Thursday, 24 September 2009

My Outing

Last night I went to the opening of a photography exhibition at the Public Record Office of Victoria: Strike A Pose .. with Lee Lin Chin. Firstly, I didn't know that the Public Records Office had an exhibition space. Secondly, I got lost trying to find the place because the street directory lied to me and my GPS decided that North Melbourne didn't exist. Once I finally arrived though, I was glad I'd made the effort.

Image from Public Records Office of Victoria Website

The exhibition focuses on Australian fashion in the 1960s and 1970s, with a mixture of professional fashion shots and casual snaps taken of people on the street. I liked that, as it gives you a good idea of the contrast between what fashion was 'meant to be', and what people really did with it. The exhibition space isn't huge, and the photographs were a little crowded on the walls, but at least there was a decent amount of material in the exhibit. One of my favourite photographs was taken at the Sydney Spring Racing Festival, 1967: a Japanese model proudly wearing new-fashioned culottes, knee-high boots and a large floppy hat is surrounded by ladies still wearing Jaqcui Kennedy-style straight skirts and pillbox hats, all looking at her with amazement and disgust. I did notice that the material is a little biased towards Woolmark, who are the exhibition's main sponsor and presumably the main source of the material. Apparently it was de rigeur in the late 1960s to do fashion shoots in the outback - I felt sorry for the models posing in heavy wool coats in the desert. The paper mannequins with quotes from Vivienne Westwood et al in the centre added a nice touch of 3-dimensionality which kept the space from being stale.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Lee Lin herself (she's just so classy, she's well, a doyenne!), who the flyer assured me would be opening the exhibition. I was either too late or too early, I couldn't quite figure that out. A number of the plaques accompanying the photographs had comments from her on them though, so I almost felt like she was there!

I definitely think it's worth checking out (although I may be a little biased - the free wine and rice paper rolls helped!). I noticed a cafe and some couches in the foyer, so the directionally challenged like me have somewhere to recover before making the trek back to the tram. I snaffled some cool brochures and postcards on the way out. It looks like they have lots of interesting exhibitions, and I'll probably be back - now I know where it is!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Art Journal Stimulus Project - Week 2

I'm 4 weeks behind, but I wanted to finish it anyway.
I decided to work over a page that I'd started about a month ago, but I wasn't happy with:

So then I turned it into this:

The task was to start with someone or something negative in your life that's holding you back. Then cover it right up with things in your life that are positive, encouraging, fun and/or playful. For an explanation of what materials and techniques I used, I've gone into the boring details in my Flickr, here. (There is a reason why there's a large drawing of my own head in it, I'm not just vain. But then again, it's a pretty big head on the page there...)

Here's a detail of it:

Here's something else I've been working on, in my new drawing journal. It's called A Week of Experimentation. I tried wearing different looks every day for a week. Some are quite daring - for me! The first day was more like returning to an old look, to ease myself into it:

I felt really cute! I will post the rest as photo opportunities allow. Or I might see if scanning them works.
Have a great week!
Be the craft!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Book Review: Jane Austen's Sewing Box

Jane Austen's Sewing Box explores the Regency Period crafts mentioned in the novels of Jane Austen. Craft work was integral to women's lives at the time, and so is referred to frequently in all of her writing. A knowledgeable yet entertaining introduction explains the perception of women and their role in society of the time. The sewing of clothes and manchester for themselves, male relatives and impoverished neighbours was known as 'women's work', and every respectable woman was to be seen with a work basket prominently placed in the home. 'Fancy work', as decorative embroidery was then known, was an acceptable activity to perform in front of guests, and allowed a woman to show off her skill and wealth - having the leisure time to work on unnecessary items was a sign of status in society. There is also a section on materials used at the time and how they were made, which is indispensable for anyone wishing to make truly authentic period pieces.

There are 18 projects, covering sewing, knitting, netting, glass painting, and papercraft, all of which are based on actual craft projects or handmade items mentioned in Jane Austen's novels. An introduction to each one, with quotes from Austen's writing, explains the item's context in womens' daily life. The projects are rated Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced, and those that contain mixed crafts (e.g. sewing and embroidery) are specified. Some projects, such as the Cravat or Muff, are not very practical and would appeal more to an enthusiast of the period. Others, like the Embroidered Work Bag or the Huswife (a pouch for keeping sewing tools in) would be very handy even today.

The first thing that struck me about this book was how beautifully designed it was. Period wallpaper and fabric designs border every page. The liberal full-page close-up photographs of furniture details and luscious coloured fashion plates could be construed as filler, but to me it had the effect of immersing me in the aesthetic of the time.

The second thing that struck me was the vagueness of the instructions. They're accompanied by hand-drawn diagrams, but not every step is illustrated. There are very few templates; instead we are told to cut a rectangle with an oval at the top 10cm high, for example. Personally, if I had to hand-draw that myself, it would look rather wonky. Some of the embroidery patterns require enlarging on a photocopier, whereas they would have easily fitted into the book at life size. To me, this detracts from the authentic historical feel of the creative process.

Despite the fact that some projects are labelled Beginner, I would not feel confident at all following the instructions if I had never tried that craft before. I have never done netting for example, and even though there are diagrams, I found myself at a loss. Perhaps it's a case where it would all fit together once I started, but I don't like working that way. By and large, the finished projects are photographed with either artistic blurring or from an odd angle or both, which make them of no use for the struggling crafter needing a visual reference. There are also a few errors - in Paper Flowers, for example, the materials list includes ribbon, which is not actually used in the construction.

Regardless of these flaws, I found Jane Austen's Sewing Box a delight. The mixture of history lesson and literature appreciation is highly readable, and I'm very enthusiastic about trying some of the projects, even if they do need a bit of nutting out. The Carpetwork Cushion (aka Tapestry work or Needlepoint) caught my eye in particular, and I think I need about 10 Huswives. I have a sudden urge for everything in my life to be floral.

I wonder what Boy thinks of that?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


Hello! I thought I'd just pop in and say hi. It's been a while. I've been pretty sick and feeling manky and not in the mood to do anything at all. I'm back at work now, but I still don't have the energy left over at the end of the day yet for making stuff. But.... I'm writing a crafty book review for your delectation, which I'll post in the next couple of days.

Happy making stuff!