Fibre Art

The Earth Project: Skirt #2

“ I am lying like a lizard on a sunbaked rock, surveying the scene before me. I have never seen a landscape like this before and find myself wondering if this might be how the earth first looked when it was originally formed? It is rocky and rugged and I imagine hot lava forcing its way from the centre of the earth to form the gargantuan boulders that now hunker down around me. I am quite certain that my geology is incorrect, but an artist is allowed to imagine.” An extract from my diary, Kokerboom Kloof, Richtersveld, 2011

In March 2018, when I began looking for imagery to inspire the second skirt of my Earth series, I came upon this picture and remembered that day that I sat on that rock, dreaming about Creation. Only looking at it again, that landscape looked pretty barren, devoid of life and water, which triggered some thoughts about what’s required for new life to begin, which led me to the next stage in the Life Cycle.

Kokerboom Kloof, Richtersveld, South Africa

So, if the first of my dance skirts N/om: The Power, represented the life force, the second, The Creator, represents the Life-giver. She is the explosive spark of creativity; of new life and new ideas; inspired by fertility and the ingredients that make new life possible.

As a season the skirt represents that important time between Winter and Spring, when compost is formed from the debris of the past, providing the rich foundation for life to form and the promise of things to come.

The structure of this skirt was inspired by the Flow; of lava, bringing soil to the earth;

Lava flow

blood, from which fertility and new life arises, air, that enables us to breathe and water that nourishes and sustains us all.

The waterfall

This skirt was also inspired, in both content and appearance, by San aprons and loincloths.

Loincloths and aprons worn by dancers at a wedding I attended in Botswana

One of the most interesting things that I learned during my research of the subject, is that the San believe that the female apron in saturated with supernatural potency (n/om) and is often worn in combination with the male loincloth during the Trance Dance, to boost the power of the shaman when trying to access the spiritual realm. This power is linked to a woman’s fertility, her monthly cycle, which in turn is linked to that of the moon. From their extensive research, Edward and Cathelijne Eastwood have identified several rock art sites in the Limpopo region of South Africa, that contain San paintings of both loincloths and aprons, decorated with spots and spirals, thought to represent the moon. That these images exist on the walls of these intensely sacred sites, suggests that they are of symbolic importance.

So in this skirt, I drew upon this African understanding of male/female potency, and allowed the central leather motif, similar in shape to a male loincloth, to flow over the deep red cloth beneath it, symbolic of the female apron. I appliquéd small shapes that represent male loincloths to the ‘rock face’ on the left of the skirt and female aprons on the right. The intention being that when the skirt is tied at the back, the two will come together, symbolizing the merging of energies that ensure the continuation of life.

The shells, beads and found objects that hang from either end of the skirt, are to make music during the dance.

 

‘The Creator’. The second skirt in my Earth series

I wanted this skirt to be warm, rich, deep and fertile, a positive force for good, so I intuitively reached for the red ochre dye in order to get the colour I felt would capture it. Interestingly, I subsequently learned that red ochre (Hematite, or Iron Oxide, that has accumulated over millennia from decomposing life forms), is the most ancient of ritual substances, symbolically seen as the blood of Mother Earth.  During a trip to Namibia in 2002, I met Himba women, whose bodies were coated in a mixture of red ochre and animal fat and whilst preparing for this project I learned that the same is applied to young San women as they leave their seclusion during their transition rites into womanhood. The mentor scrapes the red mixture off the young woman’s skin and “she may be required to place this mixture in each fireplace in the camp and to touch young men and their weapons to bring luck in hunting”. Edward and Cathelijne Eastwood. In the Eastern Cape, red ochre is used extensively in traditional Xhosa rituals and as far back as 1822, Xhosa speaking people were trading ivory for red ochre powder.

A Himba woman, coated in a mixture of red ochre and animal fat.

The intertwined snakes in the waistband of the skirt, are symbolic of healing, new life and regeneration. My friend, Nozipho, tells me that the appearance of snakes in a traditional African home, is a sign that conception has taken place and that the snakes will reappear when the child is born. “Don’t kill or shout at at them,” she says, “the voice must be soft, so that the respect grounds and calms you. The snakes will connect the two families (clans) together”.

As I look back over what I have written, shifting between inspiration and layers of meaning, I am reminded that the art making process cannot be pinned down, for it is as fluid as the river. This artwork, like compost itself, was born out of layers of life experience.

