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SAL

Before I show you the work done over the last three weeks, I just want to say how much I appreciate the comments you leave. Of course I get warm fuzzies when you tell me how you like what I do, but perhaps even more I appreciate the comments you leave about what you see in my work, what they remind you of, how they make you feel. That there is something in my stitching that you respond is a good feeling.

I am proud to be part of such a warm and supportive community.

So, to this time….

….another postcard. The torn up work was a watercolour tree. I tried to make the pieces more horizontal, but somehow it still has quite strong verticals!

I am working on the cross stitching, but seem to have stalled over the last week or so. I think it needs some colours that I don’t have in my thread stash. Of course, that could just be an excuse to buy some more but now that shops are open and our restrictions have eased I feel the yarns and threads are calling to me!

This Stitch-A-Long post is organised by Avis. We are a group of stitchers who post every three weeks to show what personal stitching we have done. The variety of works is amazing, and the quality is always top notch. Use the links below to see their work.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

My online pottery class

You may remember that I signed up for an online pottery class, thinking “How on earth is this going to work?”, but loving the idea of it.

It worked really well, thanks to the good organisation of the tutor, Vincenza. There were four weekly online classes with clay and materials provided by her. Over the three weeks of making I made a flat plate, a little bowl, a vase and a bird.

My favourite is the little bird, because it sits so nicely in my hand.

The vase is a slab pot. To construct this you wrap a slab of clay around a cylinder. I used a beer bottle, which was the perfect shape! Decorating it was tricky, as nothing seemed satisfactory, until I saw the tassels on a scarf. I added some more marks.

The fourth week was glazing. We had dropped our greenware work to Vincenza, who did the first firing, the bisque firing. When she gave them back she added little pots of glazes in the box.

The finished pots…

My best results from the course was to rekindle my desire to do more pottery. I did it many years decades ago but it sat on the back burner during that time. Next year I will look around for a somewhere to do some more. That should be fun 🙂

Also it was a delight to do something unexpected during our lockdown.

Oh, fabulous day!

Today, Melbournians emerge with our unkempt hair and our huge grins into our new ‘COVID-normal’ life.

Because we have done something extra-ordinary; we have got our case numbers from over 700 a day to 0, and 0 deaths, for two days running. Two Double Donut Days! To put that into perspective, on the 5th August we had 715 cases while Belgium had 334. A couple of days ago Belgium had 15, 622.

I don’t want to gloat, but rather celebrate our achievement. We got here with a strict and long lockdown which has been very hard for so many people. So much repair will be needed.

Today, for the first time for months, we can sit down for have a coffee and a meal. We can go into a shop that is not an essential service ~ art shops! We can catch up with friends outside ~ I am off for a picnic with friends! We can leave our homes for whatever reason we like. (Previously we had only been able to leave for 4 reasons.) We can live our lives.

With caution, of course. There is no room for complacency as we have not eliminated the virus. Recognising that the home is one of the most dangerous places, visiting indoors is restricted to one family a day. Sitting with family and friends is something we have been longing to do, but because our guards are down, it can be the place where the virus will spread. Indeed it was larger family gatherings that rapidly spread the virus in June.

I can visit my Mum! I am seeing her on Friday, and the thought of taking her out for a coffee brings a smile to my face.

For a couple more weeks we can only travel within 25 km ~ the trip to Mum is 22km! There is still no travel in or out of metro Melbourne. Mandatory mask wearing will stay for quite a while yet.

To be honest, I am still a little dazed by it all, and still thinking it through, reflecting on that strange liminal time. Undoubtably I will have more to say in later posts, but for now I will enjoy my friends, my Mum and a latte in a glass rather than a takeaway cup, sitting at a table. And celebrate the simple things, the important things.

SAL

Another three weeks, another SAL, another “Postcard from liminal time”.

What a washed out photo…the backing cloth is actually a sage green, and the threads more vibrant.

As you can see I tore up a watercolour painting of a leaf. The leaf was quite curved, and I think this is why it didn’t work as a painting.

As the original painting was a single leaf I tore out around that shape, which left me with white edges around each shape. The other postcards, like this one, were larger shapes, in this case a shell, torn into smaller pieces. It wasn’t until I was into the work that the obvious white struck me. Tearing paper is always going to leave some white, but this is too much to my eye. I tried to break it up with the extra cross stitches, but I wasn’t happy with it.

