postcards from south of the equator

Recently I took part in Hanna Andersson’s postcard swap.  Each year I take a slightly different approach and this time around I thought to continue the work I began at the Fibre Arts NZ workshop last April, and what a wonderful week that was!  Book now for 2016.

Lines on maps and charts have always appealed . . . they have always held meaning for me, made sense, whether contour lines on a topographic map or isobars on a weather cart.   I like lines coming together, moving apart, like lines of breakers coming in to the shore, and leaving tide marks on the beach (note new idea).  I love how something complex can be expressed in a diagram.

Here are some of my offerings that have sped off around the world . . . and of course I make extra for a few other special people.

The first 6 allowed me to explore how I handled the threads, changing the colour which may not be obvious here.

The first 6 allowed me to explore how I handled the threads, changing the colour which may not be obvious here.

A more linear focus.

A more linear focus.

A change of shape . . . and of course 'up' is a matter of perspective.

A change of shape . . . and of course ‘up’ is a matter of perspective.

A departure . . . not really my usual style at all.

A departure . . . not really my usual style at all.

I love stacking stones . . . and I have a small selection to play with.  It's very soothing to just pile them up.  And the one on the right . . . I like it much better landscape so just tlt your head to the right (or left).

I love stacking stones . . . and I have a small selection to play with. It’s very soothing to just pile them up. And the one on the right . . . I like it better landscape so just tilt your head to the right (or left).

Fun . . . that’s what it’s all about.  And now I’m off to walk on the beach while the sun is out.

a job well done

I think the job has been done well but time will tell . . . it depends on my expectations about how long I have extended its use, which in turn depends on how much care I am ready to take as I spread the quilt out on my bed, whether I lie down on it to read or take the time to move it aside . . . will it last another year or five?

When I began mending my old Indian bedspread (another beginning) I knew there were quite a few rips and holes where the sun had eaten entire patches of colour away and that the fabric was whisper thin in places.  First the rips where no patches were needed were mended and then the holes, where a piece of recycled unbleached calico was underlaid and stitched in place.  As I worked I inadvertently created a few more holes . . . ending up with somewhere in excess of 120 (I stopped counting).  If the mending had not given rise to so much reflection I doubt I would have persevered . . . I have a low threshold to boredom.

As I worked I gave a lot of thought the what I hold as precious, what beauty means to me, that crossover between practical and beauty as if they were on to separate continuum and the was a sweet spot where, for me, the meet.

If something is truly practical, it does its job better than I had hope for, perhaps the look doesn’t matter so much . . . perhaps the truly ugly tights I wore under my ski pants, the rusty old bottle opener (although there is sentiment attached to it).  And if something is gobsmackingly beautiful, that alone is enough . . . beauty is its use perhaps?

And then there is age and sentiment. From newly minted, the loveliness of the just created right through to decayed, not wearing but truly worn, when an object, or person, can take on a new beauty, one where sentiment plays a part, where life is visible in every crack, every scar, every wrinkle.  Is there a sweet spot where the continuum of new to old crosses over the others?   (This could turn into a rant about human beauty, societal expectations, roles, power . . . but that is not my intention or at least not this time.)

So I pondered on all of this as I sat patching in pieces of cloth on a bedspread I am not quite ready to hand over to recycling . . . running stitch, back-stitch, simple stitches in simple cotton cloth.

Simple stitching around the patches, frayed edges visible, scars exposed.

Simple stitching around the patches, frayed edges visible, scars exposed, fabric whisper thin.

a gift

When you  make something to give away you never quite know how it will be received . . . but you give it away and hope.  Like watching a child leave home because you put everything into it that you could at the time.

Yesterday I received a gift in return.  Spontaneous words of appreciation.

“Nanna, you know that book you gave me for my birthday.”

“The nature one?”

“No, the one with the photos.”


“I really like it.”

And she gave me a cuddle so at this point my heart melted all over again.

Yes, a delightful, inquisitive, cuddlesome monkey.

Yes, a delightful, inquisitive, cuddlesome monkey.

One day Meg could be an animal trainer.

One day Meg could be an animal trainer.

She loves being at her Nanna's house

She loves being at her Nanna’s house

But the beach is what she loves most.

But the beach is what she loves the most.

