Sunday, November 13, 2016

Preparing Stinging Nettle Fibre.

Now  Stinging nettles  are one of my favourite plants that are utilized in many ways here.  Most importantly its one of the biodynamic compost plants along with its use in the chooks mash. I also use it like spinach, herb tea, green pasta to mention a few. 

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)is a herbaceous perennial growing to 1.5mt, with coarsely toothed leaves. They can be cut several times in a growing season. They can become invasive and should not be planted near paths. 

 So back to its use as a fibre .I decide to prepare some to make string, after researching  the method I modified it a bit and this is what I came up with.
1.     Choose the tallest nettles, ours grow to about 1.5 mt but the ones I used where a little under 1 mt. Cut nettles off at the base (best to wear gloves)

2.     Starting from the bottom run your hand to the top removing the leaves. (use these to make some liquid fertilizer)  Run it up the stem a couple more times to remove the hairs.(the bits that sting)

3.     Each stem is hollow in the centre like a tube, except at the nodes where the leaves grow. The part you want is the outside ‘bark’ so now put the stems through your pasta rollers. You can adjust the width to suit the stems. Put them through once then tighten the rollers and put them through again. (you can do several at once)
4.     The tube-like structure of the stem is now flattened and on the inside of the Nettle the harder woody material and the outside of the nettle have separated it is now easy to separate off the soft bark and woody material.

 5.     The soft material then can be  separated into 3 or 4 strand and hung up to dry

6.     To use for string, lightly damp and twist away.   

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Busy Winter/Spring Creating

Winter and early Spring have been very wet here in the Adelaide Hills, which means I have been getting lots of basketry projects underway and completed. Starting with a commission of a very large circular light fitting of grapevine woven on steel frame.
(W 134cm H 50cm) I’m now waiting to see it fitted once the house is built.
Grapevine Light fitting

Before the real wet moved in the winter workshops where very successful in inspiring students to the possibilities of natural fibre basketry techniques.
Happy Basket Makers

Once the workshops concluded I was able to start the other major project of creating works for my exhibition at theHahndorf Academy which will be from February 18th to March 19 2017.This exhibition opportunity was a prize for my work ‘It all starts with a Seed’ at the 2016 Heysen sculpture Biennial.
On top of the World

As the exhibition space is large I’ve made some large  pieces as well as some to hang as well as some large platters/baskets. I have also remade my ‘seeds’ as the originals where firstly exhibited outside for nearly 6 months and then exhibited on my veggie garden fence as this was their designed use.
'It all Starts with a seed 2'
Working almost full time on these projects has been an interesting experience. At first I  was overwhelmed by the thought of creating enough pieces but as I sat weaving away new ideas came rushing out so much so that only materials and time will limit the flow.What I have learnt is that I really like creating a series of related objects. A few years ago I set myself the challenge to make as many different rib baskets as I could in a year – the basket tree Then with ‘It all starts with a seed’ I challenged myself to make a range of seed shapes using a range of techniques and materials. This I really enjoyed doing so this winter for the exhibition I set out to make another set of ‘seeds’ some similar and some very different .A set of leaf forms also have emerged from a mix of sticks and leaves.
Storm Basket

I’ve also discovered ,out of all the basketry techniques I've used ,rib construction is by far my favorite .It is extremely versatile , can be manipulated into a wide variety of forms , it suits the materials that grow here and my desire to weave rather than stitch.
Now the sun has come out it’s time to get back to my real job of managing the orchards and start the big cleanup of fallen trees caused by the storms. Basketry then gets relegated to a couple of afternoons a week.
With most projects finished my next challenge is finding places to store them til the exhibition in February.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Weaving Magic, Naturally Workshops

Introduction to Basketry Techniques
The weekend was a typical hill winters days. On Saturday the rain hung around most of the time but it did not deter the 6 enthusiast participants from Adelaide, the hills and Perth. They where well prepared for a full 2 day program of discovering the joys of basketmaking.
The Weaving Magic, Naturally introduction to basketry techniques started day 1 with the basics of rings, using a range of garden materials
. The rings then were manipulated into the ever useful tension trays.
Swapping materials to chasmanthe, the technique of making string had the conservation going like ‘it’s amazing’ ‘everyone should how to make string’ and ‘I’m addicted to making string’
After a warming lunch the next challenge was a garlic basket using dracaena Draco and iris. These all evolved into creative and wonderful baskets and by the end of the day were mostly completed.

Day 2 saw the sun come out. The day started with knotless netting, followed by a garden walk to check out the plants, how materials are dried, stored and rewet as well some garden basketry.

Back to work to create something using random weave, fortunately it was advantageous to work outside as the works got bigger. The newly learned skills flowed into these works as well.

 After another warming lunch it was time to build a fence in the garden using hazel and grapevine. Lots of chatter and more enthusiasm with new ideas for businesses building garden fences and sharing of materials.
 Before the day drew to a close there was time to reflect and finish off projects and many ideas for new projects.

The participants and I enjoyed the weekend. It’s always great to share your skills and very rewarding to see the excitement and enthusiasm when someone masters a new skill. I look forward to next weekend teaching rib baskets.

Monday, February 22, 2016

2016 Heysen Sculpture Biennial

From February 21 til May 1st. The Cedars Hahndorf

'It all starts with a seed, with it's memory of the past and it's potential for the future'.
 Seeds are the archetypal beginning. Seeds come in a vast array of forms each containing what is needed for the next generation, adapted to place and climate. Life as we know it depends on diversity in all forms to ensure all the elements of life can prosper.

A tray containing a group of archetypal ‘seed’ forms. The forms represent the wide variety of seeds and therefore life.  

 This sculpture is also an exploration of the many techniques that make up contemporary basketmaking using plants mainly from my garden.

Installing the basket of seeds at the Cedars.
Willow tension tray of seeds
130 x 90 x45 cm
Seed with thorns
A 6 god’s eye shape rib basket with knottless netting inserts.
Frame: willow: God’s eyes:2ply chasmanthe iris, weavers: Iris,
Knotlesss netting burrs: copper wire.
40 x40 x 40cm 
Flat seed
Stake and Strand. Stakes:willow Strand/weavers: Abyssinian banana fibre.
20 x 2cm
Seed 1
Modified rib basket
Frame &ribs: willow 
Weavers: iris
62 x 21 x 9 cm
Seed 3
 Modified stake and strand
Stakes: willow & dogwood
Weavers: iris, philodendron leaf bracts
58 x 14 x 27 cm
Seed 5
 modified rib basket
Frame & stakes: willow
Weavers: Tall spike rush.
7 x 44 x 9 cm
Seed 2
 Random weave
Wisteria & palm inflorescences
22 x 22 x 22 cm
Seed 6
 modified rib basket
Frame: dogwood
Stakes: hazel
Weavers: iris, 2ply string, willow bark, iris orientalis, aristra.
30 x 30 x 80 cm
My Sculpture was joint winners of the Hahndorf Academy 2017 Fringe Exhibition Opportunity long with Tim Thomson and David Kerr.