After finishing the skirt, I read these words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

“The river symbolizes a form of feminine largess that arouses, excites, makes passionate… It is the feminine life energy that animates the male principle and the male principle in turn animates action in the world… When a man gives his whole heart, he becomes an amazing force…he becomes fertile, he is invested with feminine powers in a masculine milieu. He carries the seeds for new life…”

…which  lead us to the next skirt in the series…

 

 

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Categories: Fibre Art, Inspiration, Projects | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Earth Project: Skirt #1

“ And you are the artist; you hold it all there at arm’s length and fashion it at will. You have direct access to an unlimited source of power. It is a wonderful and terrible feeling”. Lyall Watson

As I sat at my empty desk early in January 2018, all bright and ready to begin work on the first of five African dance skirts, (see my previous post), I felt a little intimidated by the task I had so ambitiously set for myself. The subject of the Nature/Humanity/ Life Cycle is complex and I had no real idea of how I was going to interpret it.

So I did what I always do when trying to make sense of my thoughts, I reached across to a big black sketch book and started to write and draw…which led to cutting and sticking and much digging in my archives, as the ideas started to flow. I found it helped to have a visual document of what was going on in my head, so that I could isolate images, shapes and symbols that would translate well into fabric.

That process took some time, but whilst I was fleshing out my ideas, I began gathering materials and dyeing random bits of cloth that I found in a stash of offcuts.

Bringing drawings to life

As with all my fibre artworks, nothing is ever straight forward and as the piles of materials began to grow, so did the confusion as to what was going to work. I spent much of my time sitting and looking and thinking, trying one thing, abandoning it and trying another. I got fit, jumping up and down on my table as I reached up to the pin board with scraps of cloth, only to take them all down again a few minutes later. And then I would sit and think again.

Such is the process when one doesn’t have a handbook to show you the way. One has to work on instinct and gut reactions, making errors and selecting what works by a process of elimination. And then, just when I thought I had the answers, things would change, new ideas would come and I had no idea where they came from. This is the art of letting go and succumbing to the process. It is the dance of trust between inspiration and artist.

  1. N/OM: THE POWER SKIRT

So today I bring you the first of the dance skirts, the one that led the way. She is both the beginning and end of the Life Cycle and represents the power aspect of the Goddess of Nature. She is the Life-force, (otherwise known as chi, n/om, prana), the powerful energy that flows through all living things, that has the ability to both create and destroy.  In Nature we see this power everywhere; in the eyes of an animal,

A page from my sketchbook, showing the power in the eyes of animals

the force of a storm

Electrical storm over Grahamstown.
Photo credit: Roddy Fox

or in the stillness of a sacred space.

The stillness of a sacred space.
Photo credit: Craig Scott

In an extract from my diary, written at this time, I read:

“A thunderstorm has just crashed overhead with thick, black clouds and booming sound and cracks of lightning that have taken out the electricity. I am reminded that this is exactly the power I am speaking of in this skirt. Awe inspiring, powerful, frightening, destructive, yet life giving and restorative. The rain returns and sounds heavy on the roof. My garden is happy. My dog is scared. And as another bolt of lightning cracks across the city, I am hugely respectful.”

As a season, this skirt represents the Winter, a time when growing things die back and bleakness reigns,

The cold of Winter

but just as the destruction seems forever, the life which simmers on beneath the surface bursts forth again with renewed energy in the creation of Spring.

For centuries, through ritual, prayer and dance, people have attempted to access this power, usually for rain-making, health or fertility. In researching this subject, I was fascinated by the San, who liken this power to electricity, for when harnessed, it can be useful, but uncontrolled, it can be dangerous. The shaman’s task is to harness and control it for the good of the community. In their Trance dances, women sit in a circle around a fire, clapping rhythmically, whilst the men dance around the women, clapping and singing to activate the supernatural potency that resides in the songs and in the shamans themselves. It is said that when the potency ‘boils’ and rises up the shaman’s spines, they enter trance and move into an altered state of consciousness that allow access to the spirit world, and once there, they plead for help on a variety of issues on behalf of the community. On return to the earthly body, the shaman sleeps and on awakening shares this powerful emotional experience with the people, both verbally and visually, through the cave paintings that are thought to have been done during this quiet time of recall.

The San believe that certain animals (eg. eland) are filled with potency, so when they kill such an animal, “… the potency flowed via its blood to the paintings, where it was stored, and then from the paintings to the trancing shamans. Painted sites were thus storehouses of the potency that made contact with the spirit world possible; that guaranteed humankind’s existence by facilitating healing, rainmaking and animal control and that by flowing between nature and people, gathered up all aspects of life in a single spiritual unity.” David Lewis-Williams

For the San, the physical and spiritual realms are completely intertwined, and nowhere do we find more evidence of this than on the rock face within their shelters, where we see these stories unfold.

