All that Jazz

imageimage When you’re in search of Jazz in Wellington, you can’t go past the centre of town and inparticular Cuba Street. Down side streets and in back lanes there are small spots hidden away teasing you to come listen to the greats. Well, you may not hear the actual jazz masters on this blackboard, but you may well find some more contemporary musos such as Dee Dee Bridgwater and Irvin Mayfield . image

Meow bar was a real thrill during Jazz Festival back in June, with some of the brass section from the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra just having a casual jam session. NOLA came to Wellington….too cool.

imageimage Wellington is like a diamond: there are many facets to this city. Some shiny, slick new surfaces and quite a few chipped edges as well. Cuba Street is one of those chipped edges, with surprisingly beautiful contrasts, fresh, bright, faded and tarnished.

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Patched work of shapes

image I’m often asked where do I get my inspiration from. The answer is beautifully simple for me: everywhere and at any time, and mostly from the shapes I see. The squares from the sawn edge of a plank of wood, rectangles of tall buildings,  intersecting lines that cross under and over, shadows, patterns and textures from ripples of wet sand. image

Often I find myself squinting at shapes to simplify their forms. Then I might go back and fill in some block shapes with textural lines to add a 3D dimension. When I do this on cloth with a needle and thread, the simplicity of a running stitch creates its own ripple effect as it slightly pulls in the cloth around it.image

imageimageI have always loved the Japanese technique of sashiko stitching particularly, when it’s used to add layers of fabric on top of worn cloth. This technique is called Boro and the resulting quality of stitched, patched and layered fabric is beautifully textural. I also love how the life of a garment or wrap is extended by the simple act of patching one more layer.

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This image is not mine but one from http://www.coolhunting.com

Treading Lightly On the Earth.

imageBeautiful things that pop up overnight. How does Nature do it!!

imageThis is the bounty that appeared on my lawn beside our driveway. How can something quite mundane and ugly on the upside reveal such beauty on its underside? The old saying of not judging a book by its cover must have been quoted just for these mushrooms and toadstalls.

imageAnd not wanting to let a good opportunity go by, I desided to soak these glorious fan shaped wonders to extract the dye that lies within.

imageThe smell was fairly unbearable after about a week but the colour released was worth it. Foraging throughtout the seasons and discovering seasonal beauty.

image The rich warm toffee coloured brown liquid has dyed this wool into a beautiful soft, you guessed it, light mushroom brown. Not all natural plant dyes give forth the colour you expect, but this is a truely satisfying experiment.

No digging needed here, just treading lightly on the earth.

Harvest. “You reap what you sow”

The change of season seems to arrive with great theatrics. Warm winds precede a darkening sky. The temperature drops and there’s a clash of thunder.  The light changes from a soft brightness to golden moodiness with the arrival of Autumn. I look forward to her arriving each year because she brings with her a quickening spirit and a promise of dramatic flavours, colours and glorious textures of withering life.imageIn our organic orchard garden at this time of year, is an abundance of fruit growing. Our fruit trees, somewhat neglected, groan with golden and red orbs. We are blessed with the flavours of apple and quince and busy ourselves by harvesting, cooking and baking for days to fill the freezer with fruit.

We don’t mind the odd blemish or bruise and always leave plenty for the bird life to help themselves to. In fact, it’s all part of the cycle: split and rotting fruit attract the insects, and while some birds such as the sparrows and waxeyes poke holes in the fruit, others like the fantail (Piwakawaka) buzz and dart around cleaning up the insects on the wing. It’s a busy time for all down in the orchard. imageimageimageI often reflect upon the privileged position my life is in. I live in a small community with plenty of space, plenty of fresh air, and plenty of welcoming community that often share the abundance that we have. Our community is not wealthy financially, but everyday there are examples of people ‘giving’ for the joy of sharing. I’m excited to see that more and more of this community are becoming aware of those around us that need help in many different ways. When the call for help is put out there, it’s gratifying to see the response. I’d like to see this grow further and share in our “harvest”. Harvesting a community spirit; reaping what you sow. Digging deep for those in need.

“Digging those colours”

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Our Indian Summer in New Zealand, has swiftly being pushed away by a well needed rainy few days and plummeting temperatures. A welcome reminder that it’s time to get the quilts out and start snuggling in under their warmth and comfort.

During the early part of summer, the street where I live was strewn with fallen Flowering Gum leaves and gum nuts. The colours of salmon, blush pink, grey, dusty violet and brown are a beautiful reminder that even in the withering of life, there is beauty. These colours provided inspiration for creating a quilt made with natural plant dyes; a process that has its ‘roots’ in antiquity, in a time when all colour used by our predecessors, was made from harvesting plants or minerals from the earth. A time when there were no synthetic dyes and a time when life was sustainable

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There is a wonderful revivle of this natural plant dyeing practice taking shape world wide, within the Makers Movement;  A loose term for many artisans globally, producing hand crafted products from scratch, and with a close eye on sustainability.  These colours are created by harvesting the leaves, bark and sometimes the flowers, soaking and heating them to draw out their natural colours, and then adding the cloth to be used. Although this is a long and slow process, I particularly like dyeing cloth this way because it keeps me in-touch with the seasons and unearthing the beauty that this earth has to share with us.