Three weeks ago for her seventh birthday she received a book with 5 years worth of photos of her taken at my house . . . but I received something much more precious.

another beginning

I have started to mend the Indian bedspread.  After some lines on paper I chose to use simple untidy running stitches that are wonky and without much of a pattern.  Like me they travel west to east, north to south so that they show up on both sides.   I’m not one for taking the needle through to the back and then to the front . . . I scoop, several stitches at a time.  I guess this has been my approach to life . . . take a stab, draw up all you can and trust that it will all come through okay.

The side with rents in it, now mended, strengthened.

The side with rents in it, now mended, now strengthened.

The side without holes but still strengthened.

The side without holes but still strengthened and lending it’s strength to the injury.

The birds in the centre have a problem.  The sun has eaten their orange feathers so some patching is needed . . . some soft unbleached calico set into the holes and leave the edges raw?  Perhaps.  Or patch them over with some old table linen I have found in my efforts to clear out the things that are trying to take ownership of me.

A bright bird . . . from the fold protected from the sun.

A bright bird . . . it wisely hid in the fold and was protected from the sun.

The sun has weathered away the orange feathers . . . it has lost its ability to fly.

The sun has weathered away the orange feathers . . . it has lost its ability to fly.

I’m loath to hide their scars, the ravages of time, any more than I feel the need to hide what time is doing to me.   And so the metaphor continues . . . time has an impact that can be read if you use eyes, and ears and heart.

There are many who would simply discard this cloth, deciding that with so many holes (about 30) it has reached the end of it’s decorative life.   But it can still serve its purpose because I have turned it over to the birdless side.   It has a place keeping warm someone who remembers as she stitches.

resolve and perseverance

One without the other?  Would that work?   If you have no resolve, can you persevere?

I keep coming back to the words of Deng MIn Dao in 365 Tao  where he wrote “each day passes whether you participate or not.”  I often chastise myself for not doing more with my time and get comorted that it isn’t true . . . but I know it is.

My first journal pages.

My first journal pages from 5 years ago.  The border is a printed page of one of Teesha Moore’s journal pages using a printer that was almost out of ink . . . I think giving credit is very important.

I’ve done little of this quality since . . . I had a “done that, what’s next?” way of thinking.  But something has changed, I can feel it.  It might be something to do with age, that feeling that time is becoming more precious when you know that perhaps 2/3 to 3/4 of you life has passed or it may be because I have the time to devote to . . . what?

If you visit here often you’ll be aware of the breadth of what I do . . . and I love that aspect of just mucking around trying many things but now, now I want something a little more.  In a word, I want excellence.

During the last couple of days I’ve left comments on two of my favourite blogs, that of Quinn McDonald and Diana Trout that excellence is my goal.

I’m such a dabbler flitting from one thing to another and while I can do a reasonable job in what ever I try, I’d like to be really good at one thing over and above all the others . . . to feel accomplished instead of ‘almost there’ and I guess that’s what keeps me going, the search for that fabulous feeling of a job well done at the moment of completion . . .  and then do it again in search of that high.  I need to focus or I’ll just fly around in circles like a catherine wheel and never achieve the best result that I’m capable of!

People get to the top of whatever they do because they have the drive and passion and perhaps that’s what others respond to as much as their work. I don’t necessariy want to reach some pinnacle of fame and fortune . . . I just want to be able to look at what I’ve done and say “Now that is well made!”   I want it to be well made to my satisfaction which, surprisingly, does allow for small imperfections.   I want to make things that think are original, unique.

So my resolve . . . to persevere in my search for originality and excellence.  Now I need to focus.  Continue to muck around, yes, but perhaps flit a little slower between my varied interests?  Is that possible?  To flit at a slower pace?  Maybe a month by month focus?

I started with questions and have ended the same way . . . that’s life.


creating womanhood

I’ve had time off for frivolous behaviour with the grandhearts but now it’s back to some pleasurable work.  When I have time out, it gets me into my head and thinking overtime which is not always a bad thing.  This implies that sometimes it is but that topic is not the subject this post.

I was cruising Facebook and looking at all the lovely art and couldn’t help noticing all the pretty young female faces with model proportions in the work, vapid faces I thought, and for the most part exaggerated in their appealing features . . . big eyes, full lips, long flowing hair, a body that doesn’t reflect the norm.  Now please don’t misunderstand me.  I have nothing against these images as such and most are beautifully executed however it was the images that got me thinking about how women are represented in the media and how we accept and sometimes perpetuate  expectations and myths about womanhood.

