Friday, July 20, 2007

Babies and Midden Quilt

We have babies in the garden.

This is obviously the time of year for procreating. Not only have I been flat out making baby quilts (three down and three to go) but we have kittens and palm pigeons as well.

Two years ago we had palm pigeons start to build a nest on the bathroom windowsill. There are wooden shutters, and the windows are rarely opened. They are quite thick glass and heavily textured so people cannot watch us shower. I described the nest, but went very quiet, as the shutters which were almost closed on that side, creating a nice private pocket for a very sheltered nest, suddenly blew open in heavy wind and all the nest and its eggs crashed to the ground.

This time I was determined that we would protect them. As soon as we spotted the two birds coming in in tandem with bits of twigs and long grass I said to Bob, "I think it would be good if we tied that shutter so it cannot blow open as it did last time."

"Which 'we' were you talking about? he asked. "Do you mean you would like me to tie it?"

He knows me well, and went off to investigate the kitchen drawers for string.

There was a brief moment when we thought we had scared them off as they seemed to disappear. Then the nest building resumed. We were so touched to peer through the glass and spot two big pink soft flowers - all the trees are in flower at the moment and this has blossoms like a banksia rose but two shades of pink, soft and full like a very doubled almond blossom. They had tucked flowers into the side of the nest, like a bridal bower.

Anthropomorphic?? Yes - unashamedly.

Two eggs were laid, but it seemed only the mother who sat them and I started to worry about her and whether she was getting anything to drink - or eat.

Then a couple of weeks ago there seemed to be a lot more activity. She stayed on the nest for about three more days, and the second egg hatched.

Both babies are now fully feathered and look like smaller versions of their mother. We have almost watched them grow at an amazing pace. If you walk into the bathroom and turn the light on during the day they can obviously see through the window, and the larger and cheekier one taps at the window in warning.

They will fly any day now and I will miss them - but not the definite suggestion of rank ammonia that has invaded the bathroom.

We also have kittens - one small mother cat who is not much more than a kitten herself has had and raised SIX. One dark ginger, one ginger and white, one lighter ginger, one tortoiseshell, one a beautiful gold-grey tabbi, and one the most gorgeous silver grey smoke with a white chest and paws and tabby markings.

Actually they are not really tabby markings - they are Egyptian Mau markings with clear spots on their flanks like tiny leopards. Mother seems to have weaned the gingers and the calico first but is still feeding the two greys.

I managed to get one quick shot of two of the kittens feeding. I have always had a very soft spot for greys and tabbies.


I have been working on quilts this Summer - which was the main point of staying all through the summer after all.

The current project is based on a body of work I did some years back and I am returning to it. I need one big piece and three or four small ones.

This is the big piece. It is wide and short - unusual for me but I wanted a strong landscape presentation.

First I quilted a perspective grid, and quilted a whirling night sky above it. This is only a detail so you get the idea.


The I started to apply midden rocks.

I was not happy with this at this stage as it all feels like a nice place to put something - as if it is all merely a background. Obviously more thought was required. My family was asked to make suggestions.

A PhD student, now Dr Marjorie Sullivan, wrote a doctoral thesis on Middens of the South Coast of NSW. In it she documents every midden site along the coast and I was fascinated by the processes of this study and the things she found.

Walking around Broulee Island one Winter for the body of work I was doing for my Art School final year I realised that the stones I was walking over were curiously terracotta in some areas. While standing in the middle of them it was hard to see but as you walked away and looked back there were distinct circles of red.

I rang Dr Sullivan and asked why. She said that silcrete oxidises in fire, and that meant that the centres of the stones turned dark, while the outside went terracotta. What is even more interesting is that one fire will not do it - it takes frequent and repeated fires.

Through the stones are the broken shells of long ago meals. I photographed a lot of these and brought the images with me. On a night walk (no - the rocks did not really glow in the dark - that is called artist's license) I found that the shells shone stark silver as their bleached surfaces picked up the moonlight.

I loved the idea that these old hearthstones of Aboriginal middens still glowed as if they held their heat. I worked on the subject in art school, and I am going back to it again now. I am also interested in the fact that one way an Australian of Anglo-Saxon background is permitted to reference the Aboriginal people is through archaeology.

So - now for some more with a commentary I just sent to the family.


The foreground is now more built up. I like the introduction of the silver lame shells and much larger foreground rocks.


The silver was very strong so have knocked some of them back with black acrylic paint over the top. I also have 'drawn' other shells at the sides with the quilting and that smooths out the shell impact a bit too.


Tried one gold fabric but the local lame was a very thick one probably intended for slippers. It leaves a sliver of melted plastic around the edge which is only just OK. I will use it if one of the others is not here when I return from Agami. I need more glowing gold shells over
the heat.

Hot rocks are not stitched yet as it is easier to do the shells if I can remove the rocks around them. The pins are very shiny - sorry about that but they will not stay there.

I will bead the sky in dark blue beads in scatters, and a few in the 'sea' which might
look more like sea then. I want them to catch the light without being too visible. I think I need a moon path across the water. I had a lighter moon at one stage and it was distracting. Now I think it could take it - but the moon also needs to be bigger.

The idea of the grid was that it is an archaeological reference and I wanted just one in this piece - the others will be much more contemporary.

I will outline and stitch down the hot rocks with gold thread.

Possibly also need to disarrange the shells in the foreground - they feel too even at the moment so perhaps a few more and more clustered.

I really like the shells, especially with the black and navy brushed into their hollows. The disadvantage is that the acrylic will polish off if you really work hard at it so I will ship it with a cloth in between the folds, just in case.

Now - what to use for binding. The fabric is silk like the first midden one and I do not want to bind in that.

There you are - the midden update!

Then I just have three more smaller ones to do - much more abstract but using some of the same elements.

It is late and I am weary.


Blogger Cairogal said...

My grey/brown tabby, Judy:

9:08 am  
Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny,

Little fluffy fledglings and kittens! Isn't nature wonderful?

As usual I am absolutely gobsmacked by your work.

After some extremely cold weather this morning is positively balmy at 6o, the sun is out and the garden is sparkling with dew.

Cheers Helen

9:58 am  
Anonymous sion said...

gorgeous. I just keep going back to look at it; the light/heat illusion is excellent.

12:35 pm  
Blogger Dy said...

Wow Jenny, what a stunning piece of work, and thank you for sharing your interesting thought processes and research.
Lovely wildlife stories too!

11:02 pm  
Blogger Rhonda said...

Beautiful, Jenny. I love Hearthstones, and am fascinated by the way you are devolping the theme. Thanks for sharing!

9:38 am  
Blogger Rhonda said...

...or even "developing"the theme! It's a good thing I don't try to make a living as a typist...

9:40 am  
Blogger Feather on a Wire said...

This work is stunning! I can warm my hands on it. Will it be exhibited in the UK?
ps the cats are lovely

5:33 pm  

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