San paintings in a rock shelter in the Drakensberg

The imagery that I have used in this and subsequent skirts, speaks of the potent sacredness of this humanity/Nature intersection. The symbols I have used reference the San’s connection to the natural world, but in effect, relate to all humanity.

The colours, black, white and red are used in many traditional African cultures and symbolize: Death and destruction (Black), Life, purity and goodness (White), and blood, energy, fertility and the pulse of life (Red).

I have used broken ostrich eggshell in the waistband, another reference to the San, who value the ostrich for its eggs, that provide nourishment and containers for carrying water, and when broken, are made into beads for adornment.

The ostrich and its egg

The central motif may be interpreted as a ‘spine’ through which the supernatural power boils during the trance experience. It can also be seen as the axis mundi, the Tree of Life, as above, so below, the scaffolding that holds us upright. It also references the central pole (Ixhanti) of the Xhosa kraal, onto which the horns of sacrificed cattle are placed and at the base of which, the community lay their offerings to the ancestors.

N/om:The Power
The first in the series of dance skirts that depict the Cycle of Life

So now that my skirt is complete, I sit here absorbing what she has become, and I am amazed at the process that brought her here. She is strong, self assured and calm and it is in the calmness that I feel her power. She has laid the way for the others that are to follow, and I will be bringing you the next one shortly.

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The Making of an Artwork

I’ve been thinking recently about life experience, and what we choose to do with it. Some write books and others start businesses, but most of us use it without thinking about it. As an artist, I realise that all of my work has a direct link to my past. Either I am drawing landscapes that remind me of where I have been, or I’m sewing textile artworks, (a skill taught to me by my mother many years ago), that speak of the earth and the textures of Africa. The content of the artwork is inevitably inspired by my view of the world, which in turn has been moulded by the life I have lived and the environment that has surrounded me.

To rewind a bit, I was born into a large, pioneering family, and raised on a remote cattle ranch in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. I was fortunate to have a mother, a gentle, artistic spirit, who opened my eyes to the beauty of the natural world, and a father, a larger- than- life adventurer, who encouraged me to explore it. This idyllic childhood, free of technology and distraction, developed my connection to the wilderness of our continent and taught me not only to appreciate its mystery, but to find the wilderness within me.

Growing up on our farm ‘Nyangui’, in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe

When, in my teens, we moved to Botswana, my passion for the land was sealed, for my father, an airline pilot by profession, regularly took us with him on trips into the Okavango Delta, a lush, marshy expanse of inland water that supports some of Africa’s most stunning wildlife.

A view of the Okavango Delta from the air

Beyond the edges of this delta lay the hot, dry Kalahari Desert, home to the few remaining San, a hardy, nomadic people, whose respect for the land inspired me. My brief encounter with these people was to have a lasting effect upon my work, for they convinced me at a tender age, that it is wise and possible to live harmoniously within our environment.

Bushmen (San) in the Tsodilo Hills 1970. Photo credit: Anthony Stidolph

Since then, I have lived in the ferociously hot veld of Limpopo, the humid, grassy hills of Kwazulu Natal, and more recently the arid, but beautiful Eastern Cape of South Africa. Each has brought with it its own unique brand of mystery and left its mark on my soul.

For those who follow this blog, you may be aware that I was fairly quiet last year and did not reveal much of what I was up to. This is because for the first nine months of 2018, I was incubating and giving birth to a major artwork that demanded every moment of my time and head space. But now, as I sit in this liminal space between what’s gone and what’s to come, I reflect upon my recent work and see that it too gives visual form to an accumulation of my life experiences.

The Challenge

 At the end of 2017, I received a commission to make some original artwork for the chalets of Lentaba Lodge, a luxury establishment that nestles in thick valley bush veld within the Lalibela Game Reserve, 40kms outside Grahamstown. Part of this commission included a brief to make 5 framed dance skirts, that were to be earthy and African in feel and have a story to tell.  Being a lover of Nature, textiles and all things African, this was a dream come true and turned out to be an exhilarating, but challenging project that pushed me to my limits.

The Concept for the Skirts

I was given free reign to make the skirts in whatever way I wished, but I realised that the theme for the skirts needed to be suitable for a game lodge and fulfil my needs as an artist. I reflected on my life and my relationship with the natural environment and settled on the idea of the skirts representing something that we can all relate to: the Cycle of Life, with special reference to the connection between Nature and Humanity. I decided that each skirt would represent an aspect of the cycle, with the one flowing fluidly into the next as the circle rotates.

