Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Brunswick Street Gallery 40 x 40 Exhibition

 It's Time to Watch what we do. I
Computer Waste
It's Time to Watch what we do. II
Animal Cruelty
It's Time to Watch what we do. III
Water Pollution
This is a series of art pieces I completed recently for the 40 x 40 exhibition at the Brunswick Street Gallery in Fitzroy, Melbourne. The exhibition opens tomorrow.
The pieces are hand sewn on cotton with clock and watch parts couched onto the background. Each watch has in it a picture of how mankind is abusing the world in which we live. 
Computer Waste is made up of many different stitches, symbolising the many things that occupy our minds and our lives, many quite meaningless. We store our thoughts, our opinions and our lives on computers, only to throw them into landfill when they don't serve us quickly enough.
Animal Cruelty has a very twee background of cutsey animals who are nonetheless in a cage, gilded with metallic gold thread. This is juxtaposed by the pictures in the watches of a battery farm chicken with few feathers, pigs in pens so small they cannot even turn around, a rabbit burned by experiments for cosmetics for human vanity, a bear trying to remove the muzzle on his nose that has a chain attached to it, and a rhino with half its face cut off so someone can have its horn. If you'd like to see something that will make you physically ill, type 'kitten abuse' into the search bar and see how some 'humans' get their rocks off.
The final piece is Water Pollution, a mass of watch parts sewn onto a background of chaotic stitching. The watch give one example of millions you can find on the Internet of waterways choked with human refuse. Google the rivers at Denpasar and see what Bali holiday makers contribute to, or check out the river behind the Taj Mahal.
Here are some closeups:

Monday, 10 December 2012

Itty Bitty Books at the Market

My daughter had her first market stall yesterday at the Manningham Fine Design market, Doncaster where she sold her handmade books. Her career is as a bookbinder and she has already studied overseas in Finland this year, with hopes of doing more overseas study next year. Most of the Melbourne bookbinders are not prepared to pass on the 'secrets' of their trade to a young person, so my daughter was unable to obtain an apprenticeship here at home. Crazy, isn't it? The craft will die without passionate young people who want to learn. Anyway, she did very well at the market, exceeding her expectations quite a bit and thereby encouraged to continue. Her little itty bitty books are made with paper offcuts that the manufacturer would otherwise discard, and many of the covers are made using materials that bookbinders consider offcuts and would also throw away. Some covers are made with scrapbooking leftovers - so all in all, environmentally friendly little books made from waste and turned into beautiful art pieces. Her father and I are very proud of her.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

New quilt being developed

It never ceases to amaze me how much time passes in between my posts - usually double what I think it is. Another two weeks have passed, and admittedly I've been sick with a bad cold that I still have two weeks on, but boy! does time fly!
Today's photo shows the process of understanding the construction of the quilt I want to make and calculating my fabric requirements. I do not have any 'actual' measurements of the tessellated tile floor I wish to replicate so have begun with a 12" central block. I then got into a bit of difficulty working out how big it would become when I only knew the measurement of the hypotenuse and had to pull out some high school maths skills to figure it out. Even now, I'm not sure I have a handle on it. My theory is, that if I post here regularly with updates on this quilt, I shall actually get it done, because I'll feel accountable. So here goes ...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

BESS - my latest art piece

This is my latest piece, also my final piece, for school this year. We finish classes this week. My work is inspired by Queen Elizabeth I of England (reigned 1558-1603). The shape of the piece imitates the strong V shape of the bodice as portrayed in her later portraits. Lace features heavily as the invention of starch in the 16th century allowed the large ruffs to become fashionable and the lace industry flourished. The strip of lace on the left edge is hand crocheted by myself, and the other strips of lace are machine made pieces I've had for 30 years. Along the edge of the lace strips I have sewn beads reminiscent of the pearls that featured so heavily in paintings of Elizabeth, and larger beads nod to the mass of other jewels she wore. Portrait miniatures were very popular in Tudor England - I have used an old fob watch case to create my own miniature with a picture of Elizabeth therein. As we have been learning free motion machine embroidery I have included my attempt at a Tudor Rose using the free motion technique and washaway (not without much difficulty). Finally the string of pearls looped across the piece can be seen in many of Elizabeth's portraits where she is depicted with 'ropes of pearls'. Mine came from broken pearl necklaces that belonged to a maiden great-aunt who hasn't been with us for 27 years. Here is a closeup:

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Senini Student Textile Award

Today was the announcement of the winner of the Mary and Lou Senini Student Textile Award at McClelland Gallery. I did not win, sadly, but my work is on display in a wonderful gallery for the next two and a half months for everyone to see, and that makes me rather happy. The experience of entering the award has been quite eye-opening, and as a very new player in the art world, I can only be proud of my achievements that I am being exhibited alongside other artists who have a great deal more experience than I. Here is my work in perspective alongside the other works.
I'd be very interested to know what people think, if they feel inclined to leave a comment.

Wandering in Fitzroy

Yesterday my daughter and I wandered around Fitzroy (an inner city suburb of Melbourne) where all the trendies go and shop, be seen, eat and drink. Amongst the graffiti on a wall I noticed this little door pasted on and had to share it with you. I wonder who lives inside? ><
Then we came across this sign, in fact there were several, posted on trees down the street, offering various positive life elements. My daughter took 'patience' but I didn't ask her why. I'll observe what happens with her over this next week. Perhaps she needs patience to deal with her customers, who provide endless stories of stupidity. 
I notice I didn't share my really big news, which is that I have been selected as a finalist in the Mary and Lou Senini Student Textile Art award at the McClelland Gallery. They are announcing the winner this afternoon, so in a few hours that's where I'll be, hoping for the best outcome. I'll return to my blog tonight to share the result.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Meow Meow

Last Friday night my husband and I, with a dear friend, went to see Meow Meow at the Atheneum Theatre in Melbourne. I haven't been to very many live shows in my life, and I have to say this was FANTASTIC. Hubby and I first saw Meow Meow on Foxtel a couple of months ago and became awestruck by her performance. We looked for a show in Melbourne to initially be disappointed but then this came up and we bought tickets in a flash. I went along knowing that she uses audience participation and was happily sitting closer to the back in the middle of the theatre where she couldn't get to me. However, I was disappointed not to see her face more clearly. So what happened then? WELL! She crowd surfed, and before I knew it she was heading my way and I had to lift her over my head and pass her to the people behind. I not only got to see her close up, I also grabbed her around the rib cage! I got my wish and a whole lot more. It probably seems nothing to Meow Meow, but it was a big adventure for me. Thank you Meow Meow for a fantastic, unforgettable show.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


BIG NEWS. I have a new web site at www.margaretrowe.com.au which I would love you to check out. You can buy all my books online now, using Paypal, and even read a bit about me. As a bonus, I have added a sample chapter for each book so you can read how the story starts. Let me know what you think of the site, or even better, write a review for any or all of the books.
And today's photo - what relevance does it have? None. This is how I spent last weekend - pulling apart old clocks and watches to get all the bits. I wonder what sort of art I'll produce from this lot??

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

My Own Art Collection

My husband and I have decided to collect art and began with our first piece on our 25 wedding Anniversary back in March this year. Last weekend we went to the Manningham Fine Design Market and purchased two more pieces. The large one is by Daniela Kupina, who has a background in fashion design and the smaller one is by Minka Svarcs, a young woman who has been travelling the world and having wonderful experiences. Daniela works with thick black textas, with a few beautiful sweeping lines to produce each piece. Minka often works with fine pen and there is a lot of detail in her work. 
Hopefully one day soon people will be buying 'my' art for their homes. =)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

My art for sale

Yesterday I picked up my framed felt piece from Hall of Frame where Pam always does a terrific job. This is my first piece of felt, which has machine and hand stitching, mostly French knots to represent a field of English heather. I have been inspired by the work of Moy Mackay, whose colours drew me in immediately. I hope to soon make more pieces using the Australian landscape for my inspiration. We have such amazing, strong colour here Down Under.
This piece is for sale at AUD$490.00 plus delivery/postage.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Maitland Patchwork Quilters

Last Friday I had the honour of opening a quilt exhibition hosted by the Maitland Patchwork Quilters Inc. I flew to New South Wales at lunch time, was picked up by their President, Janelle, and taken to the hall where I found myself amid a wonderful display of beautiful quilts made by members of the group. Included was this special display of quilts made according to the rules of the challenges in my first two books from The Australian Challenge Quilt series (above). The ladies had made quilts according to The Maria Challenge Quilt and The Elizabeth Challenge Quilt, and are currently working on The Caroline Challenge Quilt for presentation at the end of the year. I was quite taken aback by this wonderful collection of inspiring ideas and really enjoyed talking with some of the quiltmakers to learn how they approached the challenges. Their work was perfection.

