Colour blocking with double weave

There was just enough warp left to try one more double weave idea. The two layers do not have to be the same width. Actually you can weave four layers at a time on an 8 shaft loom, but that is for another time.

The top layer is narrow and is designed to only intersect vertically with the bottom layer at the centre. You can see how I am using two shuttles, keeping the bottom layer one below when not in use.

By changing the top weft colour when I made a horizontal intersection I have pairs of different coloured pockets on the front, and the back shows where the cloths join. I know it would be easy to sew two fabrics together to make pockets, but it is much more fun to weave them.

The finished piece has slips of coloured filters in the pockets to add more colour play.

In contrast the next weave, a deflected double weave, is in just black and white. It is done on the floor loom at the guild and involved a bit of playing around with a traditional structure. I have called it ‘Ghosts and Cows’. I hope you can see them too.


Double weave

The most recent warp on the loom has been used to create a few different double weave samples.

First up one playing with lots of the options available on the 8-shaft loom. The same principle applies as the four shaft. Hard to believe is was less than a year ago that I was doing this for the first time, as you can see in this post.

One cloth is woven above the other, but the ways they can join and interact is increased. As well as horizontal tubes you can create vertical ones, so a window effect is possible.

The two sides of the sample, showing lots of different manipulations.

After cutting off this sample I rethreaded the loom for a double faced twill. This amazing fabric is different on each side but they are connected together to make one sturdy cloth. Traditionally these are woven as plaids, so I was very happy to see distinct checks but I need to work out a more consistent way to deal with the selvedges.

Painted line and collage

For fabric purchasing reasons I was at the top end of Flinders Lane today and so dropped into forty-five downstairs gallery. Two artists have exhibitions until April 27. First up is I’m not a Robot, the paintings of Fiona Colin.

The first painting that caught my eye was the quite small Overlay. It is 200 x 200 mm and looks like layers of stitching, but they are finely painted lines with really subtle colour changes. The larger Tapestry is a cityscape with much bolder colour, but still the very fine lines giving depth to the work.

Other works are also grid based but with solid geometric shapes, again with very disciplined colour changes.

Obviously some quilting inspiration here. Two were woven pieces, again using paint and paper. They reminded me of really excellent art class exercises and so I wasn’t surprised to read on the gallery website that Fiona Colin is an art teacher. No idea where she could find the time to do this highly detailed work.

The paragraph below from the online description of the exhibition sums up why this work appealed to me. And to many others too, as most are sold.

“Rather than mechanical and programmed, Fiona Colin’s process is a meditative and sensual enjoyment of seeing wet paint absorbed into paper, of seeing an organic growing of colour combinations, lines and shapes. It is an exacting practice, often unplanned within the structure of the grid, one which can also appeal to those who indulge in other slow and pleasurable activities such as weaving, knitting, calligraphy and embroidery. There is evidence, too, of the maker’s hand: imperfections and paint textures – yes, she’s not a robot!”

On Beauty by Robbie Harmsorth are paint with collaged graphite drawing and other papers. These were quite interesting with multi layered references to antiquity and the concept of beauty.

Who doesn’t like a well placed splodge.


Before embarking on the long 7.5 hour drive back to Melbourne, I spent Tuesday morning at the National Arboretum in Canberra. This is mostly very new, with all but two of the 100 forests planted in the last two decades.

It is on a 250 hectare site previously occupied by pine plantations that were destroyed in the 2003 bushfires. A long loop road takes you past the forests, at this stage just young trees and you have to use your imagination to appreciate what an amazing place it will be.

Dairy Farm Hill is just south of the centre and affords fantastic views of the forests, lakes and mountains. There is a viewing platform beneath some old pines that survived the fire. It faces east so you are looking across Scrivener Dam to Yarralumla.

An imposing sculpture Nest III Richard Moffatt by is set on another rise, with the wedge tail eagle surveying the Arboretum below.

From the other side of the hill there are fantastic views of Mount Stromlo and the Australian Alps.

Even though it was early in the morning, the visitor centre car park was looking very full so instead I went to the Himalayan Cedar Forest. This I learned from the Friends of the Arboretum who were working on the pathway to the picnic area, was part of Green Hills. In the original plan for Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin had envisioned a ‘Continental Arboretum’ with sections for species from each continent. This was never completed although the current Arboretum picks up on that idea.

