Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hand Dyed Fabric (or how to make hippy spew with low immersion dying and a helpful dog))

Hi everyone!

Have finally (finally!) got around to dying the fabric that's been soaking in soda ash in a plastic tub on top of the dishwasher for (ahem) about 3 months. :)

I had some old dyestock already made up in squeeze bottles left over from even before then and wanted to see if it would work. I've heard that it lasts forever, that it lasts for a couple of weeks, that you should keep it in the fridge, that temperature doesn't matter and a dozen other things. I hadn't heard about the cold storage before storing the squeeze bottles behind the dishwasher with all my other dye equipment.

When this place was built the cabinet maker in the kitchen must have been having a hard day - as the bottom of the bench hole left for the dishwasher is fine... but the top is about 2mm too narrow. The upshot of this is that I have extra space to store my dye things but it's in an area where it's going to get warm from the heat of the dishwasher in front of it.

I made two pieces, I'm very happy with the first. The old premixed dye did work but the colour is subtler then it was 3 months ago. I figure this piece will make a nice sky:

Coco, as always was very helpful during shooting the pics. She thinks that if you are kneeling on the ground then obviously you're there to pat her. (Usually of course she is right!)

The second piece on the other hand was rather different then what I had in mind.... I seem to have created hippy spew print:

The green in this piece is new dye I mixed with bright green and bright yellow, so that dye is a lot stronger than the blue. I dyed both of these by wringing out the extra soda ash and squishing the fabric into the bottom of a plastic lidded container. I then squirted the pre-mixed dye directly onto parts of the fabric, put the lid on the containers and left it for 3 days for no other reason than i've been busy :)

-Neroli Henderson

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Machine Needle Felting / Embellishing / Dry Felting on Silk Velvet Samples Part 2

Today I set up a bit of white card to bounce the sunlight I had on hand so I could get a photo of the finished test samples up. These are the samples I posted a blog about the construction techniques yesterday (so see blog post below).

Materials are: Silk Velvet, Silk Hankies, Silk Satin snippets and one piece has Angelina Fibre on one end. These finished samples have had the water soluble stabiliser rinsed out and have been lightly hand felted with a little hand soap and hot water and then left to dry flat.

I like the very first trial best where the needle felting is done entirely from the front, that's the first square on the top piece (which has 4 different types of needle felting along the one strip).

Click to enlarge pic

I will be working on a new artist interview soon too so keep your eyes peeled!


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Machine Needle Felting / Embellishing / Dry Felting on Silk Velvet

Hey All!
I've had a brilliant week! A friend sent me though a link to a great deal on a current, top of the range, refurbished iMac yesterday and I am now eagerly awaiting it's delivery next week. Very exciting! In between looking at pics of it and stroking them lovingly I have had time for a bit of a play on my needle felting machine.
Hand dyed silk velvet and matching colours of Angelina Fibres (LHS) and silk hankies (RHS) along with some silk fiber sample packs at the top of the pic.

I am wanting to use this gorgeous piece of silk velvet I got from Unique Stitching at this years AQC in Melbourne. It's screaming 'background' and the velvet has great sheen and depth in the dye tones that would make a stunning night sky. Lorraine Roy's brilliant art works in my interview with her have inspired me to do some more work with snippets and scraps - great timing as i've just finished cutting all the corners off the dozens of colours of silk my Mum brought me back from India so they don't fray in the wash.

The way i've spread out things in the picture above is my way of working when I've got a very vague idea of what I want to do based on a product or technique. I pull out the fabrics and products I want to use in colours that I think will work so I can view them all together.

Often I'll jump right in at this point but when I'm trying materials or a technique I haven't used before I'll often do a test piece - especially when one of the items is unique or expensive as with the hand dyed velvet.

I read somewhere that using silk hankies over silk velvet gave a great surface texture, so thought i'd try this out. Problem is since I'll be working on a largish piece (fat Q size) how to stop it distorting on the needle felting machine and how to felt to enhance rather than hide the beautiful texture of the velvet. 

Enter the test piece:
Water soluble Vilene, a snippet of the silk velvet and a silk hankie being layered ready for felting.

Click pics to enlarge - This is the test piece that I've separated into 4 squares and felted each differently. 
From left to right: 
1. Felted from the top only. 
2. Felted predominantly from the back (this created more pulls in the silk velvet and gave a rougher less shiny texture that I feel compromised the look and feel of the velvet). 
3. Felted from both sides. 
4 Felted with a layer of Angelina fibre and an additional silk hankie.
For this piece I added some silk snippets on top of the silk velvet, the RHS I felted without securing them in anyway and that gave a more random 'scraggy look. The LHS i covered with lightweight bridal tulle to felt and then removed the tulle mesh after. This worked well to hold everything in place though you do have to be gentle removing the tulle - most of it doesn't sink into the created fabric even after needle punching but every now and then it clings. You could also secure with a second layer of water soluble Vilene.