The hall was full of magnificent quilts. I would have been extremely hard pressed to choose a viewer's choice amongst this lot. Many of the quilts are designs by Karen Cunningham and Jenny Rofe, beautiful appliques and subtle colourings. I spent ages going around reading all the labels and enjoying every moment.
Well done to everyone at Maitland Patchwork Quilters Inc.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Reading and Writing

Each time I sit down to blog I cannot believe how much time has passed since my last post. It always feels like only a few days ago, yet I find the weeks are passing as though they were days. Reading and writing seems to be just about all I ever do, in one form or another. I'm either reading emails, blogs, facebook, text messages, snail mail, research material online and in books OR I'm writing my journal, progress notes for school homework, blog, texts, facebook - when does that leave time for actually writing novels? Well at the moment, it doesn't. But I'm happy to report that I have begun research for the fifth book in The Australian Challenge Quilt series.
So what does the above photo have to do with all this? Last night I received an email from a reader (aka stalker) who warned me that I might need to make a cuppa before I sit down and read the attached Word document. I laughed, printed it out and took it to bed to read (it was after 11:00 pm). It was terrific to finish the day with a big smile on my face after reading all the wonderful news from my friend (we'll have to call her my 'ex' stalker). =)
Final news for the day, tomorrow I fly to Maitland, New South Wales to open a quilt show for the Maitland Patchwork Quilters Inc. The members of this group have been doing the Maria and Elizabeth challenges since 2010 and this year they've worked on their Caroline challenges. What a delight to be able to go and see all their quilts. I'm very excited. Will report on my return.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Hunters Hill Quilters

Look where I've been!
I was invited as guest judge by the Hunters Hill Quilters in Sydney. This wonderful group was celebrating their 30th birthday and had decided a year ago to spend this 30th year doing the Maria Challenge, as set out in my first book, The Maria Challenge Quilt. They followed the instructions to the letter, not allowing the use of irons, sewing machines, rotary cutters or rulers, not even pencil and paper. Furthermore, each participant was given the name of a convict who had arrived on the transport ship Maria in 1818. An amazing 38 quilts were presented last Thursday at the celebratory meeting and each woman stood up and told the story of her convict, as though she was the convict herself. Many took on their characters with great flare and much entertainment, and it was wonderful for me to be a part of it all.
I had to choose three winners from all these quilts, a very hard task indeed because they were all so wonderful in their own way, and for varying reasons. The one I chose for first place was done by a woman who took a great deal of peasure from her challenge and approached it with a terrific attitude. This was the winning quilt:
Second place went to a very simple quilt, and that's why I chose it. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough to get photos of every quilt that day so I don't have an image to show. It was a simple square in a square using mostly plain fabrics and for me it had the real feel of a convict quilt.
Third place went to a lady who is currently very unwell in hospital, and I'm hoping she will be home soon and feeling much better. Her quilt was beautifully done using the pattern known as Jacob's Ladder. I see it as symbolic of what the convicts may have wished for - a ladder to get out of the hole they were in.
It was truly a splendid day. The women in the group make that happen - they have a terrific sense of humour and fun, both good elements to have in any group. Thanks for allowing me to be part of your special day, and again - HAPPY BIRTHDAY Hunters Hill Quilters. 
Here's Iris cutting their cake:
Iris is the President and she treated me like royalty from the minute she picked me up at the airport. I was truly blessed to enjoy such wonderful hospitality. On my return home I was able to open a gift Iris had presented me with just before we left the meeting - a gorgeous hand covered journal. And as I only have a few pages left in my current journal, how timely could it be!
It's sitting on some fabric I bought while in Sydney, with no idea what I'll use it for. =)

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Beaconsfield Quilt Show

10am – 4pm
Entry - $5
Beaconsfield Neighbourhood Centre
8 O’Neil Road
Mel: 214 B1

Showcasing the amazing talent and wonderfully diverse range of quilts by the
and members of the Beaconsfield Neighbourhood Centre’s patchwork/quilt groups for a fundraising event to support the
Beaconsfield CFA.