The Inspiration

With my concept loosely in tact, I then began the exciting phase of researching the subject,  drawing largely from my experience of living in Africa, and shifting between images of nature, places I have been and stories of the indigenous people who have lived here.

Much of my inspiration came from the San, who, as I mentioned above, have fascinated me since childhood. I have always been greatly inspired by their minimal material culture, particularly their bead work, pouches, loincloths and aprons, and still own a beaded necklace and pouch made by the San that I bought in Botswana in the late 1960’s.

San pouch and clay beads

The San are recognised as being the earliest inhabitants on this continent, and were possibly the forbears of modern homo sapiens. The earliest signs of artistic expression, symbolic behavior and human culture have been found in caves and rock overhangs along the Eastern seaboard of South Africa. Much of what we know of San culture has been learned through their paintings and artefacts found at such sites and whilst there may still be some debate as to the exact meaning of the paintings, it is clear that these rock shelters were powerful, sacred spaces that represented the interface between the physical and spiritual worlds. It is for this reason, that for this series of skirts, I dug into my archives to find images of rock paintings that would inform and inspire my decision to make the rock face the backdrop to the story.

San paintings on a rock overhang on the Makgabeng Plateau, Limpopo

Having spent many years living in Kwazulu Natal, I also found myself drawn to the Zulu concept of Nomkhubulwane, the heavenly princess, the daughter of God, who as maiden, mother and crone, is believed to be the goddess who maintains the balance between the physical and spiritual realms. In Nature she appears in various forms, but most often as a rainbow that brings the promise of new life after the fury of a tropical thunderstorm. Often associated with sacred pools, she is seen as the creator, the life force and the one who brings fertility. Throughout the making of these skirts, I felt her strong feminine energy permeating the atmosphere.

Rainbow over the sacred pool on the Baviaans River. Photo credit: Roddy Fox

Water, the yin (feminine) energy of our planet, so vital for our survival on Earth, was foremost in my mind as I entered the flow of this project. It is through the pollution of our rivers and oceans that I see just how disconnected humanity has become from Nature. What I see in the world around us today, is a disrespect for the Mother that has born, protected and fed us. My hope is that through this series of artworks, the energy I invest, will go some way to restoring the balance.

I also hold firm to the African concept of Ubuntu, which is a philosophy of ‘Oneness’, that all life is interconnected and that a thread of goodness connects us all, from the smallest creature to the largest. This thread of Ubuntu, that has love and respect as core values, holds societies together and ensures the sustainability of the planet.

With my intention now clear, I turned to my interest in recycling, and eagerly set about gathering materials, dyeing cloth, and sorting through a mass of beads, bones, and rusty metal in preparation for work to begin. I had a story to tell and needed to tell it in a way that felt authentic.

Hand dyeing cloth in preparation for work to begin

A collection of beads, bones, metal and string. The ingredients for the artwork

What was so interesting to me was that in the beginning, I thought that I was in control, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that in fact I was the conduit and that the skirts were directing me.

In the posts that follow, I will be sharing the five artworks with you and including some of the stages of my creative process.

Please stay tuned and enjoy this journey with me…

 

 

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Bags of Fun

With two festivals behind me and a month to recover, I am now feeling sufficiently revitalised to reflect on my July activities. July is always a busy time of the year for those of us involved in the National Arts Festival, but this year, apart from having an exhibition at The Highlander, I also took time out to travel to Port Elizabeth to teach my Bohemian Bag Workshop at the Siyadala- We Create National Quilt Festival, a biennial feast of all things quilt and textile related. It’s been a long time since I last taught at a national quilt festival, but it didn’t take long to get caught up in the excitement of women with a fabric passion (obsession), having fun!

The work on display at the main exhibition was breathtakingly exquisite, revealing hundreds of hours of painstaking work in each of the many creations. Although my textile work tends to break all the rules, I never fail to be impressed by those whose work keeps within the bounds of convention. When I stand in front of a king size bed quilt, frosted over with a million or more tiny, perfectly shaped and spaced stitches, I know that this is something to be impressed by, for it would be completely beyond my capability. If I were to have the pattern in front of me and see the work that lay ahead, I would give up before I even began. This is not to say I am not capable of hard work, it’s just that when I begin one of my large fibre wall hangings, I have no idea of what work lies ahead, which is why I keep on going. Each stitch, colour or seductive piece of cloth, beckons me forward with the potential of what it could become. I have no idea where I am going, but relinquish the need to know and enjoy the process of discovery. By the time the work is finished with me, I have given it hundreds of my hours, along with sweat and blood.

