How to find the way in

In the Wandoo Conservation Park

After finding bones and bark in the Wandoo Conservation Park west of Beverley

110420131247I drove back through the farm lands; fence posts whizzing past, paddocks on both sides.

Murray Bail said that the indent of a paragraph is like the gate to a paddock. It is the way in.  For a long time I have been looking for a way in to a piece of cloth. What is the gate or indent that allows entry? Otherwise it is too much like a painting or photograph, it is just there, take it or leave it, dictating instead of revealing and relating.

The reader can’t take in the paragraph instantaneously, the eye must move along the text, even retrace and repeat if necessary. A visitor to a paddock also has to enter and traverse the paddock. Think of seeding or harvest, going methodically over the paddock ground. As grazing sheep do in their own practised way.

A painter would argue that to properly see a painting the eye must move across the surface. True, but it is possible to have an instantaneous, complete impression in a way that is never possible with text, or land, or the complete qualities of a textile.

To journey two (detail)How to get beyond the surface, to cross over the selvedge or hem.

Is touch the way in?

To the studio

I’m writing this in a plane returning home after being away from my studio for four days. The trip wasn’t long enough to miss family, friends or home, but it was far too long to be away from my studio.

Studio window with pomegranates

Surely artists have differing relationships to their studios – from a welcome, creative refuge to a dreaded place when they feel stuck and facing down a block or self-doubt. My studio is a peaceful, private space where I can enter internal realms of research, reflection and making. The physical act of leaving the ‘external’ world and going into my studio allows me to mentally disconnect from mundane life (knowing that it will be waiting for me when I leave the studio) and let my creative self roam. When I close the door behind me I can drop my ‘public’ persona and be unobserved. My attention can be fully directed to the ideas, materials and works-in-progress that fill the space.

Work table 1Work table 2Work table 3

The studio also serves as a sign to others of my commitment to my practice and that I am ‘at work’ when I am there and therefore less likely to be interrupted by daily demands. It is where I try out new ideas, finish work and make long-term plans.

Indigo on the line

But the lease expires in a few weeks; our building, with more than twenty artists, has its third owner in a year and in this speculative town we are once again looking for an affordable, usable space to house our various practices. Otherwise it is back to the interruptible kitchen table and the unlit, dusty shed.

Ways to make work: Planning or intuiting

It is half a year since I finished studying. As warned by more established friends I am wandering about in hazy, boggy directionless realms, tripping over confusions of ideas and bumping into deadlines. Timelines, proposals, action plans seem forced, their language too stark and linear. So I am accepting my swampy state and slowing down to explore and dream quietly with materials, and time.

I have two works hanging side by side in the studio. They both express what seems to be a recurring theme for me, of combining disparate elements so that the qualities of each are present but together they form a whole that is more than the sum of the parts.  But they were made in quite different ways.

By planning:

Equilateral

For Equilateral I started by choosing a favourite form; a Möbius strip. The width of the kimono fabric and the size of the triangular space in the centre dictated the overall dimensions and so determined the width and length of the piece of hand spun, knitted grey mohair which is the other surface of the quilt. Two different fabrics, quilted together into a form which unites and reveals both surfaces.

Through intuition and chance:

Sometimes a piece evolves unintentionally. From an indigo pot on the go, a piece of silk and a plastic cylinder I made a (very) rough version of pole-wrapped shibori. It went into a pile of fabrics on the table until its mid blue undulations lay next to a warm brown length of layered and stitched fabrics which I’d put together with no end in mind than to  be something to stitch on in the good company of other makers. And now, after a gentle three years, I am putting the final stitches into Two journey to.

Something as simple as observing how I make reassures me that I can continue.