The Value of Tone

I read somewhere recently that in painting, tone is everything. If one gets the tonal values right, the other elements stand a good chance of coming together. It struck me in that moment, that tone is important in many aspects of human communication, be it the tone of our voice when we say something or the tone in our head when we read an email or message. One can say something one thinks is innocent, but if the tone of voice is off, the meaning of those words can change completely.

The challenge for us all in these times of mass communication and digital media, is to make our words come across in the way we intend them. The problem of course, is that even if one’s words are written with care and good intention, if the recipient of an email is in a bad space when reading those toneless words, they will impose their own tone and completely transform the meaning.

So I am not surprised to see that the race is on between rival digital tech companies to come up with human like emojis that are aimed at illustrating the tone of the words being sent out on social media. Perhaps this is partly why platforms like WhatsApp have become so much more popular than email. The pictures can say it all, short circuiting the need for us to impose our own bad/sad mood on the words of the sender. How clever we are becoming… for anything that helps promote understanding in this very conflicted world, does it for me.

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Categories: Drawing, Inspiration | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Survival – A Lesson from the Veld

I have recently been sorting through my aloe paintings, and one in particular stands out, for its universal message has a personal story attached…

When I was a young girl, we lived on a cattle ranch in Inyanga, which is situated in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, in a magnificent mountain range that borders with Mozambique.

There were seven children in our family and we roamed pretty wild and free, spending our days either helping with the farm or exploring the rivers, kopje’s and bush.

On top of the mountain, looking over our 14,000 acre Nyangui Ranch, 1975.

The hillsides of the farm were littered with mysterious ancient ruins and stone terraces that we loved to scramble over and explore, as we disappeared down tunnels, into unexpected enclosures, picking up shards of pottery, imagining who might have once lived there.

Exploring ancient ruins on our farm. 1975

It was a blissful existence for kids growing up without television and all the mod cons of today. We learned to appreciate Nature on both macro and micro scale and this laid a firm foundation for the creativity that was to follow.

Sisters catching tadpoles in one of the many rivers on the ranch

 

Playing in the stream, siblings Sally, Anthony and Penny, 1967

But then war came to that beautiful area and we were forced to move, leaving our playground behind. We all set off on our respective paths and life taught us some serious lessons.

On a nostalgic return trip to the old farm, many years later, I took my two young sons to visit a ruin that lay embedded in a commanding position at the top of a hill. The countryside was hot and dry, and in the grip of a ten-year drought. The rock hard ground was stripped bare of grass and the termites were eating the trees. A veld fire had recently removed whatever dry grass remained.

Nyangui Ranch in the drought. 1991

As we clambered up over the multiple layers of terraces, sweating and panting in the heat, we finally reached the ruin. Memories of my childhood came flooding back as I surveyed the landscape around and as I sat on a warm granite rock, I felt the earth’s energy seep through my body like a much needed blood transfusion. Oh, it was so good to be home!

In my desire to share my youthful memories, I attempted to ignite some enthusiasm into my sons, who both looked somewhat confused as to what all the excitement was about. I was beginning to wonder myself what the purpose of this visit had been. I mean this was my childhood and these were my memories, so how I was hoping that my boys would get it I really don’t know, when their reality was based in the city and the lush green hills of Natal.

My two young sons visit the ancient ruins for the first time. 1991

Then, as I wandered around with my camera, I came upon two small aloes, side by side, both scorched from the fire, parched from the drought, but doggedly standing their ground. I was riveted by this image of survival, and in that instant, I knew why I had needed to be there.

I took that photo with me into the turmoil of my life and kept it as a clear reminder that no matter how great the heat, the thirst and the flames, when one is well rooted and grounded, one can survive pretty much anything. With a belief in one’s ability to survive, one can emerge stronger from the experience, with spirit and light intact.

‘Nyangui Aloes’ by Sally Scott
Medium: Chalk Pastel

Last year I translated that photograph into a chalk pastel painting and was reminded once again that Nature is the great teacher and Creativity, the therapist. Or is it the other way round?  Whichever way I look at it they seem to work in tandem and I am very grateful for both.

 

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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!

Categories: Fibre Art, Workshops | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Open Tabs

I recently visited the optometrist, for what I thought was to be a routine check-up that would enable me to renew my drivers license. After flicking through A’s and D’s and upside down E’s, I was relieved to hear that things weren’t as bad as I expected, and engaged the doctor on the ins and outs of ageing and failing eyesight. I had so many questions that every time he started to speak, another question would pop into my mind. Eventually in desperation, he laughed, put his hands up and said I had too many tabs open and that I needed to put a hold on them so that he could attend to one question at a time. I was amused by his analogy, but appreciated him telling me so directly that this is what I do and as I left his consultation rooms, I felt I had just had an awakening.

Back in my studio a short while later, I stopped for a moment and observed the scene before me. Everywhere I looked were half finished projects, enticing piles of creative energy waiting for my attention. In that moment, I knew that my optometrist was right. I do have multiple tabs open, in the form of numerous projects going on at any one time, and I flit from one to the other like a butterfly gathering nectar. I’m sure a good psychologist would tell me the pitfalls of my process, but this is the way I love to work and the way I stay in the flow, I am never without something to do, and even when I am finishing off a project, the next idea is being born.

So since my visit to the good doctor, I have been examining my situation and been actively closing a few of the tabs that have been slowing down my system. I have finished the beading on a bag begun over a year ago,

A funky example of a bohemian bag

given my aloe a flower

One of a series of small ink drawings

 

and completed that winding road that leads me through the Eastern Cape landscape.

