My embroidery work is continuing to engage and enthuse me. It is encouraging a number of creative threads to come together. (Do you like that pun, Kate?!) I will tell you more about those mental ramblings at a later date.

My very good friend Liz is a reliable sounding board and creates wonderful embroideries of her own. She helped me to see that I was heading in the direction of trying to put in too much fiddly detail. I am attracted to detail ~ botanic art was great for this! ~ and find abstraction very difficult.

My original thought was to take a part of a watercolour I had been working on and make it into a small embroidery. The photos tell the story.

I then traced the outline onto the tapestry canvas. You can see the beginning of the problem…..too much detail already.


Outlining the scene in blue cotton (photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

As I was working I was feeling that it was all too cramped. Liz’s comment, that it needed to be more abstract and less of a copy, confirmed this. I would be interested to hear what you think, understanding it is only 10 x 10 cm.


Work in progress that may not get finished! (Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

It probably didn’t help that I attached the boulder, which I had carefully woven to fit the image, upside down!

Liz came to the rescue again, loaning me some of her textile books. Stitch Magic: ideas and interpretation by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn was particularly inspiring.

So, armed with my 10 x 10 squares and the threads I have been working with, I played with stitch samplers. The first was blanket stitch.


Blanket stitch sampler (Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

By putting down layers of stitches and by varying the length and direction of the stitches I was able to create a lot of texture. Also it covered the area quickly. Much less tedious than the usual half stitch filling in each hole. Great for foliage.

The next was chain stitch.


Chain stitch sampler (Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

This creates a dense flat mat, as you can fill in the spaces with more chains. The creamy buttony things are made with an extended French knot. I can see me using chain stitch for the movement of water, as it gives a great sense of direction.

The third, feather stitch, is my favourite so far, possibly because I am getting the hang of creating these samplers.


Feather stitch sampler (image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

There are three layers of stitches here ~ a dark olive green, then the lighter lime green and then the shiny yellow green on top. I love the messy texture that it makes. It doesn’t have the definite edge of the blanket stitch, which makes it even more random. However it also doesn’t completely cover the canvas either. You can see it peeking through. So I added in the twisted chain stitches in the yellow green and the darker green. (That darker green is different colours because it is a variegated thread.) I also sewed some blue green cross stitches, but I don’t think they add much. Maybe the thread needed to be thicker.

In my usual impulsive fashion I have already begun a bigger piece using some of these ideas. My aim with it is to keep my ideas really free, just laying down stitches to see where they take me. I am enjoying this journey!

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You and me

Lots of things have been bubbling away in my mind lately. You know some of my creative thoughts, but  also I have been pondering about the rhythm of my blog ~ what I want to post and how often. I think I have come up with a sustainable rhythm. It involves posting twice a week, with posts that I am describing as Me posts and You posts.

My Me posts will be the story of my life, mainly my creative life ~ the sorts of things that I have been rambling on about for the last five or so years! They will probably be published on the weekend.

The You posts will be ones that I think you will find interesting ~ links to other blogs, stories of others’ creative lives, quirky stories, environmental news. I have lots of ideas, but let me know if there is anything you would be interested in reading.

So today is my first official You post…..

Botanical art traditionally has been created with watercolours, but sometimes I come across an artist who achieves wonderfully detailed works using different media. Mary Delany is such an artist.

Mary Granville Delany (1700-1788) bloomed in her 70s, when she embarked on her life’s work—creating 985 life-size, three-dimensional, scientifically-correct botanical prints now held by the British Museum.

Her art work is created by cutting and gluing paper. Her life was quite remarkable, as you can read in parts 1 and 2 from

Mary Delany’s life Part 1

Mary Delany’s life Part 2


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“My life has been a tapestry….”

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous, woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold

Carol King’s song has been streaming through my head lately. I love this first verse, and think it is a marvellous way to see my life. However, I remember that there is a bit in it about someone turning into a toad ~ I hope doesn’t apply to my life!

It has been in my head because I have done more work on my tapestries. It was my tapestry work that was inspiring me through a grey period of creativity.  This is how it looked when I last showed you; I had attached the woven boulder to the canvas and had begun free form sewing.


Tapestry work in progress (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

This is where I am now.


Tapestry work in progress (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

Still a work in progress, but nearing completion. I want to check the line of the mountain tops against the original photo. The tapestry is not a direct copy, but I need to get the perspective of the the ridges correct. The vegetation on the bottom left still needs work. If you look closely you will see how I mucked up the line on the bottom right. Annoying to have to sew one row. I may add some vegetation to the top left of the cliff. I also want to sew detail into the rock face, to build up its form.

