Monday, 25 March 2019

Parallels and Intersections

On March 8th I had the pleasure of giving an artist talk on International Women's Day at my solo exhibition 'The Hidden Sex' at Craft ACT. I highlighted the role of women in the discovery and collection of Australian macroalgae, and the way many women's careers had been submerged due to their gender. That very afternoon I was winging my way to Brisbane to attend the opening of 'Parallel', a weaving and natural dye exhibition by Australian weaver, Kay Faulkner and US weaver and my natural dye teacher and mentor, Catharine Ellis at the Redlands Art Gallery, Cleveland.

Kay Faulkner and Catharine Ellis at 'Parallel' opening
Kay and Catharine have been working independently on dyeing woven cloth using shibori techniques for many years.  In 1998 they both presented at a Convergence conference - Kay with her "Controlled Loom Weaving" and Catharine with "Woven Shibori". They were astounded to find that they had each been interested in exploring the same technique on opposite sides of the world, and hence a true professional and personal friendship was born. I will be writing a review of 'Parallel' for the Textile Fibre Forum magazine in the coming months.
Catharine Ellis - Woven shibori in Weld dyebath

Kay Faulkner - detail of "Give them Voice"
I first met Catharine in 2012, when I undertook an intensive workshop with her and Joy Boutrup at Penland in North Carolina on 'The Art and Science of Natural Dyes'. What I was most interested in was the application of mordants and natural dyeing for direct printing, and since 2012 this is what I have based my dye and print practice on in order to produce work for exhibition and teaching what I have discovered along the way. I owe my deeper understanding of the chemistry and its application to natural dyeing to both Catharine and Joy, and, as many of my students will testify, I have always encouraged others to seek this dynamic duo out if they ever get the chance to attend one of their workshops. Catharine and Joy have now published a technical book through Schiffer, and this is now my new 'bible'. What I love about this book is it is not a 'pretty coffee table book' like so many others on the market at the moment- it is truly something you can turn to to get the answers and recipes you need for natural dyes and mordants.

So, with my personally delivered copy of the book from Catharine under my arm, I set forth to teach at Grampians Texture in hall's Gap, Victoria.  This was my first time teaching here and it does not follow the usual format of the other residential workshops I am known to teach in.  Students and tutors do not live in the one place, and instead are scattered throughout the picturesque and magnificent towering cliffs of the Grampians. Classrooms are also similarly dispersed, but we all manage to get together at some point during the artist slide nights, or a casual (yet competitive) game of petanque!!

View of the Grampians from the Information Centre
Staying in one of the many caravan park resorts we were surrounded by all manner of flora and fauna.  Many a night I was woken by the cough coughing of a huge kangaroo outside my hut window, or the surprise of seeing a deer with her faun as we drove into the resort at dusk.
Birds of all descriptions made themselves at home on our verandah, which amused our international tutors no end. Of course, the down side was the need to be vigilant and drive really slowly at all times because the kangaroos rule around here, and when they decide they want to cross the road, you just have to be prepared to stop.
My class was full very early on in the registration period, and I got used to other students coming up to me saying they tried to enrol but missed out.  I had a wonderful group of women and we were lucky to each have a table to ourselves to work on in a huge hall with kitchen.  The first two days are often the hardest for students new to the concepts of mordant printing, mordant strengths and natural dyes, but once we started the dyeing process, the lights go on and they are all hooked!
Naturally dyed and mordant printed by Althea H.

Naturally dyed and mordant printed by Christine McR (left - weld) and Lodi L (right - madder).

Scarves by Carole M (left -weld), Cheryl C (centre - onion skins) and Diane M (right - logwood)

My photos don't do justice to the wonderful work the students managed to achieve but I was very proud of them all, and I hope to see more of their work in the future.

My next upcoming workshop will be a Textile Printing using Photographic Stencils workshop in Ballarat in late June. For more details click here, and an Indigo Resist and Shibori workshop in Mittagong for the Sturt Winter School, click here

All upcoming events and workshops are also listed on my Website

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