|Ethos & History
Next meeting at Jeanette's house on Friday 24 April 2009, 9.30 am for 10 am.
Linda Jones is happy to put aside TEN days in October for our annual retreat. She has LOTS of beds available and is very enthusiastic about putting us all up, and making our stay as memorable as Santie and Graham's BELOVED Sewula Lodge. Please make EVERY EFFORT to come. We need your views and opinions, your votes and your laughter! Retreats are always the perfect opportunity to reinforce friendships. You can stay one night or ten, just let Linda know on 0828705732.
Here is Leonie's talk presented to the Natal Quilters Guild in February 2009. She called it "Variety Show". I have printed the talk more or less as she presented it with all its anecdotal quirkiness as I feel the spirit it embodies needs to be shared with the Fibreworks members.
Thank you, Leonie, for a dedicated and passionate presentation.
"I was very fortunate to be invited to Umfolozi Game Reserve for Christmas last year, and found myself in constant wonder at the new-borns - from monkeys to wilde beest, warthogs, zebras, lion cubs and nurseries bulging with impala babies - ALL LOOKING LISTENING, IMITATING THEIR MOTHERS.
Of course, this is the way to learn, and it took me back to when I discovered quilting and did exactly the same - imitated those who had gone before me the matriarchs and tradition.
What we glean in the nursery becomes the foundation for the rest of our lives.
Then comes the literacy programme - we learn 26 letters of the alphabet - similarly in quilting, we learn basic shapes to cut from fabric. We learn to combine these letters to form words or in quilting speak - combine the shapes to form blocks. And so, with a few tools like letters, pen and paper or fabric, shapes, needle and thread, we join words and construct fabric shapes to make a story.
When we are learning to write, we copy letters and words and sentences from the board, but do we keep re-writing the same story?
Imagine if poets and authors kept repeating the same story, or journalists yesterday news - would we read the newspaper or buy the magazine?
I recall decades ago exploring the galleries of Europe seeing art students sitting with their easles in front of grand masters works - coying the paintings brush stroke for brush stroke. That's good - very good but only to learn colour, composition, technique, etc.
Could they continue to churn out Rembrandt's and Picasso's? What would be the point ? To grow, develop, evolve - they have to move on - find their own brush stroke, write their own story. Move beyond impersonating. Have you ever felt slightly dissatisfied with repeating someone else's story?
LISTEN TO THE FEELING - that is your inner voice - your intuition nudging you - telling you its time to stop flying on autopilot and like a trapeze artist - LET GO OF THE BAR - and in that time of free flight - the time in between letting go and catching the bar ahead - THAT IS WHEN YOU SEE NEW MEANING - begin to develop your own handwriting, use your own voice - to get to a place that is yours.
It's scary, yes - but when you're a toddler, to jump off that first step - and I speak of myself as well - it's scary to jump off step two, step four and step six . BUT if we don't, we find ourselves stuck on the same secure-feeling step for life - by enshrining traditional ways - innovation is stifled.
I read the words of artist Kitty Kantilla, an illiterate aborigine woman from the Australian outback who chops her own trees for her painted grave poles. She says "sometimes I paint slowly and sing - take a break - look at it, look at it - they're talking together, the song and the design. Seeing the style of my first three bark paintings, those barks are from looking at the old Mountford Gallery bark collection - those days are in the past - they've gone. I've climbed up the ladder and now I have my own style of painting."
This sets my neck hairs on end - I KNOW HOW HARD IT IS.
I come from the Calvinistic background where I was forced to colour inside the lines. Education was fear-based and negative: "no it's wrong - not like that - it's a mistake - it doesn't look like everyone else's - don't go there - what will the neighbours say …."
In 1971 in America a movement was born when quilts moved off the bed and onto the walls. The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City had a milestone exhibition showing quilts to be ART WORKS - with strong visual connections to paintings.
"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong" said American author Joseph Chitton Pearce.
And so it was that 11 years ago a group of quilters heard the inner voice and felt the nudge to let go of the bar and the Fibreworks group was formed. Today it has 40 plus members nation wide.
Take note; Fibreworks is NOT the next step from traditional quilting. Its purpose is to promote textile/fibre art as a serious art form, to generate critical input and to host regional retreats organized by its members.
