Structured Disorder

A sneak peek… WIP for Disorder Gallery

WIP for Disorder Gallery

Work in progress for a group show at Disorder Gallery in Sydney, sometime later this year.

Another two or three planned, after this…not sure what my ‘theme’ is, other than that I have decided to avoid any representational work, for once. That said, this began as a painting of a sleeping cat… 😉

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paint & puffballs

Allium journals (WIP)
These embroidered allium journals are probably the most time-consuming of the ten journals that a friend has commissioned from me, so I thought I had better get cracking on the embroidery part. This is Number 2. They always take longer than I think they will: the painted canvas is leathery, hard to push through, and my index finger already bears small cracks and cuts where I use it to push the needle in. I suppose I should use a thimble, but I don’t own one (I have yet to find one that fits me properly).
Allium jurnal WIP
The puffballs are very pretty (I think so, anyway) when embroidered…they don’t look as nice, painted or drawn. But it’s incredibly boring work, the same star stitch, over and over. Thank god for audio books! They make the repetitive stitching bearable. I have been listening to Barbara Mujica’s “Mi Hermana Frida” in Spanish. It’s my second time to listen to this audio book…a year and a half has passed since I first listened to it. I’m enjoying it so much more, this time around, because my Spanish is much better than it was then. It’s a nice way, too, to hang on to what I know of the language, as I hardly get to use it over here…

Junk on the High Seas

junk-on-the-high-seas-qnj-prints

This new art print available in my Society6 shop features a tiny hand-embroidered Chinese junk sailboat, tossed upon the wild blue and green waves of a piece of canvas that Kris and I marbled, ourselves. (Marbling is not something you’d expect people who live on a boat to be able to do, but we’re stubborn as hell when we want something badly enough, and we manage to do it despite the challenges of storing huge quantities of pH-neutral rainwater and a rolling anchorage.)

Also available as a print on stretched canvas, or a framed print under glass.

junk-on-the-high-seas-qnj-framed-prints

I wrote (not much!) about the making of this piece here.

Embroidery in Guyana : : Naomi Drakes

Naomi Drakes
It was our penultimate day in Guyana, and I was walking among the stalls inside the public market in Bartica. Glancing to one side, I barely registered a woman sitting in one of the stalls, a large embroidery hoop in her hands. I had gone several metres past when it hit me: she’s embroidering! I turned right around and went back.
Naomi Drakes
Naomi Drakes is 32 years old, a single mom with an 11-year-old son. Her family runs several stalls within the Bartica market; Naomi and her sister run a stall selling haircare products, fashion accessories and, by the looks of it, they do minor alteration work using two sewing machines, as well.
Naomi Drakes
I asked Naomi if she would consent to a short interview and some pictures of herself and her work, and returned the following day with a camera. I tried to shoot a video of the interview, but the gloomy, greenish atmosphere inside the poorly-lit market produced a very poor video, and the ear-splitting roar of the town’s power station, which is next door to the market, drowned out her voice. So I have had to content myself with a few photos and some stills from the video.

I found Naomi to be a confident, articulate, and industrious young woman. On days when business is quiet at the stall, rather than gossip with her neighbours or kill time on her phone, the enterprising lady does her embroidery. Her large pieces (average size of her pieces is about 30 cm. in diameter (a foot) adorn bedroom pillowcases and decorative ‘towels’ (draped over furniture and such, not the kind used to dry things). Her work is popular, and she has quite a lot of orders from locals in Bartica. She leaves her embroidery projects at work, because she knows that if she took them home, she’d want to do nothing else, so clearly she enjoys embroidery.
Naomi Drakes
Her designs come from things she sees in books, or sometimes she might ask a friend who knows how to draw to design something for her. I asked her what her favorite stitch was, but she couldn’t pick one…she knows many, and each one is good for achieving a particular look. She learned embroidery from her mother, but is the only one of her sisters who pursued it seriously. Embroidery floss is expensive in Bartica, so she gets her materials from Georgetown.
Naomi Drakes
How much does she sell her work for? A pair of pillowcases with a matching design, plus all the sewing and ruffles that she adds with her sewing machine, goes for G$ 3,500.00. That’s US$17.50. I was horrified. “And the towels?” I asked… “the towels are G$2,000.00 (US$10.00) each, if I supply all the materials. Apparently, if a customer brings her own fabric for Naomi to embroider, it is cheaper. Each embroidery takes between 5 days and a week to stitch.

