Friday, April 11, 2014

Not in my name. Not exactly.

613 brooch

This is my little piece for the Contemporary Art Society of Victoria's Australian National Brooch Show. Australian readers probably know what I'm getting at here. It might be the first time I've tried to make any kind of political statement by making something.

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There is a lot of history to asylum seeker policy and 'boat people' in this country, and there sure are some wicked problems each successive government has faced. However, it is impossible to condone the way both major parties have formed and implemented nasty, brutal, inhumane policy in response to the perception that Australia is being swamped by illegal boat arrivals (who of course are all potential terrorists). Especially when the numbers arriving by boat have never been large at all by world standards or even within the context of our regular immigration programs. 

So this idea came up in response to the recent efforts to ensure no boats reach Australia, by forcibly turning them back towards Indonesia, and if the boats are unseaworthy, towing the occupants in those orange bubble lifeboats.

But it's not just that, in my mind it goes (at least) back to the Tampa, the Prime Minister's selective hearing about "children overboard", and the bizarre strategy of excising territory from Australia's migration zone (haha! so you made it but it turns out you didn't). Followed by all the variants of offshore processing, including the debacle of Manus Island where, it seems, no one is getting processed, no one is ever going to be resettled there or in Australia, the locals are up in arms (literally), and detainees are dying, or/or trying to kill themselves. Offshore detention allows everything to be kept at arms length and in relative secrecy. It's not happening on Australian soil. Let's not even talk about children in detention, or the justification for detention at all in many cases, the enormous amounts of money Australia is spending keeping all of these efforts going, and the direct mental and physical toll it has on the people detained for indefinite periods.

And I know that I can say all this happens "not in my name," but of course it is. I am Australian. I know these problems aren't simple. Of course discouraging people from trying to come to Australia by boat is a good thing if it saves people from drowning when unseaworthy boats can't make the distance. But I can't support cruelty to one lot of people as a lesson to those who might be tempted to follow them. The ends cannot justify the means. And I think there are other forces at work justifying the cruelty - racism, xenophobia, misinformation.

615 back with glue spots
I made the brooch pretty quickly to meet the deadline, and it mostly came together as I imagined, just a bit messier. It is actually two separate brooches joined by a chain. I was struggling a little to keep within the size limits for the show, and would have preferred the chain a bit longer. I also took some artistic liberties with scale - this orange lifeboat is really way too big relative to the Customs boat. My first attempt at the lifeboat was even bigger. I still can't accurately predict how much something will shrink with felting.

The Customs boat is black aida cloth glued onto a plastic template, cut from an ice cream container. I would have liked neater corners. And I'm showing you the back of the thing, even though it's not that neat and you can see the glue!

The (grandly named) Australian National Brooch Show is on now in Melbourne, at Fitzroy Library until 30 May and then South Yarra Library from 3 June - 30 July.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Womadelaide 2014, some of Sunday's music

331 Living room
I must admit I didn't see their whole act but I stayed a while (probably some delicious food was calling me) to grab these photos of The Living Room, from Austria, a duo using some unconventional instruments: Manu Delago plays the hang (tuned metallic 'flying saucers), and Christoph Pepe Auer, along with bass clarinet, plays his own woodwind 'Pepephon'
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315 dancing
I loved watching these dancers enjoying themselves during Red Baraat's set. It was quite hot, why not take the sleeves off your suit and still look smart? Don't examine these photos too closely though, because the wrong people are actually in focus...oops. 
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252 coloured stone

And I really enjoyed the wonderful Coloured Stone who have been around for 35 years - I had seen Bunna Lawrie and Coloured Stone at festivals on NITV (our newish Indigenous-focused channel) and was delighted to see them live.
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274 Bunna Lawrie

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And the drummer was Rob Hirst from Midnight Oil. He was having So. Much. Fun. And he also looked like he might have gotten quite a bit of sun during the day.
281 rob hirst