FIBREWORKS is exactly that - works made of plant, animal or man made fibre which have been spun, woven, felted, pounded as in bark cloth, or pulped as in paper, plus embellishments of any materials which would best enhance the story. The work may hang on the wall, on your body, grace the floor or be multi-dimensional. It does not have to be the traditional three layered sandwich as construction is according to your choice and imagination.
This may all sound like everyone has let go completely and are now free falling.
Not at all. As in music, we learn the basics the traditional way. The classics first, we then start to improvise - jazz it up a bit - tell the same story but with a new twist and tempo - but through it all you can pick up the original tune, it has not been discarded.
I am a Fibreworks member via the traditional route. I had also long wanted to 'go tell it on the mountain', that is to teach in the rural areas, and 10 years ago when I started working at African Art Centre, these doors opened for me…
Embroidery projects sprang up nation-wide and needle and thread - not a traditional African craft in South Africa - was being used to illustrate the trauma of our past, AND to put bread on the table. My opportunity came and I have been priviledged to teach workshops country-wide.
Also at African Art Centre, and working with crafts, my love of pattern and artifacts was fed. Such stimulation began reflecting in my work. Another priviledge of working there was getting to know Zulu artists and crafters. I learned that a man sitting deep in the rural area weaving a basket or sculpting a piece of wood, has time and space for deep contemplation. Nature is his teacher. In his solitude, he listens to what is happening outside and inside of himself - fostering a particular outlook, a cast of mind, a philosophy. I then became aware of African proverbs, and decided to have fun with their words of wisdom using needle and thread. I depicted a variety of proverbs in my work: "The prosperity of the Tree is the well-being of the birds."
I have moved away from quilting to use framing and stretch canvas.
As advertised, you were promised a variety show - and a few other artists have given me some examples of their work to give you an idea of the diversity of our styles: Helga Beaumont, Judy Breytenbach, Margaret Ruxton and Odette Tolksdorf.
In conclusion, Fibreworks is NOT an exclusive club. To become a member, work needs to be submitted. Three actual works and ten additional works, on CD or in a file. This is to understand that you have a sense of commitment.
A potential new member's work is juried by all members who are present at the AGM held in October of every year. This is to see if your work is a comfortable fit. There is nothing too rigid about the guide lines. There are no electric fences keeping anyone in or out. We are open minded and nothing is caste in stone. If you feel the nudge, contact Helga Beaumont at 031 764 0854.
In this new year of 2009, I wish you great pleasure and courage with your work BUT you are not getting away without a challenge -
Let go of the rocks -
and dare to let the river of your imagination TAKE YOU -
And when you hit the rapids -
Rejoice - think of it as an adventure - free flight time
Move through the fear -
and emerge with a new vision for your work."
· Leonie, while working at African Art Centre, co-ordinated the making of the South African flag to hang behind the judges in the main court room in the constitutional court. She worked closely with six woman beaders from Kwa Mashu - organizing materials, workshops and ultimately working out how to successfully hang a 6m x 2 ˝ m beaded and stitched flag. Her brief had been 'it must have a handmade look'. This features in the book written by Albie Sachs "Art and Justice" in which he discusses the art and craft that is displayed in the constitutional court. Well worth a read!
These members have been invited by the Tatham Art Gallery Exhibitions Committee to take part in a show called 'Contemporary Reflections' . Eight works from the gallery's permanent collection have been selected and a number of artists have been invited to respond to one or more of these works in some way. The aim is to stimulate dialogue between the old work and the new.
Odette Tolksdorf and Elmine van der Walt, each had a quilt selected for "Quilts for Obama", an exhibition which celebrated the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the USA. The exhibition took place from January 11 to 31 at the Historical Society of Washington D.C. and was curated by Roland Freeman, a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution and folklorist, photo-documenter, and author of Communion of the Spirits.
As everyone is by now aware the theme of our exhibition is VISTA.
Please contact Sue if you have any queries. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
The third PFAFF Art Embroidery Challenge will be in 2009. The PFAFF Art embroidery Challenge is an international biennial competition for works of art
entirely made by sewing and/or embroidery machine. Submission date is 15 May 2009 in France.
"LANDSCAPE - Let us travel" is the theme of the works. An international jury will judge the entries and there are big awards to be won. It takes place in France, and the awards will be presented at the Knitting and Stitching show in London in 2009.
A full coloured catalogue will be published.
We sent you information on this competition last week by e-mail. If you need more information or want to enter, contact
3 rue du Rosey
F - 27120 FONTAINE SOUS JOUY
Tél : +33 (0)22.214.171.124.44