Tag Archives: quilts

Telling Stories

The St Peter’s Cathedral, a magnificent building standing watch over Adelaide’s CBD, is home to many a treasure. Its grand interior with stained-glass windows, carved woodwork, mosaic floors, and historical banners is the perfect backdrop for the Telling Stories Exhibition.

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Julie Haddrick at St Peter’s Cathedral

This is a three-artist exhibition showcasing paintings by Maz Gill-Harper from Tasmania, clay sculptures by Mark Pearce from South Australia, and textile artwork by Adelaide based quilt artist extraordinaire, Julie Haddrick.

 

The theme Telling Stories encompasses the work of these three artists perfectly.

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Maz Gill-Harper’s paintings depicting the parables as they appear in the gospels are visual representations of the stories told by Jesus to his followers. It contains texts, images and symbols, turning each artwork into a spiritual journey rather than just a painting.

Telling stories as teaching.

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Mark Pearce’s sculptures depicting the apostles, grab the viewer’s heart and attention drawing you into the emotional life of each man. They radiate the spiritual path and soulful journey of each of these biblical characters.

Telling stories as a spiritual journey.

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But it is Julie Haddrick’s work which shouts with joy. Her vast wall-hangings are filled with colour and life. Using hand-dyed, painted, printed and stencilled fabric, she creates visual feasts depicting God’s creation in all its glory. From the vast work encompassing all of the creation right down to detailed images of treasured feathers.

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Julie uses symbols and metaphors to tell her stories. Her work is filled with detail – some of them meticulously sketched with layered fabric like the wedge-tail eagle, others only suggested in the quilted lines on the backgrounds and in the borders.

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Julie’s work is influenced by the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi which embraces transience, imperfection and the impermanent. She subscribes to the sentiment of ageing gracefully and appreciating beauty in decline. Her treasures include feathers, shells and broken shards of china.

Telling stories as worship.

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This exhibition forms part of The Adelaide Fringe and will be on display until March 5, 2017. The cathedral is open every day, with artist talks daily at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.

*All images were taken at St Peter’s Cathedral and depicts small details from Julie Haddrick’s work. Published with the artist’s permission.

 

 

Kaffe Fassett – no doubt about colour

When in doubt add twenty more colours.

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Kaffe Fassett fabric used in one of his quilt designs

I heard this quote from Kaffe Fassett many years ago, long before I really knew who he was or how extraordinarily creative he is. I was a young Afrikaans girl in suburban Pretoria, South Africa. All I knew was that he’s a man from ‘overseas’ who knitted multi-coloured garments. There were so many things about him which were completely foreign to me.

Firstly, I didn’t know men can knit. Secondly, I didn’t know that knitting was considered art and that one can make a living from it. I also didn’t know it was ‘allowed’ to mix all these colours together. I came from a time and place where blue and green didn’t go together, beige was always a safe option, and only moms and grannies knitted.

I had no idea that many years later I would live ‘overseas’, have a career which revolves around creative needlework, and actually have the opportunity to meet the man himself.

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Filled with energy and enthusiasm during his talk

Kaffe Fassett and his business partner Brandon Marbly visited Australia earlier this year, doing a series of talks and workshops around the country. I had the opportunity to meet him in Adelaide on the last weekend of a hectic almost two month tour.

What struck me most about him was not his amazing talent or sense of colour, although that is something to behold. It’s his amazing energy. Kaffe is in his early 80’s yet talk, move and act like someone at least 20 years younger. He is bursting with enthusiasm about his work, about colour, about meeting other creatives, and about teaching.

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When in doubt add twenty more colours

He is extremely prolific, turning out designs for fabric ranges, quilts, as well as knitting patterns and books at a pace which makes me tired just thinking about it. As someone who takes time to process information and contemplates ideas before putting it into action (read: procrastinate), I am in awe of this skill!

In his talk he tells about his travels to different parts of the world. Australia, South East Asia, Africa and India, features alongside South America and Europe. He finds inspiration in everything from street markets to faded wall paint. But it is not just the far away and exotic which speaks to him – he finds as much inspiration from his neighbour’s garden as from a faraway location. As long as there is colour, Kaffe can turn it into something extraordinary.

