Monday, February 28, 2011

Exploring the Egg

I managed to get most of my set homework for Friday's class done on the weekend. That gave me time to play. The idea of the egg has stuck with me. I decided to give my imagination a bit of help and constructed an egg-shaped spiral out of beading wire.
Looking at the 3-D form in reality made it easier to explore the lines which might represent it--especially when the form was already indicated by what is essentially a line. The shadows are something else again. And of course the wire is three dimensional, so reflections off the curved surface add another layer of complication.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


It's been an unusual week at my house. My dog Macc had a biopsy under general anaesthetic on Monday. The GA didn't seem to bother him much and the wound appears to be healing nicely, but of course he can't be trusted to leave the stitches alone, so he's suffering the indignity of the Elizabethan Collar, otherwise known as the Cone of Shame.I like to think of Macc as an intelligent dog, but his intellect doesn't stretch to this challenge. In the week since the biopsy he hasn't learned to make allowances for the big plastic obstruction that's suspended around his head. He's a dog who likes to lick his favourite humans. Normally that's a mixed blessing, but when the rough wet tongue is accompanied by the hard edge of plastic digging into nearby skin it's hard to remember that this is an expression of friendly familiarity. My other major complaint is the dog-door--in other households this might be known as a cat flap. Macc has been using it for about ten years. For ten years it's been big enough to accomodate him, but now the plastic cone is significantly bigger than the opening. The dogs sleep in my bedroom. The dog-door is there to allow them to go in and out during the night. Aauuggh! The sound of plastic bumping and banging against the surrounding wall as Macc insists on his right to pop out during the night is NOT a nice way to interrupt my sleep!

The good news is that the stitches are due to come out tomorrow. The not so good news is that he's likely to need further surgery--and more time in cone-finement.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Child's Play?

I've spent a fair bit of time and energy on colour in the past few weeks: getting hold of just the right tube of paint; blending and adjusting to make a balanced mixture; carefully keeping my jar of rinsing water and brushes clean . . . Now I've been seized by a contrary spirit. I decided to buy the cheapest set of primary colours in the kids' craft section of a clearance warehouse. A quick circle on white paper, a jar of water and a paintbrush and the "primary" experiment was ready to go: I started with yellow--nice! Red was next: the name on the tube is "scarlet". That gave me the predicted bright red. So far, so good. Mixing the red and yellow gave me a clear orange. Now blue. It seemed to be a pretty good match to the colour stipulated for my adult art class. Mixing blue and yellow gave me a green which would happily serve as grass in a child's masterpiece. OK here's the catch. Blue and red make purple, right? Not here they don't. All I could manage was grey. Any amount of red and blue I tried had the same sort of result. I can only imagine the disappointment of a child feeling as if they've failed the art lesson. From my adult perspective I'll be glad to include this little experiment in my lesson on tertiary colours. There's evidently a fair bit of yellow in both the red and blue paints. So blending the two is really like blending the three primary colours: blue, red and yellow. My colour theory tells me that should make grey-black. Pretty much right!

Having got that out of my system, it's back to the assigned homework: mixing tertiary colours and stitching tints and shades of primaries. But first, I think another coffee and perhaps a little chocolate to help me regain my equilibrium.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Simple Things

My second cup of coffee for the morning is brewing on the stove. I'm packing up my things in preparation for another day at "school". One of my challenges is to plan for little basics like food and drink for the day. It's a long day, the breaks are short and the canteen is less than the best.
Today I've packed myself a collection of little snacks: fruit, yoghurt, cheese . . . I'll see how it goes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


The excitement of starting my new course in Textile Art is turning out to be a bit of a double-edged sword. I'm thrilled at the opportunity to learn and explore. On the other hand, it's a whole new world and I feel profoundly ignorant. We did very little art at my Primary school. In my first year at Secondary school, there was one session a week of Art: painting in first semester and working with clay in second semester. It was great, but practical work rather than theory. And that's a long, long time ago. From there on in, my education was almost exclusively science-based.

