Friday, September 4, 2009


Peace, peace,
supplant the gloom.
Turn off what is sour,
turn into a flower,
and bloom, bloom,

Jeremy Hilary Boob

Thursday, August 27, 2009

the good way to weed the garden

First take a closer look.
A lot of those invasive annoyances sport some dainty blossoms.
Pick the blooms and freeze them.

In warm water the beautiful juices flow...
A pinch of this
and a slosh of that.

Add a creation of your choice
perhaps with some accessories.
In this case some silk
stitched with silk
by hand
and pinched.



Et voilà!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


One of life's great joys is an armsfull of possibilities before it gets tainted by such realities as lack of skill or dedication. It is plain pure pleasure. I'm dreaming up beauty yet to manifest itself.

Today the postie brought India Flint's gorgeous book: Eco colour - botanical dyes for beautiful textiles.

Just recovering from a cold, I woke up all sweaty when the phone rang. Fighting off the duvet, I rushed to find the phone in the kitchen, where some kind soul had left the book parcel. I really had had enough sleep anyway, promise.


Not enough with this: I have been wondering about the availability of woad seeds in NZ, so finally I googled woad+seeds in NZ. Lo and behold, a lady sells organically grown seeds for medicinal herbs and dye plants just down the road! She operates through TradeMe, but my intention is to go and pick up the seeds to see her garden and have a chat.

My shopping list includes:

Woad - Isatis tinctoria - blue dye

Extracting the blue dye sounds a bit tricky, but I can't resist the challenge. This project might take a couple of years.

Hopi Amaranth - Amaranthus cruentus
x powellii - red dye

Dyer's Chamomile - Anthemis tinctoria - yellow dye

Goldenrod - Solidago canadensis - yellow

I love Goldenrod, it still grows in my mum's garden and seems to go up in flames every autumn.

Weld - Reseda luteola or Dyers mignonette

How irresistible does this sound: "produces an outstanding primary yellow dye on all protein fibers and cotton. This yellow is clear and intense, the yellow that all other yellows are judged against. The substance responsible for producing this color is luteolin and is present in all the green parts of the plant. Compared to other plant sources for yellow available to the home dyer, weld is very concentrated. Six or seven weld rosettes or two weld plants in bloom will dye a pound of wool an intense primary yellow color."

Go flu, leave my body now, I've got a garden to prepare!
Spring is here!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

art and about

I've been in Nelson for almost a year, but only now have I visited the Refinery Art Space. It's been beckoning me with its curious façade every time I drive by, but my final entry was through the back gate. How lucky that was: I would have missed these lovely sculptures otherwise!

Framed to perfection by some purple miniature flax leaves:
Oopsie Daisie, made of Ngarua, Takaka marble by Bruce Mitchell.

It could be a flower or a bunch of feathers or a distant galaxy wheeling its way round space...

We need all the angels available to protect our beautiful home Earth. This one has a red spot on her marble chest - I wonder if it might light up when the darkness falls.

Gaia Guardian I by Alan Ridgen.

A few days later we ventured into the Suter and feasted on three new exhibitions. I completely fell in love with Bing Dawe's work. Thought, talent, texture, technique, it ticks all the boxes for me.
Vagrants, Stragglers and the Unloved is about the less glamorous or unloved creatures of our environment.The murky colours and twisted compositions are hauntingly beautiful.

Make way - Goose shoot at the oxbow
painted wood and steel

"‘Vagrants’ and ‘stragglers’ are terms that are used to describe birds which occasionally turn up on our shores, sometimes by accident and sometimes en route to other destinations."

Downstream under Aoraki - Eel with shadow
steel and ceramic

"The 'unloved' refers to those creatures such as eels and shags, often described in the past as vermin, scavengers and generally unwanted. The fact that some of these creatures are becoming endangered gets little attention because of their lowly status."

The draining
- Composition with Eel on hoop,
steel and painted wood

It's fabulous how this man knows no boundaries when it comes to choosing which medium to work with: wood, steel, ceramic and even beautiful rugs, made by Dilana.

- Kahawai Waitaki river mouth

What a noble way to raise awareness: it warms my activist heart.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

feel the fear and do it anyway

This plant dyeing has totally thrown me off beaten track. In theory I'd like to think that I would thrive on working with something totally natural, but since natural includes qualities such as uncontrollable and unexpected, I find myself terrified of not being in control...

I'm in turmoil, loving the harmony of the process, new creative possibilities, connectedness... and at the same time being paralysed by fear of the great unknown. I have just entered a country with lovely scenery and great atmosphere, but I don't speak the language.

