Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A stitch in time...

Saves nine!

But at a recent visit to the NGV to see their current exhibition Exquisite Threads: English Embroidery 1600s - 1900s (seems we don't need an apostrophe these days!) there was the most delicate and intricate Sampler completed by a 7 - repeat 7 year old. Can you imagine a 7 year old in this day and age sitting with a needle and thread working on a Sampler of such intricacy. For middle-class women embroidery was a matter of learning, discipline (lots of that!) and moral instruction.
Bottom line - Sarah Burch finish'd this samplar in the 7 year of her age
I was fascinated to hear a little dot of around 7 say to her father with her bell-like voice "Aren't they beautiful Dadda". Good for Dadda to bring the dot to the Gallery and to the Exhibition. After making such a wonderful statement she skipped off with pigtail bobbing to find another treasure. Heaven.  
A family register - completed by Susanna Gillmore 21 May 1814 (born 26 March 1802) - aged 12)
The needlework and the creativity of each piece was amazing. One could almost forget that much of what we saw was handmade - so used are we to everything being machine-made. I guess with no ipads, television, radio and the dreaded social media 'being ladylike' meant that those with 'means' sat and created by candlelight while those without means also created mostly for those more fortunate than they - that is until their eyesight failed. 

I loved the Stomacher (I wonder why I was drawn to that!) - lined with whalebone the decorative V shaped panel fastened to the centre of the bodice - to hold the stomach in!
Lace yourself into your Stomacher (no wonder they had tiny waists!)
One of the exhibits that caught my eye was a beautifully embroidered apron. The more beautifully embroidered the apron meant the less actual physical work was done by the wearer in the home. So it became a symbol of wealth. 
An apron - including gold and silver thread - not much 'downstairs' work done in this - and the waist was tiny!
The delicate early seventeenth century coif, worn both inside and outside and was considered important for modesty and health, was also a highlight. Again the more detailed - the more the symbol of wealth. Those 'downstairs' wouldn't have had a moment to be so creative - for themselves!
An 'upstairs' coif with once-sparkling sequins
One of the most fascinating pieces was a sample of embroidery designed by Norman Hartnell for the Coronation dress for Queen Elizabeth 11. Incorporated in the sample were the Tudor Rose of England, the Thistle of Scotland, the Shamrock of Ireland, the Leek of Wales (!) the Wattle of Australia, the Protea of South Africa, the Fern of New Zealand and the Maple Leaf of Canada - to name just a few. It was truly divine and this was just a small snippet. Imagine an entire 'frock'!  
E R at the bottom and a sprig of Australian Wattle top right
This waistcoat was made of silk - definitely an 'upstairs' outfit I suspect. I loved the detail and colour of the embroidery. Men were rather more flamboyant in those days! 
Even the buttons are embroidered
I've always loved the quotation by designer William Morris - famed for his fabric designs and wallpapers (Morris & Co retailer 1861 - 1940). "Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful".
Wall hanging - William Morris

The detail
Although there were just 60 works each one was so detailed that more would have been overwhelming. It gave a wonderful view of a world that has passed us by. I must say I would have hoped to live 'upstairs' rather than toiling 'downstairs' in those days. 

Tapestry slippers - perhaps I could do these!
It made the current tapestry I am working on (in front of the television!) pale into insignificance!

My own attempt - now I have to decide what to do with it/them! Slippers anyone?!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Gumnuts are back in fashion!

I read recently that gumnuts used for jewellery and other nickety-nackety-noos are back in fashion. I can't believe it. Oh how the wheel turns. Not long ago I was laughing with some friends about the shop they had in Toorak Road many years ago way back in the early 1980's (that's ancient history to so many).The shop was named Antipodes and it was where I sold my gumnut jewellery. Australiana was hot, hot, hot in those days. Remember fashion icon, Jenny Kee's, mad colourful knits - have a look at her site here - she's back with a vengeance.
The knits were so 'hot' even Lady Di had one
So back to the gumnuts. I had a surfeit of 'sewing machine' leather left over from another 'range' of jewellery (but that's another story) and so I decided to use some of it up by threading gumnuts onto the leather. Of course they were a triumph and sold like hotcakes until one day a client came into the shop and hung one of the well-reported necklaces around her - neck! She loved it until a family of 'animals' popped out of one of the gumnuts landing down her cleavage! Suffice to say that all orders for gumnut jewellery halted! 
The 80's personified - leopard skin, big hair and my gumnuts!

I leafed through my old and yellowing paper clippings until I found a few advertisements of the jewelery. It certainly took me back in time.
Tourism-with-taste shopping - the gumnut necklaces remind the writer of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie!
Not long ago a friend of mine had a 90th birthday (I have written about them here) - and if you tune into ABC Melbourne radio on a Sunday morning you will hear the birthday boy Chuck and his partner John talking about theatre. Well with such a milestone birthday I felt compelled to give Chuck a present even though he had put on his invitation 'No presents please. I don't have that much time left to enjoy them'. (don't you love it!) So I headed off to my local park and collected some Aussie gumnuts (Chuck is American!) And then armed with the glue gun (always such fun) I created this bit of nonsense (better than a card I say). 

