It seems to have become more difficult to post, because of fearing to be repetitious and boring. After a while even new projects seem to take on a similarity, although I can see, sometimes, an improvement or a new way of presenting a former theme.
Here are some newly created characters, miniature needle felted rabbits. They bring back to mind visiting one of Beatrix Potter’s homes “Hilltop” at Sawry in the Lakes District of England. Much to my delight we saw two rabbits ,pictured below,frolicking in a field.
In the main wild rabbits are considered to be a major pest. Here in Australia they were introduced and have multiplied too well endangering native species ( this introduction being a consequence of ignorance and folly of man, not the fault of the rabbit).
As a pet or subject in art or literature rabbits become endearing. In the whole scheme of nature they have a purpose and a reason, for everything is connected and relevant.Sadly the interconnection of all things has been forgotten and abused . The balance of nature is now much compromised and too many creatures,including humans, face extinction.
As happens with rabbits, these little characters are multiplying too! The only danger they represent is a pull at the heartstrings.
Foxes are still much in demand as a subject. This one is a needlecase, my own design.
Pests to some, endearing to others, foxe are so beautifully shaped and coloured that they have long inspired artists and poets.
I’ve been fortunate to observe them at close hand, intrigued to see them interact with each other. I have seen the magnificence of their coat glimmer in early sun rays, gleaming like burnished copper. Awed to observe them move so lightly and vanish, in what seems a blink of an eye, as if they have turned into a wisp of air.
When they take our poultry they, like so much wildlife, are trying to survive in an increasingly hostile world where their link in the web is much altered and rapidly disintegrating. We are so appalled at what we perceive to be their cruelty and seeming delight to kill wantonly. But what of mankind whose greed and exploitation has brought us all to the brink of anhilation? Foxes,too, have a place in nature and if it is compromised it is not of their making.
Foxes were brought to Australia by the British Empire colonisers to be hunted in an attempt to civilise their lifestyle and this ancient land. Rabbits, domestic cats and dogs were also brought across the seas and all of these have become threats to our native species.
I wonder what wildlife thinks of mankind? What if they become our masters? Would humans be the pests?
There is a slight difference, as this time the little owl that is sitting on the hollow log is hand is stitched rather than needle felted. The owl resulted as a happy accident, rather than intention, as a result of finding felt scraps that wanted to be an owl.
This small mat lends itself to story telling as well as being suitable for gentle play and as an accessory for the nature table.
As in most of my other scapes, water is a feature. In ancient times water was regarded as a sacred and precious gift, the lifeblood that flowed from the womb of The Great Goddess, The Mater or Mother, creating and sustaining life.
The right of all living things to clear air, clean water and pure food seems to be more and more disregarded. Waterways are used to dump toxic waste and human waste, as well as being contaminated with chemicals from industry, mining, fracking and agriculture.
Privatisation seems to regard water, that essential component for life, as a commodity to trade, to control, to withold and to abuse. Samuel Taylor Coleridge remarked, in his poem “The Ancient Mariner, “water,water everywhere and not a drop to drink”, sadly this is becoming the reality of our world.
This scene has another layer of meaning. The owl as symbol of the Goddess , of wisdom and of seeking for the core truth that is held within, sits still, gazing at a small pool that could even be an ancient healing well or spring.
Working on this piece made me think deeply about these issues, reflecting, and wishing that all mankind realises we need to work together, care deeply for each other and for Mother Earth.
Heatwave conditions have come to our part of the world. Going outside is like stepping into a fan forced oven. Fire is an ever present threat, already several have occurred in our locality, two this weekend. The wildlife is distressed, and that distresses me as all we can do is keep water out for them hoping they can find some shade and a little relief.
The birds sit with open beaks, panting and holding their wings away from their bodies, too hot to even find enough energy to take a dip in the bird baths. The brush turkey digs into the soil to try to find a level that is moister or cooler but all we have is hot, dry dust.
In fact it feels too hot to be in our own skin!
Crafting might seem impossible but in fact it has helped. Over this burning weekend I have been making mermaids. The palette of ice blues and marine greens combined with thoughts of oceans deep has been cooling .
Cooler in tone and effect was this small Sea Queen.
Recently we visited a wildlife carer and had a personal encounter with orphaned possums. When larger and taught to fend for themselves they will be reintroduced to the wild.
Sadly land clearing and removal of trees, as well giving over country to mining does not augur well for their future. What was heartening was to meet up with people who care and believe they can make a difference.
My hope is that a toy like this will encourage a new generation to care more responsibly.
The above scene is in modern speak known as “a waste transfer station”, which is our local rubbish tip, also known as ” the dump”.
This picture is but a micro,micro dot in terms of the waste we create. It reveals much about modern life and attitudes of western civilization and of progress. It shows the results of consumerism and our throw away society.