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Womadelaide 2014: Some of Sunday's sights

341 W

234 flags

231 The cupcakes
Roundabout Theatre's The Cupcakes, "two perfectly groomed 1950s women on a mission to clean up the streets."
228 the cupcakes

204 flags & chairs

216 lanterns daytime

I made an effort to line up to watch the parade because I thought there would be some good photos in it. I took a few shots and then got into a good position, then...the camera battery died. I only bought the camera a week or so prior to the trip, and haven't yet bought a spare battery. And, since my normal habit with cameras is to let each battery go flat before charging, I had forgotten that I should top it up overnight. I thought these large skeletons were pretty cool. At least I got a couple of shots pre-parade.
336 pre parade

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Womadelaide 2014: Saturday

I missed Womadelaide last year, so I was delighted to get back there this year for three days.

134 Box wars
Happy Boxwars graduates.

097 Azadoota
Azadoota, an Assyrian Iraqui band from Sydney.
099 Azadoota

122 Bellydance with Azadoota
A flurry of dancers appeared during Azadoota's set.
115 Dancers with Azadoota


127 Dancers with Azadoota

174 Sam Lee & Friends
Sam Lee & Friends. I think this group might turn out to be new favourite. Their was the only CD I brought home (though there are a few more I may track down) and it is lovely. Really delightful. A collection of English folk songs, played with some non-traditional instruments, eg Shruti Box, an Indian instrument, bellows-based, which makes a droning noise (yes! the good kind).

177 Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen
Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, from New Orleans. A fantastic show. Even though one of the gentlemen (the guitarist) was missing due to illness, with just bass, drums and piano the sound was large and warm.
Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen

 193 Just being there

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Gotta go west on that bus

I made a bag for the littlest nephew (2 and a half) for Christmas. He didn't yet have a bag of his own (!) but had been playing with the little babyish bags I made for the twins when they were only a bit over one year old.

This one is a good deal bigger than those, in fact maybe a little bit bigger than I intended, but it is a good size for a couple of library books. I should have made the flap longer though. I've fallen in this trap with little pouches I've made before, I forget to allow for the width of the bag and make the flap too short. I used a satchel pattern from Knitty, though I'm pretty sure I improvised the numbers. The yarn is Bendigo's Murano - great value for a self-striping feltable.

I went op-shopping for a fabric belt for the handle and was thrilled with this black and white striped one. It had d-rings, which I cut off and used on the sides of the bag. And with these great instructions I learned how to make the strap adjustable.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I saw Dolly Parton

And she was fantastic. It was a wonderful experience, not least because I shared it with some special people. For my sister the ticket was a birthday surprise from her boyfriend. She thought we were all going out dancing.

I haven't seen a show like this before, and early on I wondered if it was going to be a bit too fake and corny to really get into. But Dolly quickly won me over. Her singing was great, the material varied, her banter warm and engaging - even if some of her jokes are old and much-repeated.

"I'm so glad you all could come out tonight ... cause I need the money! No, really, it costs a lot of money to look this cheap." Groan, a Dolly classic - at the merchandise stand you could buy a pink t-shirt with this printed on it.

The country-cabaret style was different to any show I've been to. Many of the songs were quite short or in medley form, including, in the first half, a set of songs her grandfather used to sing. I would have loved more time spent on this old-timey music. In the second half (there was no support, just about two hours of 68-year-old Dolly and her band, with a 20 minute intermission) she did a medley of several of her hits. I guess this was fit in as many of the songs people come to hear as possible. Across the whole show it was quite a varied program, including her own songs and covers as well as older roots music from her childhood.