I know you said no presents please
But I couldn't come 'alone'
So I've collected 90 gumnuts
To make you feel at 'home'

And just so John doesn't feel left out
I've added a 'double-header'
It's just a way for me to shout
And celebrate your life together

I think I'll put gumnut collecting back on the agenda - after all they're free! And I do so love a bargain!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

One of my favourite 'instillations'

Arriving at the carpark at Victoria Gardens (in inner Melbourne) for my weekly supermarket shop I am always reminded of my favourite aboriginal art instillation at the National Gallery of Victoria - Australia (NGVA). So let's begin with the carpark entrance! 
Boom gates to the right! Just out of sight!
There is of course no explanation regarding the designer, maker, and any other useful bits and pieces. It's just there! And I wonder how many people even notice it! (Except me!)

But nothing can compare to the extraordinary creation that adorns the wall of the NGVA. It's a show-stopper.  It has an entire wall to itself.
Possum-skin cloak: Blackfella Road. 2011-13
It is made entirely of weathered iron, tin, fencing and barbed wire and wire ties. The artist Lorraine Connelly-Nortey is a Waradgeri and was born in 1962. I'll let her tell the story of the cloak. 

"It is my interpretation of a possum-skin cloak. The barbed wire signifies the desecration of Aboriginal skeletal remains, occasioned by the construction of an unsealed road near Swan Hill. The circular forms indicate the different modes of transport using this road. The fringe of the cloak represents hunters and gatherers whose remains were desecrated."

Now let's have a look at it up close.
My fingers ache just looking at the painstaking work of weaving barbed wire and cutting out the hands
The fringe 'hands' - cut from rusty iron
There is something haunting about it - the desecration of Aboriginal skeletal remains in order to make an unsealed road. Now they will not be forgotten. 

This is probably an opportune time to make note of the current RECOGNISE movement which is to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in our Constitution. I was stunned to learn that when the Australian Constitution came into effect in 1901 that the founding document did not recognise the original peoples of this land. And prior to the 1967 referendum, they were excluded from being counted as citizens or voting in their own country! And did you know that our Constitution still includes the fact that people can be banned from voting based on race. Sadly. Unbelievable.
R = the RECOGNISE logo
So every time I pop into the shopping centre for a visit to the supermarket or Ikea I will be reminded of RECOGNISE and of the powerful story of a rusty iron instillation. This story is one that continues to be repeated again and again throughout this land of ours.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Phryne's Frocks

With a christian name like Phryne who needs a surname! Miss (Phryne) Fisher's Murder Mysteries is now into its 3rd season on ABC Television. Based on the mystery series by another Aussie, author and defence lawyer, Kerry Greenwood, they have taken much of the public by storm. I must say I find the production rather stilted - but the frocks. Now that's another matter! In fact I was fascinated to read that the French have also taken Phryne by storm and now the Americans have discovered her! (see the link here to a fun blog by Frances Shultz - I love her Sure-Cure for Post Downton Abbey) 

Much of the production is shot in the wonderful home and gardens of the National Trust's Ripponlea in Melbourne.
Home to Aunt Prudence - the inimitable Miriam Margolyes
And until 30 September 2015 you can visit the house and see the divine costumes. I took a Phryne fan along for a visit and an afternoon tea of scones and cream! What more could a girl want! And there were many 'girls' there - it seems that word has got out that this is an exhibition not to be missed by 'women of a certain age'! To see the outfits up-close-and-personal in such a wonderful setting was heavenly. All we needed were wafts of perfume to complete the picture. So let me take you for a walk through the rooms of outfits designed by the outstandingly talented Marion Boyce (see her link here) worn by the actress Essie Davis
The beautiful Essie, playing Phryne, with a gun for company!
Le salon
Anyone for tennis?
Beautiful fabrics, beautiful detail, beautiful finishes
Table top dancing at its best!
In the workroom, designs and weights (made out of old bottle tops - yes really!)
The finished design - no wonder Essie says once she is costumed up - she easily slips into the character
Series 3, episode 1. The original 1920's tabard with luminescent sequins and bugle beads. Purchased from a dealer in the USA. It was remounted to protect the fragile tule.
A 1920's 'leisure suit'??
I must replace my night attire!
Setting the scene - now who done it
From the personal collection of the designer Marion Boyce
The detail in each of the 'purses' - what a collection of 1920's/1930's memorabillia
And more of her collection - heaven
I'll take this delicate beaded shoulder warmer (these days called a shrug!!) and keep my gun handy just in case!
I commend the exhibition to you if you are in Melbourne. I also commend Marion Boyce for the divine designs and attention to detail. I also commend the ABC for investing in quality costumes - it makes all the difference. No wonder Essie says “As soon as I put on Phryne’s clothes I can adopt Phryne poses and promenade, and make an entry, feel confident and audacious… They just make me feel so good that I get away with things I could never pull off in my everyday life.”