Art in Bendigo

A very early start at Heatherdale Station for what was going to be a very colourful day.IMG_8632

I had to make sure I was in time to catch the V/Line train to Bendigo as I was spending the day with friends at the Bendigo Art Gallery.

Walking down Mitchell Street from Bendigo Station three and a half hours later, this small wall plaque caught my eye.

It reminded me of the sculpture on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth Streets. My instincts were right. Although the building is now a real estate agent, it must have been an AMP office as the sculpture is a smaller version of the emblem on their headquarters in Sydney. The sculpture was created by Tom Bass in 1960-62 and he made the bronze Children’s Tree in 1962- 63. It is so loved by children the lizard’s head is permanently shiny.


The purpose for the trip was to view the Marimekko retrospective exhibition at the Bendigo Gallery which continues until June 11. The story of the company goes back to 1951 Finland, and is a most interesting read. As the curator said during her talk we were fortunately organised enough to attend, it is a story of strong, visionary women at a time when this was exceptional. Founder Armi Ratia and designer Maija Isola created bold fabrics with inventive designs and startling use of colour. Clothing designer Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi freed women from the constraints of tailored clothing with her revolutionary clean cut shapes which focussed on the fabric design.

Screen printing requires skill and particular attributes. Early recruitment was for tall women under 40 who would be physically able to print the fabric.


The character of the founding women is perhaps summed up in the most well known of Marimekko’s designs. The one that is plastered all over the gallery entry. Unniko (poppy) is known as the rebel flower. Maija Isola created it in 1964 in protest to Armi Ratia’s directive that Marimekko would never be a flower print company.

The exhibition is a riot of colour, from ceiling to floor. Such was the influence of Marimekko on designers of the 60s and 70s that it all felt very familiar.

Silkkikuikka (bird: the great crested grebe) 1961 is one of the Joonas (Jonah) series. Maija Isola painted the sketches for these patterns on large rolls of cardboard on the printing tables at night after the factory had closed. Sections of the paintings were then used for final print designs.  The black and white design is also from this series. The dress Sanianen (fern) 1966 by Annika Rimala uses her fabric design Pilvi (cloud) from 1961. This is a common practice, to use patterns even decades after they were originally designed. Another practice is the use of Finnish names for all designs.

The design for Max ja Moritz (Max and Moritz) 1971 is painted directly onto cardboard by Maija Isola shows how the pattern will repeat in the resulting fabric.

While the stripe is a much beloved Marimekko motive, Maija Isola did not often use it. This is the original sketch she made for Sulhanen in 1971. It is this direct, hand made look that is the attraction of the company’s designs.

Designs are developed in a huge number of colour ways. These colour samples of Nasti 1958 by Vuokko Nurmesniemi may have been a bit too tempting to quilters. Fortunately they are displayed under glass.

The fabric Galleria used in this dress is by the same designer and created in 1956. The dress is Takila by Annika Rimala and the photo comes from the Swedish magazine Damena’s Värld, 1967. The seams forming the shaping and the pattern at the front also conceal pockets in the mitre seam.

Another intriguing dress was Pikomi by Pentti Rinta in 1972. It is printed cotton jersey, a fabric first used in the 1960s. The fabric pattern is Lorina (sound of running water). After much discussion we decided the pattern mismatch at the front and on the sleeves was quite deliberate. Something we would have been chastised for in sewing class. It makes you wonder if it is a white dress with a red stripe or a red dress with a white one.

The fabrics behind are Karuselli (carousel) 1973 by Japanese born designer Katsuji Wakisaka who joined the company in 1969 when he was 24. The one on the right is Lammet (ponds) 1971, his interpretation of water plants growing in a pond.


Finally, my favourite design from all those on display. Mansikkavouret (strawberry mountains) 1969 an interior fabric by Maija Isola. The dress in printed cotton jersey by Mika Piirainen in 2001 is one of the first examples of the adaptation of an interior fabric pattern for a garment.



So far my journey into weaving has involved a loom on loan from the Handweavers and Spinners Guild. The loan was included in the Intro to Weaving Course.  The one I used was quite old but perfectly adequate.

There was a problem with getting enough light to see while threading, especially when I used dark brown cotton in the warp for my project. A visit to the Daylightman while at AQC solved this. The Duo light has two led arms that each move through 90 degrees. I chose the clamp version

The wire heddles on the loom worked well. I found out how to move them from one shaft to another when there were too few on some for my project. Quite a big operation. But after threading is done, heddles cannot be moved. So when I found a threading error on my next piece I remembered seeing how to make a heddle. A piece of cotton doubled and knotted at just the right spots works perfectly well.

