Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Conservation or compost



The combination of clay (earth ) and grass (plant) in artworks is ancient, perhaps even basketry predated the firing proess of clay.
From time to time one sees examples of makers combining the two materials. To do so and create a harmony and balance without being contrived is elusive.
To marry the mediums so that the clay gives birth to the grass and the grass therefore grows out of the clay sensitively is important. The outcome should speak of growth not construction.This bird alighting from a waterhole combines clay, fodder coiled with silk and cotton and a found wood fragment.
The women from Jigalong made a series of baskets combing meat pie tins and fodder stitched with coloured wools.The distinct form of the pie tins easily linked with the bold coiled stitches.They were clearly construction but suceeded because of their visual strength.
The nature of fibre construction using fodder is so adaptable to form that the women making nanduti would find it easy to make their flower forms.
Perhaps they may read Fodder and be encouraged to experiment.
The type of stitching more or less controls the form and surface. The more informal the process the more ability to shape quite faithfully to form.
The idea of grass flowers is quite intrigueing.
Being able to handle clay and fibre more or less in the same breath is very liberating.
For the most part they are kept quite separate as mediums, which would not have always been the case of course and in many cultures still is not. The most obvious is dwellings combining straw and mud.
This is where conservation or compost arrives. Fired clay can be washed but grass cannot.
However most fibre providing it is kept dry and not stressed will last for many years. If it functions as a container then definitely it has a life span.
It is the stitching threads which give way rather than the fibre breaking down. For example Seven sisters grass figures have an array of fibres holding all that grass together and will need to be checked from time to time.
Probably 99.9% of fibre construction simply becomes compost, its that .1% that we must care for.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Fine rubbish

 What a wonderful post Nalda. It's very exciting to hear about the introduction of clay to the grass work.

What does it feel like? I imagine there's quite a contrast between the hard ceramics and the pliable fibre.

The story about the precious 'rubbish' hay is wonderful. If anything, the work that you are doing is a way for others to have a better material understanding of how the land operates, and so how the lamb chop appears on our plate every evening!

I've  just posted a short notice about women who make ├▒anduti in Paraguay. There will be a longer piece in Craft Revival Trust soon. They are quite expert in the needle and it would be very interesting to see how they could adapt to the kind of materials that you are using.

One issue that must always dog your work is conservation. Fibre must have different qualities of durability. But I imagine that fodder is particularly ephemeral. Do you find this to be the case? Are there ways of making it last longer? Or alternatively, are there ways of making something out of its fragility?

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

grass as fodder as grass


It seems that the use of fodder is dependant of supply from stockfeed outlets at present so I am endevouring to encourage its use at least where it can be sourced.
For instance a week in Blackstone for the 4th Blackstone Festival and the women collected grass from land to use for their basketmaking. Raffia was dyed using plant materials, barks and leaves boiled in half 44 gallon drums cut lengthways with a fire underneath, also an electric copper appeared so very successful sessions.
There was a fabulous collection of grass dogs made, all shapes and sizes, bound up with colourful wools and raffia.
Once again we introduced raku clay with the idea of using fired clay bases for basketry. A kiln was built using materials sourced from the tip and as houses are being constructed in the community there are pine pallets to burn literally. It took 40 sawn pallets to fire 32 kgs of clay for 11 hours. Here is a photo of small piece combining the two mediums made by Ivy.

However here in the city 12 women gathered last weekend for a workshop and made short work of a bundle of fodder.
When I went to the stockfeeders for a bale there was no meadow fodder just oaten hay in a huge haystack. The man pulled out a bale to give me but I went looking very closely at the stack and found one which had fine fibres in it, I asked the fellow for that one, 'Thats a rubbish one" he said disdainfully. Meaning there was less hay and more grass in it.
For the women sewing it was manna.

As an overview it is the combination of recycled materials mixed with domestic grasses ie. fodder, which can be considered a succesful and sustainable practice. However what choice can there be in a location where even fodder is at a premium, Where recycling for art and craft is already so efficient.And yet the combination gives so much scope for individuality.
That collection of dogs at Blackstone was so full of variations yet each maker more or less used the same materials.
that is what intruduces humour and the great pleasure of making.