Thursday, May 31, 2007


Well, I thought it was finished, but putting it up on the screen has once again revealed a couple of areas that need balancing and massaging. Can you see where they are?

I have been adding beads and other bits and pieces, and finally some hand embroidery.

When I am working on something like this, every step of the way I am seeking to bring balance and harmony to my work, in colour, texture and tone.

Coming from a painterly background (I am not naturally a needlewoman) I feel I have found a medium with which I can really express myself. I love the tactile quality of textiles, and the colours too, but have always been trying to find ways of making my work look more flowing, organic and pictorial.

The colourwash technique, where you piece together small squares of fabric whose colours and textures blend into each other, was satisfying for a while. Then I "discovered" crazy patchwork, where one could work without the restrictions of measurements etc, building up a piece in a painterly fashion, having regard to creating something that is pleasing to the eye. It also gave me an opportunity to use those little bits and pieces I was enjoying collecting, such as beads, charms, ribbons, laces and other trinkets and precious bits and pieces.

Maureen C. in Queensland tells me that now I have discovered fibres, it is time I invested in one of those new "embellishing machines." They are a little like a sewing machine. except that they do not use threads. Instead of an ordinary needle, there is a cluster of barbed needles that embed fibres and fabrics and yarns in a base fabric, crearting a sort of felt- like surface.

Well, do I need a new toy? Or will it become a white elephant, as move on to another medium and way of expressing myself?
Meanwhile, this piece has ended up just a little bit bigger than I intended, and some of the sky does not show up on the scan. I am quite pleased with the way I have finally managed to soften the horizon, by appliqueing down some silk ribbon, and adding some texture to the sea with straight stitches.
I will definitely get it framed, but first I must decide whether it should go behind glass or not. As someone who loves to touch stuff and enjoy it through my fingertips, my inclination is to leave it open. It is better for it to give pleasure in a tactile as well as a visual way for five years than to have it protected behind glass for twenty.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


I am having a ball. Today I dragged out all sorts of fancy yarns and threads, and couched them onto my picture, mainly using my sewing machine. My fancy yarns are in the most dreadful tangle, as I rummage through them trying to find just the right one.

The house is also a bit of a mess, and my craft stuff seems to be everywhere. I trip over things whenever I go into my sewing room - but, as I said, I am having fun. And I did manage to cook everyone a decent meal tonight, including beautiful fresh fish caught by John today!
Actually I have added more than this picture shows, including grasses and other greenery at the bottom, which greatly improves the design.Tomorow I will start adding beads, little shells and other bits and pieces. I can hardly wait. I feel like a kid who has just discovered fingerpaint!

Saturday, May 26, 2007


The creative juices are flowing at the moment, and I have been working on the background for a seascape, using silk paper.

Actually, it is not just silk paper, because my bundle of fibres includes some wool, and also some artificial fibres. There is also a bag or two of dyed fibres from some unidentified animal. I say that, because they do not behave like silk or wool. They are smooth and curly...perhaps a dog or goat? I have had them for a long time, and just cannot remember where they came from. Some of these curly bits were used to create the white foam of the waves in the middle ground.

Nevertheless, I have used a mixture of fibres, in order to include a fuller range of colours and textures, and have bound them all together with a textile medium. (I can't wait to order more silk from the Thread Studio in Perth!)
This morning I fixed the silk paper to a background, which included some silk fabrics for the distant sea and sky.

The piece was too wide to fit completely on my scanner bed. So I have taken it from two different angles. One thing I have decided as a result is that the proportions of an A4 sheet are much more pleasing than my original proportions.
Now the fun begins. Out will come all the embellishments...fancy yarns, beads, shells, tiny buttons, charms, lace and net.
There will be some embroidery, and some of the yarns will be couched on. I suspect I will end up putting some darker green grass and foliage shapes at the base, to give the piece some "weight." I can also see that I may need to soften the horizon a little...perhaps some thinned white paint?
I had not realised before how useful it is to put an image of a work-in-progress onto the computer screen in order to assess the balance and harmony. It beats squinting at it from a distance!

Monday, May 21, 2007


To me, there is nothing so sensuous as silk...although the sensation of chocolate melting in one's mouth comes close. Silk delights both the eyes and the fingers..and other parts of the body too if you are wearing it.

I don't know if it is the exotic connotations, with its Asian origins, but silk conjures up images of luxury, pampering and indulgence.

Silk is also a delight to work with for the artist/craftsperson. It has a wonderful combination of crispness and softnes, and colours blend beautifully and brightly into its fibres.

For a long time I have loved working with silk fabric (I have a special fondness for dupion), threads and ribbons. Now I have discovered silk paper.

Three years ago, at the Crazypatch Retreat in Canberra, I bought some little bags of 'silk throwster's waste' from a lady who had a stall there on the Sunday morning. I did not know what I was going to do with it, I just knew that I loved the look and feel of it.