So, it’s not my favourite postcard, but it taught me more about which painting to choose.

There are five in the series so far. Looking at them together for the first time I can see that they are vertical, with the exception of the eggplant, the first. Maybe the next one will be more horizontal.

This Stitch-A-Long post is organised by Avis. We are a group of stitchers who post every three weeks to show what personal stitching we have done. The variety of works is amazing, and the quality is always top notch. Use the links below to see their work.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

How does my garden grow?

It is a year since I last wrote about my garden ~ well I think it is. Lately I have been planning changes.

Very little has been done over the last seven months of staying at home. It may have been in March when I bought potting mix with the grand idea of repotting during this time at home. eventually I opened the bags over the weekend! Much to the chagrin of a trillion ants that have happily nested in the pots for who knows how long, I repotted the mint, an ivy geranium (which is actually a pelargonium) and a couple of succulents. Still a few more pots to go (and more ants to annoy!), but I have run out of potting mix. It looks like more online shopping. (Our shops are only open for click and collect.)

Newly minted mint

It is out the front where the larger plans are underway. You may know that the front yard is where we have been growing our veggies as it faces north and gets sun most of the day. However, the last eighteen months ~ the Fella’s medical issues and the virus ~ have made me realise that it is impractical to have a veggie garden. It is a question of priorities. To have a proper patch, with rotations and well maintained soil takes time and thought that I have to, and want to, spend elsewhere. It means that this year it has been a jumble of weeds.

So, my plan is to plant out the front with plants that are indigenous to my area, things like kangaroo grass and murnong, a native yam. I found a great pack of 10 tubes of plants from nursery I like. However, I am foiled by the pandemic again. The nursery is not delivering because they have a large backlog of orders. I could do a pick up, but it is outside of my 5 km radius. Patience.

The weeds are still growing well!

The other part of the plan for the front of the house is the verandah. For an embarrassing number of years it has been an area of unwanted junk ~ old plasterboard sheeting, bits of wood etc. This year I decided it was time for a council hard rubbish collection, so more unwanted stuff accumulated. The pandemic thwarted me again because I couldn’t book the collection. Until yesterday when they came and took it all away!

It went from this….

to this…..

in the space of a few minutes! Hurrah!

Now the observant among you will realise that we don’t actually have a verandah, just a verandah-shaped space. My current project is come up with some temporary solution before decking is put in. However, I know that temporary becomes permanent quite easily around here, so it has to be something quite nice. But easy. My thoughts involve big pots and some comfy chairs to enjoy the sunshine and chat to neighbours as they pass by.

Out the back, the Fella, AKA the Undergardener, took out a big bush, which opened up some space. This space is one of the few in the back garden that all day sun, which is why the rose flourishes. The spot for veggies, just a few that take my fancy. I sowed in some silver beet and spring onion seeds, and haven’t seen a single sprout. The dandelions love it though.

I take heart from the flowers that grow despite the lack of attention over the last year. They just do their own thing and I love them for it.

Now, I am going to take a chair out onto the verandah and have a read in the beautiful sunshine. Celebrate the small things. Take care.

How about this for an unusual online activity?

There are so many wonderful things to do online. Have you been sampling some? I have listened to a range of talks, from topics about mountain pygmy possums (just the cutest animals), through feral pests, to edible weeds, as well as visiting museums and galleries and attending online concerts and book launches. However, today I began what I think may be the most unusual thing to do during this period of restrictions ~ an online pottery class!

Sew-a-longs, watercolour lessons, life drawing classes all seem quite doable online, but pottery? It made me laugh every time I told someone about it, and made me smile whenever I thought about it.

Many years ago, when I was doing my teaching diploma, I sub-majored in Art, specifically pottery. I loved it, and did classes for many years after that. Life changes and goes in different directions. It’s a very equipment heavy art form; paper and paint aways seemed easier. But the idea was always there…..one day.

This class is organised specially for Seniors Week through my local council, for October. Our first session was this morning. I was rather flustered at the beginning as I was under-prepared. It was my own fault as I hadn’t read the emails that came last week to register my address which meant they hadn’t been able to deliver the supplies. The tutor, Vincenza, very kindly dropped off my kit last night. I didn’t realise until five minutes before logging on that there was an envelope with instructions. The Fella was highly amused to see me dashing about collecting the things I needed!

Despite that rush I had a wonderful time.