I gather from many different plants whenever I come across a good amount to work with.

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Once the colour has been created and the dyeing of the cloth is complete, I love to make quilts out of this beauty. Knowing that I can return all the excess dye, plant material and off-cuts of the dyed natural cloth to the earth via my compost bins and garden beds, brings me deep satisfaction that I am giving back to the earth in a sustainable way. I am experimenting more and more with native plants of New Zealand. These plants are rich in tannin and produce lovely warm, earthy tones.

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Many people ask me where I get my inspiration from, and the answer is always from my surroundings. I have many wonderful books on natural plant dyeing, some from the 1970’s and some more contemporary, but the practice and message is all the same. The biggest influence for me however is Maura Ambrose of Folk Fibers. Maura creates the most gorgeous quilts from colours of Indigo, Madder, Osage, Pomegranate and more. Much of the plant material she uses is harvested from her surroundings in Texas. This has encouraged me to unearth the colour in the plants of my garden.

I was recently given a Woad plant…..now I have to learn how to care for this young treasure as if it was a new born. Now, that is a challenge!!

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Gold Digger


My previous page ” Digging for Diamonds”, was all about stepping out there and unearthing those everyday precious gems. They are everywhere in abundance but sometimes we take them for granted because they are around us and have become part of our daily view.imageI recently had the good fortune to visit Central Otago, New Zealand. This region although not known for diamond prospecting, is known for its gold. The colours of the land are many shades of gold and it is easy to feel the history of this place when it once was a-buzz and flushed with gold diggers. “Central”, as it is affectionately known, went through its own gold rush, during 1861-1865 when that shiny mineral was first discovered at Gabriel’s Gully. Many a prospector, possibly up to 18,000, came from across the oceans seeking their fortune, to this dry and arid area, only to meet harsh weather extremes of sweltering and sunburning summers to deep snow and icy winds of winter. The major boom came and went but gold can still be panned for by ‘believers’ from the ‘just-one-more-go camp’ at various tourist sites and a commercial operation still extracts gold at Macraes Flat.  The climate takes its toll on the rock and vegetation, but with that, it also produces some intense flavours in the stone fruits of apricots, peaches, plums and cherries. The early gold miners and settlers of this stunning region, soon learnt that fruit trees produced their own wealth and large commercial orchards were planted up and down the river valleys. There is something truly decadent and beautifully simple about allowing the fresh juice to run down your chin, from a bite into an Otago apricot. Let’s not forget that this is also wine country and the region is bursting with a dazzling line up of row upon row full bodied grapes. imageBut it wasn’t gold of the gold rush boom, the golden fruit, or sun ripened grapes that I was looking for . I hoped to find something else that was a different shade of gold, and I found it in the form of a growing arts community in the historic township of Cromwell. A 40 minute drive away from the buzzy tourism of Queenstown, is a quiet, charmingly restored area saved from flooding of the Clutha River and the subsequent Dunstan Lake that was created. Here, there is an abundance of small, wooden and stone workshops and galleries, rich in a variety of contemporary art.image The day I visited, there were a small number of people from a workshop, buzzing around an outside tap rinsing their cyanotype photographs of local foliage. The intense cyan blue prints set against the gold and brown rocks was a beautiful sight. It brought back memories of when I made cyanotype prints and made me want to get cracking and re-discover this historic alternative photo process. A fitting discovery of history repeating itself in an historic yet modern township. When I returned home, I dug out some of my old cyanotypes that I had created at Fine Art School a number of years ago. It’s a beautiful process. image

Digging for Diamonds.

imageWelcome to my first blog post!

I’m a photographer, an artist, a quilt maker and a creater of things, mainly with cloth, thread, needle, scissors, paint and embellishments of the re-purposing kind. I’m out-and-about digging around for, what to me are, hidden gems of my everyday life. With camera around my neck, drawing pad and pencil on paper, I like to make visual recordings of what brings me glorious moments.

As my precious family say, “here she goes again and so it begins”.  With that, I’m off to share with you what I unearth ….. And SO IT BEGINS!

In one of the many second hand shops in my home town of Whanganui, New Zealand, I found a tacky but charming souvenir tea spoon. What drew me to this was not its patina and worn off surface ( I love old stuff!) but dangling from a link, is a tiny metal copy of our local paddle steamer, The Waimarie (meaning good fortune/peaceful waters). This stunning boat used to ply the many miles up and down The Whanganui River during the turn of last century, delivering people, mail and cargo to and from Pipiriki. Once the River Road was put in, she was no longer required and fell into a sorry state of disrepair. In 1952, she sank at her berth in Wanganui, and remained there covered in silt until 1993 when she was salvaged and finally restored to her former glory. She now travels up and down the River, carrying tourists once more. A true gem unearthed.

You can find out more about her at http://www.riverboats.co.nz/  #Waimarie #Whanganui #Wanganui