Kaffe designs knitwear for Rowan, fabric for Westminster Fibres, and needlepoint tapestries for Ehrman. He also publishes an array of books on quilting, knitting and colour inspiration. I found his autobiography Dreaming in Colour, especially interesting and inspiring.

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Image from Kaffe’s slide show

One of the questions put to him during his talk was how he gets time for everything. For Kaffe the answer is simple: No television, no mobile phone and no computer. Brandon, who is his business manager, handles all those things, freeing up Kaffe’s time and mind to create. He loves listening to music while he designs and to BBC Radio 4 while he stitches.

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Brandon working on a design wall

During the workshop Kaffe and Brandon shared another secret: Work with music. Choose something with a beat and turn it up loud. Move to the rhythm! Kaffe believes in doing first and editing later. When designing a new quilt, he works on a flannel covered design wall where he can put up all his fabric pieces, adding as many colours and patterns as he wants. Then he stands back and edit by removing and rearranging. His mantra is – Don’t be afraid. Add more colour and pattern.

Listening to Kaffe and watching him work and talk about colour is extremely inspirational. He oozes energy and enthusiasm for life. Beige does not feature anywhere in his work or life, blue and green can go together, and with many other colours too.

I now realize that that quote I heard so many years ago does not just apply to needlework. It applies to life.

Have you attended any of his workshops or made any of his designs? Please share!

The Marriage Bed

This is the story of  my entry into Dare to Differ 2015.

THE MARRIAGE BED
My kombers en jou matras en …*
(My blanket and your mattress and …)
*Part lyrics from an old Afrikaans folk song
When we got married, most of our furniture were hand-me-downs from our respective childhood homes. Our bed however was brand new. The first piece of furniture we bought as a couple – a symbol of two lives becoming one and a place where we could dream and plan a future together.
The bed served us well for 15 years and even came with us when we moved to different countries. It was our refuge where we escaped the world, where we felt saved and loved, and the cradle where our family was conceived and cared for.
When it was time to replace the bed, I saved the frame and started working on the blanket, using yarn from my stash collected over the years from different parts of the world. They all represent a time and a place where we shared our lives. The blanket and the mattress are made separately and then stitched together in such a way that it cannot be separated again without destroying the whole thing.
THE MARRIAGE BED represents our marriage. Two separate entities becoming one. Each one with different characteristics and different values, which when put together cannot be taken apart again. The one provides strength and support, the other provides warmth and safety. Together they create a home and a family.
The lyrics come from our childhood, they don’t define us, but they anchor us. They make us belong.
As with any marriage, this one is not perfect. Dropped stitches, tension variations, messy colour changes, wires poking through in odd places, and loose ends – mostly hidden out of sight but still there. Looking closely you will see many flaws, but standing back, you will see a harmony of colour, the words will become clear and make sense, the structure will be strong and organized, and the threads will hold it all together.
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knitted strips

knitted strips

This project started way back in 2011. At that stage we were living in Dubai and had just bought a new bed. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to make, or rather what I wanted to say, but had no fixed plan of how to go about it. I knew it had to involve the mattress frame and a knitted blanket. The snippet of lyrics served as the inspiration.

The plan I came up with eventually meant I had to knit the blanket in strips, weave it through the mattress springs and then stitch it together through the wire afterwards. It was the only way to get the knitting inside the steel springs. It took a bit of trial and error to get the right dimensions for the blocks and strips, which I then used to draw up a pattern and eventually a graph for each letter.

The Marriage Bed patternThe blocks are 16 stitches wide by 80 rows long. Five blocks in a strip, times 24 strips. I started out with the blank strips at the side, using different stitch patterns, but I soon realised that it won’t work once I start the intarsia knitting for the letters, so I kept most blocks in plain stitch.

I used the yarn that I had, adding as I needed or ran out of colours. The plan was not to plan. My only guide was that the whole letter, which spans three blocks, had to be in the same colour and to not have two similar colours next to each other. I used different thicknesses of yarn but the same needles throughout, which means the tension differs, but I think that is quite appropriate for a marriage!

