Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day down under

Instead of huddling down in the cold and snow at home we went to the beach at Penguin on the north coast of Tasmania. We had the pleasure of the company of my whip-smart cousins's daughter, ten year old Aicha. We decided to have a little paddle, just our feet. Carefully. Gingerly.
Uhoh! Didn't see that submerged rock behind me when I stepped back. Splash!

Ah well. Wet now. And so is Aicha becuase she just waded in so we thought we might as well just keep going.

Fortuntately my Aunt Diana has been driving around with her old clothes in the car boot ready to go to the Salvation Army so I was able to drive home without soaking the car!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas concert

Just before we left Sydney we went to the free Christmas concert in the Domain. A hundred thousand people were expected and the TV news had on at lunchtime that people had started to claim their spots on the grass at noon ready for the eight thirty start. Well, it was a hot day and there was no way were were going to sit out in the blazing sun, so we resigned ourself to tipping up after dinner at the start and hoping to get a glimpse from the far,far back.

In fact although every blade of grass for sitting on had been claimed by someone, the organisers had left the pathways criss -crossing the park open and we were able to simply walk down the side and stand pretty near to the stage.

I cannot say that the cast list was great (Leo Sayer, Engelbert Humperdink, Ronan Keating anyone?) But an exception was the fabulously talented Katherine Jenkins.

It was however a very festive evening, although I still do not understand why Australians still sing about snow in August and have not adapted Christmas traditions to suit their own climate!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Powerhouse museum

The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has an exhibition on called Yinalung Yenu, meaning Women's Journey. It featured videos from six aboriginal women talking about their achievements in areas such as art, law, medicine and community leadership. the
teachers notes from the exhibition tell you more about the six women and why they were chosen.

Two women in particular interested me. I liked the art pieces of Bronwyn Bancroft and I was intrigued to see, when I later went on her website that in her gallery of work for sale she has some pieces entitled Life Weaving. These reminded me instantly of the gorgeous Dreamline series of quilts done by Brenda Gael Smith. Those quilts in turn have always reminded me strongly of the art of Patrick Tjungarrai.
Do the rest of you seem the same similarity?

The other woman, Larissa Behrendt had no art connection at all but if you read her wikipedia biography you will understand why I was fascinated with her story! She is one year older than me and makes me look like a right professional slacker! But then there is no evidence she knows how to make a quilt...!

Happy Christmas!

Holiday greetings to you - whether you celebrate Christmas or not - from the Qantas lounge at Melbourne Airport. We have a 50 min stop here en route between Sydney and Launceston, Tasmania, where we are to be the guest of my Dad's brother Barry, his wife Diana and I expect at least some of my three cousins for Christmas. We have not seen these family members since they were over in the UK some fifteen years or so ago. But, Barry is a perfect cross between my Dad and his other brother, Phil and so I am sure we will recognise them!

I have just seen on the news here that there is a high risk of bushfire in South Australia and of course my home country is currently under snow with people having problems travelling so I just wanted to say that I hope that wherever you are and whatever your plans are that you stay safe over the coming days and that you find happiness in whatever you do.

And that Santa puts fabric in your stockings. Or around your dreidel/ Kwanzaa kinara. Or just leaves it on your door step!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Dreamers

I have learned that the best way for me to 'do' a museum is to turn up, ignore most of it and concentrate on one section that really interests me and to take my sketchbook along and really focus on what is there and what it implants in my head.

So, one day in Sydney I went to the Art Gallery of new South Wales to see the Dreamers exhibition. Unfortunately photography is forbidden, but you too can see most but not, sadly, all my favourite pieces, on this short video by the curator which gives you a pretty good idea.

If you watch it behind his shoulder and later again on the video appear several standup figures. Those did capture my imagination and lead to all kinds of thoughts as to how I might achieve a quilt dealing with Jewish Divorce issue which has been in my head a while waiting for me to get the technical capacity to achieve it. Those pieces were done by Judy Watson and her other pieces not shown also grabbed me as although they were pastels they could easily have been screen printing.