I protested that this was much too cheap for the amount of work she puts into each embroidery, but she reasoned that she would be sitting in the market all day, anyway, and a pair of pillow cases brings her an extra, unexpected G$3,500.00 on top of what she earns by running the stall. Fair enough, I suppose.
Naomi Drakes
I bought a pair of her pillow cases. All her other finished work were orders that she couldn’t sell to me, and she had nothing else finished. It being our final day in Guyana (we had already cleared out with immigration, we were departing that evening) I couldn’t wait for her to finish something else. A shame, as I would have loved to conduct subsequent interviews, maybe shoot a video at her home on a Sunday (or at least somewhere with better light, away from the noise of the power station.)  Only one of the pillow cases had been sewn up, the other embroidery was on an unfinished piece of fabric. “That’s fine,” I told her, “there’s no way I will use your embroidery as a mere pillow case, anyway! It’s too nice for that!”
Naomi Drakes
I had noticed her broken wooden embroidery hoop, the day before, and so I left her a parting gift of one of my good plastic hoops…just an 8-inch hoop, not quite as big as the 12″ hoop she had been using, but I thought it might help her to tension her fabric better (if you look at the photos of her work, you’ll notice that her fabric is badly puckered and distorted by the tension of her stitches.)
Naomi Drakes
I asked Naomi to write her postal address down for me, and I look forward to corresponding with her when I get back to Australia, maybe send her some embroidery goodies, books and such, because, despite the very different sort of work that we do, I felt such a kinship with this remarkable young woman who, in a money-and-gold-crazed mining town, and with very limited resources, has managed to nurture a serious love for the craft.

Embroidery on marbled fabric

Kehaar on marbling2A week of rain…it just pours and pours. Nowhere we can really go on days like these, and not much we can do on a dark, gloomy boat. I sat in the crepuscular shadows and stitched a tiny sailboat against a roiling sea of marbled green and blue canvas. It captures the feeling of being alone on a wild sea, perfectly…

Kehaar on marbling1We marble our own fabric; this is a piece we made for an exhibition in early 2014. It was then that I figured out one good way of combining marbled fabric with hand embroidery…rather than try and tackle the intricacies of the marbling patterns, themselves, I try to see the print as an environment for some small motif…a hut on an island, a cat hunting a rabbit in tall grass, gold fish in a lily pond… It works well, and I love doing these small designs, as the embroidery is finished in a few hours, very satisfying to start and complete a project on a single day!

Kris requested this piece; he wants to frame it and hang it next to his chart table. The sailboat is just under 5 cm. (2 in.) high. Worked in split stitch, couching,satin, and french knots.

Personalised canvas tote bag

personalised canvas toteWas binding a dozen or so journals today, for a craft market later this month; at some point the books went between boards for pressing, and waiting for the glue to dry I started on this little project. It was so much fun that the books are still in the book press, several hours later! I just decided to keep going with the canvas bag until it was done.
personalised canvas toteThese handy canvas artist’s bags were on special at work, so I bought one. They’re a good size (you can fit an A3 sketchbook into one of these, as well as lots of art supplies) with three roomy pockets, and a whole row of narrow brush or pen pockets on one side of the bag. I want to use it as my art tote when I am traveling (I am going to make more of an effort to paint, or draw, while I am out and about, than I have before now. Yeah, right.) But the bag needed some colour, I thought…all that plain canvas just begged for some paint.
personalised canvas toteI used a black Posca brush-pen to doodle the designs, then painted in with acrylics. I fooled around with glitter fabric paints, too. When the paint was dry, I loaded some flow acrylics into a gutta applicator bottle, and put in fine details like faux stitches and stems and leaf veins. (Note: want to give this a try? Everything you need for this project is available at Jackson’s Drawing Supplies)

personalised canvas toteI used the same applicator bottle to write the text on the reverse side of the bag…after trying to use a Posca marker and not getting the desired results (you can see the pink lines here and there).

personalised canvas toteThis is just going to be something that I drag around with me, getting dirty, battered, and worn, so I was just playing around with the doodles, not planning ahead, and not trying to get anything perfect…I acknowledge that my writing could have been spaced better!

personalised canvas toteI couldn’t resist giving the little painter dude an easel, a canvas, and an unimpressed nude model…and throwing in a bit of naughty humour, too.

personalised canvas toteBefore you try something similar, please note that I broke all the rules about painting on fabric with this one: I didn’t wash the bag first, and I didn’t mix textile medium with my acrylics, or use fabric paints. No idea whether it will all come off when the bag is washed, someday. I will let it dry for 24 hours, and then iron the bag underneath a layer of baking parchment, for what it’s worth, to try and heat set the paints. But it doesn’t have to last, so I don’t mind; it was just a bit of fun, and something to do while my books were in the press. 😉 

personalised canvas tote