Whenever I feel like just giving up, the pull towards it is stronger. So: I feel the fear and do it anyway.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

cauldrons on the boil again

A few of us that gathered to stitch and dye Landskins had another dye day. A collection of pots were happily bubbling away, while we inspected what everybody had accomplished since.

I had overdyed my Landskin with gum bark, and got some nice leaf prints on it. I was not entirely happy with the overall shade, so decided to keep dyeing.

Looking very animal skin like in backlight.

I wrapped it around a rotten flax flower stalk with purple akeake (Dodonaea viscosa purpurea)leaves from two plants grown in different locations. In the pot some rainwater, more purple akeake and another small and rather rusty iron pot.

Since the workshop I've worked on two other pieces that I dyed in Liquorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare). I quite fancied using this plant, because I had masses of it that needed pruning, and after a little research I found out it is used as a medicinal plant in South Africa. I thought my heart could use a little healing...

The resulting colour was rather vague, apart from some dark iron marks. Here another detail, with human hair trapped in the stitching.

I meant to dye this again, but decided to make a few more samples before plunging in.

This nuno sample was in the same dyepot, but the leaves in the bundle gave some deliciously delicate pinks and apricots, that I am happy to keep. The piece was fulled after dyeing.

Now I'm just trying to ignore the Landskin bundle for another week before unwrapping...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I was cordially invited to the Mid-winter Dinner and Day of Festivities at Australia’s Casey Antarctic Station by an overwintering friend.

"The day’s celebrations begin mid-morning with a brunch, the chance to experience a quick swim in the crisp waters of the Southern Ocean, a sumptuous banquet in the early evening, and then a night of entertainment showcasing the talents of the 2009 wintering group.

Unfortunately, access to Antarctica at this time of the year presents some formidable challenges. Should you decide to accept this invitation you will need to supply your own transport either by sea or air. With the limited hours of daylight available, flying into Casey is restricted to the period between 11:30 and 13:30.

If you decide to come by sea, you may have to cross up to sixty kilometres of sea ice and possible open water before you reach the station. Should you successfully negotiate these challenges, we will make you most welcome.

Dress: Penguin Suit (National Dress)

Time: For maximum enjoyment of this event, it is suggested you aim to arrive the previous day between the twilight hours of 11a
m and 2pm as there will be darkness at all other times"

My best option was to negotiate with another friend, who had recently returned from his stint as a helicopter pilot on Antarctica. Admitting defeat we decided to do the second best and to celebrate solstice on ice at a nearer location, Franz Josef Glacier.

The terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier.

Our friend has worked as a glacier guide for years, so I was in good hands as we headed out for a walk. From the car park we followed the Waiho riverbed towards the ice. Signs of the glacier growing and retreating were everywhere. You could see a line in the bush, the forest growing thicker and older above it. We walked on gravel that the ice had transported and worn down.

I saw beautiful stone everywhere.

Rock worn out by the ice...

Layers of time in the rock - time turned on its side.

Golden age?

You could even see the Great Alpine Fault as a dramatic canyon on the mountainside on either side of us!

We walked right to the ice before we put the crampons on our boots. To start we headed straight up on steps cut in ice. The glacier was covered with rock near the terminal face, but eventually we came to pure ice and could see things like this...

Shiny wavy walls of ice.

Patterns of clear ice and crystals.

For more photos check this out.

Even got a great brag picture of me!

The following day included a helicopter tour over both Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. That was great fun and amazingly beautiful and powerful.

Fox Glacier.

Fox from above.

On the Fox neve.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

waking up with baby

I had her on my chest. Holding her head high, she sang a little song to the shadows on the curtains and beamed a dolphin smile to the hidden morning sun.

Reaching with all her being... just to touch the corner of a pillowslip. Every moment full of wonder.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

little treasures

Birthdays sure can be special, and they are no doubt wonderful when you are three years old. Even mum is very pleased, when family in Europe choose to celebrate with cute crafty items...

The toadstool moneybox is by a designer called Anne-Claire Petit. It is hand made in Asia, cotton crochet around a plastic core. This is what the designer writes: A warm bond has grown with various communities living in the countryside, where the women have passed on their handiwork techniques for many generations. Thanks to the crochet work they do for anne-claire petit accessories, the women are able to generate an income throughout most of the year - something from which the entire village benefits. The women work from home doing the crochet work for the new collections together with their neighbours. This brings about a feeling of security and working together that is expressed in all of anne-claire petit's accessories.

