Thursday, December 31, 2009

All that table and the New Year

Following my previous blog in which I showed a photo of my work table; this sits in the middle of my studio and was made by one of my boys many years ago when he started his furniture joinery apprenticeship. It is rather like an altar to me but for playing, not for praying, although there have been moments I have submitted a prayer in the hope that something will work! If this table could talk it would have a lot to say, about successes, failures and things in between. It is almost waist high (and I am tall) so that I never have to bend over, and I even stand while operating my sewing machine and serger. I always work/think better when on my feet. It becomes cluttered with the paraphernalia of current projects and every so often it gets a make over to start afresh. I consider it one of my most valued assets.

All blogs seem to have thoughts about the coming New Year, so here is my tuppence worth. I have never been too ambitious with New Year resolutions but have begun to recognise that I repeat the same 'mores' each year; namely, to produce more art; read, visit, view more art; attend more art house movies; more gardening, more exercise, more travel.

Also there is the love and friendship of family and friends; the more I travel the more I realise that everyone, anywhere in the world just wants peace, love, enough food, good health, warmth and shelter.

Let's hope we may all find this in 2010. My best wishes to everyone for a safe and creative 2010.

A progress image of latest piece. If this looks somewhat familiar it is because this is my third attempt at this piece! I need to get this 'right' as it may be a series I intend to pursue.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Good and the Bad

It is now already a couple of days after Christmas and here in most of New Zealand it is a wet day. Not wanted of course by holiday makers and the like, but for those with an eye on their gardens, it is very welcome.

After the bustle of Christmas, it is lovely to wind back down again. I always find this time of the year to be very productive. I spend long hours working on the various projects I have on the go, and am usually rewarded with good outcomes. Today has been no exception. The weather being as it is there is no gardening or walking, so I just have to work on those projects, don't I! While one project involves waiting for things to dry, I move ahead with the other. What a (good) life!

However, it didn't start off too good. A very early visit to a local hardware store had me coming home spitting tacks. An accumulated list of requisites proved far to difficult to achieve - most items were not available or they didn't stock them! Grrrrrr... I shall try again next week!

My work table during today's activities:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Wishes....

I would like to send you all my very best wishes for a great Christmas, New Year celebrations and of course, a bumper 2010. This is always a great time for assessing where one has been, and where one would like to be in the coming year, and I hope everyone has positive thoughts about the year ahead. I also wish to thank you all for continuing to read this blog.

Here in New Zealand it is mid-summer, although summer has been rather slow in showing itself this year. It is annual holiday time as well so it can get rather frantic at times. We are very conscious of the dreadful weather in the northern hemisphere as it features in our TV news. Our thoughts are with you.

We are many hours ahead of most places due to the international date line wrapping around the east coast of New Zealand, so we will probably be winding up our Christmas Day when many of you will just be beginning.

I have now received the professional images from my exhibition and, as always, these are of far better quality than I can achieve with my own digital camera.

Monday, December 21, 2009

More progress....

More happenings on my latest piece... Do you recognise Frida Kahlo?

Completed lino print using a black textile pigment on the lino, and the edges scraped with a piece of cardboard.

Initial application of colour using fiber reactive dye which has the advantage of being transparent.

More colour added, some applied from the original lino cut (the borders) then direct painting of the fiber reactive dye. I have cropped the image to remove the blue masking tape.

More yet to do...

Overheard while visiting a local gallery, a teenager making the comment that "modern art has gone downhill"... Well, at least he had an opinion!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lino Cut

Lately I have been working with lino cuts, and finding the process very satisfying. Here is some progress:

The lino print. It is stained from the printing process but this does not affect future prints.

Area of fabric masked off, and painted black.

Test print. A glass plate was placed over the black area on the fabric and printed as a registration print.

Print on the fabric.

Masking tapes removed. It is working so far! Lots more to do yet.....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Quandary....

Forty-five years ago as an engagement present, my mother-in-law-to-be sent from England to New Zealand, a Royal Albert afternoon tea set. For a wedding present she sent a full dinner service. All pieces arrived in excellent condition, were used with much pleasure, and have remained perfect over the years, until today, that is....