This perhaps is where the two approaches meet, for both types of fibre fanatics have a desire to make something beautiful and a willingness to devote time and hard work to see its completion. It’s how we go about it that makes us different. Generally traditional quilt makers are committed to working by the rules, which is why their work, so exquisite and precise, receives awards for its excellence. In many ways I think it’s more difficult to be rewarded for kicking dust and forging one’s own path. There are many more pitfalls in unchartered territory, so to hit the right balance and produce a work of art when one doesn’t have a rule book, is really quite an achievement. The art quilts on display were an example of this and the award winners deserved the accolades they received.

My workshop was one of those that didn’t have a kit, nor did it abide by any rules, and I was happy that it attracted those who were keen to play and explore new ways to express their personalities. The Bohemian Bag Workshop offers a perfect opportunity for participants to test their creative impulses in a space that is supportive of their efforts. The project is relatively small and manageable, so happily not overwhelming.

The 14 women who attended my class came very well prepared and it wasn’t long before surfaces were strewn with colourful cloth and there was a hum of happy machines. I have selected a few images from the two day workshop to give you a taste of the scene. You will see from the images that I have every reason to be happy with the outcome. It was a fabulous experience to work with this group and the fruits of their labour speak for themselves.

If you are interested in attending my next two-day workshop, to be held in my studio in Grahamstown, the dates for this event are Saturday 9th and 16th September 2017. I’d love to see you there!

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New Outlets

I am happy to announce that a selection of my artworks are now available for sale through the Imbizo Gallery in Hoedspruit and Ballito.

imbizo-gallery-logo2small

It seems appropriate that my work should be shown in these areas, as  much of my inspiration was gathered from here when I lived in both Mpumalanga and Kwazulu Natal after immigrating to South Africa from Zimbabwe in 1980.

So, if any of you are traveling that way, maybe to visit Kruger National Park, pop in to the gallery at the Kamogelo Centre in Hoedspruit, where you will see a range of my fibre artworks and ink drawings.

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Yellow-Billed Hornbill #1

If you happen to be in Kwazulu Natal, you will see some of my fibre birds at the Imbizo Gallery in the Lifestyle Centre, Ballito.

'The Sentinel' by Sally Scott. 30cm x 30cm

‘The Sentinel’ by Sally Scott. 30cm x 30cm

For further information on my work, please visit my website.

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The Great Escape

Getting up on a Monday morning is always quite a challenge, but getting through a week of demanding deadlines, multiple chores, responsibilities, lists and crises, whilst dealing with an increasingly hostile climate of political and economic uncertainty, is enough to leave one feeling completely exhausted. It’s hardly surprising that so many people are stressed, confused, lost and wondering where their sanity has gone. Lets face it, the world is pretty chaotic right now, so it’s very difficult to be normal in a society where the word ‘normal’ is under attack.

So, what can I do about it? Well, for starters I can offer you a place to escape, even just for a few quiet hours, to give you a chance to recover, reflect, play and laugh a little…or a lot! My mission in this life is to spread some positivity, to help one gain some perspective by entering the realm of the creative. And creative is what I saw in the workshop I held in my Grahamstown studio a few weeks ago. I also saw relief, love, laughter, generosity and kindness. I saw women doing what comes naturally when taken out of their stressful environments. They were absorbed, happy and relaxed. They were connecting to a part of themselves that has been calling out for attention…their spirit and their soul.

If you click on the images below, you will get a glimpse into the experience…

So, if you feel you could do with one of these great escapes, I have another two-day workshop starting this coming Saturday 12th and 19th November and there is just one space left! If this is something you would like to do next year, please contact me to put your name on the mailing list. In my next post, I hope to bring you some images of the bags that were created in the 2016 workshops.

bohemian-bag-advert-siyadala-3

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Bags

As the first of my Bohemian Bag Workshops comes to a close, I have been reflecting upon my fascination with this humble little accessory. Where does my interest stem from and why is it that a beautifully beaded or embroidered bag can put a smile on my face and get my heart racing?

For as long as I can remember, I have been attracted to beaded and embroidered bags and as a young girl growing up in Botswana, I remember being enthralled by the beaded leather pouches of the San, and recall with great clarity, seeing an exquisite example of one, framed upon a friend’s wall.

