Detail of the amulet bead made for the Artists Amulet necklace.

Altered States – A WAFTA Exhibition

Artwork by Liz, Artwork Finished, Exhibition
The contents of my bag (number 30) for the WAFTA Altered States Challenge

The contents of my bag (number 30) for the WAFTA Altered States Challenge

Altered States was the title of the exhibition challenge set by WAFTA. Buying a bag full of “bits” was the entry point for the exhibition launched in April 2017. The bag contained: A magazine, a dress pattern, a synthetic and very stretchy cocktail dress, 2 lots of wool carpet yarn, sea-grass rope, a piece of cotton fabric, a piece of yellow embroidered and beaded sari, some Watsonia leaves (a noxious weed here in Western Australia), and some unwashed and smelly alpaca fleece (my dog was very interested in that!), We could also, if we wished, use the bag itself.

Making an artwork from said “bits” to be shown in an exhibition at the Perth Town Hall from 16-25 September 2017 was the challenge. There were only 2 rules: One – to use a little or a lot of everything in the bag, Two – the finished item must fit inside a cube 30x30x30cm (if flat, 30x30cm).

I made a necklace titled Artists Amulet. The statement for the piece read: “This necklace has affirmation beads which the wearer may use to alter a negative state of mind by drawing on their courage and inner resources to meet the challenges of creating and exhibiting work. The amulet bead protects against those individuals that contribute negative energy.”

Artists Amulet as displayed at Altered States Exhibition, Perth Town Hall, Sept 2017

Artists Amulet as displayed at Altered States Exhibition, Perth Town Hall, Sept 2017

Detail of the affirmation beads in Artists Amulet.

Detail of the affirmation beads in Artists Amulet.

Detail of the amulet bead made for the Artists Amulet necklace.

Detail of the amulet bead made for the Artists Amulet necklace.

Detail of some of the paper beads made for the Artists Amulet necklace.

Detail of some of the paper beads made for the Artists Amulet necklace.

I was invited to give a talk about the making of my piece, including how I felt when I first saw the contents of the bag. I’ll put the notes that I made for the talk in my next blog post.

Experiments with heat setting polyester fabric by steaming.

Artist in Residence – The Bonus Week

Artist in Residence

What a Bonus!

It was a huge bonus to be asked if we would like to stay for another week and we jumped at the chance. Robi wanted to add to her installation in the window and I still had lots of experiments I wanted to do.

Experiments with Heat Setting Polyester Fabric

I manipulated the polyester organza fabric in a few ways: I wrapped and tied (string or wire) squares around table-tennis balls, marbles, large beads, plastic poker chips, syringe caps and rolled up aluminium foil. All of those worked well. I stitched tubes of fabric and inserted beads – tying between each bead. I also wrapped stitched tubes around a dowel to create a spring-like form.

Experiments with heat setting polyester fabric by steaming.

Experiments with heat setting polyester fabric by steaming.

Another experiment was to cut iron-on pelmet interfacing into strips. I wove these into a grid and stitched them together. Then I poked the polyester squares that had been shaped around table-tennis balls through some of the holes. This worked quite well and might be worth exploring at a later date. Further experiments could include covering the interfacing with fabric before/after cutting into strips, varying the strip widths, making 3D forms from the strips, and more. It was quite interesting to try and form a pleasing composition by moving the red puffs around. I could have poked the puffs through from both sides because the back had interesting texture too. Another effect I thought about (but didn’t actually do at the time) was to stitch the corners of the puffed squares to the grid (so there wasn’t anything at the back).

Experiments with heat setting polyester fabric by steaming. Shapes poked through holes in grid of stiff interfacing.

Experiments with heat setting polyester fabric by steaming. Shapes poked through holes in grid of stiff interfacing. Front view.

Experiments with heat setting polyester fabric by steaming. Shapes poked through holes in grid of stiff interfacing. Back view.