Now the course is over I am not loomless. I have been allowed to borrow another loom for a month. This time it is an 8 shaft Ashford. This is the type I have been thinking about buying, so it is a wonderful opportunity to give it a try. The light clamps perfectly to the centre back of the castle, so it is easy to see while threading up even on a gloomy day.

This loom has texsolv heddles, and the beater pivots from the top. It is much lighter, and quieter.

I also tried a new way of spreading the warp on the raddle before winding it onto the back shaft. I think I prefer this technique. The instructions said to weight the end with a heavy book, I guess this is what is meant. Another benefit of joining the guild is the library.

I have already finished this piece of weaving. It was an experiment is spacing the warp and weaving evenly to create an open fabric.

While a table loom is very versatile. A floor loom means you can use your feet as well as your hands. Moving the shafts is therefore much more efficient as they are tied together according to the pattern being used and treadling is done with the feet..

My tutor has a Louet David 2, and just before the course finished, I went on a visit and had a play. It is really beautiful. So maybe I will just jump in the deep end.

So what is next on my weaving journey? I have enrolled in the year long Certificate of 8 shaft weaving starting in August. In the meantime, I need to do lots of samples of 4 shaft patterns so I am ready.

It’s a wrap

and a bag and a cowl and a rug and a scarf.

The last day of Introduction to Weaving on Sunday was where everyone presented their project and talked about lessons learned. There were so many different items, each a reflection of the weaver and their personal preferences.

Rosie used 4 ply Empire yarn from Morris and Sons to create this very soft scarf with a subtle colour change.

At the other extreme, Kathleen used rug wool which she had overdyed to make a floor rug. It is woven in two strips which she has joined using crochet along one edge. It looks great whichever side is up.

Another scarf, this time from Melissa who loves a variety of yarns, colours and textures. She found it hard to decide which ones to use, so used a lot!

Adriana’s soft draped cowl looks like it has a colour change. What happened is she was not beating firmly enough and the pattern wasn’t square. By making it more dense, more of the dark grey weft can be seen across the warp. So now, depending on how it is worn, she has two cowls.

Fabric for a cushion cover, silver and blue for one side, striped with blue for the other. Liz spent a long time planning, but once she ‘got on with it’ was very satisfied with the piece.

Heather made a sunglasses case striped using the Fibonacci sequence and twill mug rugs using the remainder of the warp. Amy made a number of bags in fine hemp fibre. They are really strong as the warp threads are gathered and plaited to make the handle. This is my next project, simple but very effective.

After discussing all our work, Amanda the other tutor showed some of her work. She loves freestyle weaving and is a Saori teacher. She moved to textiles after practising as an architect and is very influenced by her weaving teacher in Japan. She teaches out of The Weavers Workroom. To show how luxury yarns can be used she had this plaited twill scarf. It has low cost white combed cotton in the warp, and a grey cashmere weft. It feather light. The hemstitching is worth a close look, a perfect edge.

White glove duty

The Quilt Show that is a part of the Australasian Quilt Convention is managed by Victorian Quilters. They rely on volunteers to look after the quilts which are on display and field questions from the viewers. This is known as White Glove Duty, because each volunteer is issued with a pair of cotton gloves, so they can touch the quilts.

No one else can touch the quilts. Why would anyone want to do that? Lots try. They are so tactile. People want to talk about the design and construction and point out special features, with fingers really, really close to the quilt. And some people want to see what’s on the back.

I took my turn at white glove duty on Friday afternoon. But first, on the advice of a friend, I visited this shop at Emporium. And today I found out the name means “no brand”IMG_8552

It is not just clothes as I assumed. It has stationery and containers. Nuf said.

The various travelling exhibitions that were on display at AQC this year were fantastic. Some of the best yet. Here is my take on just a few.

The Cherrywood Challenge is sponsored by the fabric company. A theme, Vincent van Gogh, and fabrics, blue, are responded to by quilters from around the world. Lots of the famous works were given a new spin, and there were far too many puns on his name involving combie vans. Many replicated the painter’s distinctive brush strokes in various forms of appliqué.

But for sheer chutzpah, I couldn’t go past the quilter who called her work, If Van Gogh Could Sew!

Best of QuiltCon 2017 had many modern quilts that warranted a second and third view.

I really liked the balance in this improv pieced work and the use of curves. The artist said that ‘as it took shape it seemed to be a self-portrait and expression of my current frame of mind’.

Were were treated to two related travelling exhibitions from the Studio Art Quilt Associates.


