Back in Menindee

Life was busy lately, organising the house and packing the van to get away to Menindee. Organising the house so that my friends could move in while we are away. But now I am up here. If you have followed my blog for awhile you will know that I am up here as part of the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project. I am part of a group of botanic artists who are collecting the plant specimens that were collected by Dr Hermann Beckler on the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860. Our intention is to have paintings of each of specimens. We have been coming here for a few years now, so we are the pointy end of Beckler’s list. (If you would like to find out more, click on the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty category on the right hand bar. Normally I would give you the link, but it is a little hard to do at the moment.

Next time I will post some photos of us collecting in the field and working in the Civic Centre, but for now I will just give you some photos of the water. Menindee is in the arid outback region of New South Wales, near Broken Hill. Normally it is dry up here. Last year there were grave concerns about having any water in the Menindee Lakes system. However, the rain further up the Darling River is gradually making its way down, and now Lake Pamamaroo and Copi Hollow are well over half full. Lake Menindee will begin to fill soon. Recent rain in the area has added to the water, with big puddles and mud patches around. A most unusual sight!

Copi Hollow, over 60% full

Below is a photo of Lake Pamamaroo from last year, 2015.  The plant I collected and painted was growing about 30 metres from the sandy shore if the lake.

This is the lake now! 

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How to fail.  Epically. 

Life is a little busy at the moment. In a day or two I will have time to write properly about it. In the meantime read Danny Gregory’s post about experimenting and playing with wild abandon. I have been trying to do a little of this lately.

Danny Gregory

I just read that Roadies has been cancelled. So was Vinyl. No one gives a shit about TV shows about the music industry. It can’t be mythologized. It’s dead. Whoda thunk it ten years ago? What about publishing ? Another myth-ridden beast, gasping. As is advertising, replaced by algorithms and fast-forward buttons. Newspapers are folding. Movies, yawn. Trump blew up the conventional. Apple can’t do the job without Jobs. Even flossing has been debunked.

Change is afoot. Rampant.

Why should you escape unscathed?

What if the rules that always worked, suddenly don’t ? How will you survive?

Here’s a thought:

Instead of fleeing failure, what if you embrace it?


Drop excuses.

Cut your safety line.

Make shit. Wild shit. See if it sticks to the wall. If not, archive the lesson, open a new file, repeat.

Take a massive risk that could destroy everything. Make it worth it.

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There is a lot of chatter around the changing nature of blogging. Apparently now blogs are used to make money, sell online course and build a brand. Comments no longer happen and the idea of ‘community’ is a thing of the past. Well, I think my last post showed how wrong that is.

I asked a question about upgrading WordPress. As it turns out I was quite confused, but so many of you responded, giving me advice and support. And I love that, I love the community that surrounds me here, I love our ‘old fashioned’ blogging world. Thank you.

The next part of the post is of an exhibition I went to today, Making the Australian Quilt: 1800 to 1950. It is at the NGV in Melbourne and won’t be travelling. I want to share it because I know there are members of this fantastic community who are wonderful quilters and won’t get the chance to see it. I was thinking of you as I wandered through the exhibition.

Many of the pieces were created within an intimate, private setting, yet have the ability to convey much more of their broader social and historical significance. The exhibition encompasses quilts made by men and women, those made within the context of leisure and accomplishment, created as expressions of love and family connection and those stitched out of necessity in an environment of constraint and hardship. (from the NGV website)

The timeframe tells you that the quilts ranged from those sewn in England and bought out to Australia by the early settlers through to those created in Australia until after WW2. One, the Rajah Quilt was created by women on the convict ship The Rajah. They had been taught sewing skill by the Quaker prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry and given the materials to make the quilt on board. The quilt was given to Lady Jane Franklin wife of the John Franklin, the Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania.

Another was created by Corporal Clifford Gatenby, a POW in a German prison camp during WW2. He sewed images into his army blanket with pieces of wool and cotton taken from discarded garments in the camp, and used needles fashioned from the frames of eyeglasses and ground-down toothbrushes. It took him two and a half years to complete. When he escaped in 1945 he took the quilt with him, saying that it represented too much hard work to leave behind!


Part of the quilt created by Corporal Clifford Gatenby while in a German POW camp in WW2. Made from scrounged wool and cotton.

This next photo shows a detail of a hexagonal quilt made from hexagons that were only one centimetre in diameter!


Hexagon pieces that are only one centimetre in diameter.

As we know sewing was something that was done in the domestic sphere and therefore often went unrecognised as art. But so many of the quilts showed that their creators were as confident colourists as many painters. Look at the beautiful, subtle use of colour in this one.


Quilt detail

And all of this done by hand sewing. Most of the time you couldn’t see the stitches, but this photo shows how fine the stitches were.


Dainty stitching

My sister and I were intrigued by what the reverse sides of the quilts would look like, and kept trying to peer behind the hanging works. We were delighted to see this quilt, showing the other side. This was obvious a work in progress, because the paper supports were still sewn into the quilt. The quilter used whatever came to hand ~ newspapers, book pages and even children’s pages of handwriting practice. My sister, ever the researcher, was trying to read the tiny print!