The video also shows one piece by Kitty Kantilla which was the other artists whose work set off all kinds of fireworks. One which is not shown struck me as a painted stitch sampler - if that makes any sense! You can see lots of examples of her work here

Monday, December 21, 2009

Saritta King

I had been looking forward to seeing Aboriginal Art when I was in Australia as it is a genre of art which I like in general. I had been starting to learn more about the different areas and the meaning behind the art before I came but was still fairly ignorant about the individual artists. Which is why it was surprising to me to find that one artists in particular - Saritta King - drew me every time I walked into a gallery featuring her work.

She works in several series which are quite distinct and several times I said to a Gallery owner who asked me if I liked anything, "Well, yes. I love that Saritta King one there, but I like that other one here too."

"That's Saritta King too," they would say.

It is very difficult to explain why her work calls to me over all the others but it does with consistency. Sadly Dennis hates it as much as the rest and so it was not fair to buy a large piece for our home. (Although I mooned over one in particular in a bronzy-brown colur way fro a long time). But I did buy a small piece which I can hang where I sew ( and so where Dennis never ventures for fear of stray pins) and which will make me very happy.

The piece I have is now packed for transit so I do not have a photo but it is a small gold metallic version of her lightening series, not dissimilar to the photo above. You can see better images of her work here at the web site of the gallery I purchased from. You can also find there her biography and some links to her other series.

Christmas trees

We are finding it impossible to get into the Christmas spirit here - the weather is just too hot. As I write this pre-scheduled post we are about to go to the Christmas concert on the Domain where people have been erecting tents to get shade. It is just not right. and to to be fair the efforts to decorate for Christmas are fairly minimal. Albeit inventive. After all fir trees presumably do not grow freely in Australia. So why not make your tree from plastic bottles?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

More men

To add to my list of types of men from Christchurch I have to add the mostly naked musician type from Sydney.
I like to learn about other cultures and so I was pleased when the Australia Museum advertised a free display of Aboriginal dance and music on Sunday afternoons. It was fascinating to learn about how the sounds made on a digeridoo are not just random dronings but imitations of various animals, and to learn how the lips and circular breath are used to vary the sounds. When we encountered it again on the streets we were much better informed.
Of course, musuems run on budgets and small ones at that so when they said a 'dance display', they actually meant getting gullible tourists to volunteer for the cultural experience of doing an Emu Dance to the didgeridoo... Thank goodness Dennis was not snapping at the part where I had to shake my feathers!

Big Brave Girl

Having started our time here by taking some perspective-skewing-look-its-not-that-tall-really photos (which only really served to convince me how much I would hate to holiday on a big liner like this), the time came to suit up, hang all kinds of halters and lines and clips and guns on me and get up on that Harbour Bridge arch.Well, not guns, but the scariest part is actually the very first bit - after that it is fine. But you start the walk by walking out of a tunnel carved in the side of the Bridge Climb Building at first floor level which takes you on a walkway underneath the level of the road. This consists of two planks of wood with a small gap in between them and one open handrail. Hmmm. Seemed to me you had three choices. You could either be blissfully unaware that walking tens of feet up in the air on two planks of wood is not potentially accident ridden. That's hard when you are clipped onto a wire for your own safety and, no doubt, the reduction of litigation liability for the company.
Or, you could turn back right there. but it would be very hard to explain how you spent $258 and returned without the 'free' photo of you at the top. Or, you could swallow hard, imagine you were Jodie Foster playing a US Navy Seal in some action film, about to whoop the bad Russian guys, that the rain bag handing inelegantly off your bum in a bag is actually a large sub machine gun (with a spare pearl handled pistol for that last minute shootout), and get on with it. And hope that it didn't get any worse.

Which oddly it didn't. From the walkway you go up metal stairs through the concrete pylons, coming out at roughly road/train level. then you climb I think four ladders, which you can just see in this photo running steeply from the perspex 'cage' at bottom right. That takes you out onto the arch which is much wider and solid and feels pretty natural to be on. Mine was the last group to get to the top before an electrical storm hit and seeing as we were standing on what is probably the biggest lightening conductor in the Southern hemisphere, they hustled people off it quick smart. But before that we got a great sunset view, a display of lightening over the Blue Mountains and of course the panoramic harbor view. I'd do it all again if it didn't cost such a ridiculous amount of money. But I'd have a body double for the shots of my backside with all that equipment hanging off it.