Then there is the sky. I have light blue wool, but I think it will be too vivid. I may have to look around for a softer blue grey.

The focal point is the waterfall, and it is more obvious with the real thing. The photo has flattened out the colours. I like what I have created, and am certainly going to experiment more with the combination of weaving and sewing.


Tapestry work in progress (Copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

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Turtle research on Raine Island

I have a layperson’s interest in environmental sciences, and visiting the Great Barrier Reef has made me interested in finding out more about its ecosystems. This link gives you an overview of some of the research being carried out on Raine Island, the world’s largest green turtle rookery. Hope you finding interesting and maybe even encouraging to delve deeper.

Restoring the world’s largest green turtle rookery


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Ahh, the warmth of Port Douglas…and the Great Barrier Reef

Melbourne is chilly this time of the year (although, as I write this the sun is shining and I am contemplating turning the heater off). So, like many Melbournians, we set off to Port Douglas to find some sun. Actually, the real reason to head north was to celebrate my Mum’s 90th birthday. My whole family went up, rented a house or two, and enjoyed each other’s company for 6 nights. The warmth was an added bonus!

Port Douglas is in Far North Queensland, an hour’s drive north of Cairns. Once upon a time it would have been lovely sleepy fishing village, now it is full of resorts and Melbournians escaping Winter. Even so, it was a lovely place to spend time, and the Daintree Rainforest is only a little way up the road.

And it is right on the Great Barrier Reef, that marvel of nature that curves its way for 2300 kms along the Queensland coast. Unfortunately it is being impacted by climate change and other human activities. David Attenbourgh produced a wonderful series about the Reef and I would recommend watching it. I would also recommend this website that he has created using footage from the series as well as other scientific material.

I could not miss the chance to see a tiny part of the Reef.

We sailed out to Agincourt Reef on the Outer Barrier Reef on a big catamaran. This reef is at the very outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, where the Continental Shelf drops away to the Pacific Ocean. It is this shallow shelf, only 20 to 30 metres deep, which has given the corals the light and the chance to form. A couple of kilometres from these reefs the sea floor drops away to more than 500 metres. I could see the line of waves breaking on this edge.

I looked into different options to going out to the Reef and this seemed to be the best one to suit both my low snorkelling ability (i.e. non-existent!) and Mum. We needed a way for her to experience the Reef without getting in the water. The catamaran took us out to a pontoon moored permanently on the Reef. They have to adhere to strict guidelines to safe guard the Reef’s biology and beauty.

Our first adventure was on the semi-submersible, which took us for a tour of the coral canyons. How amazing to have the fish swim up to the windows and glide away, to see the sea cucumbers lying on the floor and the giant coral constructions.


Inside the semi-submersible, right under the water (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

I was blown away but the textures of the corals, so many different varieties! The colours weren’t as spectacular as I expected, but there was a lot of turbidity in the water and it wasn’t a sunny day. Both factors made it difficult to photograph, but you can see some of the coral that I found inspiring.

Surprisingly the fish had the most vivid colours. And we saw two turtles! How special was that?!

After floating with the fish it was time to snorkel. I have never snorkelled, and am not a confident swimmer, but I really wanted to see these creatures for my self. So I kitted my self in everything available, including an optical mask as I am very short-sighted, and off I went. I had to consciously remember to breath through my mouth and not panic when my face was under water. Once I had that mastered I was off and it was a magical experience. No photos to show, but if there were I would show you more textures and colours, little fish darting away from me, big fish gliding past and clams! There must have been half a dozen clams, some quite large, in the roped off area where we swam. One had iridescent blue ‘lips’, probably the most intense colour I saw all day.

It was a magical experience, and it has made me more aware of the fragility of the environment. There are many human induced pressures on the Reef, and we must do all we can to protect it. You might like to check out these organisations who are exploring ways to build awareness and are campaigning to protect it from further damage. (I am not endorsing any of these, just giving you links to follow up if you would like to know more.)

The David Attenborough website I mentioned before

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation

Fight for the Reef

The Australian Conservation Foundation


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My time at the Herbarium

I am getting back into the swing of my weekly routine. A big part of that is the morning I volunteer at the Herbarium in the Royal Botanical Gardens.

To find out more about the National Herbarium of Victoria, or indeed the vital role that herbaria play in understanding science, especially botany and the environment, drop back to an earlier post of mine. The website of the Herbarium has a great deal of interesting information too.