Guest: Margaret Rowe, author of the ‘Quilt Challenge’ series will be signing copies of her books.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Dinner Party

The Dinner Party, 1975-1979, by Judy Chicago
Image from the artist's website - www.judychicago.com
Please visit the original website for further information

Four or five weeks ago we started a new unit at art school with a new teacher who introduced us to the work of Feminist Artist Judy Chicago and her major piece, The Dinner Party. Ever since that day I have been obsessed with this concept. Briefly, Chicago began her art career in time for the Second Feminist Wave. She knew she had to do something about women being wiped out of history, with the history books barely mentioning their contribution to society and brushing over their achievements. Chicago came up with the concept of presenting a dinner party for 39 women from history, a place setting for each one, representing each one. She began in prehistory and selected women up to the present day (1970s). Furthermore, inside the triangular table setting is a porcelain tiled floor with the names of 999 more women who contributed throughout history. Please read Chicago's website to get the full detail on this groundbreaking piece.
Having admired her work, let me say I do not agree with some of Chicago's quotes. I'm not sure I would agree with her on many things. However, The Dinner Party is a fantastic concept and sends a huge message to the world.
I've been obsessed with it though, and I've been obsessed because I feel it's time to have another Dinner Party. We are now in the Third Feminist Wave. We need a new message. I don't think the second wave was all that successful, but it did break some very hard ground. We need to keep pushing for women to be released from slavery - and believe me, we are still enslaved. I don't want women to rule over men, I want equality in all ways.
So - I would like to create my own dinner party - Dinner with the Goddesses. It will be a 21st century message to 21st century women, taking up the fight that Chicago and so many other women throughout time have dared to fight. Last night the design for my first dinner plate came to me in a dream. I know I need to do this. It will be a huge project, but I'll share it with you along the way, and hope you want to come on the journey with me.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bernina and Art U Wear 2012

The other day I received my Art U Wear 2012 competition outfit back in the mail. I was a finalist, but the outfit was not chosen to tour Australia at the Craft Fairs. That's okay - I realise it was too difficult to put on and off the mannequin. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a few goodies tucked in with my piece - the artist statement that would have been displayed at the Sydney Craft Fair, a jar of Bernina lollies, a Bernina pen and a pad with a handwritten note. That was such a lovely touch. A printed slip would have been a let-down. I applaud Bernina for the way they conducted this competition, that they phoned in person to let me know my outfit had arrived safely, phoned to say it was being posted back and to keep an eye out for it, and then added that final personal touch by handwriting a message. Well done Bernina. I'll be entering next year if I can!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Cat's quilt from "The Amelia Challenge Quilt"

Here is the finished quilt top of Cat's quilt that she made in The Amelia Challenge Quilt. Those of you who have read the book will know she was inspired by the tessellated tile floor in the arts building at Melbourne University. This top has been pieced using the English paper-piecing method in order to maintain full fabric pieces for all the elements i.e. I didn't want any joins in pale grey fabric. The quilt is not particularly large at 43" square and is intended as a wall hanging. Every piece is directional, except for the border.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Laurel Birch Xmas Quilt

Not the best photo but here it is, finished at last. I bought the fabrics at the very first Australasian Quilt Convention (how many years ago is that?). They were in 10" strips but after I washed them I only had 9.5" of usable fabric. I saw this pattern and knew it was perfect for these fabrics and had it sewn in no time - then it sat waiting to be quilted. One of my school mates, Kay Hocking quilted it for me recently and did a terrific job. I then bound it with the remnants of fabric, colours on two sides and white on the other two, just like the blocks. I originally meant to put the colour binding on the opposite sides from the blocks. It would have looked better that way and if I was a truly dedicated woman, I'd take off the binding and do it again. But I've moved onto the next thing already...

