Friday, November 17, 2017

Week 4 and 5 at Boneca de Atauro

 I started making walks at dawn, as I was finding the rest of the day too hot to walk around much, and I really enjoyed the walks. There is so much to discover on the shoreline including incredible amounts of  plastic bottles and dead shoes, especially flip flops. There is no rubbish collection on the island so the rubbish has to go somewhere. Also unless the water is filtered it is probably best not to drink it. I loved finding all the shells or bits of shell and urchins who hang around in colonies with starfish. I often see fishermen head out to sea at dawn to catch fish for their meal during the day, and everything is so peaceful and calm.

I had to look twice when I found this on the beach close to the urchin colony- it looked like a mask of sorts until I realised what it was- part of the rubbish that collects on the shoreline.

We have been working hard at making linocuts and new glasses cases and ipad bags printed with the linocuts. We have also been doing a bit of hand stitching. I have tried to encourage my students to be inspired by what is around them and also how they see the world around them. The first image is of a little hand stitched piece by Jacinta from a linocut she made. These little pieces will form part of our exhibition at the Boneca de Atauro shop in Dili on 15 December.

The two images below are of the work the ladies do every day- as you can see everything is very heavily free motion stitched in hoops and on treadles. Each design is hand drawn onto the fabric before being stitched by one of the ladies.

I had to return to Dili to pick up my emergency passport which was issued as a result of losing my passport wallet on the day I arrived. Things went a bit downhill from there. It turned out that the immigration authority were not able to give me a visa to be able to stay until 18 December because there had been a change in immigration law. In fact I had to leave East Timor by 11 November so that I would not be an illegal visitor. I was insured, by my insurance did not cover my return to East Timor to finish the project- it was an insurance that I transacted when I purchased my original ticket as I thought it would be easier to do it all in one transaction ( I don't normally do this) so the insurance was contracted before  reading the policy. I did skim through the policy to ensure repatriation was covered if needed and what losses were covered ( during the cooling off period)but did not see the bit that the only way resumption of journey would be paid for was if the interruption had been caused by medical reasons- sigh....So I will never use that insurance again! I am still waiting to hear whether they will meet the rest of the claim even though I was advised by telephone that my change of booking would be covered.

The long and the short of it is some generous people have enabled me to raise the money for a return airfare and also insurance so that I can return to Boneca de Atauro next  Tuesday ( I leave Monday and the flights do not connect unless I pay an exorbitant ticket fee). I am extremely grateful that people have helped. This week was spent getting a new passport and because I was born outside Australia and despite having the relevant documentation of citizenship it is always a sit and wait until it is issued thing. So I did not  dare to book a ticket until I was holding the new passport in my hand.

 I am so looking forward to going back and finishing what we started! We will have to work doubly hard to get everything ready for our exhibition. The trip back to Australia has enable me to pick up one or two supplies which I think will be useful for the women.There is of course no  haberdashery store  on Atauro island, there is one in Dili but some of the things which I think would be extremely useful have never been heard of- so the only way is to show what I mean! I will write more about the remarkable co-operative at the end of my residency. Meanwhile here is a link to their new catalogue which tells some of the story and also showcases the products they make.

Monday, October 30, 2017


I can scarcely believe it is the start of the third week here at Boneca de Atauro. I have needed time to adjust to the heat- I think all the travel from the last three months and wintry conditions haven't helped  to deal with the heat and find the right level of hydration. On the other hand life does move a little more slowly here, thought the ladies on the treadles at Boneca are amazing and the food at Manu Koko-Rek has equally been amazing. Life is very simple here whilst there is water, it is not in great supply- so showers are had, with bucket and soap ( my training in my shed has stood me in good stead), likewise being frugal with water usage overall. The internet has it's problems and there is no power during the day ( so no aircon or fans during the day and no aircon in any case- the only one I have seen is at the hospital)- the generator runs at night and last week they forgot to bring the diesel from Dilli so there were also  3-4 nights without power. So come on Tesla or any other solar supplier willing to donate- solar would be a gift from heaven here! Clothes are hand washed and appliances don't really exist much except for tv's and mobile phones. I also managed to get an infection in my big toe- I sually don't get infections much but this escalated quite quickly and still hasn't entirely calmed down. There is a hospital on the island which is manned by Cuban doctors who visited the Boneca last friday and who I seem to run into every time I go for a walk. The best time for a walk is around dawn before the sun heats up too much or dusk.