I've rinsed out and lightly hand felted the finished test pieces but await a sunny day where I remember to photograph them - will hopefully post pics soon. My consensus is that the snippets secured with the embellisher are a little 'scraggy' for the idea I have in my head but may make a good background layer to secure others with freemotion stitching. The silk hanky over the velvet worked well but I think I will use this more for shadow areas as it did still dull the sheen of the velvet a little too much for an all over use

Before starting this test piece I emailed my friend Fiona Hammond from Chiatanya Designs who does wonderful needle felted pieces and she gave me these great tips:

1. If you are making a reasonably-sized piece ( greater than 20 cm sq), you are likely to notice some stretching out of  shape. I had this happen in my background needle-felted fabric for  my Maharajah's Fantasy Bloom piece (which is about 40 x 60 cm, from  memory). I made this with wool roving - quite a lot of it layered up  - onto Solvy. As well as stretching beyond the size I thought I was  making, it did look a little bowl-like in parts. I got it fairly flat by ironing it intensely after washing out the Solvy (I can add  a special soleplate to my iron that allows me to iron pretty much  any fabric using steam settings).

2. When it comes to needle-felting your snippets of silk and threads to  the velvet etc. background, you will find that your little snippets  will change shape and move around as you needle-felt them into the background. If you are happy to just do it and see how the pattern/ texture turns out, you might find it great fun. 

If you want your cut snippets to maintain their shapes you may well end up frustrated, because this rarely happens with small pieces, in my experience, particularly if they have little points. This is because the act of needle-felting the bits will push the snippets out of shape somewhat while pushing them into the background. The snippets will often also seem to get smaller when you needle-felt them into the background.  And you have to be careful how you hold them in place as you do the needle-felting. Don't be tempted to use fingers.... I use the pointy  end of my seam ripper, but you still  need to be careful to keep it  away from the felting needles so they don't break on the seam ripper.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Interview series: Lorraine Roy - Textile and Fiber Artist

Lorraine Roy is an award winning contemporary mixed-media textile artist from Dundas, Ontario,Canada who incorporates sewing, collage, embroidery, photo transfer, quilting and thousands of fibre and thread snippets into her work. Lorraine is a full-time textile artist with many international exhibitions to her name. She works from her home studio with her husband fine art photographer Janusz Wrobel.

As many of you know i've become a bit of a Facebook junkie in recent months and part of the reason for that is the frequency i've been stumbling upon some of the most amazing artists and their works. I found Lorraine Roy this way and after taking a look through her website and reading the quite unique techniques she uses I just knew I had to ask her to do an artist interview.

Lorraine's horticultural background and subsequent research regularly inspire her wonderful imagery. Landscapes that combine realism and abstraction combine with symbols from dreams, mythology and memories to create organic conceptual pieces that make the most of the rich medium combinations.

'The Seven Days of Creation' 69x80" (175 x 203cm) 
2008 Wall hanging, Commission, SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle. Cotton batting. This is Lorraine's favourite work. Five separate quilts were created and then hung together.

  How long have you been quilting and what first drew you to it? 
I have never NOT worked with fabric, beginning with sewing (from the age of 6), but ironically I never learned to make a proper quilt. I have been a professional textile artist for just over 20 years, but my formal education is in Horticulture.
'Between Now and Then' 36x48"  (91 x 121cm) 2009 SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 How would you describe your style now? 
Painting with fabric… it’s a mixture of machine collage, appliqué, embroidery and quilting. I call my main technique "collage with nets". I love how it allows me to explore the freedom of line and shape that exists in the world of painting without compromising the intensity of colour and texture that you can achieve with fabric.

I begin with a plain fabric ground. On this surface I drop hundreds, sometimes thousands of tiny bits of cut fabrics and threads (of any kind – natural, synthetic, metallic) until I reach a depth and texture that pleases me. I then pin transparent netting on top, usually nylon tulle, which holds everything in place. The layers are then machine stitched together. This new fabric is now ready for further surface work: machine applique, embroidery, collage, and, more recently, photographic transfers from my photographer husband’s huge collection of natural images ( The finished surface is then quilted over batting and backing to fix the shape and enhance textures and lines. 
The above shows snippets of threads, scraps of fabric and yarn scattered over a backing fabric. Below is the same piece after being covered in netting and partly stitched.