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Open House Melbourne

Last Saturday Melbourne hosted a terrific event called Open House Melbourne. 100 buildings in and around the city were open for the public to explore free of charge. Some of them hosted behind the scenes tours that required a ticket via a ballot system. We would have liked to see Federation Square behind the scenes but missed out on the ballot.
We saw 5 fantastic places - Melbourne Council Chambers, Scots Church and Hall, St Michael's Church, Myer Mural Hall and inside the gatehouse, Northside, at the Melbourne General Cemetery plus a short cemetery tour. It was all wonderful, despite the cold and the rain.
 Scots Church Hall
 St Michael's Church
 Myer Mural Hall
Melbourne General Cemetery
And YES! I did find quilt inspiration at the Melbourne General Cemetery ...

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Reflecting Vanity, Art U Wear 2012

At last I can reveal the outfit I made for the 2012 Bernina and Expertise Events Competition, Art U Wear. I decided to enter this competition last November, as a way of kick-starting my creative energies before I began my Textile Art course. As usual, my ideas far exceeded my abilities, and twice a gave up on the project. My daughter took my face in her hands and told me to "Just Finish It". I did. Just in time to take some photos and send them off for the competition.
I expected that to be the last of it. The outfit was packed away, unlikely to come out into the light of day for quite a while. But then I learned I had been chosen as a finalist. I was astonished and proud. I sent the outfit to Sydney for judging, but was not selected for any of the prizes. It doesn't matter, I achieved far more than I expected to achieve. I'm a winner.
Two days ago a Bernina rep told me my outfit was being returned. Only a select few are going to tour the country to all the Craft Shows in the capital cities. That's quite what I expected to happen. My outfit is very difficult to put onto a living person, let alone a mannequin. So I've learned that next year I must consider ease of 'use' when planning an entry.
I'm very proud of what I've achieved, and learned a lot along the way. I hope you enjoy the photos.


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Art project for school

My, oh my! I can't believe how long it is since I last blogged. Someone told me recently she had missed my blog posts. Hello Sue! I'm back.
Here is my latest stitched piece. It is not the best photograph  - a little dark around the edges despite a light shining on it. Interestingly, in a way that has achieved my aim. The idea was not to use black fabric, even though I wanted a black background. The answer was to use a very deep maroon silk and hand sew seed stitch all over it to darken the look. I think I have achieved that quite well.  The centre has satin stitched droplets done by hand with the lines sewn by machine. The shading was done using an Inktense pencil and a brush to soften it at the edges. That piece and the red satin have been needle turn appliqued in place, but the two pieces of velvet, the deep maroon and white, have been set in place using vliesofix (spelling??). It is not 'meant' to be anything in particular - just pleasing shapes. I hope you like it.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Artist Trading Card swap complete

Here are the Artist Trading Cards my classmates made. Enjoy.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

My First Artists Trading Cards

Recently I made my very first set of Artists Trading Cards when one of my class mates made the suggestion that we would have fun doing this as a group project. There are 9 women participating in the challenge, so I made 9 cards.
I chose to relate the cards to my first book, The Maria Challenge Quilt. I gathered all the scraps left over from the quilt I made, the one which appears on the cover.
Then I sewed the scraps together into a rectangle, as best I could. 
 Once all the pieces had been incorporated, I slashed and sewed, slashed and sewed in different directions until the fabric piece was made of smaller pieces of each pattern.
 Next I cut up 9 cards, 6" x 4" as instructed to do.
 I hand stitched the letter 'M' onto each card, using chain stitch (because the theme of the book was the convict women transported to Australia in the early 19th century). 'M' is for both Margaret and Maria.
 The cards were quilted onto a stiff polyester wadding with a hand dyed yellow/orange fabric for the backing. This backing fabric was hand dyed by my good friend Lisa, who edits my books - another connection to The Maria Challenge Quilt. The quilting was simple straight lines to represent the bars of a gaol.
 Each card was finished off with a machine zigzag stitch around the edge.
 I wrote my name on the back along with my email address. The finishing touch was to sew a key charm on each card. This is symbolic in two ways - there is a key on the cover of The Maria Challenge Quilt, representing both incarceration and freedom, and secondly, my official surname is Rowe-Keys, so the key is the extra bit of my name. Above is a single key, but I like the bunch of keys on the card below. They look more like a gaoler's set of keys.
We make our swap tomorrow. Am looking forward to seeing what processes my class mates have used.