Making the Australian Quilt: 1800 -1950

If you’re in Melbourne and looking for a richly satisfying experience do visit the National Gallery of Victoria’s Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 exhibition on until 6 November 2016. There are plenty of great stories, beautiful, intriguing, often very moving works and many, many, many stitches. There are witty tales told in embroidery and applique and much love and care embodied in each of the works. If you’re a lover of fabric you will be delighted, every conceivable kind is there in squares, hexagons, stripes, free form flowers, stars and crazy quilting too. Velvet, taffeta, cotton, crepe de chine, suiting, wool, petticoat flannel, often reused, reworked, salvaged and saved, made useful, made beautiful, made to last.

“Many of the pieces were created within an intimate, private setting, yet have the ability to convey much more of their broader social and historical significance. The exhibition encompasses quilts made by men and women, those made within the context of leisure and accomplishment, created as expressions of love and family connection and those stitched out of necessity in an environment of constraint and hardship.”– About the exhibition.

“A highlight of the exhibition is the renowned The Rajah Quilt, 1841, on loan from the National Gallery of Australia and considered one of Australia’s most important textiles. The work is the only surviving example of a quilt made by convicts on the long and treacherous three-month sea voyage from London to Van Diemen’s Land. Thought to have been hand stitched by more than 29 female convicts aboard the ship, The Rajah Quilt is decorated with bird and floral designs, and very rarely displayed due to its fragility and light-sensitivity. A second convict quilt, created in 1811 and only recently discovered, is also exhibited for the first time.” — More reading – NGV Press Release

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The Rajah Quilt is worth the price of admission alone but there is plenty to delight, inspire and be awed by. The more you look, the more you’ll see details to be fascinated by, a jewel, a cheeky character, tininess, grandness, pathos, love – it’s all there in the fabric.  I came away with my eyes full. Allow yourself a couple of hours, there are more than eighty works, and you’ll want to stare at each!

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Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 is on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia Fed Square, from 22 July – 6 November 2016. Open daily, 10am–5pm.

Tickets on sale from ngv.vic.gov.au. Adult $15 | NGV Member $11 | Concession $12 | Child $7 | Family $41

If Steinbeck Say It’s Okay, It’s Okay

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John Steinbeck has been sitting in the top corner on my computer screen all through my year of mourning and into 2015, quietly keeping me company as I try new things that make me feel like a novice. Things make my brain stretch and hurt, things that make me feel old and inept, things that make me feel that I may never know how to paint again or use the fantastically elaborate and sophisticated programs that promise so much design delight.

Steinbeck has been here as learning makes me feel hopeful and clever and good for having persisted and not succumbing to fear. He’s been here, steady and wise as I’ve begun to paint and draw and design and with me as slowly the fog of sadness has lifted and the joy of being a learner has taken its place.

I’ve learned that there is peace and solace to be had in paint and pencil and pixels and it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s taken a whole year to hear what Steinbeck had to say to me.

So in my imperfect hand, with ink at the end of my imperfect brush, I pay a perfect tribute to you Mr Steinbeck.

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Inky Time Lapse

I have a high need for novelty, I admit that. The time lapse capabilities of my iPad provides for my need of new tricky goodness and also gives me fresh eyes. Making these inky magnolia fruiting body sketches felt like a lot of fun. The ink is unpredictable straight out of the dropper – it’s both kind of liberating and frustrating in almost equal measure. Liberating because you don’t know what the ink will do and unnerving because it doesn’t behave the way you think it might – blowing bubbles everywhere, the ink runs out just when you find your line, fine scratchy lines appear then another splodge happens. It’s strangely wonderful and when you relax into the unpredictability it’s very freeing. The ink is Daler Rowney Acrylic Artists Ink in black – once it’s on the paper in quantity it takes a good while to dry and seems to sit on the surface of the paper beautifully. I’m thinking of buying a bunch of medical pipettes to make bigger images with more ink – I see a ink filled turkey baster in my artistic future…it’s going to get messy!   Loraine Callow 4 Loraine Callow 3

A Cool Start to a Sunny Day

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Sometimes it has to rain. After a deluge in the night this morning started cool and cloudy – an excuse to stay off the beach and play with paint… what a wonderful morning it turned out to be. By virtue of painting in a semi public place (our camp site) I had chats with three or four fellow campers who dropped by and a fantastic, longer conversation with a very talented artist who camps just across the way from us.

Then it was on to experiment with blowing inky water colour around the page – the results of this kind of artplay are beautifully random and exciting, the paint shoots off to make tendrils of colour across the snowy paper surface. It’s fun to try out puffing gently and more vigorously and to send the paint in different directions – the technique can leave you a little lightheaded!

Beach Charcoal – A Lucky Find

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Sometimes the beach gives you the subject and the tools! Today I was lucky enough to come across a couple of pieces of charcoal on our driftwood strewn section of beach at Mogareeka Inlet – some of it soft and deeply black, other bits more brown and scratchy. My kids were kind enough to make “pencils” for me by wedging a tiny piece of charcoal in a hollow reed stem – they are nothing if not inventive! And the pencils worked. 🙂

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Seaweed – I See You

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I’m more than a little obessed with seaweed at the moment. We’re at the beach for an annual camping trip. Most years I bring art materials and this year I’ve discoverd how easy it is to have my watercolours on the beach. I feel like I know seaweed like never before. This stuff has always caught my eye with its slightly comical baubles attached in ways that make think of crazy softtoy shapes and funny teddy bear heads complete with little round ears. Oh nature, I do love you so.

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Seaweed Tree – Montauk

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I was lucky enough to spend some time on the lovely beaches of Montauk Long Island earlier this year. Amidst all the photos I took this one stands out as one of my very favourites. How dear is that little seaweed tree?

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