As a child I thought I was something less, less that worthy and the measure of worth was masculinity.  My mother always said she should have been a career woman but was not allowed to work . . .  she grew up in a time when her parent believed that ‘ladies’ don’t work.   Strangely, I was one of the few children in my class who had a mother who did work, who had her own business.    This didn’t mean that she embraced gender equity she unconsciously perpetuated the gender stereotypes of her time.  Males ran everything and if a woman had managed to accumulate any power it was done by stealth or she was an exception.   My mother was an exception, she could swing a hammer alongside her carpenter brother and led me to believe that if a male could do it then so could I.

Before this turns into a treatise on the roles we are socialised into let me give you a couple of examples of how women are still put down and how we put ourselves down.

If a woman is strong and assertive she’s often described as a bitch.  I’m strong and assertive when I need to be but I don’t have enough nipples to be a bitch, although my very sweet-natured dog does.  Quinn McDonald wrote a post on her blog  recently entitled Words Worth Dumping where she talked about a couple of terms that de-value women and that confirmed for me that it’s about time we started protesting about their use and certainly stop using them ourselves.

A while back a blogger, I forget who, talked about her need to develop more courage and strength and ended by writing she was going to grow a set of balls . . . I was appalled!  Grow a backbone yes, but why balls?  Was her goal to be more masculine or to be a strong woman?  And believing that men have some superior source of inner strength is ludicrous!  I’m sure she doesn’t but she has, by her language, said that as a woman she isn’t as worthy as a man.  And no, I am definitely not anti-male, I love good men in the same way I love good women and what is more I raised a very good man.

As a child I hated being called a tomboy, a Jack of all trades, told that I should have been a boy.  And why was I?  I loved being outside, climbing trees, playing up on the hillsides near our house, messing around in the vegetable garden with my father, using carpentry tools . . . but I was not a boy nor did I aspire to be one so why did adults define me as some almost-boy?    Even then, as a quite young child I was aware that 1) language was powerful and 2) gender bias was not weighted in my favour!

And don’t insult elderly women by calling a dithering, ineffectual man an ‘old woman’ nor a boy who can’t throw a ball well that he throws like a girl, nor a sensitive young man a ‘girl’s blouse’ (I’ll accept that one is seldom heard these days but there’s bound to be a modern equivalent).  Have you seen this video?  It tells us that young girls believe in their strength but women collude with the lie.   “Throws like a girl” is a cultural bias, one women perpetuate against their own gender, and one that the MythBusters spent time disproving.

It is only by standing tall, learning to do things for yourself (I had a colleague who couldn’t even screw the inside of the french press back together when it worked itself loose because her husband “did that sort of thing” . . . that sort of thing?  Practical, basic, screwing a small part back together?  Give me strength!

So, my point.  Watch your tongue, listen to how you and others language your gender, be proud to be a woman (I am not a girl, I am a woman and woman friends, not girlfriends) and please, include mature faces, not the rich and famous cosmeticly enhanced but real, woman-next-door faces in your work.

And here’s a little reward for reading this far: a not-yet-complete free motion embroidery experiment.   I’d hate you to think I’ve only been walking the beach seething.

free motion embroidery - a not-yet-complete experiment.

free motion embroidery – a not-yet-complete experiment.



I’m fed up with being asked, have you retired?  I’m not sure how to respond . . . it’s easier to say yes but that’s far from true.  If I say no, I have to explain and I have an intense dislike for explaining or justifying myself.

When you check the definition of retirement the meanings are all basically the same . . . no longer being involved.  Whether it’s going to bed, retreating from a battle, leaving your job or withdrawing for rest and seclusion it’s all so, so similar . . . so no, I haven’t and won’t be retiring any time soon even though I have chosen not to work at the job that gave me so much satisfaction for most of my working life.

Just because I decided to become gainfully unemployed for the time being does not mean I am retired.  In fact I’m not withdrawing from anything, rather I am propelling myself toward so many new adventures, some of which may yield income and some not, that I’m spoiled for choice!  I still have an interest in education (my former profession) but my focus is now, quite simply, elsewhere.   I am not financially rich neither nor financially poor . . . I’m somewhere in the middle I guess but I am richer now in ways that I never have been before in my life.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.  There is no cure for curiosity.”   This wonderful quote by Dorothy Parker seems to indicate I have a condition for life . . . no retirement for me!  So no, I have not retired and while my brain functions, my heart beats and a desire to be creative and curious continues to be part of who I am, I never will be.

When I now longer act or think creatively . .  perhaps I will have retired.

When I no longer act or think creatively . . . perhaps I will have retired . . . and perhaps not.  We will just have to wait and see, you and I.