Now I have discovered silk paper, or silk 'fusion' as it is properly called, and I am putting it to good use. I have obtained some carded tussah silk fibres from the Thread Studio in Perth...and I am itching to obtain a greater vartiety of colours as the ideas for using the silk paper keep filling my thoughts when I should be thinking of more mundane things.
The 'paper' is easy to make. It is easier than felting with wool fibres, although the silk fibres must be bound together with a medium, because they do not have the little hooks that wool fibres have, enabling them to bond together. It only takes a few minutes to produce a "page", although you must then wait a few hours for it to dry.

The first thing I am going to make are some silk leaves, ready for some of the pages of the fabric book Round Robin I am involved in. The throwster's waste lends itself beautifully to this, with its crinkles and curls and texture. Some of them I will machine or hand embroider to make the veins and outlines...but some of the finer pieces will just be delicate backgrounds for embroideries.
This is such an exciting and versatile medium, and I am going to have such fun playing with it, and embellishing it with threads, exotic yarns, ribbons, beads and other delights. I am dreaming of trees and forests, of seascapes and rockpools, rivers, sunsets, flowing hair from spirit figures, mists, mountains, waterfalls, gardens ......all in silk!

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Flying over the town of Sola

As I mentioned in my last posting, John has been in Vanuatu, and on the Monday, he and George hopped on the plane from Vila to travel to Sola on the island of Vanua Lava at the far north of the country. Here they were able to have a reunion with Jimmy, but also renew friendships with all those people he met when the group of Norfolkers went there 14 years ago to build the church/training school at Port Patteson.

At that time, after being delivered to the small airstrip near Sola, the group had walked for three hours to Port Patteson where they were to live and work for 2-3 weeks. At one stage of their trek, they had to cross a river, and the locals told them that there were crocodiles in this river, the only crocs in Vanuatu. They told the story of how Bishop Patteson had been there (back in the 1860's) and he had some small "pet" crocodiles aboard the Mission ship "Southern Cross." We do not know how he had obtained these baby crocs, but they had possibly been an unusual gift from someone in Queensland.

It seems, however, that these creatures escaped their cage and the ship while he was there and found their way to the river, and it was impossible to retrieve them. The Bishop, in a great act of faith, promised the locals that God would never allow anyone to be harmed by the crocodiles, and to this day, no one has been hurt. There was a time when a young girl ended up in the jaws of one, but she was released with only a few scratches. It would appear that the people in that area have a two-fold respect for the crocodiles - a natural respect for their strength and power to harm, but also a sort of reverence because they are descended from the ones that had belonged to their beloved Bishop Patteson.

Now while John was there this time, the locals were keen to tell him some new crocodile stories. It seems that last year, one of the larger beasts had the bad luck to take a shark hook. The poor animal thrashed around for hours trying to free itself from the barb. When it was utterly exhausted, the menfolk were able to secure it, free the hook from its mouth, and leave it to recover it from its ordeal. They proudly showed John and George photos of the event. It would appear that the crocodile was at least 6 metres long!

Hands in the croc's jaws

They also told how in recent years, one of the crocs had been in the "port" into which the river flows, and had been carried by a strong current right down to a small island near Santo, an hour's flight away. The animal had taken up residence, but had not endeared itself to the locals there as it fed itself on their fowl, pigs and other livestock. Because of the association with Bishop Patteson, who is revered right throughout Vanuatu and the Solomons, they did not want to harm it. So they called in the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, who successfully caught it, and supervised its transport back to its home. Steve must really have captured the imagination of the people there, and they spoke of him with great affection. However, when John said how sad it was that he had died, there was enormous shock and distress, because the news of his passing had not yet reached them in that remote spot! John had not expected to be the bearer of such sad news!
The older gentleman in the cap, standing proudly on top of the croc, is Norman, who is Jimmy's grandfather.

Monday, May 14, 2007


No, I have not actualy been travelling any further than the 5 miles by 3 of our little island for nearly 3 years now. But I am always excited to follow the travels of others, and none more than the those of our offspring.

Last month, George, who comes from Vanuatu, decided to return home to Vila for a holiday. His wife Chrissie, and his two girls Julia and Enia, and mother-in-law Edna, had gone a few months before, and George had stayed back here on Norfolk to hold the fort, and to keep an eye on father-in-law Ernie. Sadly, Ernie passed away while his family were away.

