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Bengala Natural Mud Dyeing

Bengala Dyed yarn

 

I’ve been experimenting with the Bengala natural, sustainable mud dyes from Japan. These are used a lot by Saori studios around the world, such as Loop of the Loom.  I now have a limited number of packs in stock.  They are costly to import as Australia has tariffs on them but they are worth the colour. 

I wanted to effectively use them in warps rather than completed fabric for shibori which is their most common use. They are VERY easy and safe to use. I didn’t need gloves (you may with sensitive skin) and it only took about 15 mins to get it all to the drying rack. 

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The Stones of Old Bar Beach

Old Bar beach is a bit unusual on the coastline of NSW in Australia.  Its incredible cover of stones seem to come from the nearby Manning River, and they gather everywhere then disappear for a few days. Everyone who comes to the studio comments on them. Old Bar Beach is a beachcomber’s delight. The thing with the stones is that they are all so different. With this double weave piece I just had to focus on one shade of the stones but there are plenty of others. How did they all get so, so different. 

Old Bar beach

I know stones happen on other beaches and I certainly saw an overload on Brighton Beach in the UK. But on the coast of NSW the sands vary dramatically from beach to beach but there isn’t much in the way of  stones happening. South of Sydney the sand is super fine and white, in some of the Northern Sydney beaches the sand is orange and full of shell grit. Here we have lovely whiteish sands AND stones.

On the loom the weaving was slow and exacting and easy to make a mistake. It is a 24 shaft double weave which was threaded over time. And this was the last time the design was on the loom in 2009!  This post outlines it’s original intent and inspiration. So it’s been a long time in the pipeline. The good thing about this type of work is it takes a long time to get the design established, although not usually 10 years!  But once that’s right I can then weave and weave. On the minus side is the physical energy needed to weave this work, it takes alot and isn’t the usual pleasant sitting at a loom, it’s work.  The energy take up is good for anger though! I can never sell this type of work because of the cost, at least in Australia, despite the art that it is. So it’s ok to take my time and not look at it as a production, which it isn’t.

Most of the magic in this weave is the fine lycra/wool weft in one of the layers. This makes everything buckle up and the fabric has a stretch factor to it. Finally I’m very happy with this piece and I can look at the next one which will pick up on other stones of Old Bar Beach.

 

AIR in Central Australia

Curtin Springs

Mt Conner, Curtin Springs paper. Photo Courtesy Curtin Springs NT

Well, I’,m a bit over the moon with a successful application to Curtin Springs Paper in NT for a Artist in Residency program next year. Over the many years that I’ve been working at my craft, I’ve always found residency programs difficult to secure but perhaps I was saving up for all of the good ones. This one is probably one of the best on the planet. Curtin Springs is a working cattle station 85k east of Yulara and four hours from Alice Springs on the Lasseter Highway in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is home to the Severin family who continue the station today.

Last year when I went to Uluru and Darwin we stopped off at Curtin Springs.  In the Wayside Inn I was hunting around for something made in the area, as usual. It’s an eternal quest around Australia, and I have to check that Made in China isn’t hiding somewhere.  In this quite far away stop I didn’t expect anything…but I found it! Handmade paper from the land, the spinefex,  local plants and vegetation. I was thrilled to buy some paper which was made right there.

Mt Conner in the distance – by Gabriele Delhey. CC – Wikipedia Commons.

When I got home the AIR opportunity crossed my desk loom and wham! I was straight into it’s application. So fortunate to get this opportunity in 2019. I know it’s a far time away but I am really looking forward to it and the long 6000k return drive up the road.

Amee Porter is the resident artist at Curtin Springs, specialising in Curtin Springs papermaking and art jewellery. The residency will allow me to work with her and bring my looms.  The country in central Australia is astounding. The vegetation and fawna along with the enormous history of the place leaves me withered and small – a good thing! I’m so lucky to be part of Australia.