The kit had all the important things, especially the clay, already cut into useful sizes, a little container of underglaze, a rolling pin and other odds and ends.

The kit

The class met over Zoom and Vincenza took us through making slab plates. Then we had time to work on our own, asking questions as we went.

My task over the week is to make two slab plates ~ one is to be textured and on the other I am to sgraffito (draw) into the underglaze. We can attach a raised foot if we like.

First plate ~ work in progress

The texture on this first plate came from rolling the banksia cone over the clay. The darker areas are from the ink of the paper I was rolling on. Vincenza assures me that the marks will burn off in the firing.

And yes, these pieces will be fired. Firing the clay was something I was unsure about, as the logistics of it seemed daunting. It seems like Vincenza will collect all our pieces in a couple of weeks and take them to a kiln for the bisque firing. I am not sure how, or if, we will glaze them.

So, I am off on a new adventure.

I love the way people are thinking about how to do things differently, and really appreciate that this is available to me. It has already brought me joy. And did I mention that it is free?

What have you enjoyed doing online?

SAL

I have finished another similar work, so these SAL posts are more about the series of them, rather than an individual piece. I seem to be able to finish them within the three weeks of SALs.

When a name for the series popped into my head it struck me that these works are becoming a serious series. So, they are part of the series…..

Postcards from Liminal Time.

(Curious about liminal time? I wrote my thoughts about it in an earlier post.)

This latest one is the same size as the others ~ 12 x 17 cm ~ a little bigger than a postcard. It also follows the same ideas of being uncertain about the future, that my art is changing without a clear idea of where I will be. There is also the theme of emerging/disappearing, covered/uncovered and impermanence.

You can see that I have torn up a watercolour of my favourite melaleuca trees. When I painted it I was experimenting with creating forests. This was one of the early attempts, that didn’t quite work.

I worked quite hard on this embroidery. For some reason it didn’t flow, especially the top part, the red couched threads. I think it got there in the end. I am not really happy with the the tree on the right ~ or more specifically the band of rust/yellow stitching that runs across it. It is too dense for the paper, too definite. I couldn’t unpick it, because of course the needle holes would still be there. The best I could do was distract the eye with more stitching, without making the same mistake of the stitching being too dense.

What I do like, and this was unplanned, is the notion that the top part is a little like the tree canopy and the bottom grasses and undergrowth.

I am part of a group of stitchers who share their personal stitching work every three weeks. Go and have a look at the wonderful work that is being done all around the world. Everyone is doing something very different, but always interesting.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

Another story, to (hopefully) make you smile

My Dad’s story seemed to resonate with you, so I thought it is time for another. (If you are not sure what I am talking about, you can catch up with my earlier post. Or you can dive into this one.)

Just a little background: The story is told by Dad about his grandfather, Bill Mason, who lived in a little house in Canning St, North Melbourne. Grandpa Mason is quite a character, as you can tell from this story, which probably happened in the last years of the 19th century.

Grandpa Mason was a bricklayer by trade and like most working men of that time he rode a bike to work. He loved to tell us tales of when he worked on the railway viaduct over Flinders St, and the building boom of the 1880s.

One job he was working on was a row of terrace houses over Moonee Ponds way. They were up to the second story and it was time to knock off, and as always the practical joker, he said to his mate, “I’m not going down the ladder, Jack, I’m going to jump into that pile of sand.”

He went to the edge of the scaffold, swung his arms and pretended to jump. You guessed it, he overbalanced and finished up backside buried in the sand, arms and legs pointing skyward.

“What the hell did you do that for Bill? You coda hurt your bloody self.”

On this job were two labourers. Olaf was a Swede, a big solid chap, an ex sailor off the sailing ships. He did all the rigging and scaffolding, and Mick, he looked after the bricks and mortar. According to my grampa these two were always arguing. Olaf said Mick was as thick as two planks.

Here was my grandpa half buried in the sand heap, and Mick telling him how lucky he was that he put the heap of sand in that exact spot. If he had put it over there, “you woulda missed it Bill and hurt ya bloody self.” Olaf pushed Mick out of the way and he and his mates, still laughing, dug Grandpa out of the soft sand and straightened him out.