Down another road is the other old section, the Cork Forest. This was also a Burley Griffin vision. He believed the climate was right for a cork industry and while not commercially successful the remaining trees are stripped every ten years, most recently by professional harvesters from Portugal.

The forest was planted in 1917 and 1920 from acorns collected at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. They are close together to encourage long straight boles and laid out in a quincunx pattern, a square with one tree at each corner and one in the middle. This produces the beautiful radiating avenues.

Even though the Tuggeranong Parkway is close by, it is a very peaceful spot. Children must love it too, this living cubby is constructed around a fallen tree that is still growing.

At the far end of the forest, groups of large black birds were digging into the leaf litter with their beaks. They ignored me as I peered through the dark shadows to try and work out what they were. Then one helpfully fanned out its wings long enough for me to take a photo. Back home I am able to use my bird book to identify them as White-winged Chough, found in dry woodlands, in parties.


Before heading off for a few days I asked a Canberra native what were the must do things in her city. She told me there was something special at the Gallery at sunrise and sunset, but had trouble explaining what it was as she had never been. I am so glad for this little tip. The ‘something special’ is the William Turrell Skyspace Within without installed in 2010.

taken from the Gallery 2019 program

Located in the grounds of the Gallery, skyspace is open all the time. It is a pyramid shape surrounded by a moat.

You enter along a downward sloping path as if you were going into an ancient tomb. The level of the moat rises beside you, ducks are now at eye level.

Inside a Victorian basalt stupa rises from a turquoise pool. The walls are washed with red ochre. Water spills over the edge. This is all about light, sound and colour.

The path leads you slowly up until you are level with the water. A bridge allows you to enter the domed viewing chamber.

A moonstone set in the floor reflects the opening above. Sound changes, visitors whisper. You view the sky in its concentrated form, no horizon, no dimension.

Then as the sun sets the magic happens. While I was able to capture moments with my camera, it is nothing like the whole experience of stunning perceptual change.

I have found an excellent article with video about engaging with this art work here. If you are unlikely to experience the real thing for yourself it is a good substitute.

Desperate Romantics

The BBC 2009 mini series trailer starring Aidan Turner before he was Poldark, with a David Bowie soundtrack is just the thing to set the scene for a post about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their art. Take the time to view it.

This was the reason for my trip to Canberra, to see Love and Desire, Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate at the National Gallery and it lived up to my expectations. These over the top visions, steeped in medieval romanticism and a view that nature should be shown ‘as is’ were wonderful to see in all their colourful glory. Their view of what painting should be, then influenced the development of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Detailed realism involving ordinary people in a time of great industrial transformation and social upheaval is one theme. Another is the principle of ‘truth to nature’, they were the first to exhibit paintings made outdoors.

The last of England 1864-66 is a small watercolour by Ford Madox Brown of an emigre family. It is a familiar image, but until now had failed to notice the child, the mother clasps her husband’s hand with her tiny right hand, in her left hand, beneath the shawl are the fingers of her child.

The details are from two nature paintings The British Channel seen from the Dorsetshire Cliffs 1871 by John Brett, and Ansley’s Cove, Devon 1854 by John William Inchbold.

Faith is another of the themes and William Holman Hunt’s The light of the world 1851-56 is his most celebrated work. There are several versions and when the later, largest painting toured Australia and New Zealand in 1906-07 it was seen by four-fifths of the population. A small framed print was a favourite picture of my mother, I remember being intrigued by the way the light shone from the lamp.

Take your son, Sir? 1851-52/56-57/60 (unfinished) Ford Madox Brown

Brown’s second wife Emma and their newborn son Arthur Gabriel were the models for this composition that echoes traditional depictions of the Madonna and Child. However, the woman’s strange expression-as she awkwardly holds out the baby to the man reflected intake mirror-suggests this is not a conventional celebration of motherhood. Abandoned by Brown following Arthur’s death in 1857, the work is more often interpreted as a woman’s plea to her lover to acknowledge their child.

Details from some of the many beautiful, large paintings that are the main show. Spring (Apple blossoms) 1859 and Ophelia 1851-52 by John Everett Millais. La belle Iseult 1858, William Morris completed just this one easel painting.

William Morris is mainly represented with the textiles he designed, on the right, Bird 1878 woven wool.