Experiments with heat setting polyester fabric by steaming. Shapes poked through holes in grid of stiff interfacing. Back view.

 

 

 

Artist in Residence – Intentions Go Awry

Artist in Residence

The Artist in Residence Brief

As part of the “interaction with students” in the brief for the WAFTA Artist in Residence we were encouraged to give talks to groups of students and WAFTA members towards the end of the first week, and another talk towards the end of the second week.

The AHA Moment

Early on during the residency I realised that I couldn’t really create “an exhibitions’ worth” of necklaces, bracelets, brooches, etc. Two weeks simply wasn’t enough time. This was just prior to giving the first talk. I started thinking “if that’s the case, then why am I here” – and completely changed what I was thinking about for the remainder of the 2 weeks.

The First Talk

I decided to give my first talk as I had prepared it – describing what I thought adornment was, why we adorn ourselves, what types of adornment there are and the methods/techniques used to create them. I showed slides and talked about the type of imagery that inspires me – coral reefs, sea slugs, micro/macro images etc.  Then I showed images of works by artists that inspire me: Mariko Kumusoto, Nora Fok and Arline Fisch. These 3 artists inspire me because their work is delicate, transparent, and either depicts or interprets natural elements. Nora Fok also makes some work that is her interpretation of mathematical concepts – which I also find inspirational (even though I am hopeless at maths!).

In-between the 2 Talks

I was nervous right from the start about talking to the students – that I wouldn’t be able to communicate effectively with them. I don’t really know why – they are people (just like me), they speak English (just like me), and we had a common interest in art. I kept telling myself it should be a breeze. In an attempt to reduce my nervousness I started making a mind map on the wall on the afternoon of the very first day. The artist in residence mind map was partly to show how I planned and recorded my research, and partly an artwork designed to prompt discussion between the students and myself. This took me a couple of days and then I started doing some planned experiments with thin interfacing.

Mind map for WAFTA Artist in Residence 2017

Mind map for WAFTA Artist in Residence 2017

I did a lot of the research in the 2 weeks prior to the residency so that I would be free to “make” and talk with visitors while I was there.Somehow, while I was sitting making (very repetitive, meditative work – spinning, wrapping) my mind wandered onto the questions of “what would be a big issue for young adult students?” and “how can I tailor my talk to include those issues?”

The Second Talk

I “sort of knew” that this talk would be completely different to the first – even before I gave the first talk! The second talk was supposed to be more about what the experience of being AIR was like. But I had started to think about the many media reports I had seen about Youth Suicide – and that this would be a relevant topic to weave into my second talk. So I included slides of my own work such as this one of some Shibori,

and this “Whirl” drawing, that related to being in a bit of mess.

Whirl 1 (detail), 17 Nov 2013, 58cmWx84cmH

 

I didn’t want to get really morbid – so mentioned some of the organisations that are around to help such as Youth Focus, Beyond Blue and LifeLine, as these seemed the most appropriate. If I’d been a bit better prepared I would have got hold of some brochures – but this all seemed to come “off the cuff” at the time. I wanted these young people to know that there are people who care what happens to them and are trained to help – and they are only a phone call away.

My final slide was of some work in progress.

Some paper-mache works in progress based on diatoms and radiolaria.

I got lots of hugs from fellow WAFTA members at the end of the talk, which was great because it made me feel that maybe I had communicated well with the audience. I felt really glad that I had tackled this difficult subject rather than taking the easy path and just talking about the creative side to the residency.

The Biggest Surprise

Soon after our talks, the Manager of the North Metro TAFE Shop Front Gallery asked if Robi Szalay and I would like to stay on for another week. We were thrilled and soooo happy we immediately said “yes – we’ll do it” 🙂 So then I got to thinking – well, maybe during this third week I’ll make lots of necklaces, bracelets, barrettes, brooches, anklets, ear-rings, cuff-links, bangles, beads, lariats, hair-slides, toe-rings, cuff-links, ear-cuffs, rings……