I have read and heard about similar community based production methods over and over again during the last few months. In one case the designer taught a village how to crochet - craft skills had almost died out. Perhaps crochet was something new and alien; now the craft bonds the women together and provides independence through steady income.

I don't know about the working conditions behind the crochet princess. She was made by Gisela Graham.

Small scale production, with fair pay, is the way to go no doubt. All the better if the work makes a difference in people's lives and when it makes old skills useful, it can play a part in the survival of a marginalized culture.

This lady is the latest addition to my daughter's finger puppet collection. These are made in Peru, as her hat and poncho might suggest. I can't get my head around the price: how can a person knit these, then have them flown/shipped over to New Zealand just to be sold by another person for 2 - two - dollars each. Makes no sense.

Dollars aside: I hope all of these toys have left a chain of happy hands and hearts in their wake. They sure create joy where they have ended up.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I've been putting off writing more about the Landskins workshop. When something is significant, it feels important to get it right. I realise I have no way to translate the ENERGY we collectively created into words.

How I've been dreaming of Colours! Soft, gentle, living colours all through the night in my dreams, for night after night.

We stitch and sample, felt and dye. Years fall off everybody, we turn into excited girls, feverishly creating something still unknown.

It is then the Earth starts to whisper through our work. In the hues unwrapped, in the wool and silk, we let Nature do its magic.
We marinate our work in the delicious juice we boil out of plants, let leaves make a mark on the weave. We invite pieces of metal to give things another twist.

What we have to show in the end of the day is not the big thing, it is the possibilities that have suddenly dawned on us.

Thank you India for sharing your magic.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Landskins workshop with India Flint, Day 1.

I'm not alone! It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside to be in a room with fifteen others who are equally crazy about fibre and colour. What a gathering of knowledge and inspiration! I'm open to all things new and exciting, quite outside my comfort zone, expecting to learn new skills and experiment.

These bundles are the boiled results of our "Windfall walk". With a strip of undyed silk we wondered out to the beautiful autumn garden of the Fairfield House. The idea was to walk a predetermined distance - I was humming an Alison Krauss song - then stop and pick up some plant material,
wind it with the silk around a stick, walk some more and stop for another discovery. Don't search: the Universe will provide! The parcels got tied with wool or silk yarn before putting into a pot of hot water for an hour or two.

Many people have tried to put me off plant dyeing. The colours won't last! usually being the reason. And I so love the whole rainbow of hues. Could it be achievable through plant dyes alone?

The bright orange came from a lichen.

After the first day's effort I'm enthused. India's style of plant dyeing seems simple and fun. I could do this at home, even with kids around, since there are no chemicals involved. Toxic materials could still be an issue: many plants are poisonous, so it takes a bit of research to be safe.

Consider this. There are nine variables that affect the end result of plant dyeing: Plant used, season of harvest, water, pot, cloth, temperature, time, mordant and method. It certainly would take many lifetimes to master the possibilities available. So - let's get to work!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

getting sorted

Yesterday I got out all my coloured wool: some of it had been abandoned in the far corner of the wardrobe for some time. My 3 year old loved helping me to sort everything into a big colour wheel on the floor.

Later we walked part way up to the Centre of New Zealand, collecting acorns, berries, fallen branches with hard sharp leaves and pieces of bark. I hope they will come handy in a couple of weeks, when I get to escape the family, and spend three days felting, dyeing and stitching in a workshop called "Landskins,
camouflage wraps for wilderness wanderers".

The bush had a mat of fallen leaves, the recent autumn storms have stripped some of the trees bare. We are heading towards winter, but I feel the opposite, like waking up from hibernation.

The Weaving Waters of Life

We woke up after a cold night in Otira Hotel. The morning was sunny, the valley filled with birdsong. We drove back a few kilometres to Arthur's Pass, turned left after the big tree. Two walks started from there, I was drawn to the Devil's Punchbowl Falls. The track started uphill with sections of steps, so I had to carry my daughter in a frontpack.

The walk was just the kind I had longed for on our road trip. Every step was a step to another dimension, to a feeling of oneness with our planet. The water rushing down the mountainside connected me to the bloodstream of the living Earth.

By the beautiful waterfall I read the story of Hinekakai, a famous weaver. The falls were named after her. To Ngai Tahu, these long intertwining threads of white water resemble the threads of dressed flax - whitau or muka - used to weave fine garments and mats.

Just like the water in the stream runs down to the ocean, making it part of the body of water surrounding the whole planet, my creating connects me to this organism, letting the life essence flow through me, making me a strand in the weave. I am part of the creation; I am a creator. This is my purpose.