What to do when confronted by my profound sense of ignorance? Hit the libraries and start reading! I've picked up a couple of basic text books and some more specific books on topics relevant to what we're doing in class. I'm trying to skim through and put an initial framework of knowledge in place, rather than getting tied down in too much detail. And I'm trying not to panic.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Coloured Threads

I've been stitching away at my colour blending samples. I'm doing both on a white background, so I've taken a quick snap of the thread scraps on a black background. I'm amazed at how much thread I've used on what are really quite small samples. I'll have to go off to the haberdashery department again today and buy a few more skeins. I think that this week's class will involve more colour blending. Our paint mixing this week was working on shades and tints, so I guess that's what I'll be stitching next week.

I managed to pick up a darning foot for my sewing machine at a ridiculously cheap price--another $1 bargain. If this week's homework is anything to go by, I can see myself wanting to learn the basics of machine embroidery, even if it's just to produce samples more efficiently. Then again, I can only imagine how that would open up another whole new world of possibilities . . .

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Line and Drape

This top caught my eye on Friday. It was worn by one of my classmates, who informed me that it's a current item in Jag shops. Unfortunately that means I almost certainly won't find it in a suitable size for my own particular combination of curves. In addition to the fact that it's one of my favourite colours, I was fascinated by the combination of soft and hard lines. Plus the use of a zipper as a feature, which is a trend I've been aware of lately. Coincidentally my friend V sent me this link. She's been given a pattern to test for Nicole Mallaleiu. The challenge is to see how the design works on different body types. I'd happily be a guinea pig for something like this. I'm always looking for different solutions to my various figure ideosyncracities!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Colour Blending

I spent a long afternoon mixing paint samples on the weekend. I was working to complete my colour mixing exercises. I'll admit it, the job could have been done more quickly, but I kept trying for just that bit more: shading, blending, subtlety, precision . . .

I could happily spend another day on that task, but first I've turned my attention to the stitch part of the process. My task is to create the appearance of secondary colours using primary colours on a white or black background. I'm limited to using six-stranded embroidery cotton and seed stitch. It's certainly more challenging than mixing paint. I decided to use the macro lens for this pic, even though having it out of focus would have enhanced the appearance of blending. One thing is clear, even though I'm less than satisfied with this first attempt, I'm not about to just have another go at it. There's too much concentration, time and effort involved and I still have a running stitch sample to do. I'm hoping the blend will be easier to achieve the second time round. The process is to substitute one of the six strands of the embroidery cotton at a time--still using only the primary colours.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Our topic in design class on Friday included exploring 3-D structures and ways of depicting them in a 2-dimensional medium. In one exercise we attempted to describe an egg without using shading--or language. The idea was to use the pencil tip to traverse the terrain of the egg's surface--in our imagination of course.

I found myself continuing to think about the form of an egg. Coincidentally, I have a frittata on my agenda today. I need to re-stock the easy-meal-supply in my fridge. I saved the last egg and blew it out rather than cracking it into the bowl. A good rinse with a couple of syringe-fulls of water and it's ok to keep for a while--though I will need to be careful to put it in a safe place. Now before I spend too much time exploring, I will need to finish off some of the more defined homework exercises, then I can get as engrossed as I like and I'll still be up to date come next Friday.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Another Friday; another tantalising aray of ideas; another set of colour exercises . . . and the prospect of another week too short to contain it all! I've chosen the colour red for today's post because it was a surprising common point between our morning and afternoon classes yesterday. One of our exercises in the morning was to depict the colour red using a 2B pencil on white paper. We had about three minutes. In the afternoon we worked on more basics of colour theory: hue, tint and shade; saturation and the illusion of colour mixing produced by juxtaposition. Today I need to recharge my batteries, bring some more order into my living arrangements and do some homework. This cone of yarn could contribute a little to each of those priorities. I pulled it down off the shelf because I need to move it into the studio. It's a mass of red fibre and an interesting combination of line and texture. Focussing on it for a few minutes is energising.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Looking Forward