Sydney fabric

One of the things I was trying to tell you in my oh so useless no-photo-links-don't -work-post was about my fabric shopping with Erica Spinks. These hand dyes, (of which I wish I had bought more but if you remember, the man from Qantas weight control he say no) are from Lisa Walton's Dyed and Gone to Heaven. I was lucky enough to visit her at home for cupcakes and see where it is all made.
She sells in ready co-ordinated packs but - as if it were one of the shows she attends as a vendor - I got to pick my own set out to match these aboriginal designed fabrics bought from Logans' Patchwork

We also visited Prints Charming - where we were treated to gingerbread having walked through the door juts as the packet was being opened! Their stuff is very cheery and modern and distinctive but doesn't really fit with what I buy and use so I just bought a small piece of linen with a design for embroidery printed on which I thought would go in a small bag and then when we went to Quiltsmith I got a fat quarter to go with it. (Yes, just one! it was some kind of miracle or heat stroke or something as the shop is huge).

One for Rayna

There are a certain number of inevitable photgraphs you kind of have to take when you are a tourist. But all the time we were posing I could not help but think of Rayna Gillman. Those of you who read her blog or book will know of her penchant for finding items to print cloth with. I could not help but think she might be slightly distracted from the view by a desire to acquire some of the construction fencing around the Quay.
Oh and yes, to get that photo you do actually have to lie flat on your back on the pavement. But you know - anything for my readers...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Missing links

It has been drawn to my attention that none of the links I did in that 'no-photos but lots of links' post from the Shangri-la business centre actually work. (So, no Mum it was not somthing wrong at your end!) I have no idea why but I will reblog about everything soon because there was some good stuff to show you on there. But not now because having stayed up very very late last night to go to the Christmas concert in the Domain and after that to a Guylin cafe for supper and then to SKYPE home I now have to get ready so we can actually get out in the morning and not the afternoon - the joys of having three months of Sundays...!

Yipee skippee! It works!

I have no explanation. Our laptop was refusing to let us online several days. It was defunct today when Dennis turned the laptop on to charge his MP3. I walked in from the pool, and thought, "I'll just try it" and - well, it worked! That of course was about an hour after my link heavy post. Sorry about that. So I am going to upload several photo contents posts now and schedule them for the following days while I have access. Of course when you take hundreds of photos its hard to decide if any of them have sharing merit. Lets start with with views and see what you think :
First, a driving break by Lake Wakatipu on the way to Queenstown. That beat a service station on the M6 Motorway!
Then, Queenstown. I think we all know that I am not bad at booking accommodation but sometimes I surprise myself: this is the view from our apartment balcony.
And from our room here in Syndey.But, if you are frightened of heights don't look down!

From the business centre of the Shangri-la

Travel blogging without photos is quite sad so you are going to have to do some work and hunt out your own illustrations via links. What have I done since the laptop malfunction that is worth mentioning?

I have been shopping with Erica who enabled me to buy a lot of aboriginal designed fabric here. I was fortunate enough to visit these girls, the day before they close for a month and also to see the huge choice of fabric here although only one FQ actually called out to me. We then went to visit Lisa Walton where I bought a fair pile of her fabric but still regret not buying more. But the man from Qantas weight control, he say, no. (Which, I suppose is why she does mail order :))

I went here this morning and ate an Indonesian vegetable pancake and a huge strawberry jam doughnut for breakfast. One or the other would have been good. Both of them - well, its 4.30pm now and I am still pondering the wisdom of my choice.

I bought some art by this artist. It is a small version from this series. I would have bought a great big version in a blue colourway but Dennis hates all aboriginal art so I bought just a tiny piece to hang somewhere he won't see it! It's funny - I like Aboriginal Art full stop but in each gallery I have been to (and I have been to everyone I can find!) I am instantly drawn to work by this artist even when it was from other quite different series that I had never seen. Weird. Or maybe because she is unusually young the art is fresher and inspired by tradition rather than tied by tradition?

I was interested and inspired by this exhibition , this one and this one too - my sketchbook overfloweth. (And will in a couple months appear on my website I expect when I get home and can post photos and articles).

