Wednesday, 29 April 2015

musing over the dyepots

I'm told a program broadcast by the ABC recently allegedly claimed that ecoprint bundling is a practice originating from and belonging to indigenous Australian culture. The truth is that it is derived from Latvian Easter Egg dyeing, a pagan tradition pre-dating Christianity, involving the wrapping of hens eggs with plant matter followed by boiling them in a pot full of onionskins and water. I transposed it to cloth (experimenting with steaming as well as boiling) substituting eucalyptus leaves for onionshells. They smell a good deal nicer, for one thing.

As far as I know metal pots, as well as woven wool and silk, only came to this country with the European invasion of 1788 (other than accidental arrival via shipwreck) and it wasn't until they became available that eucalyptus leaves could be boiled in water to reveal their extraordinary colour potential, now in such demand whirled-wide.

But maybe I'm wrong.  Perhaps metal pots were salvaged from the shipwrecks that occurred along the West Australian coast from 1622 onwards (though that first one, the Tryall, was quite a distance offshore). If you have information I'd be very interested to read it, especially if you can back it up with references. Dye history fascinates me.

I have a theory that dye traditions around the planet follow traditional regional cooking practices quite closely...for example the slow-brewed indigo of Japan relating to their fermenting of foods, the soup-like dye extraction traditionally used in Europe and the stone-ground ochres and stains of indigenous Australians that echoed the ground pastes of seeds that formed part of their diet. The absence of boiled food in aboriginal cooking pre 1788 seems to be a clue about dyes.

I'm not being picky, I really want to know.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

re-treat to Tin Can Bay

seven days ago i fell out of bed at 4am to catch an early flight to Queensland where i was met at the airport, given a cosy corner in a comfy back seat and (between snoozing and waking and a delicious lunch) transported further north. 

by the time we reached Tin Can Bay i had been very firmly asleep (and quite possibly making bear noises) for at least twenty minutes - waking/arriving and wandering across to this view had a rather dreamlike quality to it

it was Roz's idea to offer a retreat at Tin Can Bay - she's been familiar with the area for over thirty years, so her offering to share the magic was particularly kind. i had only been there once before, for one night some five years ago. this was to be as big an adventure for me as for the others who joined us there.

i've long had an affinity for tidal areas but have come away with a new love...mangroves.
 everything about them is beautiful...the way their long seed pods line up in the waves
the tidelines drawn by their crumbling leaves (punctuated by more recently fallen leaves toasted orange in the sun)
the seedlings growing from well-fallen seed pods that have managed to plunge their way into the mudflats and take root
while other roots fingered their way upward from beneath
drawing another story on the sand

this was a time to wander
be still
and listen

and though participants drew, painted and wrote
made bowls, bundles and bags
for me the important thing about the days spent there was not the production of finished objects
but the intangibles
the things that cannot be quantified, described in words, photographed or sketched
seeds that were sown to sprout and bloom, who knows where, who knows when. rather like the mangroves.

so i will hand the last word to Bill
whose writing is as fresh as when the ink first dried on the page so many years ago...
these found by chance through randomly opening a page in a book acquired by one of our number on the first leg of the journey homeward.

Monday, 13 April 2015

the solace of the arid lands

last week i took some time away from the whirled 
and headed northward to the Observatory
where a most satisfactory collection is slowly on the increase
 encompassing contributions from the UK, the USA, Denmark and Spain
as well as from across the length and breadth of the wide brown land
there's still time to join in the solace project 
if you prefer, create your own. i'm happy to share the idea.
grateful to those who have sent pieces, thank you.
people have been enquiring whether they may come and assist with the installation. 
the short answer is simply, no. 
the Observatory can only accommodate two persons, 
has no electricity or running water (meaning no showers or food cooling either)
cooking is done with an old wood stove
sparingly burning twigs to heat the kettle for tea
and while there is a pit toilet, it is not available to the public as 
when it fills i shall have to dig a fresh one and 
that's not a thought that fills me with delight. 

solace will be installed at the southern mid-winter solstice 
and (i hope) be available for viewing from June 23
it will remain in place indefinitely. 
i will document it photographically through various weathers and as promised, collate the images (together with the poem formed from all of your words) into a book.


the sunrises and sunsets here are equally beautiful
the view of the stars at night is unequalled 
(and nigh on impossible to capture with a batfone)
the arid lands are a perfect place for clearing thoughts
(the Dog decided that my clearing needed further intervention)
it's good to travel with a friend.

on the way home we stopped at the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens
to see how 'elegy' was faring

after which certain wee dog washed the dust of the desert off
with a swim at the top end of Spencer Gulf

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Wrapping a Rose

a little while ago i provided a sketch pattern
for a no-sew silkymerino slipdress
which can be worn in a multitude of ways

firstly as a shawl
or a scarf
while the two simple armholes allow it to become a dress
 wear it with a draped neckline
or hooded as below
roll the cowl down 
for a dropped shoulder look

drop one of the armholes
and it becomes a Grecian style drape
as worn to great effect by the late Princess of Wales 
on a visit to Adelaide a good many years ago. 
though i was told (by a friend who danced with her at the university ball) 
that hers was skyblue.

below you see it with the colour drained
thanks to the Snapseed app 
(which has provided me with a deal of amusement today)

it's hard to stop taking pictures of my gorgeous girl

if you put your head through one of the armholes
then you can wear it as a halterneck
this version is not quite no-sew as i added some pockets
but it is still a minimal waste dress

fold the top down
pleat and tuck
and it becomes a comfy skirt
(the pockets may become a little trickier to access)

and of course you can snuggle into the whole thing 
as if it were a footless sleeping bag
which is extremely comfy for sleeping on 
trains, planes and automobiles (best not if you're driving)
we had fun shooting in the hayshed
but our audience was rather bored

Kubbi snoozed on the tractor

Jack chose a more precarious spot
(we'll be moving him before we move that wheel).

 i used a two metre length of silkymerino to make that dress
if you're not confident of making your own
i'd be happy to make one for you
dyed with windfalls from the farm

if you'd like to pursue the idea
 but you'll have to find your own Rose.