 How has your style evolved? 
After many wearable fashion disasters, I learned that I had an aptitude and passion for hand embroidery. During my teens and onward I absorbed nearly every embroidery technique and was even teaching them at one point. But as you may suspect, it’s a slow medium. The transition to my new techniques took a number of years and lots of experimentation.

 Apart from quilting what else to you do within the industry? 
I occasionally teach workshops on a freelance basis (teaching my techniques or design). Lately I have been organizing my own, by renting facilities in a lovely historic church just around the corner. I even provide excellent lunches and it’s lots of fun. Also, I do some public speaking and presentations, and trunk shows, about my work and/or about native trees and art.
Red Maple  2008  28x32" (71 x 81cm)  Wall hanging  SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle. Cotton batting.

 What's the best advice you could give someone who wants to try quilting or textile art for the first time? 
Don’t let anyone burden you with rules.. if you feel excited and it’s breaking a rule, then go for it.

 Do you exhibit your work? 
Over the years I have exhibited extensively… in commercial and public galleries and plenty of unlikely places too. I love showing my work and it’s the way I connect with viewers and clients.
Buried Treasure  30x10" (76 x 25cm) 2009  $725 USD
Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 How do you go about finding and selecting galleries? 
Sometimes galleries approach me directly or via my website, but more often I approach them. First I make sure they are a good fit for my work, then I speak to other artists to find out what their experience is with the gallery. After that I follow the protocol that most galleries post on their site. I haven’t needed to do that in a few years… I now have just the right number and quality of commercial galleries.

I also do a few very carefully selected Commercial fine art shows (where each artist has a booth) – this is an excellent way to meet the public and increase my mailing list. I only do shows that are well juried and have high standards. They are not cheap, but well worth the investment.
Sacred Tree #1  12x12" (30x30cm) 2010  $425 USD

Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 Do you belong to any quilt associations? 
No, I don’t belong to any quilt associations. Although I do miss that kind of camaraderie, it’s more useful and interesting to belong to Naturalist clubs, Fine art clubs, or any groups outside the textile community. This keeps my ideas and work fresh.

 What would you recommend people do who want to seriously get into textile art? 
Hang out with artists in all media. Learn and study all kinds of things, not only textile art and techniques. Bring in every experience you have. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do and how to do it. Be very selective of your critics. Try to build a broad income base by diversifying, using all your strengths and passions.
Sumac Ridge  24x41"  (61 x 104cm)  2010  Wall Hanging  SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle. Cotton batting.

 What inspires you? 
Over the years, my work has become a blend of all my interests: nature, science, spirituality, literature, arboriculture, botany, environmental issues, my childhood on a farm … It’s a long list! I am best known, however, for my portrayals of native trees. Since my BSc in Horticulture, I’ve done a lot of research on culture, symbolism, mythology, native uses, stories, poems… and the more I learned, the more fascinating trees became. So that’s an ongoing inspiration.
Spring Aspen  30x15"  (76 x 38cm) 2010  Framed textile SOLD
Click pic to enlarge
Framed textile incorporating cotton, silk, synthetic and metallic fabrics and threads, nylon tulle.

 What sewing machine / threads etc do you use? 
I have 2 Berninas: an old regular one (made in Europe), and an even older industrial one. Both have free motion options. I don’t need anything fancy, just a strong motor and reliability. I use all kinds of threads, but prefer rayon for its shine and strength.
Lorraine's home studio
Her smaller scraps are bagged by colour and stored by shade. Bigger pieces are sorted into wire draws.
Below is a close up of her bagged scraps and a photo of her Hillcrest studio in the summer time.

 Do you have any formal art training? Do you think it's necessary? 
I don’t have formal art training. I don’t think it’s necessary but I’m sure it can’t hurt.

 What's the most rewarding thing about your career? 
Art is my way of sharing how I see and feel about the world. When people see it, they know something about me, much better than when I open my mouth. This makes it easier for a shy person like me to make connections and bring those fine souls my way. Everything evolves from there.

 How did you learn the techniques you use? 
Mainly through experimentation and looking at other artists’ work.

 What are your favorite / least favorite parts of the quilting process? 
Endless pinning. I don’t enjoy pinning. :(  Or putting on the sleeve at the end... (huge sigh). But frankly, there is very little I don’t love about every stage of my process.

Associated Links:

Lorraine's website 

Collage with nets technique in detail

Lorraine's book 'Saving Paradise'

Follow Lorraine workshops and artworks on her Facebook page

Email Lorraine to sign up for her workshop mailing list or to purchase art

I hope you enjoyed this interview and love to read your comments, please leave them by clicking on the 'comments' link below. –Neroli Henderson

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Burning a Quilt - Textile art with a Heat Gun and Synthetic Fabrics, Video Tutorial

This is my newest textile based artwork entitled "Pushing Up Daisies". I've created a video above so you can see the heat gun in action melting and distorting the fabric.

