thickened dye.  For the '2', I loaded up a screen with thickened dye, then pressed the number and some smaller letters onto the back of the screen and let it all dry (it took about 24 hours).  Then I carefully removed the letters/numbers and screened with thicked dye paste, so it released the colour that was dried on the screen.

I have been keeping an eye out on the local craft store for other things to use for letters and numbers.  I found a pack of thin card cut out numbers and arithmetic symbols - these will be good for negative images, placed under a screen.  I don't know how many times I will be able to use them before they fall apart, but at a couple of dollars for a big pack, I think I can reasonably consider them to be 'disposable'.

I also found a pack of 3 inch high card stencils for individual letters.  These will give me a positive image.  Although the cut out bits could be kept and used to produce a negative as well I guess.  And there was this stencil as well - these letters are only about an inch and a half high, but having the same images in a range of scales is useful.

 Here I screened some big 0s using my wooden template.  Then I went back and added some more 0s and some Xs in a different scale. 

Just having fun at this stage.  Although I think I want to explore printing fabric with numbers and letters some more.  I found an old school report of mine the other day, which said that 'weakness in arithmetic has cost her a better position in the class".  I have never been a numbers person - spreadsheets make my eyes glaze over, and someone only has to mention data at work and I slip into a catatonic state. I am a words person.  Top of the class in English, bottom in arithmetic - oh, and you should see what I got for Book-keeping (this was 1965, remember!) - "Book-keeping is lagging badly, Hilary, and there is NO excuse for this.  100% is a pass in this subject.  See to it that you master it immediately."
This was followed by the statement  "Hilary is a keen student" - clearly not of arithmetic or bookkeeping!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Cost of dye supplies

When I decided to pull out my dye supplies last week, I realised I was pretty low on just about everything.  I hopped onto the website of the two local (Australian) suppliers I use for procion dyes and was horrified to find that the 250g tubs I wanted were $69 each!!!  So I checked a couple of American sites and found that I could get what I wanted from Dharma trading for, on average, $15 a tub (each colour is priced differently - I bought 8 and they varied from $6.59 to $19.89).

Given that the Aussie dollar is heading towards parity, it only added a very small amount to convert from US to AU$ - and even with $55 postage, I still saved over $350 ordering from overseas!  That is unbelievable.  And to cap it off, I ordered on the website on Friday, and it was delivered to my door on the following Wednesday!  It takes longer for stuff to come from Canberra, three hours drive away!

Now only Hancocks of Paducah would hurry up and have one of their 'free shipping' events while the dollar is still around 96 cents, I would be in seventh heaven!!

Back to dyeing.....

Thursday, 30 September 2010


Oh dear what a bad blogger I have been!  Well at least I now have something to show you.  My sewing space is finally finished.  I have had a sewing table made for my sewing machine and embellisher.

The piece de resistance, however, is my mobile worktable.  I can store it away in my sewing room when we have visitors and the downstairs space is in use.  Or I can wheel it out and rotary cut or do whatever.  It is the same height as my kitchen bench and on big castors - it is easy to move about.  I have 24 spaces for baskets of 'stuff' - fabric, tools, you know - stuff.

I am in heaven!  Now that  I have my space sorted, I can concentrate on making things.  As the weather is warming up, I dedcided to get out the dye stuff again.  I tried breakdown printing earlier in the year, and was somewhat underwhelmed.  I decided to give it another go.  I think I had the thickened dye not thick enough.  I am much happier with this blue piece.  It needs more to turn it into something, but is a good start - I do like the organic look.
Here it is on the design wall (at last, I have a design wall again - I didn't realise how much I missed having one until I had it back again!).  There are some other pieces of fabric that I have dyed/painted over the past few days, being auditioned with some commercially produced stuff.

Well that is a start to my resuming blogging.  I have lots of other stuff to show, and a story to tell about restocking my dye supplies.  But right now, I am hungry, so am going to take a lunch break. 

Monday, 7 June 2010

Leo Campbell

I have just got back from five days in Melbourne, visiting my new grandson - isn't he gorgeous?!  Pretty good photo - that's what you get when Mum is a professional photographer!