Can you remember that old adage of “waste not want not” ? It would seem that sentiment is buried somewhere in this pile.
For me the picture reveals such a powerful story, a history, a reflection, and a modern tragedy. What does it tell you?
With the season that is about to send many parts of the world into a gift buying, food orgy, packaging frenzy this seemed a timely reminder to stop and consider what it is we truly need, can recycle , can make or bake, or source locally but more so what we can offer in terms of friendship, community service or simple gestures that perhaps can be of greater value and more appreciated than expensive purchased and often unnecessary items .
What is it that we celebrate? A significant spiritual festivity, or blatant commercial manipulation? The choice is ours.
Wildlife is a joyful part of life here. Their presence makes me feel continually humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to be able to observe so closely, to be able to win their trust and friendship and to learn so much. No wonder, then, that one of the desires of travel was to be able to see wildlife in other places.
Travel however presented mainly urban and city experiences, and “travel”. The Wildlife we met were largely domesticated species but even so there were animal highlights, as for instance coming across Herdwick sheep in the Lakes District. This breed has been largely saved by the efforts of Beatrix Potter.
When I lived in rural N.S.W I had a pet lamb who was much adored and also have included the black faced sheep in many painted pieces over the years.
Sheepy encounters were enjoyed to the full, especially the variations of black and white.
Another fascinating experience was watching this farmer train his sheepdogs, a chance encounter as we walked in Ambleside, returning from the trip to Sawrey, when we had visited Hilltop, Beatrix Potter’s first farm.
This really was such a fitting conclusion to the day as Beatrix Potter was not only an author and accomplished artist but also a very skillful farm manager who did much to preserve the sheep breeds, traditional life, farms and fells of the Lake district. Her work is being still being carried out to this day under the auspices of the National trust. The more I learnt about, and encountered the legacy of this amazing woman, the greater my admiration for her.
Free Pattern .
As a consequence of making this post a tiny project to share also came into being.
My sample uses wool felt, but you can experiment with different materials and different colourways. Perhaps the sheep pictured in the post above can help make some interesting combinations.likewise you can change the placement of the sheep’s head to give character .
This project is easy and quickly finished so quite suitable for children to attempt . This link takes you to the sheeppattern
If you only sew along the sides of the heart,leaving the curved top area open, it makes a bookmark to go on the corner of a page.
Adding a ribbon loop it becomes and ornament or bag tag,
or you could fill with lavender and put in your felt or wool stash to keep moths at bay.
This design would work as an applique for a wool holdall, knitting needle roll, on a pocket or enlarged as a cushion or pincushion.
I just love it when after making something it reveals that there are so many other ways to be used.
Singapore not only proved to be inspiring through its promotion and use of green initiatives but also for the art that was to be found throughout the city, ranging from the traditional religious themed subjects to modern sculptures placed in the streets and public gardens.
Many of the buildings seemed more like art forms, displaying functional beauty. One example is this commercial centre that lit up and interacted with the noise of the traffic at night, forever changing , still, yet in constant motion as the colours of the many hexagons of its outer surface changed. Although a static form it interacted, responded to and even played with the environment.
From the beginning of time people have needed to create and to share their wonder, their stories, their delight with nature, as well as their spirituality. From the early cave art to this day art plays such an important role in communication of ideas, in education and in sharing and stimulating imagination. On the other hand art has also been used to misinform to impose power, and to keep people in control. It is a powerful tool.
At Gardens by the Bay sculptures were abundant and used throughout the garden. It was hard to take in all the WOW! factor, and all the beauty. Powerful, pensive, ethnic, clever pieces carefully chosen ad placed to titillate the senses as well as being used to enhance and interact with nature and the spectator. Whatever the theme each one was so well placed it made you stop, look, and really notice what was happening at that point.
All in all there was much to admire and although there were some wonderful initiatives and architecture, the character, colour and richness of the old city is being swamped and replaced with an over emphasis modern, new, big and on shopping. Globalisation and Westernisation seem very much the main influence .
The once vibrant Orchard road could be any mall in any country offering the same brands available in every city. It would have been far more interesting to see colourful, noisy chaotic markets; once prolific and rampant roadside gardens, as well as a greater input and variety of indigenous culture. There is still China town and Little India but the very strong feeling pervaded was that they too would be modernised and become just another shopping “brand” experience.
The other thing that struck me was that although nature was introduced into urban planning I wondered where the “wilderness” was as everything was so carefully structured and presented- nature tamed and presented as a neat package. Nature in the raw is chaotic, exuberant, in constant flux and change, aspects that we do need to encounter and appreciate to fully engage, interact and understand. Disconnection from nature has contributed to the present crisis the planet faces. Introducing nature in a planned way is admirable but we need also to save and maintain wilderness areas.