NB. when burning or melting any synthetic fabric, or cutting or scoring with a soldering iron work in a well ventilated area and wear a mask suitable for gas or vapours. You can buy disposables from large hardware stores.

I like to play with contrasts and in this case the normally pretty daisy flowers have been melted, and burnt, I like the way that this keeps the fragility inherent with flowers while giving it a harder, grittier edge.

I've played with burning before, most prominently in my leaf quilts, but with all of those I was melting smaller pieces and then using them to make or add to a larger work. In this piece I wanted to do a larger work and then burn the entire thing.

I've layered synthetic fabrics (felt, organza and satins) over cotton and stitched with Madeira metallic gold rayon and variegated rayon threads. I quilted the background quite intensely with little spirals as I having dense quilting here makes the stems, leaves and flower heads stand up more, and that in turns means they will burn quickest.

I used gold and copper Shiva oil paint sticks (I think these are called Markal paint sticks if you're in the UK) over the background quilting, these seemed to retard the heat effects on the background areas and the heat gun set the paint sticks instantly while only changing the colour slightly.

I love quilting on satin. The sheen really adds to the curves created by the quilting lines. The burnt areas of this are now essentially plastic, so it will either be framed or edged and hung for a wall piece.

Heat gunning will shrink a piece and I find it quite fun to watch it flatten and pull together. It helps the lesser quilted areas stand up even more.

This is my first video and I'm going to hopefully do some more in-depth video tutorials (both free and subscription) in the future. As always would love to hear any feedback - please leave a message in the comments section below.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Two Tone Silk Pillow Case Tutorial and a Happy Bichon Frisé

After searching for a couple of years now I finally found a doona cover / pillowcase set that I loved and that would go with the gold sari silk bed-head and bed-skirt I made awhile back. (Amazing what you can do with a nice piece of fabric, a bit of foam and a staple gun!) This set is called 'Love Bug' by Morgan & Finch. I laid it on the bed to test if it matched before washing and when I came back with the camera this is what I found:

Note the small fluffy thing that had made herself extremely comfortable. Very glad they matched the bed head and I didn't want to return them!

I wanted to make a couple of to match. The metallic green vine and embroidered bugs are cute but all the white was a little too stark for me. I have very fine hair and usually sleep on a satin pillowcase (a tip a very smart hairdresser gave me to help grow my hair long - apparently silk and satin cases stop hair breaking so much). So I rummaged through my stash and found a couple of nice silk fabrics and used the pinky one on the back with the envelope closure and the shot mauve colour on the front. Put them on the bed, went to get the camera and found this:

I thought i'd try again this morning so made the bed, came back with the camera and.....
well let's just say I don't like my chance of getting a dog free photo in the next century, and at least in the first two she didn't mush everything about. Sigh....

Here's how I made them (NB. this may not be the best way to make pillowcases, and I'm not known for functional sewing but it was quick, easy and worked!).

 Two-tone silk pillowcase tutorial: 

1. Iron both colours of silk fabric. I used a shot one for the top piece to get a decorative selvedge.

2. Lay the backing fabric out folded (so you can cut two at once cutting off folds as you go). Butt a pre-existing light coloured pillow case up to the selvedge edge and mark the width of the envelop flap (a light colour means you can see the where the flap ends through the fabric). For marking I used a ceramic fabric marker but you could use a water soluble marker or even go old school and use tailors chalk :)

3. Move the pillow case over the width of the envelope flap and trace around the entire case. I used a quilting ruler to help get the lines square and straight.

4. Add seam allowance (I used 1cm) and cut with a rotary cutter and quilting ruler. The selvedge on the envelope flap end means you don't need any that end... plus you get out of hemming. My sort of sewing! Take these 2 backs to the ironing board and iron the folded flap down firmly to crease.

5. Lay out the folded front fabric and place one of the cut backs on top of this to use it as a cutting template. Align the fold on the edge of the backs with the selvedge of the front fabric to avoid hemming. Additionally as I used a shot piece of silk (one direction of weave is blue, the other fuchsia)  the selvedge is a contrasting pinky red colour which makes for a nice decorative edge. Use the roller cutter and ruler again and cutting is done for 2 pillowcases!

6. Match right sides together and made sure the selvedge of the front piece is even to the fold line of the envelope closure on the other. I don't use pins, I always finish up pricking myself and bleeding over whatever I'm making :) If you're not confident the fabric won't slip either pin or use a water soluble glue to hold them even.