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An example of a beaded San pouch

These artifacts left an indelible mark on my psyche and much of my textile work has been inspired by these beautifully crafted, functional little artworks.  When I page through any of the lavishly illustrated African art coffee table books that stand upon my bookshelf, it is invariably the images of bags that attract me,  be they the sumptuous  leather camel bags of the Tuareg or the richly coloured, beaded medicine pouches of the Yoruba diviner.

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An example of a Tuareg camel bag

 

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The medicine pouch of a Yoruba diviner

Over the years I have gathered a small collection of my own, and amongst my most prized possessions is a small leather wallet with metal- studded tassels, typical of those worn by the men of the Fingo tribe of South Africa.

On a trip through the USA during the 1990’s, I was totally enthralled by Native American beadwork, and loaded my suitcase with books on the subject that I have looked at and been inspired by over and over again. The little pouches, with tassels and elaborate beaded patterns, never failing to excite me. At a pueblo I visited in New Mexico, I was able to acquire a small little pouch that now hangs upon my wall.

Then a trip to Sweden, took me through the museums of Stockholm and I discovered embroidered purses like I had never seen before.

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Swedish folk costume bag 1916

That set me off, and for the week that followed, my friend Janet and I sat at her dining room table, piled high with fabrics, felt and embroidery silks, creating our own little gems.

Women at work ... making bags

Women at work … making bags

Making bags in Sweden

Making bags in Sweden

And then I came upon gypsy bags, those colourful, quirky, assemblages of beads, buttons, tassels and trims, and knew that I just had to have one for myself, but as Grahamstown is not exactly a hippie hangout, I realized I would have to make my own…

My bohemian bag

My bohemian bag

That’s how the workshop was born and judging by the enthusiasm of my first group of bag making students, I can see there will be plenty more workshops to come.

So, what is it that makes a woman love a beautiful bag? Like shoes, many women are attracted to them like magnets. Is it because they carry our most precious possessions, our documents and money that prove who we are and give us the freedom to move through our daily lives? Possibly, but there is definitely something more, and it’s in the process of making one, that I discover a whole new layer of meaning. The process is both absorbing and healing, a kind of meditation that takes one away from the troubles of this world. But beware, it can also become addictive and often, whilst I’m working on one, there is another forming in my mind!

Over the years I have created numerous bags, pouches and purses, for a variety of different reasons and so for the purpose of this post, went digging in my archives to find a few to share. My bags are not always practical, but usually soulful, symbolic and tend to reflect the place, both emotional and geographical that I was in at the time I made them. If you click on the images below, you can enlarge and enjoy:

In my next post, I will bring you some of the action and outcomes from the first of the Bohemian Bag Workshops. I have another one planned for November, so if you feel like escaping the madness out there and joining us for two days of soothing, healing therapy, please let me know.

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Bohemian Bag Workshop

I will be holding a two-day creative sewing workshop in my Grahamstown art studio on Saturday 15th/22nd October 2016.

bohemian-bag-advert-siyadala-3

This workshop brings together my interest in fashion, design, sewing, beading, embroidery, applique and fabric manipulation, and combines it with my interest in people, their life stories and my belief that creativity can heal.

It is guaranteed to be a fun workshop, where you can make a bag or purse that can be as funky and over-the-top as you wish. It may be any size or shape and you can use whatever materials you wish. You can go crazy with embellishments and I will be there to teach you all the skills you need for the process.

With fashion trends currently being inspired by the 1960’s and 70’s hippie era, this is the perfect time to make yourself or someone else a trendy fashion accessory.

Time: 9.00am – 4.00pm

Cost: R680.00

Space will be limited, so sign up today for a workshop you will enjoy! I look forward to seeing you there.

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‘Double Vision’

On the evening of Thursday 5th November 2015, the doors of Mogalakwena Gallery, 3 Church St., Cape Town,  opened for the viewing of Double Vision, a fibre art exhibition featuring the work of Odette Tolksdorf and myself . The opening was part of the First Thursdays, Cape Town programme, and because we were blessed with warm, balmy weather, the crowds thronged the streets and we had a really interesting mix of people coming through.

Sally Scott, Gina Niederhumer and Odette Toksdorf at the opening of 'Double Vision'

Sally Scott, Gina Niederhumer and Odette Toksdorf at the opening of ‘Double Vision’

For those who weren’t there to enjoy it, I have included some of Odette’s works and a gallery of all the work that I have on show. We were fortunate to have Gina Niederhumer to open our exhibition and have included her opening words below:

“When Odette phoned me about a month ago, to ask me if I would open her and Sally’s exhibition I was at first shocked that she asked me, after all these artists were already famous and were part of that crowd that I looked up to and admired from afar while I still marveled over log-cabin patterns… I am immensely honored that they asked me to open their exhibition. Both artists have resumes as long as both my arms…prestigious awards to their names…their work is held in public and private collections – locally and internationally…and their art-works appear in many publications …most recently in Elbe’s new book Craft Art in South Africa.

