Thursday, 16 November 2017

SIM residency wk 2 : in the studio and some culture

This past week has been less about touring and absorbing the sublime scenery (because I returned the hire car) and more about studio time and enjoying the atmosphere of the residency. 

We had a cultural day in Reykjavik where we enjoyed some fascinating exhibits, all for free thanks to the generosity of SIM who provide a card which allows access to the galleries and museums in the city. First stop was the Reykjavik Art Museum which had an inspiring exhibition by Anna Lindal - an artist who is interested in the private life and expectations of society; and the human desire to understand nature and analyze it through measurement. She limits her resources to what she can find in the home, making home the habitat of creation. 

Anna Lindal - embroidered cloth on buckets

Anna Lindal - suspended threads

Anna Lindal - wrapped rock
The Art Museum is in three different locations in Reykjavik (just to make it a little confusing). In another location was an installation of rocks covered in salt that had a coloured solution dripping on them. This was by Anna Run Tryggvadottir - unfortunately there wasn't much information about the exhibit - but it was visually fascinating!

Anna Run Tryggvadottir

Anna Run Tryggvadottir
We went on a day trip to Vik - a black beach in south Iceland, famous for its basalt columns rock formations. 

These images were taken during the middle of the day, around 1pm, although it feels more like late afternoon. Daylight is from 10am to 4.30 pm at the moment and it changes dramatically on a daily basis by about 3 mins. When we first flew in sunrise was 9.20am and sunset was 5.03pm. Amazing how different it is in just 2 weeks! 

In the studio
Meanwhile, in the studio, I have been experimenting with time-lapse photography, capturing the marks left behind using water colour. I have been manipulating it in After Effects. Im not exactly sure what the end result will be - but it is certainly fun to have the time to play and explore. 

Island in the fjord near the residency

Heavy clouds in the fjord

Studio breaks include walking in the fjord - the lighting and weather is fleeting - and the scenery is captivating. It reminds me of an old Queensland advertisement 'Beautiful one day, perfect the next' with its ever changing colours and moods.

Ombre snow on the beach
We also had the opportunity to meet with the other 11 artists who are on the residency and who are staying in central Reykjavik at an artist talk on Wednesday night. It was fascinating to see their work, which varies from illustration through to music and performance.

patterns in the snow
It is sad to think I only have one more week in this beautiful place. Do you have any suggestions on things I should see and do whilst I am here?

Thursday, 9 November 2017

SIM residency Iceland wk1: textiles

Korpulfsstadir, Reykjavik 

I have begun my SIMs Iceland residency at Korpúlfsstaðir, a large old building (almost 100 years old) that used to be Iceland's largest dairy farm, on the outskirts of Reykjavík with beautiful view of mt. Esja and the fjords. Korpúlfsstaðir is on the eastern outskirt of Reykjavík, about 10 km away from the city centre. Korpúlfsstaðir also houses 40 SÍM artist studios, a textile workshop, a ceramic workshop, and artist run gallery. 

View of the Fjord, a 5 min walk from our residency

The attic studio - love those old wooden beams
And a very clean desk - you can tell this photo was taken on the first day here!
For the next month I will be sharing the accommodation and studio space with two other visiting artists, Kim Mirus a textile artist, and Jonathan Lipkin, a photographer. Its fabulous to have the opportunity to share with like minded people - not only are we sharing space, but also ideas and swapping of knowledge.

Outside the Alafoss wool store

Almost as soon as we landed we started exploring. Kim has been to Iceland before and was familiar with the fabulous textile stores and on the first day we visited Alafoss, a well known textile store that specializes in all things relating to Icelandic wool. Here I was introduced to yarn being sold in 'plates' and sold by weight, rather than the typical skein or ball of wool. Of course, I couldn't resist and bought some beautiful fleece with the intention of learning how to learn to drop spin whilst I was here (Kim promised to show me how!) 

The next day (Saturday 4 Nov) we travelled to Thingborg, Selfoss, another sought after textile location to buy raw untreated fleece which came in the natural colours of black, brown and white. The lopi is soft and without synthetic dyestuffs so the natural colours are truly warm and lustrous. There are two layers of wool, tog and þel, (outer- and undercoat) which are separated by hand. The “tog“ has coarse, long and lustrous hairs but the “þel” is soft, resilient and warm. It is very luscious - and it looks very different to the Australian fleece that I am used to. 

Secret Lagoon
On our drive back to Reykjavik we stopped in at the Secret Lagoon for a quick dip. Whist the weather was below zero, the water was incredibly warm and I ended up soaking in the rejuvenating waters for over an hour! I can see why the hot pools are where everything happens (business negations etc) since this is such a pleasant place to be. 