7. Overlock (serge if your in the US) using a standard 4 thread stitch. This way there's no need to straight stitch on the sewing machine first. I did this from open edge down and then flipped and did the other side. I trimmed off about 1/4" when I did this to get rid of any fraying. Doing each side from the open end allowed me to ensure the opening edges were perfectly alligned.

8. Overlock the bottom edge. 

9. Lastly I used a very fine needle to pull through the overlocker tails under a couple of the existing stitches, that way there's no chance of it unravelling. You could use a dot of fray stop or reoverlock instead.

10. Lastly I put them on the bed and tried to convince dog they weren't for her.  That failed, but the pillowcases were done!

I am lucky enough to have a Babylock overlocker which means I never have to do any tension changes and it just sews perfectly on any thickness of fabric. It was this and the air threading - meaning I could rethread my machine with colours that matched the silk in about 2 minutes (including changing needles) that made me want to spend the extra money. So far I'm really glad I did. I think with an ordinary one I'd be tempted to just use the sewing machine instead and have the overlocker languish in the cupboard.

Let me know if you have any questions and leave any other pillowcase ideas in the comments section below.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Interview series: Fiona Hammond, Quilt and Jewelry Designer

I was lucky enough to meet Fiona Hammond  a passionate beader, quilt designer and textile artist  last year in Melbourne. She came to visit me with many of her brilliant time-intensive pieces, it was great to see her works in person and hear about their creation. I was really impressed by the quality of her work (she individually couches single beads to ensure lines curve just so!), her enthusiam for textiles and willingness to share techniques. Her work is intensely colourful and rich with sensuous fabrics, intricate beading and contrasting textures.

Fiona is a natural teacher and describes herself as a"creative omnivore" since she has adored creative arts since childhood and lives her life trying to fit in as many creative pursuits and techniques as possible. Her business Chiatanya Designs combines her love of teaching and textiles.

'Cosmic Catherine Wheel' 2005 (detail)
This small wall quilt is Fiona's very first bead embellished piece.
Cotton, freemotion quilting, hand couched layered beading and peyote-beaded bezel.

 1. How long have you been quilting and what first drew you to it? 

Although I  have been sewing since childhood, I only started quilting in January 1999 after being utterly captivated by the Braidwood Quilt Event in late 1998. I remember standing in front of my sister Kate’s quilt which features luscious jewel-toned fabrics, and muttering to myself: “Oh this is quilting? I could do this. I really want to do this!”

 2. How would you describe your style now? 

I consider myself to be a contemporary quilter, I love to create my own designs and techniques, and then teach these to others. I started out making more traditional quilts, though always with vibrant colours. I still love doing machine piecing – there’s something so enjoyable about stitching pieces of fabric together!

I remember when I made my first truly original quilt – a design that combines a Celtic knot with raw-edge appliqué leaves and a non-standard quilt shape, called “Meditation Upon Hidden Mysteries of Ancient Times”. I woke up one morning in 2003 with the design for this quilt in my mind – I sketched it and wrote some notes so I’d remember my “vision” for the quilt. It wasn’t completed until 2004, but I loved the whole process – from concept to completion it was all up to me to work it out, rather than rely on a particular technique or layout. It was a very freeing experience, and I was suddenly hooked on creating my own truly original quilts.

“Meditation Upon Hidden Mysteries of Ancient Times” 2004

This quilt features a Celtic knot with raw-edge appliqué leaves and a non-standard quilt shape. This quilt marked Fiona’s move into creating quilts of her own design instead of relying on standard block patterns or layouts. 

 3. How has your style evolved? 

My style has evolved partly in response to new techniques I’ve learnt along the way, and partly through my desire to create quilts that are somewhat different to others I’ve seen in exhibitions or magazines. I am very self-motivated, and often describe myself as an “ABM girl” (“all by myself”) – I seem to get the most pleasure from playing with techniques and ideas so I can do things in my own way. It’s great to learn new techniques through workshops etc. but ultimately I want to use these techniques in my own way rather than make my version of another person’s design.

In recent years I have become besotted with bead embellishment (bead embroidery). Many of my smaller textile pieces have some element of beadwork – generally a main feature of the design, such as my small wall hanging called “Cosmic Catherine Wheel” (2005).

My small wall quilt “Botanical Oddity” (2008) combines several techniques that I am enjoying lately: needle felting, bead embellishment and textural hand stitching (hand quilting). The beadwork takes a long time in these works (approx. 60 hours in this piece) but - more than any other technique - I find beadwork very meditative. I love to “get into the zone” and just bead for hours!

“Botanical Oddity” 2008
This small wall quilt features extensive bead embellishment radiating out from the centre of the flower. The centre and petal edges were created using a needle-felting machine. The background features textural hand-stitching using variegated silk yarns. Detail photo below.