The statue of Mueller in front of the Herbarium (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

I do my volunteer work in the Library. Of course there are shelves of books there, books about botany, the environment, historical botanical expeditions and so many more. There are journals and periodicals too. In a newly renovated temperature controlled room there are historic books and original botanic art work. The collection of pristine, shiny spades always makes me smile. They were used by dignitaries to plant trees in the Gardens.

As well there are tens of thousands of slides, in boxes, in cupboards and filing cabinets. (Are you, like me, of that Certain Age to remember slides? My Dad took a huge number of them, and they are tucked away in cupboards in my childhood house. We had Slide Nights when a friend or family member returned from the Grand Tour of Europe. They often ended up with the couple arguing about whether the photo was taken in this town or that!)

While my Dad’s slides include many glorious sunsets, the ones in the Herbarium are far more specific. One of the projects is to digitalise the slides taken by a botanist Ilma Dunn. Her collection is over twenty thousand slides of, mainly, Victorian native plants, photos that could be used to identify individual species. On each side she has written incredible detail ~ genus, species, date and place, often quite specific. She was photographing as early as the 1960s and 70s, but most of them are in the 80s and 90s. It makes me wonder how many of the places she went to are still the wild places that enabled these species to grow.

I know very little about Dunn, but I do know that she was a good photographer, and her photos deserve to be made available to more people. She must have been a very dedicated botanist too, to know where the plant grew and to know the time when it would be flowering or seeding.

So I am part of the team that has transferred the data from the all those slides to a spread sheet. Now we are digitalising each one so that the photo and the data can be merged and made available on line.


Fifty slides ready to be slotted into the scanner. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)


Scanning (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)


The scanned image (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

While these slides scan I work on the data on other slides, slowly working my way through filing cabinet drawers. The data on these is much more scanty, which makes it quicker to enter.🙂


The next sheets of slides ready to be processed (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

I feel honoured that I can be a part, if only a small part, of this scientific institution.


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A big, warm thank you to those who responded to my last post about my brain taking time off. I am fine, but am artistically working at a slower pace. And I am so pleased to be back blogging again.

I know that I want to blog because I am hearing that blogging voice in my head again. Not a scary voice in my head, just me composing blogs about the things I come across during the day. Most of them never get written, much less published, but I enjoy them, sort of a diary of my life. For example, as I was driving to my hairdresser, about a 20 minute trip, I was musing about how contemplative I find driving and I started to mentally write a blog post about it. I hasten to add that I was still driving very competently. In fact what I was thinking was how doing the routine driving tasks ~ changing gears, monitoring the traffic, etc ~ freed up a part of my brain to think about other things.

Do you have that blogging voice too?

In that last post, where I was wondering about my creativity at the moment, I mentioned something that had fired my creative juices.

I have always loved yarns and textiles. They have been more of a constant in my life than paints. At school I did Craft rather than Art and I remember the delight of learning how to smock and embroider, and even basket weave. So while I don’t talk about much about these projects, I usually have something involving threads on the go. I made bags for a few years and used embroidery and beading to decorate them.

You will also remember how fascinated I became with the melaleucas on Flinders Island. EllaDee mentioned that from the photos she “could see the potential for a textural approach.” Gradually that thought about using the photos as a reference, moved from the back of my mind to the front, and I started working on representations. This is one of the photos I used as inspiration


Mt Strzelecki National Park, Flinders Island (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

One of the early tapestries


(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

This is the latest in the series of about four tapestries. You can see how I am much more adventurous with the stitching, and how it helps me to create texture and depth. I think it makes a more vibrant and interesting work.

About a month ago I was trawling Pinterest and saw a weaving loom that I just had to buy. I followed the link to the Etsy shop of the Unusual Pear and bought a simple loom about A4 size.


My new loom from the Unusual Pear. The weaving is a sample that I used with kids from the holiday programme. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

I immediately knew how I was going to combine some weaving with the tapestry. It was the answer to that excellent creativity question “What if…..I created a rock with weaving and added that to a tapestry?” After a short practice I had a woven rock intended to be the massive rock face that was at the entrance to a valley in the national park. And I had a little feeling of creative excitement.

This is where I up to at the moment.


Tapestry, with woven rock, work in progress (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

The white stuff are the threads for the weaving that I am binding into the back of the tapestry. It’s not quite how I envisaged it, and I think it is too tonally similar. Next time I will try for a lighter grey for the rock, and try to work more variation in it. It is very much a work in progress ~ I have to add the waterfall and the other side of the valley and the background, and I am gong to work into the rock some more. That said, I think the idea is an interesting one, and worth considering for other works.


Close up of the work in progress (Art work and photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

So something satisfying has emerged from the “holiday” I have been having lately.

Like to check out my Pinterest finds? AnneLawsonArt 

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