Thursday, 14 December 2017

Furoshiki: one day workshop at NSCCD

On Saturday I held my final creative workshop for the year: Furoshiki. This workshop is incredibly appropriate for this time of year as we created reusable and sustainable gift wrapping using shibori resist techniques, indigo dye and cotton fabric.

In 6 hours we covered a variety of techniques including stitched resist designs, asashi (using a tube to create a pattern) itajime (folded) and tesuji (pleated) shibori. Whilst there was a lot to learn, the output was incredible, with many beautiful fabrics created in the process.

Honeycomb shibori

We marvelled at the magic of the indigo dyeing process, watching it change colour from green, to turquoise, to indigo.

Simple things such as bamboo sticks can create delightful patterns, like the one above. 

We were far too busy trying to squeeze as much in as we possibly could that I totally forgot to take a group photo of our happy creatives. But rest assured we all left tinged with blue and bitten by the indigo bug. ;) 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Indigo Magic at NSCAD

Our five weeks of Indigo Magic held as part of NSCAD's extended studies program wrapped up this week. 

Over the five weeks course participants learnt and explored:
  1. How to make an indigo vat
  2. Stitched shibori resist designs 
  3. Asashi shibori (using a tube to create a resist)
  4. Itajime shibori (folded)
  5. Tesuji shibori (pleated)
  6. Other natural dye methods including rust and turmeric

Gwen's shibori explorations hanging out to dry

turmeric makes a delightful contrast against the deep blue of the indigo

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Isness : Winter is Coming

Winter is Coming - AIR group exhibition

At the end of my residency at SIM all the participating artists showcase their work in a group exhibition.  

Within the Isness is where your experience lies.  

During the residency I was exploring digital media and created the above animation. Isness is inspired by my time in Iceland: the Northern Lights and the vastness of the winter skies. Music is created by John Kennedy in response to the imagery.

Together there were 13 artists who participated in the group show. We are an international bunch coming from all corners of the globe, working in a variety of different media. Participating artists included: 

Adam Sébire :
Anna Emilia Laitinen :
Catherine Canac-Marquis :
Daniel S. Streck
Gabriel Gold :
Jonathan Lipkin :
Kate Ward :
Katrin Keller
Kim Mirus :
Lisa Rosenmeier :
Marcel Tarelkin :
Richard Spiller
Sigbjørn Bratlie :

Thursday, 23 November 2017

SIM residency wk 3 : Adventures to the East

It was my last week in Iceland and I wanted to make the trip to Jökulsárlón, the Iceberg Lagoon, about a five hour drive from Reykjavik according to Google Maps. As it turned out, the drive took a lot longer than that (slow snowy roads and a maximum speed of 90km is guaranteed to lengthen the trip) not to mention allowing for adequate time for stopping at interesting places along the way.  

View through the mud splattered windscreen

The large expansive skies are a continual source of inspiration and I have made a note to self that next time I come back I will be bringing a much better camera, rather than relying on my phone. 

We stopped at Hjörleifshöfði Cave (also known as Bull Cave due to its silhouette) and watched the clouds rush by in the sky, propelled by the strong winds. Iceland is enshrouded in folklore and you can easily see why. It is believed that the lava fields, eerie natural formations, and large expanses of isolated wilderness is populated by hidden people and ghosts.  

View from Kálfafellsstadur Bed & Breakfast

Jökulsárlón is in the middle of nowhere, the closest hamlet is 13 km away and due to its popularity can book up quickly. I was lucky to find Kálfafellsstadur Bed & Breakfast, which was a pleasant place to stay and not too far away from the lagoon. The view of the church was a delightful way to end the days journey. 

Jökulsá beach

Thank goodness the sun rises at 10am here at the moment, which allowed time for a leisurely breakfast before our drive back to Jökulsá beach to watch the sun glisten on the icebergs that have washed out from the lagoon and onto the black sand. It was a stunning moment as the warmth of the sun painted the snow capped mountains pink and gave everything a warm glow. 

Moments later the warmth of the sun was overshadowed by dark, heavy, snow clouds and so we saw the monumental glacial icebergs surrounded by swirling soft eddies of snow. This quickly turned into a blizzard as Iceland issued a yellow weather alert. Moments of the drive back to Reykjavik required 'active driving' due to the high winds and swirling snow. Beautiful. But also terrifying. Making me think of Sublime and its 18th century meaning relating to our awe of nature. Later we found out that they closed sections of the road - so we were very lucky to make it back before the weather closed in. 

By Olafur Eliasson

Catching up on cultural sights around Reykjavik we discovered Studio Olafur Eliasson, who just happens to be one of my Art Heroes. His studio is open to the public, and whilst not a working studio as such, the space displays many of his designs and creations. 

For more images of my adventures find me on instagram 

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! 









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