It's my second day of class today. I was awake way before my usual time, with thoughts of our topics from last week running around in my mind. I've just packed my bag and sorted through the books which I borrowed last week in my first flush of enthusiasm.I think I'll hang on to these in the hope that this weekend will be quieter than the last one and I'll get a chance to do some reading. For the moment the titles are still exciting.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I just spent an hour or so looking through a couple of craft magazines looking for purples. I didn't find a great deal. Unfortunately when I tried to photograph the snippets I found, the camera shifted the colour back towards blue, so I couldn't capture the subtleties of colour. Here's the section of the colour wheel I'm focusing on: Even with the red-magenta spectrum in the pic the colours aren't coming up quite the way I see them. I guess that's a lesson in itself . . . and yes, there's also a lesson to be learned in how to adjust my photography, but that will have to be another day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Work in Progress

One of my homework tasks for my Colour Theory subject is to construct a colour wheel using snippets of colour taken from a magazine. I began flipping through pages and snipping out colour fragments on the weekend. Yesterday morning I did some more snipping and then started to stick things down. I've been using "Royal Auto" as my source: lots of landscape pics, cars, and ads of various kinds. Purples are rather thin on the ground and the gradations between colours are harder to find than I'd expected. I think I'll try to get hold of a different type of magazine and see whether that helps to fill in some of the gaps. As an exercise it's been enlightening and I can see my sensitivity to colour developing through it. Another homework task is to paint a colour wheel by mixing primary colours of paint. I think I'll tackle that one tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I can't say I'm a great believer in Valentine's Day. Apart from my personal "Valentine-less" situation, I'm always wary of traditions that become an opportunity for a commercial frenzy. Nevertheless I was somewhat touched by the number of people I saw carrying arrangements of beautiful fresh flowers yesterday afternoon.

Valentine's Day also gave me the opportunity to catch up with events from last month. Somehow in the flurry of Wedding activity, I didn't get around to making a card for the young couple. The display at an art shop last week resulted in my picking up these:
Now the truth is, I still haven't made a card. And life is such that these could end up being the makings of a first anniversary card if I'm not careful. I think I'll leave them out on the table at least for a few more days and see what happens.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Rara, that's my name! It was one of those moments of serendipity that delight me every now and again. I travelled to Drouin yesterday to catch up with an old friend. She's not old, mind you--only in her early twenties--but I've known her since she was five. It just happened to be the weekend of the Ficifolia Festival in Drouin. Apparently we'd missed out on the parade and fireworks the previous day. Doesn't matter, there were beautiful gum blossoms in the trees lining the main street and an open gallery tour. Cathy Scollo was sitting outside one of the galleries with copies of her new book when she overheard my exclamation. She looked up and caught my eye--I can be loud like that. I explained that the name Rara was given to me by another young-old friend. Alexandra calls herself Ra and decided some years ago that I needed a nickname of my own. I've been Rara to her family ever since. Cathy explained that my namesake, the little elephant's name means, "naughty girl" in Thai. "She's not always naughty, but she's always cheeky", she explained. On the strength of that introduction I had to buy the book. However the relationship blossomed quickly and by the time I left the gallery I also had one of Cathy's original watercolour drawings with me. It's a working drawing for the cover page and I just love the cheeky elephant's smile. The watercolour work is also brilliant. I've been dreaming and planning for the children's room at my house. This gives me a focal point and inspiration for the decor. And it seems a great way to celebrate the beginning of my next adventure by embracing the work of an emerging artist.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beautiful Straight Line

If eagerness to do homework is anything to go by, then I'm onto something good with my new course. I spent a happy hour or two yesterday morning snipping bits of colour from magazines to construct a colour wheel for my Colour Theory subject. This morning I was sitting in stitching away on my armchair blanket project. But my eyes were otherwise occupied, darting around the room and the view of my front garden, picking out lines of various kinds.

It was worth getting up and opening the front door to capture this one:Here's a beautiful straight line for this morning.