Jewellery using beading/bead embellishment techniques is another part of my work, and some of my pieces have won awards, which is most gratifying. My beaded neckpiece “Turquoise Treasure” has won several awards, including Grand Champion Craft Exhibit at the Royal Canberra Show in 2009 (judged against the first place winners from each of the different categories in the Craft Expo of the Show).
“Turquoise Treasure” 2008
This beaded neckpiece features a turquoise cabochon plus other turquoise beads and glass leaf beads stitched onto kimono silk fabric. It was awarded the Grand Champion Craft Exhibit at the 2009 Royal Canberra Show

Another of my beaded neckpieces, “Nature’s Treasures”, was awarded joint first place in the Goulburn Art Award in 2009 (the prize for this is an exhibition – with the other two winners at the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery in December 2010. I am currently working on my pieces for this exhibition, with my focus being bead embellishment onto various textiles to create small sculptural artworks). 

“Nature’s Treasures” 2008
This beaded neckpiece has won several awards, including joint first place in the 3D category of the 2009 Goulburn Art Award. Detail below.

 4. Apart from creating art what else to you do within the industry? 

Besides enjoying creating quilts, I teach workshops in quilting (my own designs and techniques – generally with a contemporary style) and many forms of beadwork – both off-loom techniques and bead embellishment. I love to combine beads with textiles in whatever way I can, and am always keen to play with new ideas and combinations. I consider myself a “teacher for hire” and am willing to travel to wherever I am invited to teach. So far my workshops have been held in various places around Australia, but I hope to teach overseas in the future too.

I have also created various projects for Australian beading, quilting and textile art magazines. (editors note – Fiona has a tutorial on needle felting in the current issue of Down Under Textiles, a brilliant new Australian contemporary textile art magazine.)

 5. What's the best advice you could give someone who wants to try quilting or textile art for the first time? 

Be guided by your enthusiasm and interests – in other words, if you feel drawn to trying a particular technique just read up on it (books or magazines) - or better still, attend a workshop – and then try it out. It doesn’t matter if your first (or 21st) piece isn’t a masterpiece. Just remember that it should be a pleasurable experience, so if you find you don’t enjoy it after giving it a fair trial, then perhaps move on to another technique instead.

Tutors who are enthusiastic about the techniques they teach, and competent in their teaching delivery,  can really give you a good start in any new creative activity. Many of my students – particularly in my beadwork classes – find that one workshop is usually enough to teach them the necessary jargon and basic techniques. It is then possible to teach yourself more – either from your own creative play with the techniques or from magazines and books.

If you wait for the free time, inspiration, knowledge, etc. to magically arrive at your feet, you won’t get very far. You have to make a conscious decision to try something, and make the time for it. When I first got the quilting bug, I actually marked out particular days on the calendar as quilting days. It worked! 

“Reflections on Connections” 2006
This quilt was begun in a workshop with Jenny Bowker where participants designed their own art quilt using Jenny’s technique of isolating one element in a picture from nature. 


 6. Do you exhibit and sell your work?  

I belong to several groups, guilds and associations, and each of these has an annual or biennial exhibition. I try to make a suitable piece for each of these. This is wonderful exposure – and great fun (I have always loved the “show-and-tell” aspect of belonging to such groups…).

The major shows, such as guild-based quilt exhibitions, can even offer awards and prizes. I was incredibly happy to win the Down Under Quilts Best Use of Colour Award for my small quilt “Botanical Oddity” at the Canberra Quilters annual exhibition in 2008.

I have also exhibited a selection of my quilts and beaded items at Braidwood (a historic rural town in NSW, Australia) in a joint exhibition with my friend Wilma Cawley, a textile artist from Canberra. This same venue is now the Material Arts Studio Gallery –  a gallery specialising in textiles and jewellery and run by my sister Kate.), and I sell some of my quilts, beaded pieces and jewellery there.

Travelling exhibitions also interest me. I belong to ATASDA (Australian Textile Art and Surface Design Association) whose members sometimes create special pieces based on a theme, and these travel around Australia to textile groups, schools, and other interested people. I have a piece called “Maharajah’s Fantasy Bloom” in the current travelling suitcase exhibition titled “Maharajah’s Garden”. For this piece I created a large piece of needle-felted fabric on water-soluble stabiliser, to which I added a purple velvet swirly design, with beading all around it. 

“Maharajah’s Fantasy Bloom” 2010 
This small wall hanging was made for the ATASDA travelling suitcase exhibition called Maharajah’s Garden. It is currently travelling around Australia. Needle-felted background with velvet appliquéd design and bead embellishment to accentuate the shape. Detail below.