A recent work of a road less travelled

I have made the leaves for a sample bag that I will be using when I teach in Port Elizabeth next week

A sample bag for my Bohemian Bag workshop, which will be taught at the National Quilt Festival 2017 on 3rd and 4th July

and rustled up some flowers

Preparation for The Bohemian Bag Workshop, being taught in PE on 3rd and 4th July

I have taken the last of my paintings in for framing…

Country Road. Chalk Pastel. Sally Scott

Another Road, Another View. Chalk pastel. Sally Scott

…and I have also designed a poster for my Festival exhibition.

I will be showing a few of my recent works in a group exhibition at the National Arts Festival 2017. The exhibition opens 29th June and closes 9th July.

 

So that ticks a few things off the list and now that this blog post is written, another tab is about to be closed, but not before I invite you all to visit our exhibition at The Highlander between the 29th June and 9th July 2017.

 

Stay tuned for feedback on both the exhibition and the bag workshop. I suspect that by then a few more tabs will have opened.

 

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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.

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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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Artists in the Making

“In the beginning is the attitude. Everything else will follow”. Shaun McNiff

We’ve had a good year in the Sally Scott Studio and I feel very proud to be able to share a selection of work that has emerged from our weekly drawing classes. Most of the students started out as complete beginners, but over the months of regular attendance, they have made amazing progress as their skills and confidence have grown. Click on the images below and enjoy…

If anyone is interested in joining us for next year’s classes, please contact me. No previous experience is necessary, and yes, I welcome those who “can only draw a stick man”. It won’t be long before you are producing work like that in the gallery above.

An evening class

An evening class

A morning class

A morning class

Happy Christmas everyone!

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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.

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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.

Categories: Fibre Art, Inspiration, My Studio, Workshops | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Bohemian Bag Workshop

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

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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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COMMON ROOTS : DIFFERENT ROUTES

In two weeks time the sleepy hollow of Grahamstown will be rocked by the National Arts Festival once again. This  year I am joining forces with my talented siblings, brother Anthony and sister Nicky, both accomplished artists, to bring what we hope will be an interesting exhibition of our work. We come from a big family of pioneering stock and have had an amazingly rich, though somewhat off-beat upbringing. There is much that I could tell you, but will leave it to my eloquent brother to explain a little of the background to our exhibition…

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“Artists Anthony Stidolph, Sally Scott and Nicky Rosselli grew up in a large family of seven children in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). While they were all still relatively young, their father, an experienced airline pilot and free ranging spirit who had served with distinction in various bomber squadrons during the war, suddenly decided that the life he had really been born for was that of a farmer.

Acting, as he invariably did, on such ill-thought out impulses he quit his job, cashed in his life savings, bought a battered old Land-Rover and proceeded to relocate the entire family, lock, stock and barrel, to one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Zimbabwe’s Nyanga Mountains.

Although the area proved ill-suited for agriculture and the farm was never a financial success it was a wonderful place to grow up.

Bordered on the east by the great wall of the Nyanga mountain range, the landscape seemed to possess an uplifting, transcendental, almost spiritual quality; it’s beauty penetrated the soul. Every now and again, in life, one comes across a place which for some mysterious reason exerts a deep personal attraction and the farm did just that for all three children.

It provided them with some of their richest childhood memories and would go on to play a pivotal role in their subsequent artistic, spiritual and emotional development. It was here that their love for nature, for places still regarded as wild, came from.

Moving to South Africa, albeit at different times and in pursuit of slightly varying goals, the three siblings mutual passion for landscape would continue to nourish and sustain them, each, in their own way, endeavouring to observe and capture the scenery that has inspired them over the years without pretence or posture.

Always something of a humourist, Anthony would choose to go into the field of political cartooning, where he worked for The Witness newspaper under the nom-de-guerre “Stidy” for almost 26-years, while his sister Sally’s early interest in batik work would later transform itself into a distinguished career in Fabric Art (and, in turn, pastel work) which would see her win several international awards for her innovative pieces. Nicky, very much the family afterthought, also inherited her mother’s artistic genes (the other four family members chose to follow more scientific paths) establishing an early reputation as a highly talented and original  artist and etcher while, at the same time, opening and running her own Art Gallery with her husband John.

Over the years which have followed, Anthony Sally and Nicky have continued to regard their art as a form of self-examination, providing not only a reflection of the physical world without but the secret world within. For each one, art is not only a vocation to be expressed but lived as well.

Employing the notion of travel as a metaphor for living, this joint family exhibition serves, then, as a both a record and a re-evaluation of three journeys that began from the same starting point in another country many years ago. Although their roads may have diverged and detoured along the way, Anthony, Sally and Nicola’s lives have remained linked by a shared passion and a common ancestral background.

As such their work is infused with a certain homesickness, a longing to connect and get back to a place – or places – that exemplify their early ideal of happiness.

Intensely personal and reflective of their continuing bond with the earth, the artwork bears out TS Eliot’s poetic statement on how the end of all our seeking is to arrive back at the beginning and know the place for the first time…”

Anthony, Nicky and Sally in Botswana 1972

Anthony, Nicky and Sally in Botswana 1972

The exhibition will be officially opened at 5.30pm on 29th June and will thereafter be open daily 9am-5pm  30th June – 10th July. The artists will be in attendance.

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