By now my Grandfather was very stiff, very sore and very sorry for himself. Now, how to get Bill home? He could hardly walk and the last thing he wanted was to sit down. So Bill’s mates decided that Bill wouldn’t be back at work for a few days. They lashed his hod and level to the bar of his bike, his trowel, bolster and brick hammer into a bag, put the bag over his shoulder, lifted Bill onto his bike, and pointed him in the direction of North Melbourne [about 3 or 4 km away] and gave him a shove. Now that’s real mateship for ya. Probably, as soon as he left the site, they would have been laying bets as to whether he would get home without falling off his bike.

So far, so good. Grandpa Mason reached Canning Street and home, still on his bike. But by now he was even more stiff than he was half an hour ago. He couldn’t lift his leg to get off the bike.

So there’s Bill Mason riding around in circles in the middle of Canning St, yelling at the top of his voice “CLARA! Come and get me off this bloody bike.” [Clara was his wife, Dad’s grandmother.] Well, either Clara wasn’t home, she didn’t hear him and knowing my grandfather I find it unlikely that she didn’t hear him, or she thought the old fool had had one too many. For whatever reason, Clara never came out.

Bill had one choice and one choice only ~ fall off the bloody bike. By this time he felt that half of North Melbourne were out in the street laughing at him. He had no option but to fall off the bloody bike in front of all those bloody women and kids. I bet that didn’t improve his temper any.

Mum said “For weeks after, whenever he went out walking he had to walk in the gutter; he couldn’t lift his foot high enough to step up to the kerb.

But t didn’t cure him as a practical joker.


And a bonus shorter story for you, about my Dad’s experience as a bricklayer

According to the Macquarie Dictionary, a hod is a portable wooden trough for carrying mortar, bricks etc, fixed crosswise to the top of a pole and carried on the shoulder.

Every builder’s labourer would have his own hod. The length of the shaft would depend on how tall, or short, the labourer was. When it was on his shoulder the shaft would be around 30cm clear of the ground. To load it he stood near the stack of bricks holding the hod in one hand just below the vee of the trough. Around 10 brick were loaded into the vee. He put his shoulder under the trough, straightened his legs, then up the ladder two or three stories, unload, then down the ladder and do it again.

Carrying mortar was the same procedure, except they would go to the mortar board, load the hod with a shovel, hod in one hand, shovel in the other. All the mortar and concrete in those days was mixed by hand, no motorised mixers.

When I was about 16 my Dad was building a brick house in Moorabbin. After spending a day on the board mixing concrete by hand I thought I would die. A day or two later my grandfather handed me a hod and said, “Here lad, have go with this”. I soon discovered that I couldn’t even balance it while loading it with mortar, and when it was loaded with bricks I could hardly lift it, let alone carry it up a ladder. I decided there and then that labouring wasn’t for me!

Even today I look at those lovely old buildings around Melbourne and think of the men that built them and marvel at their skills.


(The house as the feature image is the house Bill Mason lived in, and where my Nana grew up. After a couple of renovations I am sure neither would recognise much about it’s more glamorous self, except the facade.)

SAL

I have been enjoying working on a series of works, using the same sort of stitching. This is one I am working on. I am sure the stitching will look very familiar.

Let me explain about the scraps of paper. (If you read my newsletter, you will know about this. Click here if you would like to sign up.)

My art practice has moved away from more botanic art influences, so I am rethinking my connection to those past works. At the same time I am wondering what I will be creating when I emerge from this strange time. This work in progress, and the others below, have come out of those thoughts.

I took a watercolour painting of a limpet shell and tore it up. Rather extreme, but I have also been thinking about the impermanence of things, how unfamiliar and unsettled our lives are. I selected some of the fragments and stitched them down. The couched threads go under and over the paper ~ emerging, disappearing. To create the texture I am using an open, quite random herringbone stitch.

These are the other two I have finished. One is a torn eggplant drawing. The other is another watercolour limpet shell, in blue tones. In this one I also added some material scraps ~ you can see them on the left, behind the paper fragments. They are small, so are quick to work on. At the moment it is important to not overwhelm myself.

I am part of a group of stitchers that share their personal stitching work every three weeks. Go and have a look at the wonderful work that is being done all around the world. Everyone is doing something very different, but always interesting.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

Hearing my Dad

Well, this will be a coronavirus free post ~ no lockdown updates, no quarantine blues, no case numbers.

Instead it will be about my Dad and my Nanna, with a tale told about my grandfather and my great-grandfather. I hope it might bring a smile to your face.

My Nanna was a great story teller. I have many loved memories sitting listening to her stories of the family. She had a knack of making the ordinary events of family life into funny and interesting stories, a talent she passed down to Dad.