Everything is breathtakingly beautiful here and at every twist in the bend we can't help but utter 'wow' as we happen upon more stunning scenery. I rely in my iPhone for most photograpy these days, and now I wish I brought my SLR (note to self: remember it next time I come).

Sunday 5 Nov required a visit to Guðrún Bjarnadottir at her dye studio in Borgarnes. Her studio, Hespa (Icelandic for skein of wool) was only open by appointment. Guðrún was so kind to welcome us and to share with us her story of naturally dyed Icelandic yarn. She specialises in lichen dye (rust colour), along with Lupin and Rhubarb (greeny yellows, both with occur in Iceland as introduced species). 

Amongst all this activity we were also actively watching the skies at night for a glimpse of the Northern lights. We have been incredibly lucky and have seen them on a few occasions. We saw the most spectacular display of green, whites and pinks dancing across the sky due to a solar storm. Now all my dreams have come true!!

Northern Lights

In order to maximize our time with the hire car, we also squeezed a day trip to Snaefellness Peninsula, which is a microcosm of all Icelands delights. We saw the elusive arctic fox, seals, glaciers and pointy mountains, a natural mineral spring (just like Sanpellegrino) which was reputably for 'people who suffer from heart and kidney disease as well as diabetes, Just in case I bottled some for the drive! 

The highlight of the day was stopping at Djupalonssandur (translated as black lava pearl beach) and it was just like stepping into a lava wonderland. It is known for its elf churches and stone trolls (rock formations) - with such descriptions, we had to visit it.

I think there is definitely magic here. 


Thursday, 2 November 2017

Zen Stitching at NSCCD


Embroidery can be a traditional, sustainable, and simple repetitive act, allowing time for reflection and bringing a meaningful and thoughtful approach to textile practice.


The Zen Stitching course allows students to explore ways in which to slow down by using simple techniques, reusing and re-inventing materials and limiting equipment. It is a treat to make time to sit and enjoy the reflective state as you get into the flow of embroidery. The sound of the thread passing through the fabric is therapeutic and it is exciting to watch your design grow with each stitch.


Taking the time to think about the practical and decorative techniques of mending last weekend I demonstrated a variety of stitches including: running stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, satin stitch, daisy stitch, and french knots; to name a few. 


During the workshop I was asked about the creative process and some of the students were looking for inspiration to get their creative juices flowing. A sketch book is incredibly important for jotting down ideas (handbag size is great so that you can carry it around with you) and I quite often use the camera on my phone as an 'aide memoir'.

Studies have shown that walking in nature assists with creativity and I always encourage others to explore their 'what if?' questions and to make mistakes, as often it is within the mistake that the magic occurs.


I also demonstrated Sashiko, a form of Japanese folk embroidery using a variation of running stitch to create a patterned background. The word sashiko means little stabs and refers to the small stitches used in this form of needlework. 

Looking for quick ways to transfer the design onto fabric to stitch, I found a great technique where you iron freezer paper to the back of fabric (to make it stiff like paper) and then you can run it through an ink jet printer. For full details visit

Sashiko demonstration on my stitch diary / sampler 

As always, I get inspiration from the students in my class and I am adding to my own stitch diary / sampler (above image).

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Introduction to Tapestry Workshop at NSCCD

On the weekend I taught an Introduction to Tapestry weaving workshop. Over the two days we explored weaving with alternate colours, creating organic waves, different ways to build colour blocks and joining them to create images, and learning how to design and weave an image. 

As always, I love how everyone brings their own unique perceptions and creative influences which result in the selection of different colour combinations - quite often very different to what I choose, and so I learn just as much from the participants as they did from me! 








Thursday, 19 October 2017

Screen printing 101 at NSCCD

 On the weekend I taught a screen printing intensive workshop. Over the two days we explored stencil making, registration of two or more colours, carving a lino block and combining different methods of printing.

At the end of the two days everyone is smiling and happy with their designs.

We started by learning to design and print using one hand cut stencil and created interesting designs by mixing transparent and opaque inks, and using different colours to create complex looking designs. 

Having a love for pattern I always encourage workshop participants to explore repeat patterns.

On the second day we explored carving a lino cut, learning to incorporate the negative space into the design of the print.  

And then combined screen printing solid shapes of colour with the block print. 

By the end of the second day everyone was creating 2 or more stencil colour prints, putting into practice their new knowledge of registration.


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