Saturday, 7 April 2018

blind artist


It’s been a few months since I blogged. Regular readers will know that doesn’t mean nothing much has been happening…..quite the opposite. Long spells of not blogging indicate I’m in a manic creative space and can’t spare a moment.

Over the 2 decades of my serious art making it’s easy to identify various phases I’ve moved through. The most obvious ones being cloth dolls, 2-dimensional canvas embroidery, art to wear. Sometimes within those big phases were brief side tracks - a few weeks/a couple of months investigating something a bit off the main highway and eventually I’d cycle back.

Columbine, 2003

One of my regular diversions has been mixed media adornment. Favoured media being cloth, fibres and glass beads. I think I’ve mentioned before my preference for the description adornment. Jewellery (or “jewelry” for the USAers) is just so wrong and stupid. I don’t use precious stones and metals (though I’ve been there with Precious Metal Clay. Was Australias first certified teacher in 1998), perhaps some semi precious stones on occasion. So I’ll adamantly stick to using the term adornment.

"Ava" 2013, mixed media and embroidery on canvas, 50cm x 1200cm

The new phase started in November last year and I expected it would eventually peter out and I’d return to clothing and publishing PDF patterns. By the end of February this year I realised I wasn’t going back to art to wear or publishing patterns any time in the foreseeable future. I have cycled into a new phase of art making…..


mixed media necklace by Pearl red Moon, 2017

detail of jacket by Pearl Red Moon, sashiko stitching, machine stitching, applique, work in progress 2017

I have made so much stuff in the last 4 months! My little studio shop is absolutely exploding with stuff. In the Etsy shop I have always sold way more patterns than adornments – 95% more – so I can’t be bothered to list any of the newly made adornments.

mixed media necklace, Pearl Red Moon 2018

I’ve been longing to investigate some very experimental interpretations but have had to keep compromising with what I make because the out of the box stuff just won’t sell very readily in the studio. To justify allowing myself to go there I made a proposal to the art gallery at Muswellbrook, an hours drive from where I live and where I had a shared exhibition with my husband in 2013. I’m delighted that they were happy to offer me one of the exhibition spaces for next year. Working title for the show is “Finery” and dates will be May 11 to June 26.


bead weaving necklace, Pearl Red Moon, 2018

That was the good news. After my conference with the gallery directors I floated off on my bit of cloud 9 to an appointment down the road with the optometrist. My eyesight has been driving me batshit crazy lately. When beading I often have thread the needle 10-20 times a day. This was taking several minutes and I noticed my depth perception was terrible, often missing the needle eye by centimeters. I wasn’t overly concerned though as I hadn’t updated my prescription for 3 years.

pendant, embroidery and beading, Pearl Red Moon, 2018

The consultation revealed I have a cataract developing in my left eye. It’s a relief to know as this can be corrected with surgery and hopefully before the end of this year. I comfort myself that Monet famously developed cataracts towards the end of his life and this changed his colour perception and made much of his work all the more intriguing!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

fully baked Chefs Coat

Many people commented on the transformation of the Chefs Coat. Perhaps some didn't realise those pictures shown on my blog a few days ago were only of the first few hours work on it and I intended to cover the whole surface....?

Since then I spent 2 more days working on the coat and finished it yesterday. In total the entire working time to transform this $6 thrift shop coat took about 16-18 hours.


Here's pictures and commentary on how it was done.

front of the finished Chefs Coat, buttoned up

All the fabrics appliqued to the coat were from my scrap bin or from clothes or discarded fabric lengths purchased from thrift shops, including the buttons. No new fabrics were purchased.

back of the Chefs Coat

To work on the coat the only alterations I made were cutting about 20cm(8") off the sleeve length and slitting open each underarm seam to the side seam. This allowed the sleeves to be opened out flat to apply the applique.


close up of buttoning on the front

I tossed my pile of black and white fabrics on the work table and randomly picked bits to cut squares, triangles and narrow strips of randomly sized pieces. A number pieces were then collaged onto the coat surface, pinned in place and sewed. About 8-12 pieces at a time were sewed in place. Sometimes the pieces overlapped or the underneath was allowed to show in spaces.