'Jolene' came up really early in the show, as well as a great version of Dylan's 'Don't think twice,' sung together with the two female backing singers. The first half ended on a high note with Bon Jovi's 'Lay your hands on me' which finished the set. This was a total surprise for me: I didn't know til later that it's on her latest album. In the second half, 'Little Sparrow' was stunning, there was a Billy Joel cover ('Travellin' Prayer'), a less exciting cover of Collective Soul's 'Shine,' a lovely 'Banks of the Ohio' (with a shout-out to Olivia Newton-John), and the aforementioned medley including songs like 'Bargain Store,' 'Love is like a butterfly' and 'But you know I love you.' The high point of the second half for me was 'Islands in the stream.' I'm such a sucker for a good Bee Gees song, as well as for a good duet. It was followed by '9-5', which was fun, and a finale of 'I will always love you.' Neither of these surpassed Islands, for me anyway.

Dolly played quite a range of instruments during the show, each only for a short period though. Even with long fake nails, it seems she can play anything if it has enough rhinestones plastered on it! Everything she picked up sparkled (just like everything she wore): harmonica, dulcimer, autoharp, banjo, pennywhistle/recorder (I was sitting up high and couldn't quite tell), and violin. Most surprising was a saxophone (a curved soprano, I think) which was a bit of a novelty act where she played the Benny Hill theme.

Okay, given past admissions/suggestions, it's possible she mimed some of her playing, and it seems she has lip synced some parts of concerts before. If she did, I couldn't tell (I wasn't sitting very close and I was off to the side). It wouldn't be inconsistent with the vibe and production values of her show, and I don't even mean that in a bad way. She is there to entertain and put on the show her fans expect and love. Just like with her face and body - one of her often-repeated lines is "If I see something sagging, bagging and dragging, I'm going to nip it, tuck it, and suck it!" she probably wouldn't shy away from enhancing her performance with a little pre-recording.

Dolly talked a lot between songs, a practised patter that, though peppered with familiar jokes and lines, was genuine and engaging. She talked a lot about her mountain childhood and her beloved, dirt-poor parents (married at 15 and 17, had 12 children by their 30's) but everything she said was kept pretty positive and sentimental. She has just launched her long-running literacy program into Australia so that was mentioned of course, apparently inspired by her father who did not get an education.

From other reviews and interviews, she seems to always be perceived as very kind, funny, and charming. She jokes about herself but is not exactly self-deprecating, as she always seems to own and be proud of her choices. She constantly takes on the obvious topics like her trashy style of dress, plastic surgery, and those famous breasts (she made many references to her bust size during the show).

Dolly was of course dressed in her signature perfectly tailored, tacky, spangled outfits and sky high heels. The set decor was pretty old fashioned and simple - a butterfly-shaped screen behind the stage showed slides or video that tied in with the songs, usually in a pretty simple and literal way. For example, during 'Coat of Many Colours,' it was an image of a child waking down a dirt road with a colourful patchwork coat on. I had thought it might be more of a 'diva' show (a la Cher or Kylie perhaps) with lots of costume changes and fancy effects. But actually Dolly only changed her outfit once, at the intermission, and the band and three backing singers (all excellent) mostly kept in the background, dressed in plain black, except for some carefully choreographed interactions with Dolly on certain songs.

Monday, January 13, 2014


My sister was keen for the kids to start using glass rather than plastic cups, but wanted different colours so they could each identify their own glass for the day. I shopped around a little, and I know I could have found a suitable coloured set, but I liked the idea of customising some plain ones myself. Actually, the ones I found weren't totally plain, but they were the right size and shape for smaller hands, and I quite liked the bubbles/circles in the glass.

Two things made trying this seem reasonably doable to me: one was that I could buy permanent glass paint in pen form, and the other was finding many images of this "confetti" style glassware - inspired by the glassware made with coloured glass speckles in clear glass, many people had made their own cheaper versions with paint.
I didn't go for the full confetti look, which I think would have needed more colours (and/or some white in the mix) but I was happy with simple spots. I had a set of six small glasses and only three colours of paint, so I did some of them with spots in two colours. But even with the colour combinations, I thought the distinctions might be a bit too subtle, so I added either a heart or a spiral to each one on the bottom.