Introducing the awareness and importance of working with nature in a planned way as Singapore has is to be commended but we need also to save and maintain wilderness areas. As the city grows, the forest declines, ,concrete carparks and freeways covers the earth and pot plants replace the understorey. Fake rocks and waterfalls become reminders of what once was, as are strategially placed sculptures that distract as well as represent lost species.
Reality has taken on a fuzziness, and settling to creating again has taken time. If anything it is not so much a matter of what and how but rather total sensory, physical and emotional overload. Travelling kept presenting so much to absorb and to process that the experience seems to have completely numbed. Just imagine standing in the garden, pictured above, at Hever Castle in England where four thousand rose bushes were in full bloom. That alone presented a sensory extravaganza of epic proportions.
However the first “wow” factor came at the beginning of this trip at the end of May, seeing the green initiatives in Singapore.
Along many roadsides there were cool, shady tunnels of overarching trees. Major roads had large pots planted with trees and shrubs placed in gaps of the laneways. Creepers wrapped around concrete pylons under the overpasses creating small green oases.The Big Wheel emerged from a recreated rain forest that twined around it’s base. It was encouraging to see that attention to detail, to nature, and the environment incorporated as an essential in urban planning.
Many new buildings were innovative in design as well as incorporating live walls of plants, garden terraces on each level and roof top gardens.
Dotted around the city were signs encouraging awareness of the value of green, as well as these characters below who frolicked in the parks and promoted “Love Green”.
Although Singapore has a wonderful Botanic garden housing a legendary orchid collection my main desire was to visit Gardens at the Bay. This project is set up as a dynamic working and teaching resource . There are excellent displays, information, films and models to encourage awareness of climate change in order to encourage and initiate more sustainable practices and lifestyles. Two huge glass domes protect micro climates. One dome area houses a cloud or mist environment. The second dome various gardens to show the different climates and vegetation from all around the planet.
The entire garden itself is a working example of sustainability and interrelationships. Planted in the grounds are several large Super Trees, which are 250 m tall metal trees that harvest and store sunlight and water. At night the trees create a solar powered light display . I wondered if these trees may be the trees of future generations .
Soon after we left Singapore, the city was severely affected by a thick smog from fires lit to burn off large tracts of forests felled in Indonesia. Not even love green could lessen the impact.
Later in the trip., in July this year we came across a “super Flower” planted on the banks of the Danube in Vienna. Seeing this interesting artwork ,a recycled plane propeller, made me wonder again if something like this would become the replacement of wildflowers .
Growing alarm was being raised about the loss of wildflowers and insects in Britain. This situation was felt to be the result of councils spraying and mowing parks, footpaths, and roadside verges as well as modern mono-agricultural practices. The fragility of previously abundant and hardy , seeding and pollen producing plants is linked to the demise of bees and butterflies, a situation that threatens the very existence of all life forms on the planet . We really do need to love green much more.
When the idea for a winter scape comes to mind for our area, creating a snow scene seemed somewhat alien. However winter does bring snow, frost and ice down south in the higher mountain ranges and also in Antarctica, part of which is Australian Territory. Because this piece was a commission for a recipient fascinated by snow and penguins the idea of trying to create a scape representing Antarctica seemed feasible at first, even easy.
As it has turned out this has been one of the most difficult projects so far attempted. White and lots of it is flat, dull, uninspiring. The challenge to encapsulate the essence of a continent covered in snow and permafrost, barren to all appearances yet vast, wild and home to millions of sea creatures was both exhilarating and daunting. Such an extreme and beautiful place had to be reduced to a very small scale with the added restraint of using warm, wool felt to portray this freezing climate. It seemed a crazy and impossible notion.
Using pure white just did not work, nor did some of my original ideas. Instead of a flat base this piece required sculpting from very hard industrial felt that resulted in bleeding fingers. For some time nothing worked and it was poked away .
The breakthrough came when my friend Mia bought some of her wonderful splotchy felt that she hand dyes to craft. Splotchy felt is perfect to use for water. As I placed a piece down to make the sea it seemed that it could create a cold effect when used in the scene. This lovely felt was the missing link and helped to give the illusion of shadows and crevices, as well as to introduce the blue tones connected with the continent.
Even so the scene was still dull and lifeless, requiring the glisten that snow has as the light dances over it. This came through using a shimmery organza to make an ice sheet with sparing application of silver glitter.
Iconic Emperor Penguins were used to represent the species that use this incredible area to raise their young. As the Emperor penguin is found over the entire continent it seemed the right creature to place in this setting and to also indicate that even in such a harsh environment life can exist.
This environment is fragile and threatened. The ice cap is melting because air and sea temperatures are rising. As a consequence so will sea levels. This will have a far ranging impact on other continents as well as the potential for many species to face extinction.
Antarctica is a place that has attracted and fascinated scientists for many years with considerable research being undertaken. Let us hope this is not in vain and the warning signals will be heeded and, more importantly, that significant action is taken immediately on a global scale.