And lo and behold, an article today in the Daily Mail, welcoming new baby Leo Campbell - what?? - turns out that is the name of Jimmy Barnes' new grandson, born last week - amazing - I never thought Barnesy and I would have something in common!!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

I have just realised that it is a month since I updated this blog - that isn't because nothing has been happening - on the contrary.  I am now back at work part time, so we divide our time between the coast and Canberra - so  not so much play time.

This past weekend we copped a huge storm - winds of 130kph -  it was like a cyclone - rather scary in fact. 
We were without power for 36 hours - because of this - a very large gum tree on the power lines opposite our house.

Far more welcome was the arrival of grandson number 2- Leo Walter Campbell - welcome to the world little lion.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

A new day...

We get some spectacular sunrises here - I have never been what is known as a 'morning person' so sunrises aren't normally something I can wax lyrical about, except in abstract terms - but down here I often wake early enough to witness it - especially now that we are off daylight saving.  It is far more interesting when there are clouds to bounce the light off and create extra colours and shadows.

Interestingly, these photos are all of the same susnrise, taken over a period of  about 15 minutes.  They inspired me to get out my fabric paints and try some sky painting.  First attempts were a disaster - I was using the  liquid radiance paints I got when I did the Helen Godden class back in Dec.  Trouble is, they are very liquid indeed and I misted the fabric first so I just got puddles with all the colour migrating out to the edges of the puddle.  Then I remembered that Helen likes to paint on cheap as chips nasty unbleached calico full of sizing - as the paint stays exactly where you put it.  That's true, but I found that the yellowy undertone of the calico messed with the colours of the sky.  I tried some ordinary white undyed quilters cotton, without any misting, and things looked a little better - but I still need to minimise the addition of any further water - am still trying a few ideas, so will report back when I get a satisfactory result.  I also tried the Setacolour translucent paint which are thicker and got better results, but I am nearly out of them, so only had limited colour to choose from.  One thing about living here is that it encourages you to make do with  what you have, as there isn't anywhere to buy supplies.  Of course there is always the internet.....if I get really desperate!!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Breakdown printing results, and, rust dyeing

Here is the result of the breakdown printing I did from the screen I prepared a couple of days ago.  I am somewhat underwhelmed by the outcome. 
This piece started at the drop cloth under the screen while it was drying.  Then I printed over it with the screen.  Again, fairly underwhelming.  I like the idea of this style of printing, and I have seen some wonderful examples -clearly it takes time and planning to get good results, although I also understand that part of the appeal is that you can't plan too much, and there is a significant element of serendipity and surprise.  I guess right now, I am looking to focus on things that will help me produce the sort of work I have had in my head for a long time - and right now, this technique isn't going to help me achieve that, so I am happy to put it aside.

I did however get to try another one of those 'must give that a go sometime' things - rust dyeing using iron sulphate, tannin and lye.  There is an excellent tutorial here, which I followed (more or less).  If you visit, follow the links to Lynda's (Purple Missus) blog where she tried it too - lots of wonderful photos.

Here are my results
This piece started off as a failed early attempt at breakdown printing using thickened dye - just about anything would make this look better, so I had nothing to lose.

This was the hand dyed piece from yesterday that I monoprinted on from the last of the gelatin plate.  It was already dyed in blue/orange, so this treatment just enhanced those colours.

This piece started off as a traditionally rusted piece which was a bit eye-poppingly orange for my taste, and the contrast with the stark white background was too much.  I much prefer this version.

I need to go and buy a cheapo iron so I can iron this lot - I only have my good one here - the other one is in the apartment.

Tomorrow's activity - some more rubber stamp carving, I think.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Gelatin plate

I forgot about the gelatin plate, and when I opened the fridge, found this.  It had shrunk to almost half its original size and cracked a lot more.  I should mention that we have a spare fridge in the laundry for dog food, fish bait, dyes and booze - the gelatin was residing in there, not my kitchen fridge!

 I did a monoprint and liked the door shape. I mixed some black and white textile ink to get a charcoal and applied it to the gelatin with a spatula.  Printed onto plain white fabric.  I was rather pleased with this.