AssemblingI knitted over time with periods in between when I didn’t do anything. My dear husband patiently allowed me to have the mattress frame packed and shipped with the rest of our household when we moved to Australia in 2012. I have no idea what the packers thought when they had to wrap it up in bubble wrap and load it into the container to ship across the Indian Ocean…

The knitting was coming along well but was still separate from the mattress when earlier this year I decided to force a deadline on myself, just to get it done. My mind wouldn’t allow me to start anything else before this one was out of my system, so I decided to submit it for the Dare to Differ exhibition. Now I had something to work for, and even if it wasn’t chosen it would still be finished.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

Putting the knitting and the wire frame together took less time than I thought. It was a bit tricky at times to get my hand in between the wires and I had several scratches on my hands and wrists by the time I was done.

My husband made the stand which I think came out really good and goes well with the rest of the work. I like the big bold wooden bases and the fact that the steel supports are almost invisible.

So there we are – a marriage bed with a story.

What will I do next?

Dare to Differ 2015

From the point where you enter the gallery it is clear that this is not your average quilt show. If you were expecting log cabins and pin-wheels you are in the wrong place.

According to Suzanne Gummow, one of the judges and organisers of the exhibition, for the purpose of this show, the definition of a quilt is that it must be predominantly fibre, be composed of at least two distinct layers, and be stitched together throughout.

That sounds simple enough until you look around and see in how many diverse ways this has been interpreted.

D2D 2015 Samantha Pope CBD

CBD Pojagi

Samantha Pope’s CBD Pojagi is the star of the show. On first glance it is obviously a map of Adelaide CBD, with familiar landmarks like Victoria Square and the green belt easily identifiable. True to the purpose of a map, it is the first thing you look at when entering, as if trying to find your way around. But also true to the purpose of a map, its sheer fabric lets you see what is beyond – opening the way towards the rest of the exhibition. The fusion of what is familiar (Adelaide) with what is foreign (pojagi) embodies not only the spirit of our city but also the spirit of the exhibition – the familiarity of quilts with the unfamiliarity of the Dare to Differ interpretations.

D2D 2015 Wendy Thiel Art in the Negative Space

Art in the Negative Space

Following the layout of the room, the first work you will come across is fellow judge and organiser, Julie Haddrick’s Garden path. Her use of Japanese fabric is the start of a subtle theme which recurs three more times.

Wendy Thiel’s Art in the Negative Space is one of the larger works and one of the few which reminds of a traditional quilt. Her use of white as negative space emphasizing the art of the printed Japanese fabric, as well as her choice of quilt design inside the white areas, are very effective.

D2D 2015 Betty Morse My Chiku Chiku

My Chiku Chiku

Staying with the Japanese theme, Betty Morse’s My Chiku Chiku creates quite the opposite effect. Filled to the borders with printed fabric, it dares the eyes to become overwhelmed, but the order and stillness of the sashiko stitching is calming on the eyes and restores order. Her work is inspired by renowned sashiko artist Akiko Ike.

Julie Abbott’s Circles gives yet another interpretation of Japanese design. She uses the simple form of circles in well-ordered rows and let the fabric design take centre stage.

Moving away from the Japanese theme, a few others stood out for special mention:

D2D 2015 Madelaine Hedges Homage to Thoth

Homage to Thoth

Madeleine HedgesHomage to Thoth is excellent both in design, choice of materials and execution. Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom is usually depicted as an ibis-headed creature which Madeleine interpreted by using Ibis feathers collected along the Torrens River, combined with ibis printed sheer fabric. Two things in this work stands out to me: The subtlety with which Madeleine manages to combine her Egyptian roots with her Adelaide life via the iconic Ibis, and the judges’ decision to place the work in the exact spot where the draft from the AC continuously stirs the ibis feathers ever so slightly. It adds an extra dimension to the work and brings it to life.

Was that intentional?

D2D 2015 Valerie Robinson Prehistory  Women

Prehistory – Women

Two works that touched me with the understated way in which the artists used limited colours and well thought out stitching, conveying a deeper story, are Alison Muir’s Carbon Sink 2, and Valerie Robinson’s Prehistory – Women. When you look at it, take your time and really study the way every stitch is intentional and every slight colour change has a deeper meaning. Both are exceptional works.

D2D 2015 Margaret Knapp The gallery experience

The Gallery Experience

Margaret Knapp’s The Gallery Experience, is a true experience and needs to be studied in detail. She celebrated the graduating exhibition for students of 2012 Cert IV Visual and Arts Course at Marden. Her work is built up with three layers consisting of a traditional quilted foundation layer and two layers of appliqued clear organza. The space between the layers adds to the feeling of the depth of the gallery and the movement of the visitors. The ‘art in the gallery becoming art in the gallery’ concept is intriguing and well executed. She deservedly received the Encouragement Award sponsored by Sue’s Sewing World.