To applique the pieces I used a 7mm wide 3-step zigzag stitch and left the fabric patch edges raw. I like shredded, fraying edges as it adds texture and mobility to the surface. But the 3-step stitch is secure enough that the raw edges will only fray back to the stitch. In the picture above the 3-step zigzag most clearly shows around the edge of the white spot on black patch near the coat bottom. I also like the stitch to be a decorative element so would switch between black and white thread to purposely highlight it on the surface. However, on the bobbin I used only black thread throughout so the sewing on the inside of the garment is hardly visible.

opened up Chefs Coat shows how the stitching is barely visible on the inside

When the surface was about half covered with applique patches I laid the coat back out on the work table and did some stenciling over various parts, especially where there were big gaps showing the underneath fabric. I also stenciled a big strip of white cotton voile with black and cut this into small patches to be added to the surface.

stenciled patches, some of which were added to the coat

detail of buttoning at the neckline of the coat

When the fronts of the coat were nearly done I decided to cut out 2 very deep triangles down the front edge. In the style of Chefs Coats the front was double breasted so there was a very wide overlap. I saw that this offered the potential to create an interesting zigzag feature. When buttons were added it had the neat effect of allowing all sorts of combinations of closing some and leaving various bits to flap open....

the cut out zigzag front of the Chefs coat allows for all sorts of ways of closing and leaving parts to flap back...




Friday, 19 January 2018

fabric chef

Like a lot of contemporary textile artists and sewists I'm concerned for the environmental footprint and amount of resources wasted by the clothing industry. Those readers in my age group - 50 to 60s  -will be aware of the massive change in attitude women have gone through about the amount and type of clothes we own since the latter part of last century. My mother still recalls the hat, gloves and lipstick era that was de rigeur before any middle class woman left home for a public appearance, even if just to pick up a bag of spuds for dinner. I have no sentimentality moving on from the rigid formality of that time! Also, another aspect of social change is that hardly any of us are full time house wives any more!

Thrift shopping has always been part of my pleasures since I was in my mid teens way back in the 1970s. That was many years before I was a serious textile artist which changed the way I saw the clothes and fabrics to a whole different level of appreciation. In the 70s almost all the clothes came from deceased estates or from elderly women who were clearing their wardrobes. Only a very small amount of clothes were modern and they would be well worn and seasons old. You never found unworn, new clothes (often with sales tags still on) as I do all the time now.

But what a bounty it was! Fabulous tailored suits from the 1930s, 40s and 50s! Extraordinary jacquard hand knitted vests and cardigans. Genuine fur coats and stoles. My greatest find ever was an Emilio Pucci silk dress, completely hand sewed. Sadly, I had no appreciation of that garment and wore it to death over the Summer of 1977. When my son was born in 1979 I had collected a great stack of hand knitted baby clothes and sweetly embroidered and smocked cotton gowns for his newborn months. Apparently most of those women at home full time spent significant hours making, maintaining and cleaning the family clothes. Clothes were expected to last many years, if not decades or a life time.

Nowadays I have a wholly a different attitude to thrift shopping. It appalls and astounds me how the racks are full of current or last seasons clothes, barely worn, and frequently brand new unworn clothes. A few days ago a major clothing brand was advertising on TV childrens school polo shirts for sale at $1.69. Duhhhhh....!!? No wonder we have such a disposable attitude to clothes! Is the owner (mother or wife, of course) going to mend, handwash and iron that shirt for the next 5 years....? I had nightmares about that fibre being created from petroleum requiring gallons of water and electricity. Sewed in a Chinese or Pakistani sweatshop by some woman earning 2c a shirt. Shipped halfway across the world with more cost of fuel and labour. Nuts! Would I be neurotic to declare we are all going to hell in a handcart of our own making!

I'm looking out the window as I write this anticipating the heatwave warning we have gotten for the next few days. The prediction is for 3-4 days with temps 40C+. Last year was the hottest, driest year on record where I live. I'm looking with a heavy heart at my dying garden. I can't water it because we are legally restricted from using water for that. I'm allowed to use a hand watering can on Sundays between 6-8pm....

A few days ago I bought 3 garments from the local thrift shop to rejuvenate. I have a modest collection of interesting vintage fabrics and keep all my fabrics scraps so the plan was to bust them out to alter these garments.

The first project is finished. I just call it Daisy Top in reference to the several pieces of printed linen I cut from a classic 70s table cloth. This pull on top had interesting kimono sleeves that attracted me. It took about 5 hours to apply the patchwork in applique technique.

front of Daisy Top
back of Daisy Top

Yesterday I started on the next item I bought which is a brand new Chefs Coat in black cotton drill. What attracted me to this was the lovely pointed lapels. I had to cut off the massively long man length sleeves.
black cotton drill Chefs Coat, still a blank canvas

At the end of yesterday, after about 4 hours work this is the result so far....

back of Chefs Coat

detail of lower back, showing combination of applique and stenciling

detail of bottom front

bottom right front, stripey bit in the middle is a pocket taken off a mans shirt. There is a tie looped through the buttonhole and dangling down. The pocket has been stenciled.

front of Chefs Coat, with the work so far

Will show the finished result soon.







Saturday, 6 January 2018

bead fiddler

For the last month I've been making at least one pair of seed bead earrings in the evening while watching TV. In Winter I like to knit or crotchet but handling seed beads when the temps are 30C+ is much more sensible. I've also been doing a whole bunch of sashiko stitching on wearable garments but pictures of those are for a blog another day.

All these are for sale ranging between AUS$30 to $45, except for the african inspired ones which are $75.


seed bead earrings by Pearl Red Moon 2018

variety of seed besd earrings by Pearl Red Moon 2018

african inspired seed bead earrings by Pearl Red Moon 2017

variety of seed beads earrings by Pearl Red Moon 2017

Monday, 1 January 2018

Happy 2018 to all from Pearl

Happy 2018 to all!
Approaching my 6th decade I've had a few of these celebrations in my life so I'm happy to leave the partying to young people. I enjoyed a quiet night at home with my husband watching the Sydney fireworks on TV and beading a pair of earrings.
I have at least 50 items made in the last months of 2016 that have never been shown on the blog. No hope of ever catching up but here is an eye pendant made last week. The eye is free motion embroidered and surrounded with several rows of beading.


a close up of the pendant, approx 7cm long x 5cm wide

I made a little run of 5 of these, all slightly different and with different colour beads. AU$55 each if you want to buy one! I will never get around to listing them in the Etsy shop like 93 other things....

The Marama Coat PDF sewing pattern is now available in my online shops if anyone wants to plunge into their first project of the New Year...

Perhaps my New Year resolution should be to try to keep up with showing more things I make...?

cover of Marama Coat




Saturday, 9 December 2017

the pleasure of slow stitching



Add close up of patchwork and sashiko stitching on the coat front

full front of the coat

top of the back, showing stenciling and unfinished stitching

back of the coat, the black middle section is unfinished

For the last month I've been enjoying the pleasures of slow stitching. The black and white coat in the pictures is one of the projects I've been working on. For a short time I was all excited thinking I was pioneering a new technique of combining stenciling and sashiko stitching then discovered the Japanese had covered this territory more than a hundred years ago with "Katazome"....oh well, nothing new under the Sun, as they say. 

I'm still enthusiastic to make a tutorial about my contemporary version and approach to combining stencil, boro and sashiko. Perhaps I can call it "the surface of the Moon"....?!! The traditional approach to Katazome is admirable but challenging to use in a modern context. 

I have been working on about 6 items of clothing with the intention of using them as examples in the potential future publication and will show some more soon. I'm particularly enjoying working with recycled denim. 

Heres another example....

recycled denim skirt embellished with stenciling and sashiko stitching, as yet unfinshed





Friday, 17 November 2017

Upper Hunter Arts Trail this weekend

This weekend Rodney and I are opening our garden and home studio as one of the participants in the Upper Hunter Arts Trail

My art will be on display and for sale in the garden. As the weather is a bit iffy if we can't open the garden I'll just stay in my studio/gallery on the New England Highway at 71 Mayne Street.

heres some pictures of the garden....I hope you like the mosiac stepping stones, I made them just in the last month.


















Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Sometimes I just don't know what to do....


From time to time on this blog I’ve bought up that I am a person with Aspergers.  A year ago I published a link here to a short film that was produced by Nicky Elliott about how I see the world, make my art and live my life.


As a woman nearing my 6th decade I can attest that I feel much more comfortable in the world now than when I was younger when so much more was obscure. Through often arduous processing I hope I’ve come to a better understanding of the differences between myself and neurotypical thinking.

However, there are still a lot of days to be lived when confusion runs rampant….

In my late 30s I had a lightbulb moment when I grasped that there is a secret communication that NTs share that had eluded me all my life. It is commonly known as “body language” but is much more nuanced than just muscle tension and blinking as it also takes in other aspects like tone of voice and coded language. Simultaneously I had the truly astounding realisation that NTs have good feelings about each other and enjoy talking to each other…sheeesh! who’d have thought! Life started to become a lot easier when I learned to redirect some of my internal focus to carefully assess what people around me were saying to each other and which ones had relationships they call “friends” Many NTs find it impossible to understand that I’ve never had a “friend” and are even more disbelieving to find that the whole proposition is something I regard with fear and distaste….heh, anyway we won’t go there today…

I am writing this now because of trying to cope with being upset. Going to that part of my brain where I’m focusing on language and writing, finding and composing words into a coherent text, is helping me not to collapse into the anxiety and catastrophic reactions that can badly affect some of us with Aspergers. Sometimes referred to as a “meltdown”

The internet has been a fantastic way of communicating for myself and many others on the Autistic Spectrum because we don’t have the bafflement and distraction of dealing with body language. But stuff still happens…I’ve come to understand that NTs usually try to avoid saying things that are potentially hurtful and rejecting by adept use of body language.  Sometimes I can be rather oblivious to not being in the category of populist/conventional/mainstream. One of the nicest things about Aspies is that we are very accepting of difference, in fact, often find it quite fascinating. Whereas NTs like stereotypes, feel comfort in tribalism, prefer sameness and fear “otherness”

I'm working on accepting that some Facebook groups I’m in don’t like the clothes I design and aren’t going to support me by publishing information about new designs I release. I get confused with the incongruency of being told they are happy to include me in their monthly round-up list, then 3 times in a row and 4 newly published patterns later they keep overlooking to add the patterns….