So I did some more....
I wondered how it would look on a lightly rusted background

and finally, on a hand dyed background.
I like this gelatin plate printing - there is an element of the unpredictable, especially once the plate starts to break down, but it isn't completely random and unpredictable.speaking of which, I printed off my deconstructed screen - it is batching now, so will post about it tomorrow.  I don't think it is going to be my 'thing', based on my experience of it - more on that later.

It is Anzac Day - I am remembering all our servicemen and women who have fought for and died for Australia.  I am especially remembering my friend Prue, who died a year ago today in NZ on her way to an Anzac Day ceremony.  And this morning the tragic news that three people were killed in a helicopter crash in NZ, while taking part in a rememberence ceremony.

Lest We Forget.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

More mark making

I have had an instructive and occasionally frustrating couple of days playing with various mark making techniques. 
I tried deconstructed screen printing - or breakdown printing - once before with fairly disasterous results. I now know that the paste mixture I made up was far too thin.  I had another go and although I got better results, they still didn't meet my expectations.   Again, the paste wasn't thick enough to hold the impression - it gradually oozed back to fill up the gaps as it was drying and I got virtually no impression.  I tried again, with something that made deeper impressions - some bubble wrap, and at least got a result.  I checked Claire Benn and Leslie Fenton's book "Breakdown Printig"  and found some really good, simple instructions and recipes.
I have now made up a new batch of thicker paste, and have followed their instructions to turn the screen flat side up, glob the paste on, then impress the objects you are using to create texture and leave until nearly dry (which by my guestimate will be at least a day or two), then remove, so the paste can't settle back.  Here is the screen set to dry.  Intuitively, this seems more likely to work than the method I  followed for the above piece which was to place the object (bubble wrap in my case) under the screen and squeegee through the dye paste, then remove the bubble wrap straight away and let the screen dry.  We shall see.....

We upgraded to a new computer when we moved, and I took the opportunity to get Adobe lllustrator, which I have been wanting for a while.  It is a steep learning curve, but I  am having enormous fun working in tandem with Photoshop, turning the pictures I have been taking on my daily rides into black and white illustrations which are then burned into Thermofax screens.   Here are some examples:

Photo of some grasses.  Here I used Thiox to discharge the image onto some commercially dyed black fabric.  It came out a light lemony colour, and the image isn't as distinct as later screens, as I didn't have the consistency of the thickener right - too thin, again!

Here I screened black textile ink over  an earlier screened image of a tree in gold, on hand dyed purple fabric.  You an just see glimpses of the gold here and there - click for larger image.
Again, I went over something else that didn't work.  I had previously screen an image (which I will show you next), but it came out blurry, as I used Setacolour paints and they are a bit too runny to screen well.

The underlying image was taken from this photo, of the seafood shop at Narooma bridge.

I cropped  and edited the photo in Photoshop, then converted it into an illustration in Illustrator, and made a screen.  This time I used proper textile screen printing ink and got a much cleaner image.

I was sitting in the car waiting for Karl the other day, when I looked up and saw this image of barbed wire against the bright blue of the sky.

I gave the image the same treatment as above, and got this - I am quite excited at the possibilities of turning my own photos into images that can be used in my textile art - I have been wanting to do this type of thing for ages, and just haven't had the chance until now.

The barbed wire was around the local gardening centre.  In one corner of the carpark I spied this pile of discrded pallets
I turned these into a screen too
As well as messing with screens, I made a couple of stamps - a simple leaf, and the negative of the same image.

 A new - and obviously temporary sign appeared in town the other day
This was an obvious candidate for a screen, which I printed using thickened dye (having finally figured out the right consistency for the thickener).
And what, you might ask is a Fish Auction?  not sure I know, but I think it might be a charity thing, where they hold a fishing competition, then at the end of each day, the catch gets auctioned off to raise money for the marine rescue volunteers - but don't quote me on that - Karl and I are going to hop on our bikes and pedal into town a bit later to check it out.

And finally, for now, I used the very last of the thickened dye at the end of the day to stamp, and draw on fabric, using a syringe - another little activity that has been on my 'must give that a go' list for some time!  I batched these rather than steaming - of which I am not a fan - and I must say that the thickener is a devil to get out of the fabric.

Right - still lots more experimenting to go!