Sunday, June 28, 2015

Who Lived Here?

Walking around the inner city of Newcastle (NSW, Australia) is an interesting exercise, especially on a sunny day.  Last weekend, I stopped at 22 Church Street. It is currently the James Dowling Chambers housing a group of barristers.  Counsel in these chambers practise in a variety of areas including family law, criminal law and civil and commercial litigation.  The first thing I wanted to know was who was James Dowling after seeing his portrait displayed prominently at the front door. 

Sir James Dowling was the second Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW (30 August 1833 – 27 September 1844). Throughout his judicial career, according to Sir Alfred Stephen, Dowling 'was remarkable not only for the most strict uprightness and impartiality, but for a painstaking and anxious industry rarely equalled. Accessible at all times, a patient listener, careful to ascertain every fact and ready to hear every argument which might be brought to bear on the case before him, he never failed to make himself its master in every detail'. Quite a testimonial for a  parliamentary reporter who was called to the Bar in 1815. It is said that he worked himself to death, a “…victim to scrupulous anxiety and excessive toil in the discharge of his judicial duties”. It is understandable that a law practice would want to name its chambers after this seemingly fine  role model of legal work ethic. 

Far more interesting to our family is the history of this house in the 1950s. This was the home of Frederick  George Simmons  (1896-1987)  and his wife Ora  (approx 1909 - 1975).
They were my husband's  Great Uncle Fred and Great Aunty Ora and my husband, Jim remembers visiting them at 22 Church Street. Jim has clear memories of the kitchen downstairs in this terrace and the strong smell of burning coal gas whenever the kettle was on, which was almost all the time. 
Fred, Jill ( Ora's daughter) and Ora 
Fred served in the  Royal Navy in World War I, enlisting in 1913 and was employed on a number of ships including submarines. He completed service in 1922 and immigrated ( or jumped ship?)  and worked in Western Australia as a railway electrician for about ten years. After moving to Sydney in 1940, he worked in munitions at the Garden Island dockyards and then later as an electrician at Keepit Dam, near Tamworth NSW.
Fred standing far left, and Ora, sitting far right with friends and their family near Tamworth. 
In about 1953, Fred took employment as a wardsman in the Royal Newcastle Hospital. Enter my husband Jim, who as a small child, required an operation on his  left eye at the Royal Newcastle Hospital. Jim's father, Don was Fred's nephew who had immigrated  with his wife Rose and children, Patricia, Christine and Jim (and Susan on the way)  to Australia in 1950. They knew that Fred was living somewhere in Australia, but had not been in touch ... but as fate would determine, Fred just happened to be the wardsman on duty when Jim was in the outpatients department having tests. Fred called for the next patient to be tested,  "Simmons" and then worked out who they were, and that they were in fact close relatives!  Ora, at the time was also working at the hospital as a cleaner. The family enjoyed a reunion and enjoyed a close happy relationship with Fred and Ora  while they were living in the city centre  and after they moved to Cardiff. My own happy memories of visiting Fred and Ora when they were living in Cardiff were of  cups of tea and scones, and my first taste of a gramma pie. I also remember taking home bags of huge lemons which Fred and Ora grew in their garden. Fred even once had his photo published in the local newspaper with one of his prize winning lemons! 
What wonderful times remembered just by taking a walk in Newcastle! 
Frederick George Simmons 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Flying Free - after a month....

It is now a month since the Flying Free Project was launched. Four free workshops have been held, averaging twelve participants each week. This project has been developed to honour and remember the women who tragically have died as a result of domestic violence. All  the proceeds from the sale of bird kits and completed birds on International Women's Day 2016 will be donated to women's refuges in our local area.  Unfortunately in the month we have been making birds, two women have been added to the sad statistics of 43 female domestic violence deaths in Australia this year... However, we have sat peacefully each Wednesday at Timeless Textiles Gallery stitching birds and I would like to share with you some of the  wonderful  moments and creative achievements of "Flying Free" in the last four weeks. Thanks to UK artist, Abigail Brown who gifted Timeless Textiles a basic pattern for a bird. . 

Another 15 + birds flew south to Curve Gallery, Hunter Street, Newcastle. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Stitch, stitch and then stitch again.

Lots of stitching - I am not sure what this technique is called but I learnt this at NCEATA - Newcastle Creative Embroiderers and Textile Artists, where one of the members, Aileen  demonstrated how she creates such interesting fabric from scraps.

1. Small scraps of patterned and/or plain fabrics are placed side by side on some iron-on  interfacing.
2. Iron everything down to hold in place.
3.Then use a decorative  stitch  on your sewing machine. Use a matching colour of one piece of fabric, stitch over it, going off the edges over the adjoining pieces.
4. Change the thread colour and stitch again, choosing one of the adjoining pieces of fabric.
5. Then stitch again ... repeating the sequence over and over again.

The first project I made was a piece of fabric large enough to cover an A5 size note book.

Then I tried the technique out on smaller pieces for tags

I also tried a variation of the technique. Instead of  using bits of fabric, I coloured some white cotton with pencils and then stitched in the same fashion. I like the effect, but it doesn't have the texture of my previous samples. What do you think?