I have tried to learn how to use the treadle machine to free motion  quilt/stitch, just to see what is possible. It's been a learning curve that is for sure. On my machine I just push a button and my machine goes at the speed I need with the correct tension. On the treadle on the other hand I have to match the movement of my feet with my hands whilst tensioning in a hoop and tensioning extra to make sure there are no skipped stitches, which means having fingers in quite close proximity to the unprotected needle- and then your feet slow down to avert the danger when in fact you should keep them going at a steady pace. I am slowly getting there!

The Boneca dolls  have been made here since 2007. Visitors to the  island  usually make it to Boneca de Atauro as it is one of the  craft attractions of the island, plus it employs local women as a co-operative, so sustains families as well.People are poor here but are resistant to development (a casino has been mooted)- they are proud of their island and themselves and want to keep their cultural identity intact though of course need to earn money to survive.

 The hand woven fibre below is made form palm  and the finished piece is called Hrapinhirik. I love it and it sews surprisingly well and they make tote bags with it at Boneca. It is made by women up in the mountains of the island so a very local product. This is a very small island measuring 19 km x 8 km, but is the home to about 10,000 people.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Atauro Island Timor Leste

A very quick blog post indeed. I am still here though I did manage to lose my passport and mythe american dollars I had taken to spend in the local economy- so hopefully the person who found it will spend it in the same way! It meant a day of bureaucratic running around in Dili with my help Madalena Barreto, we revisited every place where I might have left it, talked to many people, filed police report and  organised an emergency passport- which had it's own complications because I am not actually born in Australia though I have been a naturalised citizen since age 14. Anyway hopefully it is all sorted.So even though the gods took, they also smiled sort of, by limiting the bureaucratic aftermath that these things engender to a day- which is quite remarkable!

I got to Atauro Island on Monday on the dragon boat- the only transport between Timor Leste and the island is a ferry and the dragon boat, otherwise you catch a fishing boat. And then finally I arrived at Boneca de Atauro. I am impressed with what the women achieve on treadle machines. The public generator only runs between 6 pm and 6 am so electricity isn't an option to power machines so hence treadle machines are used. The weather is so warm ( hot really and I am struggling a bit with the heat taking to wearing wet kerchiefs) that we have been working outside. We have been making linocuts. The idea is that I teach some of the younger ones and then they will pass on what they learn to the other women, We are working on linocuts and printing this week and then embroidery by machine and hand maybe- we will see.

It really does have the feel of a far flung place but this makes it wonderful. The people are friendly and the children curious and open.I am looking forward to seeing how this residency will develop!

The Boneca de Atauro shop in Dili. You can aslo buy their product online- just follow the link I have given in the previous paragraph- there is an online  catalogue. This weekend two of my students are going to Bail- to celebrate the win of a stop motion movie they made about the Bonecas ( dolls) de Atauro- they have won many prizes with this little film in Asia

Traditional Tais weaving from the  Museum in Dili.
  Arriving with the dragon boat.
Making designs for linocuts.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Recently someone mentioned to me that I had not blogged for 6 weeks- that was two weeks ago I think and finally I am getting to writing a post. I have simply been horrendously busy working at least 10-12 hours  a day or more and if not working travelling to the various exhibitions to which I had committed and meeting my commitments. It has not left a great deal of time to do anything else. I haven't written in my journal for more than two months and I am feeling the absence. I also managed to kill my mobile phone, though to be honest it was on its way out, but its replacement has a camera that is far inferior- or maybe it is just me the operator. As a result I am taking photos on my phone with which I am not happy and I haven't had time to give my good camera the attention it needs nor the time to take it out of my bag. I miss my old phone sigh...

