Thursday, April 30, 2015

After the storm....

Last week, our area was struck by a massive storm. Winds of up to 135 km per hour and driving rain, more than a monthly average overnight. Most our neighbourhood and many others were without electricity and phone coverage for four or five days, with some areas hoping to have power restored today after ten days. In other places, there was flooding and some towns have been isolated with some roads still impassable.  Today our local newspaper The Newcastle Herald published a special tribute to the "storm troopers" - emergency services  and volunteers who are still working day and night to try to put communities back together. I know that this localised disaster seems insignificant next to the earthquake in Nepal, but here are the numbers which make it real for those who are suffering in our own community.  These are some of the storm statistics as published:
- 7 fatalities
- 90 rescues
- 250,000 calls to Ausgrid (electricity)
- 5200 calls to Sate Emergency Services in one day
- 3409 Triple 0 calls in nine hours in one day
- 100+ school closed
- 11 metre waves recorded
- 45,000 bottles of water delivered
- 100,000 phone lines down
- 41,500 insurance claims
- $295 million estimated damage

We were very fortunate and had electricity, phone and wi fi facilities throughout, with only minor damage to our garden, so we were in a good position to offer friends and neighbours  "charging" facilities. It turned into such a social time, with friends dropping in for a chat and sharing a meal while waiting for electronic devices to be charged  or washing to be done. Perhaps it shouldn't take a disaster for such friendly get-togethers  to happen?

Although we didn't need any of the emergency services, I can see and appreciate what a fantastic and almighty job they have done in the area  and  offer my own personal thanks to all of the volunteers and emergency workers ... "every single one of them did so for the good of the community, for the good of us..."  from The Newcastle Herald 30.4.15.  Five thousand "thank yous" including mine, were published today and I am repeating the thanks here - great work, Hunter volunteers!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How does your garden grow with crayons?

How does your garden grow with crayons? With a little bit of imagination and lots of stitches! 
Why does your garden grow with crayons? Because that was the challenge of the monthly assignment of my creative embroidery course.  It was a surprise to open my package and discover a packet of twelve coloured crayons, some white cotton fabric and lots of coloured stranded embroidery cotton. The task was to create a stitched garden, after colouring the fabric with crayons. I have always loved the impressionist Monet gardens, so I approached this task happily.... until I realised how long it takes to fill a space with stitches!

Crayon applied to cotton fabric with texture ( rubber stamp under the fabric)
- Empress Wu Designs 2015 
Stitching the "distant" spaces first
- French knots, Lazy Daisy stitch, fly stitch, straight stitch.
Empress Wu  Designs 2015 
Detail  1 - Crayon Garden - Empress Wu Designs 2015
(French knots, fly stitch, straight stitch, lazy daisy stitch) 
Detail  2 - Crayon Garden - Empress Wu Designs 2015
(French knots and straight stitch) 
Detail  3 - Crayon Garden - Empress Wu Designs 2015
( woven roses, straight stitch, Cretan stitch, double knot stitch, lazy daisy stitch) 
 Detail  4 - Crayon Garden - Empress Wu Designs 2015
(Cretan stitch) 
Detail  5- Crayon Garden - Empress Wu Designs 2015
Crayon Garden - Wilma Simmons, Empress Wu Designs, 2015 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Birding with Abigail Brown

Close up of fabric owl - Wilma Simmons, Empress Wu Designs 2015.
Abigail Brown  is described as a creature textile designer extraordinaire, and having met Abigaill recently, I would add a very talented, generous, spirited  and beautiful artist. Her vibrant work rejoices in the amazing beauty of nature ... here is what Abigail says about her stunning soft sculptures ....
I am excited by the opportunity to create life from these flat pieces of cloth, working with their weave to mould shapes, fraying their edges to form feathered breasts, creating stiffened tail feathers from something that was limp. That final placing of the eye and a new life is born...The Animal Kingdom is the inspiration behind all my work. I am fascinated by its rituals and language, a world of mystery and secrets on which we can but speculate. My fabric bird sculptures are a celebration of textures, patterns, colours and forms that delight me in nature.
Abigail Brown with workshop participants' birds 
I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop  with Abigail at Timeless Textiles, Newcastle ( NSW Australia) and created a simple bird on the first day  under Abigail's guidance. 
Green bird - Wilma Simmons, Empress Wu Designs, 2015 
Basic bird in progress - Wilma Simmons, Empress Wu Designs. 2015

Basic Bird in progress - Wilma Simmons, Empress Wu Designs 2015

When it was time to create our own pattern, I chose a woodland owl, because my owl collector sister's birthday was imminent, and I had recently dyed some wool with eucalypt leaves which I though would look good as an owl body. So with other hand dyed fabrics and a batik shirt abandoned by my husband, an  owl is born..... 
Early stages of owl in progress - Wilma Simmons, Empress Wu Designs, 2015 
 Sample of feathers, and various fabric feathers - Wilma Simmons, Empress Wu Designs, 2015. 
Some close ups - Owl by Wilma Simmons, Empress Wu Designs, 2015 

'Owl in garden' by Wilma Simmons, Empress Wu Designs, 2015 
Happy Birthday Owl -  Wilma Simmons, Empress Wu Designs, 2015 
Owl in new home  with a previously created owl woman (circa 2009) Wilma Simmons, Empress Wu Designs, 2015 
And as a post script.... many thanks to Anne Kempton from Timeless Textiles who organises fabulous artists like Abigail Brown to visit Newcastle to  inspire many like myself to create.... 
Anne Kempton, Timeless Textiles with her little owl created in the Abigail Brown workshop, March 2015. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Happy Easter Bilby

Bilby Totem - art doll 
A Bilby is an Australian  nocturnal marsupial also  known as the rabbit eared bandicoot Its  long ]hairless ears are used to detect predators and prey.  Bilbies used to populate over 70% of Australia but now are extinct in three states, NSW, Victoria and South Australia and are endangered in Queensland. At Easter time, the Save the Bilby campaign comes to mind as many Australian children will receive chocolate bilbies instead of Easter bunnies ... The green tag on Australian chocolate bilbies indicates how many cents from the purchase is donated towards the fund to protect this endangered animal.
Buy Australian to support an endangered Australian.