Seaming up to wear

For those of you who have been weaving in the Saori way for a while, you may have quite a bit of fabric ready to turn into a wearable. You may even get to the ‘another scarf and I’ll scream’ situation.  Please, I’m not rebelling against scarves! I love them and I think they are the most underrated, important piece of clothing you can own, but it is nice to have a break from them at times.

Cutting

The first process in making garments is overcoming a possible fear of cutting the fabric that you may be harboring. You’re not alone. It took a lot of effort and resources to make it and cutting it seems a wanton thing to do. But you must do it. Work out where you need to cut and stitch two lines of machine stitching about 1cm apart from each other.  I nearly always use a plain stitch but some cloths may require a zigzag. Then (bravely) CUT. Read more

Weavers! You are more than your rags

Sakiori weavingWeaving with rags is such a wonderful tradition. In Japan it is called sakiori.  It’s one of the few things where old and worn out is a good thing. In fact it’s better than when it is new.  Old worn clothing gets softer as the cloth breaks down and is laundered. The cloth I stripped here was soft and on its way out but didn’t have any holes. It’s now become ‘brand new’ and young again ready for another life by weaving it into a new structure. It is one of the most satisfying weaves you can do. At least in my little opinion. Like baking bread it makes you feel so independent and powerful…even though I’m not.

cutting cloth strips for yarn

I had a nice time stripping up the cloth on the Saori Sakiori cutter. It was rather the stress buster. It’s good to change tac once in a while in our work and spend time in preparation rather than the wading in the doing.

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In the News…Studio Spaces of the Manning

Video is courtesy of Manning River Times

I’m thrilled that this  video of Curiousweaver Studio has just been published.  This is part of a joint project with Fairfax and Manning Regional Gallery on the Studio Spaces of the Manning Valley. I join other artists and studio owners from a broad range of disciplines talking about their craft/art or studio set up. This project culminates in a joint exhibition at the Manning Regional Art Gallery from 4 April, 2018. Read more

Make loads of clothes with your weaves – start with the Huipil inspired Maya top

Maya Top Handwoven
I think I take my sewing skills for granted. And I image everyone else has the same skills.  But increasingly, because we haven’t had to make our own clothes, we don’t need those skills.  I understand that others have more valuable skills to earn money. But to make your own clothes…that’s a freedom. To weave the cloth for them…even more so. You can save money, value what you make more, choose your fibres,  have less clothes, and have clothes that actually fit you. This year I’ll be taking more about clothing, sewing and how weaving fits in with it all in the Saori way.

Huipil

This is the Maya top with versions of the huipil overlayed on top.

As a weaver, I’ve always made some clothes from my cloth but I haven’t been as productive in cloth yardage as I am now with the Saori loom. In the ’80s there were many books on clothing from rectangular and narrow widths which are often found in other cultures who use the backstrap loom. One of these is the simple and elegant Huipil. Like the Kimono, the beauty of the clothing is in the design of the cloth rather than the cut. It’s also about not wasting the energy and resources that go into the weaving and making the most out of the cloth without cutting it.

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Farewell Misao Jo sensei

 

Misao Jo – Saori Founder (1913-2018)

“All flowers are beautiful, even though each individual flower is different in form and color.  Because of this difference, “all are good”.

Because everything has the same life, life cannot be measured by a yardstick.  It is this individuality that makes everything meaningful and the uniqueness of each thread that creates the tapestry of life.”

 

Sadly Misao Jo, the founder of Saori has passed away peacefully in Osaka at 104 years of age. Saori no Mori have a tribute to her on their site. Her presence will be sorely missed within the world’s Saori communities and beyond. The philosophical concept of Saori was promoted by her work and the way she saw ‘gems’ in everyone and used the skill of handweaving to convey that in a tangible way.  Saori is a very personable and open invitation to weaving and art.  Everyone is invited.  Unlike some previous other visionaries in this area, which felt more exclusive. Read more