Last evening I had friends come around for a meal and on such occasions I always like to use this fine china. Following our lovely meal we had coffee using the afternoon tea set cups. I postponed washing them until this morning as they have gold detailing and can't be placed in the dish washer.

In returning the cups to the china cabinet, I lifted one of the other cups (fortunately not used last evening) and was amazed when the bottom fell off the cup and on to the saucer underneath with a clatter! I had not knocked it, I had simply lifted it by its handle, and the break was perfectly clean. Thank goodness I had not used that cup during last evening as it would have been dreadful to hand someone that cup with a hot drink in it.

My quandary now is, do I continue to use the remaining cups and risk this occurring again or, was it just one of those unfortunate happenings?

Monday, December 14, 2009

15 art galleries....

While in Auckland (following my Overlander train journey) I spent one and a half days visiting art galleries. The weather was perfect and ten of the galleries were part of ArtPrecinct which is a designated group of galleries located in one city block. The other five galleries were further afield. On the Friday afternoon I flew back to Wellington.

John Leech Gallery

Auckland City Art Gallery (temporary premises while renovations taking place in its usual home)

Tim Melville Gallery, FHE Gallery and Fingers (contemporary jewellery).

There was a wide selection of works on show. I am constantly amazed at creative people. Too many to report on of course but two 'struck a cord'.

The Auckland City Gallery had an exhibition titled Taste: Food and Feasting in Art. Everything imaginable was on display from traditional art to contemporary installations. One exhibit consisted of 100+ chocolate fish arranged to display the word KOHA (Maori word for gift). Viewers were invited to remove a fish and consume, in the spirit of Koha*.

The Tim Melville Gallery was shrouded in black cloth and a slide projector was the only item on display. In this slide projector were 'slides' made of pounamu (highly valued New Zealand greenstone) by Joe Sheehan. I am not talking conventional slides here, these had been carved out of the pounamu itself, and the projector light shone through each piece of stone projecting its colours and patterns on to the screen. It was fascinating interpreting each image. Amazing!

*Yes, I did.....but only because there were several gaps from that day's earlier visitors!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Go the Train

I have just had a great pre-Christmas treat. On Wednesday I took the Overlander scenic train from Wellington to Auckland, a journey through the back country of the North Island of New Zealand which takes 12 hours. The last time I did this journey was about four decades ago! The scenery is spectacular, the seats comfortable, and the weather was warm and sunny. A real treat....

Hey.. wait for us! The engine change at Palmerston North.

Lunch break at Ohakune

The 'grunt' out front...

I flew back to Wellington on Friday afternoon. Next blog I will tell you what I did in Auckland, so stay tuned......

Monday, December 7, 2009

Finished, I think....

I now need to put my current piece away, and review it again perhaps in the New Year. At this point it is not mounted. I have this 'thing' rattling round in my head which is to work a series on past, and present, women who have made their mark in some way, starting with artists. I hope to depict various aspects of their life and/or work. To be honest this is a big vision and having completed one possible piece, I now need to take time out to think it all through further. I am reasonable happy where things are at this point but need more clarity and direction. Definitely something to contemplate on summer walks and working in the garden.

For this initial example I have taken the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo 1907 - 1954. I visited her exhibition at the Wellington City Gallery in 2000, enjoyed the film made of her life, and in 2006 was able to visit her home (now a museum) in Mexico City. I feel I 'know' her quite well.

In this piece I have used colours familiar in her work, the use of leaves depicted as blood red veins signifying her struggle with health problems throughout her adult life. The simple repeat pattern in the lower left corner is from one of her ethnic skirts, and she often placed banner ribbons with text in her work; this one has her signature.

Still not sure whether it is all working, but this is part of the process and, as such, I am sort of happy at this point.

Frida Kahlo, 25cm x 32cm (10" x 12½"), dye and pigment on silk and gauze.

