My textile works are constructed by layering surfaces and techniques. I find each and every step engaging and my desire is to create a rich surface which will draw the viewer in and hold their attention as they look further into the work. The work does not usually spring primarily from deep political or sociological meaning but rather the forms, textures, lines, colour and visual impact of my subject matter lead me to contemplate deeper issues.
I am fascinated by the passage of time – the comparison of our relatively brief lives to the billions of years that natural features have been in existence is fascinating. Thoughts of the cataclysmic events that created the our world over aeons puts the world and its’ current troubles and catastrophic events into some perspective. Visiting France and Spain, I have been struck by the passage of time and the history that the buildings there have experienced and absorbed The existence of evidence of prehistoric inhabitation is truly wondrous to consider. To scrutinise the finer details of things can be to journey to a miraculous and magical plane – the seemingly ordinary endowed with the secrets of time. As there can be layers of meaning in everything we see, I like to think that my work reflects this.
White fabric is the starting point of my work and this is transformed by means of dyeing or fabric painting. Printing is very often incorporated in the surfaces I create and include the techniques of linocut printing; silk screen printing; transfer printing using disperse dyes; monoprinting or collagraphs. Numerous construction methods are employed depending on the effect intended and these generally involve the sewing machine. All processes are of equal importance to me as is design and research. Sketching, photography and the manipulation of photographs may be part of my exploration of subject or place or these processes may find their way into my work. Stitch is an element which can get lost in a work , it can also be used inappropriately. Working with machine made stitches and also with prints on fabric, to combine these two elements successfully can be tricky and this is a preoccupation of mine.
I have developed a few ways of stitching which strive to address this dilemma My Drawing with Thread technique came from the desire to make the lines of a drawing on fabric function in much the same way as they might if I was using pencil on paper. To this end, I used thicker threads through my needle, sewed over the lines of the subject matter multiple times to make the lines stronger and I was mindful of needing a strong contrast between the thread and background colours.
My work using this technique evolved to create a background of stitches using closely spaced echoing lines and high tonal contrast to change the colour of the background and thus make the subject more obvious The stitching thus created has a strong purpose, endows the design with energy and while echoing the shapes of the design, energy fields are created which reflect shapes in the design. This method was, I believe, inspired subliminally by the way I like to carve the backgrounds of my lino blocks , echoing the positive shapes. The background is carved right away but the marks of the tool still print.
My thread sketches are a liberated version of some of my Drawing with Thread work and are also closely related to my sketchbooks. They are created from my photographs and I “sketch” directly onto a fabric sandwich using the sewing machine.
In a divergent use of thread as seen in my body of work using fabric collage, the thread is intimately linked to the fabric in the act of creating the base fabric. The method evolved from my observation of small mounds of hand dyed fabric strips which were generated as by-product of squaring up fabric using the rotary cutter. These were luscious palettes of colour that seemed to beg to be used. Fusing these “windfalls” to a backing fabric, a method of stitching was developed which covered the entire surface in as many as three layers of thread. The effect was to blur edges of the fabrics and blend colours leading to an enticing surface with wonderful textural and visual appeal. Generally these pieces were backgrounds for further work and an illustration of this work can be seen in my quilt Baled Up.
This technique evolved into one which can be also be seen in two of my quilts for ZigZag’s tripARTite; In A Whirl and Firewheel where backgrounds are created using knitting yarns and other specialty threads sandwiched between a backing fabric and a sheer fabric. The way these pieces are stitched evolved from some of the borders and panels I had created in some of my Drawing with Thread quilts. The entire surface is stitched free motion three times, each time using a different colour but the same stitching pattern. Thus an intricate, lustrous and visually enticing surface is built up in layers with perhaps more to be added.
Fabric printing has been a part of my art practice for decades. Recent explorations of printing onto fabric focus on extending ways of using stitch in my work. The collagraph technique is well suited to this in that blocks may be created using actual stitches. This is an ongoing area of investigation for me and some of my results so far can be see in my Flinders Ranges pieces. As a result of my work so far in this area I have used the zigzag stitch in an all-over, layered effect to create works using transfer dyes, embellishing a surface composed of collaged sheers which have been transfer printed. This idea sprang from a collagraph block I made for the Flinders Ranges series and I love to see these surfaces develop and mature as colour overlaps colour and subtleties and surprises embed themselves into the work. The surfaces thus produced have depth and history – a reflection of how things alter over time.
The techniques I use are irrevocably tied in with my contemplation and probing of the subject matter but the execution of the work is my primary focus as I love to be in the moment, creating. The stuff of the intellect is always but is one of many layers.