Things have been very busy with the Aussie Bush Project. In the last month or so the project has been to Canberra, to Wellington in New Zealand and Hamilton in New Zealand and is at present being exhibited at the Adelaide Craft & Quilt Fair. Then after next week it goes on to Brisbane before having a rest and reappearing at Quilts en Beaujolais in France in April 2018.People have loved all the variations of the linocut printed fabrics and have expressed surprise and delight at how different each print looks in the hands of the different artists! Reasonably priced  accommodation was not so easy to find because one of the Adelaide football teams is playing in the finals in their home city.

Then last week I went to France for 8 days to install my exhibition at Villa Burrus  at the Carrefour Europeen du Patchwork and also to be united with my latest book Plaid Nomad ( I was so tired, plus I had caught a nasty cold from a sneezing and spluttering passenger in the seat in front of me- not once did he cover his mouth in all the splutterings he was engaged in, I forgot to buy myself a copy as my publishers copies were sent to Le Triadou  and I did not have time to go to Montpellier as I needed to be back in Adelaide for the Aussie Bush Project) So I think people liked the book, as the copies I had at Villa Burrus sold out by lunch time on the friday, as had the copies at the Edi De Saxe Stand at the Centre Commerciale and that was all there was!

I have started on a new Travellers' Blanket which is all but finished. I wanted it finished for the exhibition in France but I didn't quite get there. I did display it as it was almost finished but a few people did come and tell me there was still a needle and thread attached to the work! I think it will get finished this weekend. I know I started this blanket on the 9th of August and have put in 10-12 hours of stitching into it most days- so I now have a good idea of how long the blankets actually take and I am rather shocked by the amount of time they take- and in terms of  money/wages for hours of work the equation needs to change- that is for sure.

There was a moment when I contemplated making this smaller so that I could finish it- but then I felt it would not have the same impact at all. The  circles are appliqued bits and pieces of hand dyed and hand printed fabrics I have made over the years including my latest prints chopped up. Plus I have also made a linocut with circles- these panels will be for sale, I just have not had the chance to print up many.

I did actually use some circles cut from this panel in the blanket and they came up very nicely. I will share photos when I work out how to get them off my new phones memory card that doesn't involve fiddly file sharing arrangements. I will put it on my shop page soon in case anyone is interested.

I will try and be better about blogging in the next weeks as I go to East Timor and Boneco de Atauro soon- sooner than I thought and there are many things to arrange before I actually get there including getting vaccinations and malaria tablets. Will have to find a travel clinic on return to Melbourne to sort all that out! I have to keep reminding myself one step at a time.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


This last month has been super busy and one of those months where I wished I had an extra day for every day that passed. I have been up at Gembrook working but also waiting for a car to be fixed which my children bought for my birthday last year. As it is an older car it needed  quite some things fixing and as my daughters all work  and study and are busy with their jobs and lives this has taken longer than hoped- but anyway finally a RWC has been issued- now to get to the Vic Roads appointment, and hopefully I will be mobile so that I don't have to hire or borrow cars to get to Gellibrand and I can finally get stuck into some much needed  pruning and I can also end this frustrating dance of carrying equipment and supplies for a four hour road trip  from west to east and  four hours back again. Now that I have adjusted to the idea of living in my shed when I am in Australia, I really miss not being there- but most of all I miss my books and having  all of the things I work with readily accessible. No minimalism for me especially not in the book department.

I have been travelling to  two Craft and Quilt Fairs with the Aussie Bush Project, and will be attending another next week in Canberra, which I am looking forward to. I have made a small installation piece of  strings of gum leaves to help create a bush feeling. I can't tell you the number of times people have asked if I have a pattern for it. Unfortunately the photo is over exposed because of the lighting, but at the Melbourne event where it was quite windy where I was sitting, the leaves moved and shivered as they would do in the bush.