Dad recognised how precious those stories were so over time he taped her memories. However, he didn’t leave it there. In the last decade or so of his life he wrote those stories down. This wasn’t just transcribing Nanna’s words, but creating books of family history around those stories.

We were all amazed by what he did for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, he always hated school, leaving at 14. Reading and writing was a chore. So all the stories and books he wrote for us was a great achievement. Imagine how proud we were in 2004 when he won second prize for his story “Grandpa’s Pipe” in the True Life Section of the story writing competition run by Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Secondly, all of his work was done on a computer. These days that sounds like a very mundane statement, but he had never typed, much less used a computer, and was on a steep learning curve. He taught himself to scan, print, add and move photos and documents, as well as setting up files and documents. Interspersed with the stories and family histories are world timelines, letters written from the Western Front in WW1, maps and so on. How amazing is that?

Dad always gave us copies of his work, and they have sat on my bookshelf. A few weeks ago I had reason to read one of his books, looking to see if my Nanna had mentioned something I had been reading about.

As well as reminding myself what a trove of funny, family stories there were, I realised these stories were written just as Dad spoke them. It was as if he was in the room speaking to me, I was hearing my Dad again. It was a special time, partly because it was so unexpected.

Let me give you a little flavour with Dad telling this story “The Cable Tram”, set in North Melbourne where my Nanna grew up, in about 1919. I hope it brings a smile to your face.

The Cable Tram

My grandpa Mason’s grocery shop had a bike for deliveries. Now, my grandpa’s shop wasn’t busy enough to afford a boy to do the deliveries, so my grandpa did them. Imagine if you can my grandpa on a bike, a middle aged man, tallish, 5 foot 9 inches, thin but wiry, a black moustache, glasses, a brown fur felt hat, a longish apron and smoking a pipe. He always smoked Havlock plug tobacco. In my mind’s eye I can see him on that bike puffing away like an old steam tram.

He would come home at night worn out, complaining about pushing that bloody bike all over North Melbourne. Mum [my Nanna] was house keeping at the time and her reply was “Dad, buy a small van.” “I can’t drive girl” was his reply. “Len will teach you.” [Len was my grandfather, returned from the war and courting Nanna.] Eventually grandpa gave in and agreed for dad [Len] to teach him.

They got a Ford T van from somewhere, where I don’t know but knowing how canny my grandpa was, I doubt very much that they bought it. Probably the Ford T would have been one of the hardest cars to try to reach anyone to drive. The hand and foot movements were completely different from any other car, and for someone like my grandpa, the fastest thing he ever drove was a horse and jinker.

Here we have an inexperienced driving instructor and an even more inexperienced learner driver, with all the levers and controls on the right had side of the driver, out of reach of the instructor. In a ten acre paddock may be, but here they were driving around the streets of North Melbourne. All went well for a while, no stop signs at intersections, no roundabouts. Their main thing to watch out for would have been kids playing in the street.

After a while it was time to head for home. They drove into Canning Street, up the hill past no 47 to the top of the hill. The idea was to stop, turn around and gently roll down the hill to number 47 where the three girls were waiting.

Grandpa must have relaxed and lost concentration at this point, because the Ford didn’t stop, instead it headed down the hill towards Abbotsford St. This is where the panic started.

Cable trams ran along Abbotsford St, and it just so happened that at that particular moment one was about to pass the end of Canning St. The Grippie saw the Ford heading down Canning St, straight for him. He panicked, threw the cable and stropped the tram.

Here’s grandpa, in the Ford, heading straight for a cable tram, and he did what any normal person would have done in the same situation. He panicked. He planted his two feet firmly on the floor, gripped the steering wheel firmly with two hands, pulled back on the steering wheel and yelled for the bugger to whoa!

But the bugger wasn’t a horse and the bugger didn’t whoa until until it ran into the side of the tram. Luckily they ran into the side of the dummy and knocked it off the rails. The dummy is the enclosed cabin where the passengers sat in bad weather.

The drinkers from the Homebush Hotel thought it was a great joke. They laughed and gave all sorts of advice, most of it not helpful. But when it came to putting the dummy back on the rails there were plenty of helpers.

When it was all over and the drinkers went back to their drinking, the cable car headed on the city and Len took the Ford T back to where it came from. Grandpa said that he thought he would stick to the bike. It was cheaper to run.