D2D 2015 Joy Harvey Doorway

Doorway

Joy Harvey’s Doorway is a striking piece of highly detailed contemporary reverse applique – a technique Joy has perfected and made her own. Based upon one of countless doorways of the Alhambra in Spain, Joy reworked the design to ‘bring it home’ and make it her own. By incorporating elements of local architecture and heritage, like inserting the inscription ‘Ut Prosint Omnibus Conjuncti’ (United for the common good) from the Adelaide coat of arms, Joy succeeded in creating something truly local, yet ultimately exotic, like only she can.

There are 44 works in the exhibition. Each one is deserving and worth exploring. The well thought out way in which Suzanne and Julie curated the exhibition, placing each work in a way that fully expresses its artistic merits, is exceptional and worth mentioning.

Don’t miss Dare to Differ 2015. Go and see it. But take your time – the more you look the more you see. The quilts on show are definitely different, and truly daring.

*Featured image: Circles by Julie Abbott

Dare to Differ 2013

Southern Flowers 6 Suzanne GummowPartial view of ‘Southern Flowers #6’ by Suzanne Gummow

Dare to Differ 2013: Contemporary Quilts
27 September – 20October 2013
Gallery M, Marion

The exhibition consists of 41 art quilts by 34 artists mainly from South Australia but also from as far afield as Canberra, Tasmania and Queensland.  Some well known names like Anne Brown and Brenda Gail Smith share wall space with lesser known and emerging artists, which make this an exciting and important event on the art quilt calender.

Flora Bush Blooms Anna BrownPartial view of ‘Flora: Bush Blooms’ by Anna Brown

What is an Art Quilt and how does it differ from an ordinary quilt? According to Suzanne Gummow, internationally renowned art quilter and one of the selectors, an art quilt has to adhere to the following criteria:

  • It should consist of a minimum of two layers of fabric-like material, stitched through all layers
  • It has to be individually designed and stitched by a single artist
  • The workmanship and techniques applied must be of a very high standard
  • The work has to be the result of a development process, described in a well thought-out artist statement
  • The work must have a ‘Wow!” impact
Eucalyptus Melliodora Lucy CarrollPartial view of ‘Eucalyptus Melliodora’ by Lucy Carroll

According to Suzanne it is uncanny how at every bi-annual exhibition a theme emerges as if it was somehow pre-planned.  This year leaves, plants and foliage are the inspiration for several works, and it is interesting to see how this ‘theme’ was interpreted by different artists. It is obvious that Australians are inspired and moulded by the land as well as by their individual place and relationship to the land.

Three Views Carolyn SullivanPartial view of ‘Three Views’ by Carolyn Sullivan

A few works stood out for me. The first one is the three layered installation ‘City Scape’ by Samantha Pope. It consists of three separate sheer quilts depicting different layers of a city. The way it is presented perfectly depicts a city’s depth and diversity.

City Scape Samantha Pope‘City Scape’ by Samantha Pope

Secondly, Cathy Boniciolli’s ‘A Venetian Interface’ demands attention. Not only because it is a double sided quilt but also because of the way the two sides are related to one other. On the one side is a depiction of the beautiful Venetian facades and on the other side a view of a Venetian waterway framed in an arched window. Looking on and looking out. Cathy’s choice of colour captures the mood of the narrow streets and canals perfectly.

Venetian Interface Cathy BoniciolliOne side of ‘A Venetian Interface’ by Cathy Boniciolli

When it comes to workmanship, technique and sheer artistry with needle and thread, I have to mention ‘Eucalyptus Melliodora’ by Lucy Carroll, ‘Three Views’ by Carolyn Sullivan and Wendy Thiel’s ‘I respect: Celebrating 50 Years – The Yirrkala Bark Petitions’

Yirrkala Bark Petitions Wendy ThielePartial view of “I respect: Celebrating 50 Years – The Yirrkala Bark Petitions’ by Wendy Thiele

Dare to Differ is on at Gallery M in Marion until Sunday 20 October 2013.