Now my camera and I are going for a drive in the country. A friend of mine is visiting from interstate. I was to have caught up with her this last week, but life got too complicated and I asked her not to come into town to meet me. Instead I'm planning to head down the Princes Highway to Drouin. In a way it would be nice to stay cozy and quiet at home, but I'm sure the effort will be worth it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I bought this piece of watercolour paper at the art shop this week. It was a promotion: a discount sheet of paper with $30 spent on other items. Strangely it wasn't hard to spend $30: what with supplies for class and a few other craft items which I had to have. The paper has been sitting on my table in a loose roll for several days... enticing... intriguing ... inviting... I've chosen it as my blog pic this morning because there's so much to say about my first day at the Textile Art course that I don't really know what to say. The buzz of excitement hasn't faded overnight, even though I know I'm tired. There are beginnings of ideas, relationships, opportunities... And the thought that this is a three year course, just reinforces the thrill of newness.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Instead of coming straight home after my first day in the Textile Art course at Box Hill, I caught up with a friend for dinner. Now it's late and I'm tired, but my mind is racing:
  • how do we know what we know?
  • where does creativity come from?
  • what does it mean to "draw a beautiful straight line"
  • is Red a primary colour?
  • which acrylic paints will I buy before our next class?

. . . and did I really go the whole day without stopping for a drink of water!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Armchair Again

I've started another blanket. I call these "armchair projects" because they're just the perfect thing to have in a bag next to my big armchair. I can sit and do a row or two anytime. It's the best way to manage the logistics of the project too, since there are perhaps a dozen different yarns or more involved. And the blanket seems to grow quite quickly to a point where it's not practical to carry it around with me. The bad news on the "armchair" front is that the recliner mechanism of my favourite chair broke this week. It's hard to describe how emotional I feel about it. This has been the place where I've tucked myself in for comfort and relaxation for years. It's not just a piece of furniture, but a symbol of coziness. My rational self tells me there will be other suitable items of furniture, but it's going to take a while to get used to the idea.

On the subject of things broken, or not--it turns out my computer problems were the result of a faulty DVD drive, not the upgrade discs. The good news is that the upgrade was successful using a friend's DVD drive. The not so good news is that my DVD drive is apparently not in the best of health. I'm tempted to ignore it until it causes more trouble. I don't know if that's a wise approach . . . it's times like these I want to curl up in the (now broken) armchair and stitch quietly until my mind settles and the next step becomes clear.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This mass of wiggly wool is the next stage in reclaiming the yarn from the cardigan I knitted for my friend D: Believe it or not, this morning's temperature was only 13 degrees--we're in the middle of summer here and a week or so ago the max was 40. So, starting to crochet a largish lap rug is actually an ok thing to do. I gave the yarn a good soak in some warm water. Now it's hanging to dry. That combination of warm water and gravity is all it takes to get the yarn back to a near-new condition. Meanwhile I've started the first few rows of the blanket with other colours. I'm using teals and brown as well as the red-burgundy colour. I'm liking the combination so far.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I received my requirements list for my new course recently. For some reason it includes materials for each semester of work over the next three years. I certainly don't need to get hold of all that stuff right now, but reading through and imagining the work in my future is exciting--tantalising, even!

This term we need paper of different textures. Next term it's different textures of fabrics. Already I've tucked away some scraps of flannel and corduroy. Here's part of this morning's load of washing:
Two different types of towelling and a frayed selvage . . . slightly different qualities of cotton, arrangement and length of the pile, wear and tear . . . and that's just doing my routine chores. How much variety will there be when we really focus on it!

Monday, February 7, 2011


Don't worry, I'm not going to weigh in to any deep philosophical arguments. I needed a quiet day yesterday. I spent several hours in my big deep armchair with a good book. Ruth Reichl's "Garlic and Sapphires, The Secret Life of a Restaurant Critic in Disguise" was just the thing. Light, clever and insightful, it followed Ruth's progress as Restaurant Critic for the New York Times and the lengths to which she was willing to go to maintain her anonymity. Those lengths included various assumed personalities: complete with wigs, wardrobes, makeup, accents. . . the lot!

After a day reading about the best New York restaurants, I had to make a least a small effort for my evening meal.