 7. Do you belong to any quilt associations? If so how did you choose which ones? 

I belong to several associations. Two are quilt guilds: Canberra Quilters Inc. and The Quilters Guild of NSW. Two are textile art associations: ATASDA and ACTTAA (ACT Textile Art Association). I also belong to the Bead Society of Victoria (the only beading guild in Australia), and the Surface Design Association (USA). I am a member of the latter primarily to receive their excellent journal. I am a fairly active member of the other associations mentioned – it is such a buzz to interact with like-minded creative people!

I am also a member of several online chat groups, including the Australian and New Zealand Art Quilters Group, and Southern Cross Quilters. These two groups are an incredible resource – there’s always someone who can answer those questions you think up in the middle of the night, and they have some interesting creative challenges and exhibitions too.

"Velvet Slivers” 2005
An example of Fiona Hammond's Curvaceous Squares Quilt Technique. This has been one of her most popular two-day workshops.

 8. What is the best advice you could give someone who wants to seriously pursue being a textile artist? 

If one seriously wants to get into textile art, I feel the most important thing is to focus on it do it as much as you can. There’s a great little maxim that I love: “What you focus on becomes stronger.”  I believe this to be true, and the more you think about, muse upon and follow your creative practice, the better you get at it. In my experience this is also the way to find your own creative voice.

If you have no idea how to start, why not simply read appropriate magazines and books, and if there’s a local textile art group in your area, join up. Groups tend to run workshops for members, so you will learn a lot this way. And just spending time with people of like mind can spur you on greatly.

When I first read the American magazine Quilting Arts (many years ago now) I got so excited that I couldn’t keep my feet still! My husband saw me practically drooling over an issue of this magazine at the kitchen table, and asked what was the matter… I declared excitedly – without even thinking about it – “I want to be a textile artist!”.  I have worked towards that end ever since. That old expression about being careful what you wish for can be true in a positive way too.

Once you have found your interests within the broad spectrum of textile art, keep at it as often as you can. Try new techniques and ideas often. Exhibit if you feel comfortable with this concept. And most importantly, do what you love. I think the greatest examples of textile art I’ve seen have the intensity of the artist’s creative soul infused in the work. It just shines out and you can’t miss it. Being true to your own creative muse is a must. 

“Material Midden” 2005
One of Fiona's favourite quilts created with her signature colours. It began in a workshop in New Zealand with tutor Cheryl Comfort.

 9. What are you most inspired by? 

Pattern, colour and texture. I find these things in my everyday surroundings – even the patterns made by drops of water on my shower screen have been calling out to me lately…

Colour has had me in its grasp my whole life. I particularly favour vibrant colours, and I am often profoundly influenced by the colours I experience in nature. I have just returned from a holiday in Central Australia, where the juxtaposition of intense red ochres (soil and rocks) and soft tertiary greens (vegetation fuelled by recent rare rains in the area) has me whirring with excitement and hanging out to create something quilty and beady in these colours. 
“Beaded Journal Cover” 2008
This is one of the samples Fiona shows in her various bead embellishment workshops.

 10. What sewing machine / threads etc do you use? 

Most of my sewing machines have been Berninas. I learnt to sew on my mother’s old Bernina 44 years ago (and she’s still using the same machine today!).  I have the Bernina 153 QE. I use various threads for my quilts and textile art pieces, depending primarily on what’s in my stash. I often buy threads at craft shows – generally I am lured into a purchase simply because the thread colour or finish is so delectable to me! It doesn’t bother me to mix different brands, weights and finishes in one artwork – so long as I like the look of it I’ll use it.

 11. Do you have any formal art training? Do you think it's necessary? 

Art was my favourite and best subject all through high school, and at teachers’ college in the 1970s I took Fine Arts as an elective subject. However, I suspect this underpinning knowledge is not vital for an artist. Sure, it can be helpful to have learnt colour theory, design theory, and how to wield a pencil, brush, or pair of scissors for that matter.

But I think there are plenty of very talented textile artists out there who are pretty-much self-taught – and all power to them! Side-stepping the usual training/theory etc. can often lead an artist to their own unique techniques and artistic practice. Art should always be subjective, in my opinion. If an artist worries more about how others will regard their artworks than how they feel about the pieces themselves, I suspect they are missing the point.
“Hanging Gardens Pendant” 2009
This necklace features a lovely lepidolite cabochon, with bead embellishment onto silk

 12. What's the most rewarding thing about your career?  

Gosh, where do I start… The absolute best thing is that i love my work. I even enjoy writing up and formatting my printed notes for my students (in fact it is a point of honour with me that I provide the best printed notes that I can at the time).