Influenced by the conflict in Syria and the people caught between violent extremists and a corrupt regime, the quilter has used quilting lines to extend the constructed imagery. Then the whole design idea is repeated in small bursts of angry red stitching. It seems the violence reaches into every little corner.

‘A thousand snow geese taking to the sky all at once.’ The population ‘acts as one, preventing true turmoil in the face of apparent chaos.’IMG_8563

I love a quilt constructed with a rule. I think the algorithm for this one is – A white on white, or a black and white print rectangle. Add a black triangle to one, two or three corners. Assemble in rows.


The restrained palette and swirling quilting lines take you right to the water’s edge.

This quilt, by an Israeli quilter is her view of being in the silent emptiness of the desert. I missed this at first. Then someone asked me to show them the back. We got talking and the more we looked the more we saw. The entire work is made up of small fabric fragments fused so they blend so well there is no edge. The meandering quilting lines did not seem to relate to the textures or tones on the surface.IMG_8583

It is the back which holds the answer, the lines come from the hot spots on that fabric. So it must have been quilted ‘up side down’. I would have missed all this if I hadn’t been doing White Glove Duty.

Weaving project progress

Two weeks of work and I have finished the weaving for the first bag I am making as my project for the Introduction to Weaving course I am taking at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild in Carlton North.

Twenty three inches at 48 picks per inch means the shuttle went through the shed over 1100 times with lots of very firm beating at each pass. You may know the source of the pinable paper tape, not my idea, but a very good way to keep track of length as the work gets wound around the fabric beam.

In no time at all I have made significant progress on one side of the fabric for a clutch purse. It is the same threading and and treadling, just a change to the threads in the weft and a small change to the weaving sequence. What a difference a thicker yarn makes!



The Long Gallery at Montsalvat is the venue for an exhibition by two hand weavers Virginia Harrison and Christina Turner. They have been designing and weaving in partnership since 1996 under the name Plush! Luxury Fabrics and Design. Joining them to create garments from the fabrics is Pat Jones who is also a weaver and therefore understands the care and specific construction techniques necessary when working with handwoven fabric. Most of the pieces are merino in the warp with a silk weft.

The gallery is delightful but on sunny days with the sun streaming in the windows on both sides, it is hard to see, let alone photograph exhibits.

The Buttoned Top was one of the more tailored pieces, the drape of the soft twill was beautifully exploited.

Miss F Wrap 2 had a deceptively simple structure with exquisite detailing such as the twisted cord stitched over the selvedge around the neck.

I recognised the honeycomb pattern on this scarf as it is one I am working with at the moment. I loved the cowl in green, but is was very hard to see in the dazzling light.

Some design boards showed the development from photos taken while travelling to thread and pattern selection. The weavers have seriously big looms, and use computer aided design to play with treadling options. However, what is on screen is never the same as when woven, so they also do a lot of sampling.

Seeing the weave patterns up close was really interesting. There was not the variation in colour as shown here, just another light challenge.

I look forward to their next exhibition, in three years time.

a stitched, layered textile

The Yarra Ranges Regional Museum in Lilydale is hosting the Art Quilt Australia 2017 exhibition until 15 April. It has been on my ‘must visit’ list for some time and I finally got there today. Seems to be the easier it is to get the things, the easier it is to delay.



There are better images of the quilts at the Oz Quilt Network, one of the co-presenters along with the National Wool Museum, but here are ones that I lingered over.

Jill Rumble Walking in Circles, seen here in front of Yvonne Line Wool Man and a day at the Museum and Ruth de Vos This discovering 6. The long narrow work is a delightful trail through various bush landscapes featuring circular forms. The hand stitching emphasises the need to stop and ponder and observe closely.

Alison Muir Last Frontier is a large floor to ceiling piece imagining the depth of the oceans far below the penetration of light. Its beautiful line work is a combination of shibori, heat set images, lino cut prints, fused appliqué and machine stitching.

I hadn’t realised until I came to write this piece that another of my selected works was also by Jill Rumble. Telling Secrets III is a delicate triptych where photographs on paper are laminated with sheer fabric and strung together with minimal machine stitching. I found the remaining connection between the photographs across the leaf shapes added to the quiet mystery of the art work.

Finally Glad Howard Clothes Maketh the Man: The Inside Story. A patchwork of the front linings of men’s suit jackets. Repeated curves and rectangles are echoed in the quilting bringing harmony to the reused material.

The museum is an excellent exhibition space, with a second room devoted to the quilts in the upstairs chamber.