Oh and I did this too. As ever, I arrived early and was bumped to a group ten minutes before my scheduled start time just so I didn't have to hang around. The only time the climb does not operate is when there is an electrical storm within 10km. When we were climbing they pointed out lightening way over the Blue Mountains but then it started to move closer and my group was the last one allowed to the top - all others were hustled down quick smart for the night and re-booked.

Thank you for your 'keep blogging' comments'after my last post and Linda, I did immediately think of Firefox but how can I download it if I can't get online?! 'Its very frustrating!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Laptop malfunction

Our laptop has developed a software malfunction with Internet Explorer which I cannot fix so we cannot get online except via hotel business centres ( which being inteded for conference delegates not tourists tend not to open when we are wanting to surf at 10pm) or I suppose internet cafes. But neither allows photos to be posted and so I am afraid the blog version of the holiday and casual emailing is all on hold for 6 weeks or so or until I can fix it. I am trying to believe that the world will not fall down if I 'go dark' for six weeks but it is kind of giving me the shakes.. which is maybe why it is a good idea to try it.... shake, shake.....
But fear not - I shall give you retrospective posts when I get home

Friday, December 11, 2009

Milford Sound

They say that the most stunning part of New Zealand is the fiordland at the very southwest tip. Milford Sound is the most accessible fiord being a two hour drive from Te Anau. Or, you can do what our B&B hosts here call the scenic sleep and get a 6am four and a bit hours ecah way bus from Queenstown. Or, you can walk for days on end through wet forest sleeping in huts with bunks and cold water. My parents did that and I am still trying to figure out why.

We planned to do it the wimps way and have been staying in a fantastic boutique B&B in Te Anau called Dun Luce - highly recommended if you are ever out this way. But, of course you cannot preplan the weather and yesterday when we went out to the sound it was variable. That is, it varied from straightdown rain to blow in your face rain to straightdown rain again. Solidly all day. The cloud was lower than the road in some cases and when we arrived for our cruise you could not really see the otherside of the fiord.

But, the huge advantage of weather like this is that the fiord sides run with hundreds of temporary waterfalls which dry up within two hours of the rain stopping. Our boat being the small one (holds 200 but only 54 on board) we got to sail close to the fiord walls and so could see the close up detail although we never really got the sense of being in a canyon so misty was it. It was also hard to photograph without getting the camera wet!
I did get a little bit inspired by the distortions caused if you took photos from inside through the water running down the window - can you see elongated hexagon patchwork shapes in the second picture here? Do I need to get a life?
We thought about going back the next day to do the cruise with a different perspective but guess what - it rained! It is a consistent pattern here - if we are in cities the weather is glorious, the moment we step into the great outdoors, it tips it down. Ah well, at least I have a spa bath to warm up in and not a cold water communal sink in a hut!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A little house with attitude

A whole city block in Christchurch is dedicated to the Arts centre. Originally part of the university it has clositers and staircases and towers and is a very Oxbridge kind of place. Now its dedicated to artists studios, a cinema, a theater (where one evening we saw a very good production of Cole Porter's Anything Goes), galleries and places to eat. On the weekends there are extra craft and food markets. It is a delightful place to be inspired and to relax.I also got to meet reknown weaver Anne Field in her studio there who has a loom you can try - hmmm, might have to get me one of those....!.
These photos are of a simple yet fascinating piece of art strung between two buildings. Like a scribble in the sky the wire form seems to change as you walk around it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Maori raincloaks ( to excess)

Today we are in Te Anau and once again it is raining - anytime we try to do anything outdoors based it rains! So it seems a good time to tell you about my obsession with Maori rain capes called korowai. These were heirloom cloaks made for the chiefs of the tribes, woven and often containing thousands of valuable bird feathers or made out of dog fur. Others, as you can see in this painting by Goldie have little thread (flax) 'tags' all over them. I have become rather fascinated with them and was delighted in Christchurch to find that the museum had a special exhibition of modern cloaks made by Roka Ngarimu-Cameron. As part of a master degree he explored innovative ways of weaving and design resulting in a catwalk of cloaks all easily recognisable as derived from the original but changing into more modern forms. It was particularly interesting to see the addition of tartan to reflect Scottish mixed heritage. they were hard to photograph but the lights that made photography hard showed the work off to great effect in the room.I have been thinking about how to use these cloaks as inspiration for the innovative samples I have to do for my City and Guilds. So it was with great interest that I came up out of the underwater observatory in Milford Sound yesterday to see this art installation on the wall inspired by those flax 'tags'.
Or so I momentarily thought. Then I realised it was the bare lighting wires the builders doing the renovations had partially installed. Proof that the definition of art is in the attitude of the viewer!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Too cheap for a new paint job.