Sally Scott and Odette Tolksdorf are amongst a group of a few local textile artists who have put South African Fiber Arts on the world map.

There are certain parallels to their biography…both have lived elsewhere for much of their formative years…Odette in Australia, Sally in Zimbabwe…both are internationally exhibited artists and both are teachers of creative workshops for over thirty years… both work with needle and thread amongst other things… and they are friends.

While each one developed their own style and working methodology…here in this exhibition they joined forces to give us a glimpse into their practice.

I will first speak about Odette, as her work is exhibited in the first room.

Odette, beside being a prolific textile artist, is also a Quilt Judge and these past 15 years has been the South African representative and co-coordinator of the World Quilt and Textile competition which is held annually in the USA.

She has also for the last 15 years, organized cultural art and craft tours to South Africa, together with American textile artist Nancy Crow and Canadian artist Valerie Hearder.

Odette’s fiber art is known for its vibrant colours, it’s geometric shapes…intricate textures… and has a linear quality about it. Her work starts often with a traditional pattern which she then distorts and adapts to fit her design concepts.

Her surroundings frequently provide the prompts for her work. …a trip to Morocco becomes Lost in Marrakech…which hint at the intricate networks of Medinas and Souks…which invite one to get lost in while absorbing the colours and shapes of the place…next to it is the work Endless Migrations which is based on rumination around friends leaving the country…and the coming and goings of people in general…all over the world… in one direction or another… like the flow of water…the circles representing the endlessness of this pursuit…given the present situation in Europe with thousands of refugees making their way through different countries in search for a safe place and a new start, this work could not be more current.

'Endless Migration' by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Endless Migration’ by Odette Tolksdorf

As a graphic graduate, Design is a strong element in Odette’s art. This is quite evident in many of her works…such as the piece Isihlalo – the Chair, which is based on the woodcarving of a back-rest belonging to a Zulu-King…. Raw Wall based on traditional Yoruba house decorations…Re-mix Africa…a lighthearted play on words referring to the watershed exhibition Africa -re mix…where Odette mixes Kimono shapes with African wax prints with a variety of textures, such as Cuba cloth, and Bark cloth…linking different symbolism and agendas.

'Re-mix Africa' by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Re-mix Africa’ by Odette Tolksdorf

Odette’s latest works, Breath I, II and III is unusual perhaps in its soft watercolor feel…but then on closer look it is again indicative of her way of responding and processing her surrounding…as by her own admission, she was seduced by the material when she found that wonderful organza and thought of a way to use it. An artist will always read any material or subject matter through his or her own lens of seeing the world…in this case, turning layers and layers of translucent textiles into a meditative study on light and breath…offering a though provoking reflection on the repetitiveness of the sewing process.

Breath, Breathe and Breathing Series by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Breath, Breathe and Breathing’ Series by Odette Tolksdorf

Double Vision …the title of this show….refers to an eye condition, Wikipedia informed me… (I could not resist) whereby the eyes when looking at a single object, see it twice, the effect is like squinting.

I like this title for the Sally and Odette’s exhibition, as it not only points in a humorous way to two artists having different views, but it also reminds us that there is always another way of looking at things. That there is the actual artwork the viewer sees when entering the gallery, and then there is the story behind each work…the story that triggered the work in the artist as well as the ‘threads’ that are spun in the viewers imagination while looking at the work. Nobel Peace Laureate Eric Kandel, speaks of the beholders share which completes the process between artist and viewer.

Which really tells us that something is happening to us while we are viewing an artwork…and the thoughts triggered have less to do with the actual work then with our own inter psychic realities …such is the power of art.

Thus in a way, art lets us look into both directions…the outer world and the world within us. I find this especially the case in Sally’s piece Surrender. While the trigger for the work might have come from Sally’s experiences, it has universal appeal, as we all can identify with the need to let go of things, thoughts, ideas that might be not only be counter productive but actually harmful. This is especially true, when we have been hurt, and have allowed the woundedness within to create an armor that we hope shields us, but it actually separates us from the world, and ultimately from living live fully

When I look at Surrender, I see the threshold that allowed the other works to surface. Art and healing go hand in hand. Nietzsche already said, that when the soul is in distress, art comes as an expert healer and sorceress, turning difficult thoughts and emotions into something that can be looked at, and talked about.