If food is art, this is the equivalent of a rough crayon sketch on butchers' paper. Still it brightened up my eating experience and added to the nurture of a simple meal.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stars Again

I set myself the task of finishing off the beaded stars project yesterday. Maybe it was the fact that I didn't make my usual batch of Christmas decorations this year, but it was fun to sit down and think up variations. Maybe I should have known this, but all but one of the stars on the Australian Flag have seven points.This one will be the Commonwealth Star. It's more prominent than the others on the flag.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Upgrade Downgrade

The upgrade situation is still not good. A second set of discs failed to solve the problem. Several hours on the phone to Microsoft did nothing for me either. Amongst other things I had to un-install the internet security program on my desktop. The "engineer" will call back in a couple of days time: when she's back at work in the Phillipines and I'm at home in Melbourne at the same time. Until then, I'm not sure if I'll get to blog or not. I'm typing this from a hastily rigged up laptop . . . with internet security, I'm not one to take those sorts of risks.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Operating System

My task last night was to upgrade the operating system on my computer. I'd done my research and purchased the necessary discs. I popped the CD into the drive and settled down in the armchair to read while it did it's thing. Then a couple of things happened. The computer started making clicking and whirring sounds. I'd expected that, but my dog Macc hadn't. As far as he's concerned, any unexpected noise must be due to a small animal that needs to be hunted down! Off he went to investigate the situation.
Unfortunately the next thing that happened was something that shouldn't have happened. The installation disc got stuck and couldn't complete the upgrade. I'm sure it had nothing to do with Macc's hunting activities. This morning I'm off to the shops to exchange the discs and see if I can get the thing to work. Hopefully when I try it again I'll have more success and maybe Macc's "operating system" will have been updated, so he doesn't misinterpret the unexpected computer sounds as some sort of rodent.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Close Up

Another half dozen completed Quilt as You Go blocks were delivered to the Neighbourhoood House yesterday. They just need to be squared off to the exact size and they're good to go. L had the basket of blocks and strips stored under her desk yesterday. I borrowed it so I can do a bit of sewing this morning. Meanwhile I've had a moment to enjoy some of the little details. This colour combination caught my eye. It's not one I would normally choose, but it works well and I'd like to play with it some time. One of the things I love about quilts in general, and particularly scrappy quilts, is the way a detail will jump out and catch my attention. This particular little scrap of fabric is a corner piece, so there's maybe 10cm by 3 cm of it in a mass of other fabrics, but there it is ready to interest and inspire me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Team

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I LOVE a team!
Yesterday was the second working bee at Sussex Neighbourhood House to make quilts for flood victims. Last week we put in a great effort, but most of the time and energy went into the preparation stages of Jan Mac's Quilt as You Go technique. We cut backing squares, wadding squares and strips for the front of the blocks. We completed only three blocks. Yesterday afternoon was a different story. Twenty blocks completed in the space of a couple of hours! I was stunned. I was happy. I'll admit, I raved a bit! We had two women on sewing machines. J and L were part of my beginner Patchwork by Machine class last year. Their quilting skills are basic, but they each have a long history of working in the local textile industry as machinists. When they sit down to a task, that task gets done. Wow, does it get done! They're also long-standing friends, so it was a delight to see them working happily together, chatting away, sharing resources and commenting on each others work. Meanwhile V and I made sure they had a steady supply of materials. We also pressed and trimmed the blocks as the sewing was completed. Oh, and we cheered!
Later in the afternoon L joined us. Things were moving a little more slowly by then, but another three blocks were completed before we called it a day. There are still enough materials ready for another thirty or so blocks. That's fine because we have several people who couldn't be there on the day willing to do some sewing at home. Vireya, who first got me started on this project, has completed an entire quilt, and is still making blocks. Other members of the Quilters Circle are busily working away too.
I've been so encouraged by people's response to this project. My main role has been recruiting and coordinating our little team. I've been met with enthusiam, generosity and gratitude on all sides. Several of the women who participated have said that they really wanted to do something for the flood victims, but weren't comfortable with contributing to a large financial appeal. Making a quilt is personal, creative and hands on. Let me know if you're a local who would like to get involved, or contact Jan Mac who is coordinating the project as a whole.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

And Another Star

I spent yesterday morning working on the stars to represent the Australian flag in the quilt project at Newlands. The basic pattern is to make a circle of beads with an appropriate number of bead repeats in it. Then fold in the sides of each point to form two sides of a triangle. The Commonwealth Star in the Australian flag has seven points: one for each State and one to represent the Territories. To make it a bit more substantial and stable, I added seven rays of beads gathered in the middle. The fascinating shadow is just a bonus this morning. It's the third day in a row of temperatures in the high thirties and I have already shut down the house to keep out the hot wind--all except for my East-facing kitchen window.