Seen in cathedral square, Christchurch.

Look carefully!

A woman's view of Christchurch

Christchurch has everything for the discerning woman:
men in old fashioned garb to punt you up and down the river,

men in kilts to entertain you at the Pipe band championships,

men in tight shorts to whizz past you on rickety bikes in some speed trial thing I could not work out but which involved going at suicidal speeds around a small city centre circuit,

dead men who have done very impressive things in their life involving pointless and dangerous journeys to snowy places,

men to serenade you with "Lay Down Sally" in the late afternoon as the Arts Center empties and the air cools,

and my personal favourite - mediatative men sitting happily in the distance, reading and waiting patiently for their wives to finish taking arty photos of the Arts Center.

Canterbury Fibres

I am in a state of such deep relaxation these days that being bothered to write a blog is all a bit much. So I am very behind. Forgive me. As we set off from Kaikoura I said to Dennis, "Right, straight to Christchurch then?"

"Yes, " he said, "Unless there is a quilt shop on the way."
Seriously, he said that. And strangely enough, there were:

I got to go to Quilters Quarters in Rangiora, Cottonfields, Jolene's Web and Hand's all in Christchurch. Minimal shopping becuase I am becoming weight challenged. Well, not me, my luggage. I am considering saftey pinning all my half meters together and wearing them as a kind of sari on the next flight. I didn't think I'd get to Jolenes because on the map it looked out of the way. But the sat nav brought us in a different way and I suddenly saw a sign for the neighbourhood of Belfast. I knew that was where Jolene's was so I pulled into a car park to check the map and realised - I was parked in her car park. Some things are meant to be.

Our first full day in Christchurch I got to go to lunch with Robyn Kirk who did me that favour of taking my surplus Christchurch hotel booking off my hands when I advertised it here. She is pictured left with her friend Ann who joined us after lunch. Alastair Kirk, Robyn's husband drove us for miles ( and extra miles becuase we put the wrong Barker's Lane into the sat nav) to take us to see Jane van Keulen. The he sat and waited for us for an age while we noseyed around her studio. It might be that some of her threads ended up in my bag.

I nominate Alastair for Quilter's Husband of the Year for that but I fear he will not win as I also have to tell you that my very own husband wandered up to me when I was in the Quilter's Barn just outside Blenheim en route to Kaikoura and found me stroking the very same fabric I had bought a half meter of in Picton for a rather exorbitant price.
"You've got that one, haven't you?"
"I know. I know. But its pretty. I am wondering if I should get more," I say showing him how well it fits in with the other five bolts I have arrayed on the table already
He shrugs as if it is obvious.
"If in doubt buy more."
Seriously, he said that.
Although, thinking about it Alastair is in with quite a good chance as, two days later on the road to Christchurch and another four shops to come, out of the blue Dennis said,
"You know when I said, if In doubt, buy more?"
"I meant of that one fabric. Not fabric in general."
Sometimes the secret of a good, happy marriage is knowing when to take your spouses' advice and when to ignore it completely.


.. was a wash out. The only reasons to go to this little village is to watch wildlife, swim with wildlife, fly over wildlife, be taught about wildlife by a Maori guide or call in at A Patch of Country quilt shop. Well, the quilt shop was delightful but named well - far too country for my style and the first in which I didn't buy a single piece of fabric because none called my name. Or maybe they did but where drowned out by the torrential rain banging down on the roof. All wildlife activity was cancelled due to gale force winds and so I got to read a novel from cover to cover in one day whilst hunkering down in our apartment.Not actually unpleasant.
On day two the cloud suddenly shifted slightly and we got a glimpse of mountains we hadn't even known were there until then. This view from our apartment deck lasted, oh, ten minutes. Then more mist, drizzle, cloud and other forms of damp precipitation.

However, there was a short lull when we went to the seal colony. There must be some seals somewhere.....

Oh, there he is! Fast asleep and sheltering from the rain. We took his example.