Friday, December 4, 2009

More Lino Printing

This week I have been continuing with some lino cutting and printing. Not major stuff but efficient with pleasing outcomes; I needed to add some leaves to my current piece.

The leaves at the bottom of this photo are the lino cuts and those above are printed from these, on paper.

Here they are printed on my piece (unfinished).

And here is my previous lino cut (of a repeating pattern), bottom left, printed in the same piece (still unfinished but nearly there!).

Monday, November 30, 2009


Here is another piece from my exhibition, this time using a long horizontal format divided into halves. Using a simplified arched doorway shape, I swapped the patterns and colours in each half.

These were the original colours used....

.... and after it had been put through a discharge bath, which toned it down to colours seen on buildings in Spain.

The main portion of one side was taped into a grid and stamped with a repetitive shape.

My next idea was to place hinges as seen on a magnificent door I had viewed in Spain but these were too complex so I reduced them to very simple shapes. This shows the first print, which then got over-printed as shown in the following, and completed photo.

© 2008 Diana Parkes, PORTALS, dye and pigment on silk, 99cm X 161cm / 39" x 63". This photo shows the true colour, once again showing the value of a professional photograph, the others being snapshots from my humble digital camera. This piece was hung from brass eyelets, not the usual perspec rod which would have sagged over such a length.

Friday, November 27, 2009

New Fabric Length

Earlier this week I finished another length of hand-dyed fabric for sale and eventual construction into a garment. Lovely piece of fine ribbed silk, originally a warm cream. Length 2.35m (2.5yds), width 110cm (43in), NZ$95.

First I machine stitched large darts throughout the length, and stretched it best I could into a frame with the darts underneath.

Then painted on a warm mustard coloured dye. This partially seeped through into the darts on the wrong side but they remained quite clear when opened out.

Back on the frame and a stronger dye colour was used to outline the unstitched darts. The mustard colour of the fabric in this photo is right off beam here!

When the outlines were dry, I watered down the remaining dye and over-painted the background areas.

After leaving to batch overnight, the first wash is done with the fabric laid out on my driveway and given a good hose to remove the bulk of any excess dye. This method goes along way to avoid any back staining. Conventional washing and rinsing followed.

All done, and draped on my mannequin, Zoe.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Where to now...

Earlier this week I collected my work from the gallery where it had been on display for the last month. Eight small pieces, and one large, sold. This is very satisfying but sales were not the motivation for this exhibition. Sales are a bonus of course and it is very gratifying to think that people felt they wished to own a piece of my work. The motivation however was simply a commitment to make a series of works, to grow and develop my skills and creativity while working them, and then to display them as a whole at the end. The biggest critic forever is me, and having satisfied my own judgements, the positive responses to this exhibition were simply the icing on the cake (and they have been yummy!).

Like any major long-term planned event, there is somewhat of a deflated feeling after it is over or finished. This is to be expected but it also gives an opportunity to reflect on 'what next'. Two year's of planning and working through the works for my exhibition is quite a major chunk in one's life. I could now sit back and 'take a rest' but that is not me at all and although I am enjoying the satisfaction of looking back, I am already thinking ahead.

There is still much to do, to take everything to the next level. Another solo exhibition in two years? The value of solo exhibitions is huge and this could quite well be the outcome.

In the meantime I am considering adding printed lino cuts to my work. I like the unpredictability of the actual cutting where lines and shapes take on their own look, and the resulting prints are not perfect. And there is also something meditative about the process of cutting.

A lino cut in progress, with a pencil rubbing to check the process.

Monday, November 23, 2009

100th post

Well it had to happen of course but this is my 100th blog posting. I started in July 2008. I do enjoy writing these and am delighted that people continue to read them. There has been 2416 visits during this time, and 4124 pages read. You come from all countries small and large and I would like to thank you for your support and comments. I will definitely be continuing for yet another 100 posts, at least.....

