Saturday, 31 October 2015

keeping it simple (1)

take a piece of

(a gift from Marion of Beautiful Silks
a handful of leaves (swept up from the studio floor)

something to wrap them around
some string with which to tie them

snug as a bug

introduce them to a pre-loved brew

topped up with rainwater from the tap

give them time to become acquainted 
and some heat to help seal the friendship

keeping it all sweet and simple 

like this beautiful poem by Mary Logue


and do swing back in a few days if you're curious about the result
or just follow the simple steps above
to write your own poem on cloth

Sunday, 25 October 2015

out (t)here

last Saturday the Dog and i filled the ute with supplies, lashed down the tarpaulin (on the first rainy night here in months!) and set a course for the North

arriving just before sunset

Wirrealpa Station is a wonderful place. it's bigger than some European countries i can think of
the light is astonishing

birds witter and warble and squark and chatter all day long
kangaroos thump past, emus make deposits on the doorstep in the dead of night
lizards visit at lunchtime 
now that my friend Janet* (who came along to help me by peeling, chopping and slicing as well as setting tables and doing endless piles of dishes) has introduced them to strawberries i fear they'll find the ruby saltbush berries a little sour

my days began with wood chopping and firelighting to ensure there was hot water for showers in the bathhouse

the 50,000 year old petroglyphs of Chambers Gorge inspired works on paper and cloth
coloured with roadside ochre harvests and windfallen leaves

we wrote, drew, dyed
gathered leaves and interesting objects
twined string, folded paper
composed collective poems
and made many bundles

Lily, Snip and Kubbi dispensed dog-love to anyone in need (and kindly didn't howl when i played my saxophone)

the beauty of a live-in retreat like this is that work can continue as long as participants have energy. we fired cauldrons most evenings
and sometimes even in the early morning
it's a place for walking, dreaming, thinking, observing and absorbing

too soon we were making our farewells
i boiled up a last dyepot, packed up the kitchen, washed all the sheets and then sat down to a hot footbath and a cold gin
immersed in the Great Silence on my last night there

today Kubbi and i made our way home, via Eurelia and the World's End Highway,
a little sad that our retreat out (t)here to Wirrealpa was already over.
i will be back. even if it IS a long way to the shops for a sausage roll.

* i have to say i could not have managed without you, Janet...and i am deeply grateful to my medical team (Janet and Isobel)  for being present, patching grazes and building the odd cardboard splint!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

eco, schmeco...ranting about plastic, rust and other things

i'm beginning to wish i hadn't given the name 'ecoprint' to the contact print that results when eucalyptus leaves are heated together with cloth in a damp environment.

since i first observed the phenomenon back in the early nineties the word 'ecoprint' has been adopted by countless commercial printing houses

and these days it seems everything is 'eco'

what concerns me too is that the method i've been teaching [which does not employ synthesized adjunct mordants] has been adopted by others who seem to be less concerned than i am about environmental concerns and student safety

if you teach, you have a duty of care

the bottom line is : printing with leaves using toxic adjunct mordants and layers of plastic is not environmentally sustainable*

and students participating in classes where fabrics pre-mordanted with Ferrous sulphate and layered with plastics for "clear leaf prints" may like to consider that as these bundles are heated, the vapours given off comprise a toxic cocktail of polyethylphthalates as well as the poisonous mordant in combination with whatever plant matter is being used. it is to be hoped that the latter has been identified and that toxic plants are being avoided but either're breathing it in. i worry too about those teaching these methods...  Ferrous sulphate is a cumulative poison.

not all eucalypts are safe to use either...some contain cyanatogens, others offer small quantities of arsenic and E. nitens has been implicated as a possible carcinogen

remember that if you can smell something, you are breathing it in...and that the surface area of your lungs [if they were opened out] allegedly approximates that of a tennis court

i know that microscopic amounts are used to treat anaemia but overexposure to Ferrous sulphate can cause 
is it worth it?

i use found iron as co-mordant to achieve dark colours. archaeological evidence supports this. time and again you'll read in texts about discoveries that cloth found in proximity to metal in the absence of oxygen was best preserved. whereas traditional plant dye advice was always to be cautious about using Ferrous sulphate  as it makes cloth brittle

iron soaked in an acid solution [vinegar, fermented fruit waste or an exhausted leaf-based dye bath] makes a safe mordant for dark colours

the current craze for rust has me worried too. rust particles are sharp and if breathed in, can cause bleeding of the alveoli [those little things in your lungs that take up oxygen]. be careful with it. and avoid wearing cloth that has been 'rust printed'. remember that your skin is your biggest and most absorptive organ

do your homework, make sure you are well informed and stay safe. 
and if you want clear leaf prints, put recycled paper between the layers. you'll have the bonus of making something gorgeous to write on.

* yes i am aware that my extensive travel is not sustainable. that's why i plant trees. lots of trees.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

last call

it's been a long journey
i left home in winter
arrived in Scotland in summer
(this year it was on Wednesday)

i followed a hypericum trail to Austria
played a saxophone in Germany
spent a week or so in France
flew to New York via Iceland
(mentally making plans to spend time there too)
and then stayed a while in my beloved New Orleans
teaching and also establishing a project in collaboration with the Press Street Gardens
that will have me returning many times in the next three years
and will culminate in an exhibition in March 2018.
i may also have acquired some more ink.
the trail led on to Vancouver
where i worked with Maiwa, always a joy
(i'm returning there next year as well)
 then i hopped on a train and then into a jeep and then on a ferry (still in the jeep) and was transported to Lopez Island. a place that (despite a huge hole created by the passing of an unforgettable friend) always warms my heart

after Lopez i went to Portland
too briefly (wish i had had the time to reach out to my other friends there...hoping i will be forgiven for the flying visit and planning to return next year to catch up with the folks i missed) where i was able to dress my friend Sidnee Snell in a few bits of cloth and coax her in front of a camera (something she does VERY well)

now i am in San Francisco
(another place dear to my heart)
tomorrow i begin the long flight home
back into spring

so i'm having a healthy supper with all the vitamins
(a glass of bubble and a Reese's peanut butter thingammy or two)
and writing my new bucket list
 it seems a good thing to do

there are a lot of things on it
that will take up a lot of time + space on the calendar

it seems only fair to advise those of you who have been wanting to take a class in Australia that other than a workshop pencilled for TAFE Brisbane in November next year (that may, or may not, actually happen) there will be no multiple day workshops offered by me in Australia next year.

the last chance to join me for four days is this year in Mansfield in November
either making bloomers and underduds (November 9 - 12)
working on the project of your choice (November 14 - 17)

i'll be cooking yummy food, providing lovely South Australian wine and bringing lots of supplies from my studio; cost of either class $870 

if you're at all interested please drop me a line via 
mail (at) indiaflint (dot) com

it's truly the last chance for a while.
a long while.