These two show great use of colour:


Many of the ones below were created with satins and ribbon.


Later in the 1800s there crazy patchwork was fashionable and allowed the women to be much more expressive.


Crazy patchwork

The last part of the exhibition displayed waggas. I didn’t know what they were either. A wagga is a quilt that is made from found and reused materials, making do when resources are scarce. They were often made from samples and swatches of materials, such as men’s suiting. They were common in regional Australia in the first half of the 20th century, during the two world wars and the Depression when other material was scarce. Apparently they were often backed with hession sugar bags and layered for warmth.


A couple of waggas and a patchwork dressing gown.

So, a tantalising thank you to my quilting friends.


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WordPress update ~ can you help me?

There is, apparently, an update is needed for my WordPress site. If I am using 2.7 or later, it should be a matter of clicking a button. According to WP I go to my dashboard and click updates and it will all happen. However, I can’t see such a button on my dashboard.

So my first question is: Am I looking in the wrong spot? (although I feel like I have looked everywhere.)

If it is not there, my second question is: How do I find out what version of WP I am using? I have searched around and can’t seem to fin the answer to that one either.

If I am using 2.6 or before, then I have to do it manually. The instructions for that look mighty complicated, and I don’t think I can do it.😦

So, any advice for someone who loves to do the screen stuff, but has no idea how behind the screen works?

[This isn’t the post I thought I would be sending out today….that was a much more interesting one about feather drawings! It will come very soon.]

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Superhuman stories

You may have already seen Channel 4’s ad for the Paralympics…..if you have, watch it again, because it is worth it. If you haven’t watch it to be uplifted, inspired and listen to a fantastic song.

Now find out more……..

As Alvin Law says, there are no disabilities, just people with incredible talents!

[Thanks to everyone who taught me how to imbed videos. It worked like a charm. I think I was overthinking the whole process!]

Posted in Music, Odds and Ends | 11 Comments

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook #6

It has come as a (little) shock to me to realise that I have not told you about the adventures of the Sketchbook since it left Kate’s place in North Queensland. It has had a number of adventures since then, but if you need to get up to speed with the Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook, check out the Sisterhood blog or my separate page, which also needs updating.

After Kate had finished her fabric feather, she sent the Sketchbook on its way to Sandra, aka Lady Red Specs. She was inspired by her grandfather and eggplants to create a wonderful still life of those vegetables, along with a recipe for ratatouille. You can see her page and read about why she was moved to draw them on the Sisterhood blog here.

Once Sandra had finished her lovely creation the Sketchbook was off to Megan, aka Chas. Chas was delighted to see it and her contribution was a map of her bike trip from her house to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Head to the Sisterhood blog to see the overall map and marvel at her little details.

Then it was off again, to Sandi, not so far this time, only a little way out of Melbourne. Sandi is a fine poet, a wordsmith. Her contribution was a poem, chosen “for its light-heartedness, and reference to embroidery.” It is a beautiful poem, ‘The Explorer’, just perfect for the Sketchbook.

It had finished its Australian leg and when Sandi sent it to Alys in California it was really international! Alys’ contribution was different again. She took all the pages so far and made them into a paper quilt, adding her own little square. It is so like her to unite people. She sent me some photos:

You must read Alys’ delightful post on why she has photos of the squirrels in the first place.

Now the Sketchbook is safely in Sue’s hands. I can’t wait to see what treasure she will add.

Are you like me and just blown away by not only the quality of the contributions, but also their variety? And it still has a long way to go!

I am also humbled by how much delight the Sketchbook creates, and not only with the Sisterhood itself. My Mum is one of its best fans! These are some of the reactions from some Sisters who have held the Sketchbook:

Sandi: The tingle of awe I felt was unexpected. I had reality, wrapped up, in my hands, and I couldn’t wait to touch it.

Chas: To hold Anne’s beautifully bound sketchbook which already has 3 superb pieces in it is a little intimidating. The works are truly far more special to see close up.

Little did I realise, when this sketchbook was only a small tingle of an idea, that it would be something to inspire and delight. I think Alys has summed it up well with her tag of ‘Stitching and friendship around the globe’.

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Botanic illustration and flower painting

Jan McDonald, the Rare Books Librarian at the State Library of Victoria, uses two books from the collection to show the difference between botanic illustration and flower painting.

One book contains depictions of Australian plants collected by scientific illustrator Austrian Ferdinand Bauer. The other, by the decorative French painter of flowers Pierre-Joseph Redouté, captures the blooms growing in Josephine Bonaparte’s garden at Malmaison

And exploration of Australia played a key part in the creation of both books. Enjoy!

Jan McDonald on botanical books

[BTW can anyone ~ Meeks?🙂 ~ remind me how to embed a video? I can’t seem to do it at the moment😦 ]

Posted in Artists, Botanic Art, Melbourne, Odds and Ends, Plants | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments