Saturday 1 June 2019


So…this series of long and convoluted response I’ve made in regard to the purported unacceptable use of kimono, has resulted in 2 weeks of shadow boxing with my left hand duke and right hand claw raised….cos all the outraged promptly went to ground when challenged. Though one person who talked briefly and privately to me reported they won't engage because they are simply “tired”. It seems they prefer knocking off the low hanging fruit than to take up the cudgels with an old warrior crone?

I read Emily Itos piece on the Densho blog a few days after it was first published in February and was alerted by a noisy rustle of petticoats flouncing around in the sewist community. I ignored it, presuming such a silly idea would be no more serious than a storm in a fine china teacup. But then, as I have observed in my own chookyard, silliness can be contagious and soon the hens are screeching and pecking at each other. The delicate balance of pecking order has been upset…

This old boiler did her own version of pecking – I referred to somebody as a “sheila” and made some provocative clucks about “American feminists”…..resounding silence, delete, ignore….

Two days ago I said I’d discuss “Orientalist” art. Those of you who may have managed to get through my long farty discourses to date will be pleased to know that mob will be quickly dispensed within a couple of paragraphs so we can move on to the relevant issues, quick smart.

Growing up in the 1970s, in that era of the second wave of feminism, was the time when female creatives focussed their withering critique on the product of art history and came up with the term “the male gaze”. Briefly, the way women have been depicted in art arises from masculine hegemony. In their art male artists objectified and displayed women as subjected and sexualised beings. The way women were placed “in the picture” could only be understood in relation to the mores, values and codes of their contemporary society. For the person observing the image the sense making came from understanding women as beings who were possessed, owned, controlled, exploited for our various labours. The picture was decoded and understood by placing the female within a narrative of who were the men she was subject to, ie-  husband, father, lover, lord of the manor, slave owner, brothel owner…The woman in the image was seldom there as respectful tribute; depicted as an individual of autonomy and self determination with power and influence in the world.

You can choose to get on your high horse over Orientalist art – the pictures made by European male artists who were part of the wave of colonising imperialist power sweeping over Africa, the Middle and Far East in the 18thC. But the truth is the males of those cultures weren’t any less culpable to depict their own women as objects of desire, in pornography and whatever it takes to get the male appendage rigid. Patriarchy is everywhere, women are colonised everywhere.

Choose your battles wisely.

So lets not squabble over the visual rubbish produced by Victorian era masturbators. I think the really important images we need to be decoding right now and jumping up and down about are probably in a magazine not more than a few metres away, or scrolling right now on your Instagram feed. Wafer thin skinny chicks, elegant 19 somethings flicking their tresses casually (product of 3 hours at the hairdresser, $500 cut, colour and blow wave, an hour with a makeup artist, 2 hour photo shoot with professional photographer to get the hair flick image with just the right nonchalance and spontaneity) 

Are we liking our real bodies and unpainted faces? Are we celebrating the beauty of rolls of fat, stretch marks, saggy breasts and unshaved armpits? I love that so many young women I admire get tattoos. This is something that generally horrifies polite society because its such a radical act of self possession to own your skin. Women have always been encouraged to make their skin “nice” – keep it smooth, wrinkle free, soft, unblemished, cover your scars and stretchmarks, avoid cellulitis! pluck out hairs that displease on the legs, genitals and armpits (god forbid when you get hairs on the chin and around the lips, then you’re really past your use by date). While the skin must be kept smooth and hairless the head must display a fulsome shiny mane of hirsute health.

Last bit of the rant today is about something different but related.

Trump declaring he is “victim” of a “witch hunt”. I dearly wish the outcome of that hunt would be what the witches got – being drowned strapped to a dunking stool or tied to a stake and burned alive. That will have me shaking the claw in triumph!
It makes me mad that this misogynist horror goes around claiming some sort of connectedness to genuinely martyred women. The torturing and killing of women over hundreds of years who were labelled “witches” is a crime of patriarchy. It was male power from multiple institutions - religious, medical, political - that called out the women and condemned them. The men were threatened by women who were healers, knowledgeable with herbs and medicines, women who wouldn't give up pagan beliefs, women who wanted to live lives where men didn’t have power over them because they wouldn’t marry, women who were leaders or were sexually promiscuous….

How dare this man who objectifies and disparages women try to spuriously invoke that he is a victim of mob injustice. Nahhhh....

Far from it….bring out the Iron Maiden and slam him in it, I say.

Friday 31 May 2019

coat not a kimono!

Garden news flash - about 6 weeks later than usual we woke up to the first frost of this year. Out in the back yard I saw a golden shower of leaves falling from the Gingko tree. For about 2 hours, until late in the morning when the tree was entirely denuded, a constant drift of leaves fell until the ground around the trunk was a thick yellow disc of leaves several metres wide. Very pretty.

I joined up to a restyling swap and received 2 garments from my partner to make over. In the picture below they are the print dress and top to the right. I felt quite challenged having only 2 prints to work with so after much mulling over about it I decided to use a nice heavy cotton coat I bought from Vinnies to make over in the technique I've been developing for a while. The coat was $8 and is very well made including being fully lined inside.

step 1) the dress and top were cut into thick and thin strips. Patches were cut from the strips and hand sewed to the coat surface  with running stitch. Note about stitching - I have long admired the Japanese Boro tradition of layering and stitching. In the past I've made tribute to that by describing the running stitch I use to sew patches onto my art to wear garments as "sashiko" stitching. However now that I've learnt the Japanese are extremely sensitive to the appropriation of their words I shall revert to "running stitch" or "kantha" from now on.

Pearls Boro, Kantha, Sashiko board on Pinterest

the zigzag print is from of my hand cut stencils, made about 8 years ago and I use it a lot

white print

pink print of stripes

step 2) after sewing a long, wide strip of the black and white print from the top along the hem of the coat and patches in various positions on the sleeves and all over I decided it was time to apply some stencil prints. Some prints were made directly onto the coat, such as the black and white ones in the pictures above and the diagonal pink stripe prints were made on piece of the dress.

Last night a whole lot more decorative running stitch was applied, sitting cosily in front of the wood fire. I'm using 3 strands of DMC embroidery thread in black, white, pink and blue.

I'll eventually cover the whole surface so the large black areas will disappear.

I think it'll need at least 2 more days of intensive work to finish. Meantime I have no idea if my swap partner will like my rather distinctive style of surface embellishment. I can only hope she'll truly like the finished result. I know neurotypicals hesitate to hurt peoples feeling by honestly saying "I don't really like it".... hehehee, or even "ugh! it's awful" so I understand she will probably feel compelled to say she likes it, regardless of whether it's the truth....c'est la vie! No wonder nobody wants me in their workplace!

Thursday 30 May 2019

On the wall of my home I have this print "Catherine La Rose". I inherited it from my late grandmother who bought it in Auckland, New Zealand in the 1960s. It is by the Russian artist Vladimir Tretchikoff. My grandmother also had another print by him on her lounge room wall but no one in the family knows where that one went. As a child I was completely captivated by these prints and literally stared at them for hours (in the manic obsessive way that only an Aspergers person can do!) In expressing my own art I acknowledge still holding those images in my unconscious mind, as I feel they are deeply embedded in the iconography that became a driver for my own desire to be a visual artist.

I need to take a break away from all this intense discussion for a few days. My art, housekeeping and various other obligations are all being neglected. In a moment I have to leave for a doctors appointment to discuss dealing with my arthritis. There won't be much more art the way my right hand is already curling into a claw. I cannot make a fist or have the strength in my index finger to spray the nozzle on my perfume bottle. The first is pretty necessary for a feminist and the last I can probably give up.

Give me 2-3 days then I'll be back to discuss "Orientalism" in Western art and how it may or may not be a legitimate offence to Asian and Middle Eastern women. Of course we'll go right back, way before Tretchikoff, to the awful Victorian instigators who started it. Undoubtedly dirty, repressed buggers, but alas there are men everywhere who lust over a bit of lady booby and butt.

The world at culture war

sound track for today, Mojo Juju, Native Tongue

This piece today is 2 parts. The first part is more information presented to support my contention that use of kimono is not an unacceptable cultural appropriation. The second part discusses the much misappropriated label "imperialism".

Part 1

Below are 2 quotes taken from Encyclopedia Britannica

"The Japanese kimono entered the Western wardrobe in the 17thC. The English called the garments “Indian gowns”, probably because the East India Company imported them, but the Dutch more accurately called them “Japanese coats."

Another quote:
“Although the kimono is not of Japanese origin, as is often supposed, its great beauty is attributable to 17th – 18th century Japanese designers, whose decorative styles made it one of the worlds most exquisite garments

Researching the origins of the kimono will reveal it was a Chinese style adopted by the Japanese and gradually evolved by them up to the present day. I don’t describe this as an act of “cultural appropriation” by the Japanese from the Chinese. I see this more as an example of what is happening now with the way Western designers are adopting and adapting the broad concept of kimono and putting their contemporary spin on it.  Japanese people have enthusiastically taken up wearing Western style clothing for over a hundred years and the traditional style kimono only gets worn for special occasions. Japanese makers of traditional kimonos report that their industry is shrinking and there is less and less demand for kimonos going into the future. 

In one of my blogs a few days ago I speculated that if the activists for “use of the description kimono by a western designer to name a design is an unacceptable cultural appropriation” succeed in ring fencing the word and prevent contemporary designers attaching it to their sewing patterns then the long term outcome will be that the word and the thing itself will become a historic artefact. 

But then perhaps the activists feel comfortable with repressing kimono and letting it fall out of use. Perhaps some fashion researcher from the future will one day make a statement like this “its clear that the loose coat styles we call robes were originally referenced from a traditional garment which evolved in Japan. This item of clothing was called a kimono by the Japanese but western designers from the early 21stC didn't make the attribution as such by using kimono in their naming ”

Part 2

This piece is written in an effort to express more succinctly my thoughts on how much “imperial” guilt white women should be owning and making amends for.'

In my opinion the reference to white “imperial” power is bandied around way too loosely by some feminists. Often out of context and with little apparent knowledge of exactly what it refers to. It has become a sort of vague aspersion thrown out there as a part of a great catalogue of attitudes and historic cultural crimes they imply white women should be held responsible for, expected to acknowledge and make amends for.

Imperialism is a policy or ideology that is a driver behind a nation using its militaristic power to forcibly overcome the resistance of another nation and gain control over its resources or territory.  Imperialism hasn’t been confined solely to Great Britain or other European countries. Imperialist expansion has been practised by virtually every dominant culture on Earth and for thousands of years. Most famously the Roman Empire advanced their imperial goals for hundreds of years over Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Asia.

Another country which has been driven by imperialistic goals is Japan. In a blog a few days ago I described how Japan invaded China in 1931. However Japans imperialistic intentions go back much earlier than that. Japan first invaded Manchuria in 1894, then again in 1931.

Some references:

Japan made an alliance with Nazi Germany and entered the Second World War in 1941. This was an opportunistic alliance to further it's own specific and particular imperialistic goals within Asia and the Pacific. They used the disarray and distraction of other countries in the world at the time who were focusing their militaries and diplomacy on the war in Europe. It suited Nazi Germany to expand the war front to the Pacific and Asia so that the American Army would have to divide its power into separate theatres. Apart from the list of Asian countries I noted a few days ago Japan expanded into the Pacific, capturing or invading Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo and Papua New Guinea. The city of Darwin in Australia was bombed. Japanese submarines entered the harbours of Sydney and Newcastle (a Japanese submarine in Newcastle Harbour containing the remains of its 3 crewman is recognised as a war grave) These Pacific incursions may be less well known to Americans but are more relevant to me because it was my countrymen and women who fought in those battles and thousands lost their lives. Just over my back fence here in Murrurundi lives a 99 year old woman who was a nursing aide in Borneo 1944-45. She remembers the deaths and wounds caused to soldiers and native villagers by Japanese air raids.

The purpose of this information isn’t to polarise people with the simplistic idea that the Japanese are “bad” and should be punished for its aggressions. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s wrong to suggest that only people of English descent had an imperialistic culture, then to extrapolate from that that contemporary white women still adopt that position and are required to make personal amends. Some US feminists will still take the moral high ground to claim white woman have benefited by the vicarious filtering down of privilege....sheesh, not enough time or space here to go into all that...

My point is Japanese people and the people who identify as part of the international diaspora have come from a nation that has no less culpability for Imperialism than what is ascribed to any individual western woman. My own countries, New Zealand where I was born and Australia where I live now and are a citizen of, were threatened by Japanese Imperialistic ambitions and tens of thousands of soldiers died defending their territory from invasion. So when I hear BIPOC identifiers slinging the arrow of “imperialist” they should be careful what nationality they identify as, least they come up egg face.

The islands that make up the nation of Japan haven’t been invaded for thousands of years. Japanese culture is one is the most segregated and unadulterated in modernism. Japan traded with the Asian mainland for thousands of years and with Europeans from the 17th C but Japan has never welcomed or facilitated people of other nationalities to become citizens. Of course there is a level of intermarriage and other reasons that people of other nationalities do come to live in Japan, but this number is absolutely miniscule, utterly negligible compared to the level of multiracial integration that happens in Western countries. The number of people becoming Japanese citizens annually would be in the low 100s.

Japanese culture is not under threat.

So when I hear feminists of Japanese-American heritage bewailing their oppression by Western imperialists I am less than sympathetic…in fact I often feel a sense of indignation that they want to claim an offence and that they have been wronged. I claim BS

And in the final analysis I’m essentially OUTRAGED that these women aren’t examining the whole whos to blame for imperialism issue through the feminist mindset. I’m descending into a bit of a rant here because my arthritic fingers are sore and I’m longing to go to the studio to make some art. So I’m about to discard all sublety, research and sensibly outlining the arguments to just say it like it is. Patriarchal power is our mutual enemy, not other white women. We have been just as colonised, oppressed and owned by our masculinist masters as you have been, just in different ways.

Please, please stop attacking western women who run small pattern design businesses and publicly shaming them into making unwarranted apologies. Stop forcing them to personally own some sort of “guilty appropriation offense” that you have concocted. I maintain that the “offense” has been imagined out of your own subjective issues of identity and conflated into a spurious assertion of cultural appropriation.

I wrap this up today with a link to a speech by an ex-Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating from 1992. 

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Real Kimono ladies

Isn't this collection of Oriental souvenir dolls just so charming! For at least 6 weeks I'd resisted the allure of this adorable set sitting on a shelf in my local Vinnies shop. I go in there at least once a week and these demure ladies would blink sweetly at me...unwanted and not purchased. Perhaps the "cultural appropriation" guilt syndrome was lurking in my reluctance to acquire them? Does it indicate I might be reveling in my imperialist tendencies that I bought these figures to display in my home?

wow, seems like a lot of over thinking.

The 4 dolls in the back row were very nicely made in Japan for the tourist trade (yikes! Japanese people making money out of selling their traditional culture!). They aren't plastic, the heads, hands and feet are bisque porcelain. The clothes are real silk and hand stitched onto the figures, except for the 2 larger dolls at the front, which I suspect are Chinese rather than Japanese.

Those of you who have followed my art for a few years will be aware that I made art dolls for a decade. So I love female figurative sculpture, especially in its folk art expression rather than the high art marble statues of antiquity. Dolls and all they conjure up about femininity are made in all cultures from the beginning of history and are representative of fascinating internal narratives that we whisper to each other.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

my imperial opinions

I just can’t keep my sticky beak out of business where it’s been made perfectly clear that no one wants to know my dumbass opinions….but then I read shit that really makes me mad…

Scrolling on my Instagram feed tonight I read a post where another sheila is beating herself up over western cultural imperialism. She is appalled that terrible white people who think they are so superior to the Japanese are using that word kimono to make a mockery of the garment. She was so full of mea culpa if a bed of nails had appeared before her she would have leapt on it.

One of the things that drives me crazy about these virtue signallers craving to make sanctimonious martyrs of themselves by dragging around the cross of western imperialism is that they don’t know their history or facts. So quickly do they want to make a big flashy appearance with neon flashing lights on the band wagon of being so culturally holier than thou that they overlook some very embarassing facts.

For example – the western “Imperialist” empire. I presume this is a vague gesturing to Great Britain. American feminists seem to love the term though the United States never had a colonial Empire. By the turn of the 20th century the British colonial empire was a diminishing rump compared to its peak 50 years earlier. It’s only significant possession was India and India was already moving decisively toward home rule (independence achieved in 1947). The only Asian colony Britain ever had was the 100 year lease over Hong Kong. So when American feminists scourge themselves with guilt for “imperialist” cultural crimes I find it an absurd argument on these grounds – 1) as Americans they’re not referring to any empire created by America 2) the British Imperial Empire was virtually finished 120 years ago.

So these gals are running around beating their chests and begging forgiveness for the actions of some possible British ancestors four or five generations ago.

Lets examine the imperialist heritage of Japan.

Modern day Japan now has a constitutional monarchy with no real political power but prior to WW2 it was ruled by an Imperial dynasty who did have political power and an army loyal to the royal family. Japan first sent its Imperial Army into mainland China in 1931 to capture territory. It entered the Second World War as an ally of Germany in 1941 after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour. From 1941 until defeat and surrender in August 1945 the Japanese Army proceeded to invade and occupy Hong Kong, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Laos and Cambodia (plus some more small territories such as Malaysia and Singapore, +). These countries were only unoccupied due to Japans defeat. During the war Japan wasn’t invaded or occupied.

So in conclusion, who has the most relevant history as an “imperialist” nation – Japan or the USA? 
I do wish those American feminists would put away their scourge whips and stop scarifying themselves. Your "imperialist" baggage is a coin purse compared to Japans trunk.

last slow makes for May

two beaded bracelets by Pearl Red Moon

Pictures of 2 bracelets I've been beading over the last 3 days.Though its been unseasonally warm for May here in Murrurundi it's still been cold enough to have the combustion fire burning.

combustion fire in the Swansborough-Moon lounge May 2019

That is my seat on the left. This is obviously taken the afternoon after the cleaner did her magic....normally my chair looks like some high ground surrounded by a sea of beads and fabric.

I made the bracelets completely, including constructing the flexible armature the beads are stitched to. I'm so chuffed with how well the armature works that I'm thinking of publishing a little tutorial outlining how to make them. The beads are stitched with back stitch to the cloth covered surface. The armature is flexible enough easily open up to 10cm(4") to be placed on the wrist but will close and retain the circular shape when squeezed shut. The bracelet still needs a strong closure and for that I've used a large brass parrot clasp and ring. The bracelet body is tubular and can be made to any circumference. The body is too firm to squash but a sewing or beading needle will easily pass right through it.

In the last picture above you can see how the bracelet on the left is unfinished, the beading needle and thread is still stuck into it. The surface has been wrapped with a wide strip of stretch material. The properties of the stretch fabric are perfect for this - tension on the strip when wrapping it around will mean the cloth conforms perfectly smooth to the surface, it is non fraying, extremely durable, washable and knit fabric in an endless spectrum of colours is freely available everywhere. No problem to use a piece recycled from a used garment. The bit of blue running stitch was just to mark the borders of my beading. On the inside, against the wrist, I'll sew a bit of ultra suede.

The bracelets are for sale. AUS $150 each, including postage to anywhere in the world. Payment by Paypal only. pm me if you're interested to discuss.

Monday 27 May 2019

how to end abortion

A brilliant article by Gabrielle Blair in the online publication Medium.

My response:
Nailed it. Preventing the irresponsible dissemination of sperm is the crux of how to avoid the trauma of unwanted pregnancy. A manifesto of compelling sense. By social contract children and adolescents are vaccinated to protect them and the community against disease. Boys and girls aged 12-13 are currently being vaccinated with the HPV vaccine which is speculated to almost wipe out HPV related cancers (cervical cancer primarily) within a few generations. I suggest herding off the boys after their jab and giving them a reversible vasectomy. If vasectomy was intended to be reversible the surgery would quickly be calibrated to be the equivalent of turning a tap on and off as desired. 
The soundtrack for this procedure should come from the 1983 Monty Python film “The Meaning of Life”
Every Sperm is Sacred

DNA profiling will make it possible to apprehend any male who creates an unwanted pregnancy. They can be made to take responsibility for the situation they created. Permanent vasectomy could be the consequence for repeat offenders.

Sunday 26 May 2019

more Finery pieces

Some more display boards from my exhibition. I'll be down at the gallery in middle of next week and will take some better close up pictures of these pieces.

I'll be hosting a short free workshop at Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre on June 15th if anyone would like to come along.

Surface embellishment workshop