So, I’ve been casting about to find some more artsy and creative Facebook sewing groups that might find my clothing designs more appealing.


As a child I believed I had been accidentally abandoned on the wrong planet after my true parents crash landed here…..any planets out there that want to adopt me?

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Blue Mantra beading class

I can have a short attention span as I’m constantly seeking the stimulation of a new creative project. The exciting bit for me is translating the mental visualisation with my hands into material realisation. In the latter part of the realisation process there inevitably comes a point where all the problems have been solved and you are just crafting the object to finality. That stage quickly becomes tedious for me and I have to resist the desire to move on to something more intellectually stimulating. I always have a mind boggling with ideas that jostle and beg for the opportunity to get materialised so it will be no surprise that I have a substantial catalogue of projects that were abandoned before getting finished. Probably about 30-40% of the things I start don’t get completed. But I often go back, sometimes, years later, to finish things so I don’t get too despondent about this tendency.

So….in my last blog I was working on an appliqued version of the Theodora Tunic, with the idea of publishing it as a pattern and surface embellishment tutorial. I made – and finished! – 3 quite complex samples and got started writing up the step by step technique. Then tedium won over….and I was asked to create a craft class to teach at a newly opened local shop. I was enthused to jump into this new creative project....


Blue Mantra necklace by Pearl Red Moon, 2017

On the weekend local business lady Sue Stone opened her new vintage homewares shop just a few houses down from where I live. The shop is in the newly renovated Tattersalls Hotel on the corner of Adelaide and Victoria Streets, Murrurundi.


Sue asked me if I would teach classes at the shop and I’m thrilled to accept the opportunity. They have a wonderful big, light airy room dedicated for a teaching space.

There are so many things I could teach as I’m such a dilettante of multiple craft skills! However, I decided at this stage to wait and find out if theres any interest in sewing stuff at some time in the future. Right now I want to offer a beading class. It will be an introduction to Herringbone/Ndebele stitch.  Shown below is the necklace project I designed, called “Blue Mantra” necklace. Then I decided to simplify it somewhat by making the class project a bracelet instead. So students in the class will get the notes and instructions for making both a necklace and bracelet.








the closure is at metal push clasp the side of the neck
I'm still working on making the bracelet sample - YES! I WILL finish it! - and will show this soon along with more information about the class.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Theodora with applique....anyone?

Hi, dear friends and followers. I've just published this new PDF sewing pattern, "Theodora Tunic and Jacket".

cover of Theodora PDF pattern, Large size range

Depending on how much detail there is in each clothing design it takes me about 3-6 weeks full time work to write up and publish a PDF pattern. Its a highly technical process done in Adobe computer programs Illustrator and Indesign so by the end of each project I'm always hanging like a starving dog to do something creative using the other side of my brain.

The Theodora Tunic or Jacket version is a fabulous little layering piece and I was excited by the potential to make this garment in a really special and gorgeous fabric. For example - how about fake fur! But I didn't have any in my fabric stash and are an hours drive away from any fabric shops (plus we are at the end of Winter) so I brainstormed on embellishing a piece of fabric with applique and this is the result. I'm really thrilled with this fabric, it really is gorgeous!



close up of applique

The finished front of Theodora tunic with 3 colour applique

close up of applique on bodice of Theodora tunic

My dear friend and art mentor Charlotte is encouraging me to share the technique I invented for making this applique and I think there could be some merit in the idea. I'm considering 2 options - #1 publish another version of Theodora including a tutorial for the textile embellishment technique, or #2, do an interactive online class in 4 parts over a month with a group of paying participants so I can be available online to tutor people step by step through the process...? In that format I'd need at least 10 students and it would cost $45 per student. You'd get notes to print, PDF pattern, youtube tutorials and me available during the course.

The applique in my example is sewed on a machine so it's surprising fast. I cut, sewed and finished the tunic in the pictures above in 9 hours. Though it could certainly be hand stitched, a la Alabama Chanin, for those who love their fashion slow and hand made. This fabric embellishment technique can be applied to any garment, not just the Theodora tunic.

Will show some pictures of the fully finished tunic, along with some other pieces I'm working on in the next blog.

Any feedback out there.....?