Our John decided it would be a good opportunity to make a return visit to Vanuatu himself. He had spent some time there 14 years ago helping build a new cyclone church/school at Port Patteson in Vanua Lava, along with some other Norfolkers. This was where he first met Jimmy, who came to live with John in 2005 for about 6 months, to gain some experience of the wider world.
In this picture, George(left) is shown with his cousin Andre, in the markets at Vila. While he was there, John actually stayed in a hotel in Vila, but he spent quite a bit of time enjoying the wonderful hospitality of George and Andre's family, who live in the village of Melimat, outside Vila. Charles and Kim also experienced the warmth of their welcome and hospitality when they travelled there last year. They do not enjoy much of the conveniences and affluence of the world you and I know, but their warmth and love are in abundance, it would seem.

Up in the islands, the houses were usually built of natural materials.....easily blown down in a storm or earthquake, but also easily rebuilt with the help of friends and family. Nowadays, however, many islanders opt to build themselves a basic, but more sturdy dwelling from concrete blocks. While he is living and working on Norfolk, George is saving to complete his own home in the village. This is the stage it is at currently.George's family live in quite a good house, by Vanuatu village standards, even equipped with a proper kitchen. But they still prefer to cook and eat the traditional way in their outdoor oven, and it was here that the boys were treated to feasts of traditional foods, cooked Vanuatu style. One of their main dished is "lap-lap" in which starchy vegetables such as Yam or taro are ground up, bound with coconut and coconut milk,wrapoped in banana leaves (poor man's foil) and cooked in a sort of cake with meats in the centre.

One of the meats they were served one night was flying fox...I am not sure if John sampled it or not! For the meal, they sat at the other end of the outdoor verandah area, which was covered with clean woven mats. Last year, the family gave Kim and Charles two of these mats to bring home for Bernie and me. But I am afraid that I have not had the years of practice sitting in this fashion on the floor to eat!!
Not far from the village there is a magnificent waterfall, where he and George enjoyed a refreshing dip.In a future posting, I will tell you about the week that John and George spent at Sola and Port Patteson in Vanua Lava, which is an hour or two's flight further north!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

There was great excitement when Peter, who was at the airport collecting the mail, rang to say that the Bishop's desk had arrived on the plane. It was only 5-6 days at the most since it had been dispatched from England! Indeed it may have arrived even earlier if the flights to Norfolk had been more frequent.
On Monday morning, after getting a clearance from Customs, Bern and David, plus John and Darren from the Joinery, took the boxes to the Patteson Room at the Parish Centre for the unpacking and unveiling. They were joined by Rev'd Rod, who took some of these photos.
As the desk had travelled in three parts, we were unsure of how it would go together. As it turned out, neither hammer, nail or glue was needed, as the top fitted neatly and snugly over the two banks of drawers on each side. Beautifully designed back in the 1860's, possibly with the need to transport it at some stage in mind. But little did the carpenter, William Champion, realise that it would go all the way to England by sea, and then back again more than a century later by air!

The Bishop's desk is solid, well used, and has a wonderful patina of age. The signs of wear, and the numerous inkstains only enhance it, and give rise to imaginings of all the letters, diary entries, stories and novels that have been penned there. I refer not only to writings from Bishop Patteson, but the prolific literary outpourings from his cousin Charlotte Yonge, who inherited it from him, and would have used this desk for almost thirty years. We do not know who used it after her, but we do know that for the past 45 years, it belonged to a Swedish born lady living in England. This lady had received the desk from some grateful patient, whom she had nursed over a long period. This lady died last year, and that is how the desk came to be put up for auction by her family.
The drawers glide smoothly, and it is fascinating to see the inscriptions of the carpenter's pencil in the bottom of the drawers, labelling the position of that particular drawer. The writing is is almost as fresh and legible as the day it was written, about 140 years ago, great testimony to the archival qualities of the humble lead pencil!
John and Darren were interested to try and identify some of the timbers used in the making of the desk, and particularly the lovely inlays on the top. Among others, they recognised Blackbean, and White Cedar (which would have been growing locally.) The main body of the desk is of Kauri, which would have been brought in from New Zealand. Many old Norfolk buildings contain Kauri and other New Zealand hardwoods.

The desk's "new/old" home is right on the site of Bishop Patteson's house at the Mission. In his letters home, John Coleridge Patteson used to write fondly of his study there, which was like his living room. Here he would read and write and study, occasionally going out onto his little verandah to enjoy the breezes and the delights of the gardens around. He particularly enjoyed the honeysuckle growing up the posts. His study also had adjoining doors opening into the old Mission Chapel, which gave him an opportunity to talk and pray with the Mission boys who came there for times of quiet meditation at all hours of the day or night.
It is so heartwarming to have this lovely link with the past returned to us.
In a future posting, I would like to tell you more about Charlotte Yonge. The members of the Charlotte Yonge Fellowship were very keen to obtain this desk, which is why the price went so high. It is only fitting that we should take the opportunity to pay tribute to this fine lady, because the profits from some of her writings funded our Chapel Organ, and also the Mission Ship "Southern Cross."
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