I have also been working on another travellers blanket to have for my exhibition at Villa Burrus at  EPM at Ste Marie aux Mines in readiness for the launch of my book with Editions de Saxe. I will be exhibiting with Smaranda Bourgery and Marie-Christine Hourdebaight. I have also been working on quilts for the Through Our Hands which is being shown at Festival of Quilts next week

My Through Our Hands quilt- or part thereof that I was working on last week. They are meant to be portraits- so mine is a portrait of techniques I have used over the years combined with favourite imagery- it is a while since I have done anything with fire- so of course that had to be included, and trees.

My daughter asked if we could  catch up for a weekend in Gellibrand in September- but this is the way September is looking.... fly to New Zealand end August until 10 September with Aussie bush project- fly back sunday morning, swap suitcases, catch plane to Europe Sunday night- install exhibition at EPM, France , board flight back to Oz Monday arrive Tuesday ( we always lose a day coming back) swap suitcase, take flight to Adelaide early Wednesday morning to install Aussie Bush exhibition on Wednesday afternoon-  and finally after the exhibition I can have a bit of a rest and start preparing for East Timor and my residency.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Aussie Bush Project Onwards!

It's been an extremely busy few weeks since being back, and it's more of a challenge as the area where I live is a digital blackout area unless you have a dedicated phone line which I don't. So sometimes it is difficult to blog unless I plan very well and go into Maccas ( yikes) in Colac or am elsewhere where there is wifi.

The Aussie Bush Project had it's first showing in Sydney the weekend before last , and whilst I had hoped for some more entries, what arrived  in my mothers' mail box was  beautiful, the quality very high and I loved how each and every one of you made the  linocut printed panels your own.  I did take some  gallery shots, but I forgot to bring my mobile connector cord.In any case the lighting is always so awful at these big exhibition venues, and I have to say the lighting in Sydney was atrocious for a purpose built brand new venue. You can see some of the installation shots on my facebook page

There is still time to send your entries if you still want to join the project.  But the Melbourne  Craft & Quilt Fair exhibition dates 27-30 July are the absolute last date possible to submit work. Please email me if you would like to join and I will send you details of where to send and pay the entry fee.

I also  will be making a visitor book for the Melbourne exhibition- there were so many positive comments about all of your beautiful work that it should somehow be recorded. I also will be updating the Aussie Bush Page next week whilst I am housesitting as I know I will have wifi access. I will put all images on the page so you can share it with friends and famil and so you can see all the gorgeous work submitted. Please note the exhibition dates are on the  Aussie Bush page. I share with you some of the beautiful work submitted.

                                                           Denise Fordyce

                                                                  Sue Broadway

                                                          Lindell Green

                                                               Sally-Ann Westcott

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Aussie Bush Project

 UPDATE Just a reminder to everyone that I am looking forward to receiving your submissions for the Aussie Bush Project the week after next. Those that I have thus far seen are beautiful and even though using the  prints I made are definitely marching to the tune of the maker/artist.

The two images are of work made by Dominique Houles that she sent to me here in France so I can take them back to Australia next week. Just love all the detail stitching and the borders. If you have a piece to send please email me and I will send you address details  and banking details . Otherwise there is also a paypal button  on the Aussie Bush Project page where I have also updated the touring schedule!

Those of you who are not sure I do so hope you will join the project- I think it will be a wonderful installation . I have been working hard on making I hope hundreds of gum leaves to add to the installation and add to the "bush" feeling. Hoping to get at least another hundred done today- time is running out as I have a busy week ahead before heading back to Australia. I have a 19.5 hour layover in Qatar ( not only did I book to come back in the wrong month  but I also did not notice the layover- sigh) so there will be some hand stitching travelling with me.

The image below is of  the dozens of gum leaves I have already stitched!