The paint is supposed to be dishwasher safe. I imagine it will eventually wear off, but I hope it lasts a good while. You have to read the fine print though. I managed to get two pens which said just to let it dry for 72 hours, but unexpectedly the third said the glass had to be heated in the oven to about 150 degrees. So I cooked them all, starting with the glasses in the cold oven as it heated up, to avoid shocking and breaking them. My oven isn't really working properly - only the top (grill) element heats up, but I think that was enough to get them hot enough to set the paint. At least I hope so!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Orange: not the only baby wool

This latest little baby cardigan (Baby Tea Leaves by Melissa LaBarre) has finally depleted my stash of orange baby wool, a 10-pack bought around the time my now 8-year old nephew was born. He got an orange vest - not the one shown below the same vintage pattern, without the tree motif on the back. That was my first knitted garment ever, how exciting that was! A bit later I used some more of the orange wool (Patons Dream Time) for a more ambitious version of the vest, shown below. Then I used it for the bolero for my baby niece, and I loved the combination of that orange with the hand-dyed pink so much that I always had in mind another project with the same combination.


Actually I planned to make something similar to the bolero for this project, but I didn't want to use that pattern again as it was knit in pieces and seamed. Immediately after I finished that bolero, I tried a seamless top-down raglan for her twin brother, and from then on I have had no desire to seam such a small garment, ever again. I was surprised that combing Ravelry didn't uncover a suitable pattern written for 4 or 5 ply. A lot of the more modern patterns are written for heavier weights like 8ply and worsted. I really love knitting 4 ply, think it's more likely to get more wear in our climate too. Yeah, I possibly could have converted a worsted pattern, but I didn't want a lot of trial and error time with this project.

So I started planning how I could combine other patterns to improvise what I needed, but soon realised I needed to get a move on, as baby S was surely growing and the weather getting warmer. I shifted gears and ended up choosing a very different pattern, the baby version of the very popular Tea Leaves cardigan. There is a kids version too, called Tiny Tea Leaves.

I'm actually really glad I went this way. I would still like the challenge of improvising that seamless bolero pattern, and probably will do it at some point, but I love how the tea leaves pattern came out and think it really lends itself to two colours.

Finally, getting a little bit scared that baby S wouldn't get much wear out of the cardie before growing too big (by this time it pretty much summer), I added a little monogram washer to the package.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Last things first

There are a few Christmas projects to show you, though not as many as in previous years. But before I get to those: a very recent and very quick finished project. A few days ago, Aunty arrived in Canberra for a visit, and showed me a picture she had taken of a big crocheted hair ornament she liked. Hint, hint. It was worn (and I think also made) by a lady working in a gallery they visited on their way to Canberra.

I think I managed to replicate what I could see in the pictures (can't be sure, but it's a similar overall effect). It did turned out to be a good bit smaller than the original, but suits her for now as her hair has some more growing out to do before it's long enough for the full updo. So I said I would have another go at making a bigger one, in a while.

I coudn't find a blank hair clip finding in time, so just bought a very cheap dollar store fascinator/flower clip and pulled it apart.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Old Parliament House baubles

031 e
A while ago, CraftACT contacted me about making some Christmas tree ornaments for the Museum of Australian Democracy, at Old Parliament House.
009 e
This was a pretty exciting opportunity. At first I assumed they were to be sold on consignment (like my work is at the CraftACT shop) so it was also a pleasant surprise to learn that they would be buying them outright.
004 edit
I went to check out the tree last weekend and it is really big. The other ornaments are beautiful works in glass and porcelain. As they are mostly neutral colours, the bright felt ones do stand out, although they are smaller. With hindsight, I would have probably made them a bit bigger and perhaps in a more consistent colour scheme.
011 e
Anyway, it was a kick to see my little baubles hanging out in the lovely foyer of Old Parliament House.
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