However, it could also be the little grin I do when I say to my husband – as I walk towards my studio – “I’m just going to work now.” And I walk in and sit at my sewing table or beading table and get creative. Surely life doesn’t get much better than this?!

Being able to inspire students to create their own quilts, beading or whatever, and pass on my knowledge in these areas, is something I have loved all my life. I knew from the age of 3 that I wanted to be a teacher. After teaching in primary schools, language schools (in Japan), and my own aromatherapy college, I have found the form of teaching that utterly fulfils my desire to teach. It is such a wonderful thing to show the creative techniques I love most to people who really want to learn them.
"Raspberry Lime Splice” 2008
Another example of Fiona Hammond's Curvaceous Squares Quilt Technique, one of her most popular two-day workshops

 13. How did you learn the techniques you use? 

I was a self-taught quilter for several years. I then discovered how much I could learn from workshops and have done many of these over the years. I have attended beading classes too, but with this I find I sometimes prefer to make up my own way of doing things.  

I have a terrible magazine and book habit. My bookshelves are full-to-bursting, and still I can’t help but buy more. I wish I could say I have read them all cover to cover…but at least they are there for me when I suddenly need a bit of information in the wee small hours… Living in a rural area, fairly far away from suitable shops, I have found that it is better to have something on the shelf for ages - so that it is there when I need it, rather than get frantic in the middle of a project because that little bit of information is not in my head or on my bookshelf…

Now that I have been quilting and beading for some years, I have enough experience to experiment quite successfully with various techniques. This is such fun – even if it turns out that others have discovered the same techniques or results from their own creative play. Fortunately, “synchronous invention” doesn’t mean that the resulting artworks will look the same.

Fiona's Studio

Above: Fiona's sewing table with sewing machine and needle-felting machine set up. In the background you can see her beading table and another table with a lighting tent used for photographing various steps of projects, and for workshop notes. 
Below:The beading work area. Fiona's studio doubles as her home laundry and she often has to excavate her desk areas before she can begin work.

 14. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the quilting process?  

I love the initial inspiration and design phases of the quilting process. I’m not especially talented at drawing, though I will often make simple sketches of my ideas in my visual diary.

When I am making something using my own made-up techniques or designs, the challenge of getting it to all work out is really pleasurable. I sometimes spend many days, weeks, or even months reviewing the design concepts in my mind before actually starting the artwork. I thoroughly enjoy this!

There’s not really any aspect of my quilting process that I don’t enjoy. The only thing that irritates me is lack of time to finish a piece by a certain deadline. This can sometimes turn a pleasurable experience into one laced with frustration. But overall I find joy in the whole procedure.

Finishing that last stitch and trimming the thread, then standing back to see the completed item can be enormously satisfying – another item done! Yay!

“Bollywood Dreaming” 2006
Fiona created this necklace for 'Beads etc' magazine's art challenge in 2006 and won first prize. The theme was "Stars of Bollywood."

  Fiona's upcoming Australian workshops: 

• May 29 & 30, 2010 
Bead Embellishment Explorations II: “Encrustations” - 3D and textural effects
Two-day retreat at my property in rural NSW
    • July 15 & 16, 2010
    Bead Embellishment Explorations II: "Encrustations" -3D and textural effects. 
    To be held in Ryde, Sydney.
      • August 28, 2010 
      Capturing Cabochons - beading workshop
      Studio Amara in Berrima Southern Highlands of NSW
        • September 11 & 12, 2010
        Curvaceous Squares Quilt workshop
        Dalby Quilters group, QLD
          • September 18 & 19, 2010
          “Celtic Inspirations Quilt” 
          Two-day workshop at AQA Symposium in Melbourne
            • October 9, 2010 
            “Bead-dazzling Bits and Pieces” 
            Beading workshop for ATASDA in Sydney
              • October 16, 2010 
              Guest speaker at meeting of the Southern Highlands Textile Group, NSW
                • October 23 & 24, 2010
                Bead Embellishment Explorations III: Beading the Void. 
                Two-day retreat at my property in rural NSW
                  • October 30 & 31 - two one-day workshops at The Quilters' Stash in Murrumburrah in NSW (next to Harden, near Young) - probably one bead embellishment workshop and one quilted bag workshop
                    • December 8 - 18, 2010 - exhibition at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery

                    For more information on these workshops please see her event page here.

                    Fiona's website has jewellry kits, a comprehensive list of her workshops and a gallery of her work. 
                    To contact Fiona directly please email her here. 

                    I hope you enjoyed this interview and love to read your comments, please leave them by clicking on the 'comments' link below. –Neroli Henderson