The titles often give further clues to the meaning behind the work…Axis Mundi….the tree of life….Towards Infinity…a continous search for the self…Synergy acknowledging the different elements that strive for wholeness…

The vivid colours in many of the pieces give the works a celebratory look…a triumphant transition of the souls search and healing process after the work Surrender. The repeated almond shape of the Vesica Pisces, which presents itself in much of Sally’s work, speaks of her continued search for unity and balance. Vesica Piscis, the place where two equal circles overlap and create a third shape – a liminal space – is at the root of sacred geometry… I understand Sally’s repeated use of this shape as a search for the essence of oneness

vesica pisces jpg

Sally runs workshops for community projects and university students, teaching embroidery skills, drawing, journal writing and her hugely popular Red Shoes workshops, which are aimed at empowering people through helping them find their own creative voice.

Sally is not only a teacher and lecturer and a leading figure in the textile world, she is also a landscape painter and wildlife activist.

Growing up in what sound like a magical time on a remote farm in Zimbabwe, her love for the bush is evident in her photographs and paintings. Here in this show, in the three framed works showing photographs of barren landscapes over which hang little Travel Bags combine her love for remote places, traveling and needlework. It is again the search for oneness that I see in it.

Click on the images below to see Sally’s works on show:

While both artists focus on their respective tasks and work with the same medium, needle and thread, their artistic output, copious as it is, is quite distinct from each other. While Sally works with her own hand-dyed fabrics and thread onto black cloth and frequently includes text and found objects in her work, Odette’s clear lines and textures as well as her choice of strong colours, on the other hand conjure up a light filled high spirited Lebensfreude.

While ‘double’ refers to the two streams of artistic output, ‘vision’ here speaks less of the actual mechanics of our eyes, but rather it refers to the farsightedness in both artists as they impart their skill and knowledge through their teaching, ensuring the spreading of a wellbeing through creative empowerment.

The departure point for this exhibition might have been one goal, one vision for the artists ….being friends it is also likely that they discussed ideas about it while they worked towards it…the resulting body of work though speaks of separate paths. Needlework techniques acquired over a life time of individual practice… meet here, as Sally and Odette share some of their work with us … thus giving the viewer their gift of double vision….which lets us …while seeing transformations of their experiences – contemplate our own. Thank you.”

Gina Niederhumer

Cape Town, November 5, 2015

The exhibition remains open until 18th December 2015. Please visit and enjoy!

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Double Vision Exhibition

Mogalakwena Gallery, Cape Town        6 November – 18 December 2015

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I will be in Cape Town next week to attend the opening of  Double Vision, a two-woman fibre art exhibition featuring the work of myself and Odette Tolksdorf, a fellow fibre artist and friend from Kwazulu-Natal.

Odette and I met in Durban during the 1980’s when we were part of a dynamic group of innovative fibre artists who were active in KwaZulu-Natal at the time. Intent on finding new ways of working with fabric, we adjusted traditional quilt making techniques to create our own particular form of expression. Those were exciting times, and as public interest grew with this emerging art form, Odette and I had many opportunities to take part in group exhibitions, both locally and internationally. Both of us worked from our home studios in Durban and became known not only as regular exhibitors, but as teachers of Fibre Art and Design.

In 2000 I moved to Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape, where I set up a private art studio and continued to teach drawing and offer creative sewing workshops. The geographical divide between me and my fibre art friends from KwaZulu-Natal meant that I was forced to work alone and in so doing, forged a way of working that is now my trademark style.

Meanwhile in Durban, Odette continued to make art, teach design and contemporary quiltmaking and widened the scope of her activities to teaching overseas and becoming the South African representative/co-coordinator for the World Quilt and Textile Competition, held annually in the USA. Since 2000 she has organized art, craft and culture tours of South Africa with well-known textile artists, American Nancy Crow and Canadian Valerie Hearder.

Odette and I both have a strong appreciation for textiles and are founder members of Fibreworks, a group that promotes fibre art in South Africa.

With both of us appearing in Elbe Coetsee’s recently published book “Craft Art in South Africa” it seemed fitting that we should join forces in Double Vision to exhibit some of our work from the past few years.

If you happen to be in Cape Town over the festive season, please pop in to view this feast of colour.

The opening will be at 5.30 pm on 5th November and the opening talk will be given by Gina Niederhumer.

You will find the Mogalakwena Gallery at 3 Church St. Cape Town. Open Monday-Friday 9:00 – 16:00

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