I have just had a lovely weekend in New Plymouth visiting friends and family. Such a journey, a 5 - 6 hour drive, is always a good excuse to visit galleries en route. In Whanganui I visited my friend Eva's exhibition and was excited to see her work in 'another' space ie not in her home environment where I usually admire her work. Then to the Sarjeant Gallery for a very good glass exhibition, and the Whanganui Arts Review which displayed a wide variety of works, collectively endorsing a very active arts community. Another exhibition, Second Life using re-cycled materials, I had already seen in Pataka, Porirua, and it is interesting to see the same works displayed in a different gallery.

Percy Thompson, Stratford, was gearing up for the opening of their local art society's exhibition. However, the real gem was the Govett Brewster in New Plymouth which had three very different but exciting exhibitions, all by international women artists. Yes, they were challenging, but very diverse and each exhibition fitted their given spaces very well. Images are from the Govett Brewster website. These exhibitions close November 29.

Judith Wright: Conversations. Large paintings on handmade Japanese papers, and a video.

Guo Fengyi: China in Four Seasons. Very large pen drawings.

Nalini Malani: Transactions in the Construction of Pain 2005. Reverse paintings on the back of acrylic and mylar, digital printing on archival bamboo paper, and a video.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Three Sisters

Before I give you some insight in the workings of THREE SISTERS, I have now posted all the images from my exhibition FIBRE REACTIVE on to my website. Go to and open up WholeCloth Banners. Each image may be clicked on to enlarge and they move through by simply clicking on the rolled-over NEXT in the top right area of each image.

THREE SISTERS came about because of the new size limits for the Surface Design Association Members' exhibition at their conference earlier this year. I am not a fan of working within squares so, after considerable contemplation I decided to work a triptych and then select one to send to the conference. I decided on three similar shapes which evolved as outcrops from either land or sea; these are often given familiar names by those living in the area.

© 2008 Diana Parkes, THREE SISTERS, dye and pigment on silk, size overall 46cm x 142cm / 18" x 56".

The first dye application being washed with the hose on my driveway. This method helps to prevent the dye back-staining on to the white fabric.

Several more applications: printing with unravelled cloth, and discharged grids (the conference was titled Off The Grid). Also some partial printed text based on 'woman and her wits' from a 100 year old book that I have in my bookshelf. The initial dyeing did back-stain on to the white background but in this case I felt this was beneficial.

Further dye colours introduced into the corners, and some more to finish off the piece (see completed image).

And here it is on the cover of the SDA newsletter, smack in the middle!

Monday, November 16, 2009


The other day I had a session with my current workbook. All those little bits of experiments or tests, and rejects accumulated while working, get pushed to one side until I find time to look at them again. This can be quite enlightening as, removed from the original intention, they appear quite different. I usually cut out the best pieces and paste them into a workbook. This makes for good record making, and occasional reviewing over time.

Here are three pages from my current workbook. This workbook has black pages which creates its own challenges especially when note making, but on the whole I think it works well.

On Sunday afternoon, a friend and I went on an architecture tour organised by our local gallery, TheNewDowse. We started at a local Buddhist community which was set in idyllic New Zealand bush. It was a most interesting visit and I snapped this image on the side of some steps. I find it very elegant and serene.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Figures In The Mist

Here is another piece from my exhibition.

©2008 Diana Parkes, FIGURES IN THE MIST, dye, discharge and pigment on silk, 85cm x 94cm; 34" x 37".

I had been looking through some of my images taken in Spain and selected one of a narrow window opening in an 8th century church. I liked the stone blocks which supported this window and, although still at a beginners level in photoshop, I did manage to remove the window and the rest of the stone work.

I transferred, free-hand, similar shapes to some silk

After adding some colour washes to the background, I then decided I didn't like these at all! This is not an unusual reaction (it happens often), but instead of discarding it....

....I put it through a discharge bath and felt much better about the resulting, more subtle colours. I also turned it into a horizontal position. I was then able to introduce further elements to the piece as in the final image above. I often make these radical shifts and am absolutely hopeless at working commissions - I could never stick with a pre-determined design!

Interesting to note that the top photo is a professional photo while those-in-progress are my humble, but faithful, digital camera. The top photo is truer to the real colours. This certainly supports the value of getting photos taken professionally!