Isabella and the Pot of Basil 1868 (detail) by William Holman Hunt depicting a scene from John Keat’s poem Isabella, or the Pot of Basil, a poem my father was fond of quoting. It depicts the heroine Isabella caressing the basil pot in which she had buried the severed head of her murdered lover Lorenzo. Isabella…

hung over her sweet Basil evermore,
And moistened it with tears unto the core

The order of release 1852-53 by John Everett Millais (detail)

Could be straight out of Outlander.


I am not a big fan of portraiture as an art form, but I found a visit to the National Portrait Gallery very interesting. To start with a typical portrait.

Portrait of Deborah Vernon Hackett c 1905
by Florence Fuller (1867 – 1946)

This one passes the Pete and Dud test, the clear blue eyes follow you about the room. However this is not just another pretty girl. The daughter of the heroine Grace Bussell, Deborah Vernon Hackett was a mining company director and welfare worker. Described in the Australian Dictionary of Biography as “Intrepid, with superabundant energy and inquiring mind, she was in every way an unusual woman of strong character.” This does come through in the painting, completed not long after she had married a man more than three times her age.

The gallery has a number of well curated exhibitions, it has great diversity in both subject, artist and media and while it is easy to be distracted by the images of heroes from popular culture, there are lot of interesting stories well told.

Equation of a life: Portrait of Professor Derek Denton 2016
by Evert Ploeg (b 1963)

A physiologist and founding director of the Howard Florey Institute. Throughout his career Denton has been interested principally in genetic and learned instinctive behaviour, and how genetically determined mechanisms are regulated by chemical and hormonal changes in the body and brain; late, he turned to philosophical reflections on consciousness.

The reflections are part of the painting, not the photograph.

Douglas Frew Waterhouse 2003 by Robyn Stacey (b 1952)

An entomologist, he identified the active ingredients for the insect repellant later market as Aerogard.

This portrait is a lenticular print made up of many ridges which act as lenses. The images are arranged in alternating strips. As the angle of the viewer changes, the lens focuses on different images to give the effect of movement – the butterflies appear to fly.

Portrait of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch 2000
woven in the Victorian Tapestry Workshop

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch was a founding member of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop’s board of management and took an exuberant interest in the process of her own portrait.

Emily Kame Kngwarrey with Lily 1993 by Jenny Sages (b 1933)

The first portrait purchased by the National Portrait Gallery.
Emily Kame Kngwarrey first painted on canvas in 1988. In the course of her brief career she produced thousands of canvases depicting the flowers, roots, dust and summer rains of her country, the translucent colours built up with layered touches of paint to create an illusion of depth and movement. Many now regard her as one of the very great abstract artists of the twentieth century.

Russell Drysdale and Peter Sculthorpe, Tallow Beach, New South Wales 1969 by David Moore (1927-2003)

In 1963 friends Russell Drysdale, the painter of Australian outback and Peter Sculthorpe, composer, worked together in Tasmania. Out of this trip emerged Sculthorpe’s ‘Small Town’, inspired in part by Drysdale’s paintings of towns and dedicated to the painter. It is one of my favourite Australian compositions. This photograph talks about friendship, the slow process of developing a work and the vastness of the landscape.

Trukaninny (c 1812 – 1876) is arguably nineteenth century Australia’s most celebrated indigenous leader. Having lost her mother, sister and intended husband to settler violence at a young age, she believed she may be able to assist in protecting her people from further atrocities by becoming a guide and interpreter. Against expectation she held to her traditional ways.

This, along with one of her husband, is Australia’s first portrait bust, created in Hobart in 1836. It, along with contemporary paintings by Thomas Bock and Benjamin Duterrau, is now valued by their sitters’ descendants as evidence for the continuity of cultural knowledge and traditions, and for what they document of Palawa strength and resilience.

Jane Franklin came to Van Diemen’s Land in 1837 with her husband, lieutenant-governor of the colony. She was known for her ‘unwomanly’ outspokenness on matters such as prison reform and convict discipline. Both she and Franklin viewed Van Diemen’s Land not merely as a prison but a new society in which education, science and the arts should be fostered.

After my disappointment of the quality of the exhibitions at the National Museum of Australia, I am very pleased that the National Portrait Gallery lives up to its mission to increase the understanding and appreciation of the Australian people – our identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity – through portraiture. It also takes a broad view of its collecting policy and the collection , in their own words, consequently, encompasses the great, the good and the famous alongside the humble, the flawed and the obscure, and those whose existences and experiences are no less vivid, worthy or illustrative for having been typical, mundane and ordinary.