Teaching Philosophy

I feel successful when I teach people:

- to see what they look at!

- that it is ok to be different!

- to open a whole new world of creativity for them....

- that there is a solution for every problem (mostly with a quick-unpick!)

- that it is a joy to be creative......

The Creative Mind Plays with the Object it Loves -
Carl Jung

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Core

October is almost halfway and hopefully I can now come up for some air.   I've been extremely busy with teaching and other quilting related commitments and in the process, the blog gets put on the "don't have time now"...

The past week we had our annual Spring Show at the Dias Quilters' Guild in Port Elizabeth and as always, the Committee did a sterling job with setting up a lovely display.   Lots of people came to see the lovely quilts etc made by our members and there was a lovey buzz of excitement.

My friend Yolande Bowman of the Pied Piper Quilt Shop in Port Elizabeth and myself had a wonderful idea in 2011 to spice up our annual Shows by challenging quilters to be more creative.   We formulate an invitational creative challenge and these pieces are then displayed as a satellite exhibition at the annual Spring Show of our Guild.   It is amazing to see the progress, creative energy and flair of these exhibitions.

This year we had the third challenge, Shape It!   The concept was to choose a shape as primary design element e.g. square, rectangle, circle, triangle, hexagon, diamond, trapezium, octagon etc.   Other shapes could be incorporated as secondary design elements but the overall impression had to reflect the primary shape.   There was also size restrictions and the format would be of a skinny quilt.

I plan to make a scrap quilt of Willem's old ties as he retires from work at the end of the year and as I was unpicking these, I was fascinated by the different textures of the inners.  I decided not to discard it as I could use it at some stage...    When I planned my Shape It piece, I decided to use these inners to prepare a foundation for the shapes.   I chose a ring as my primary design element and chose a rust and purple palette.    As I started cutting rings in various sizes, I realized that one of my favourite pieces of Bali prints also had a strong tinge of magenta in it and decided that it really was the zinger the piece needed.

I roughly stitched the inners to the base fabric to keep it in position, but it was rather puffy and I had to make a plan.   I started free motion stitching to get the feel of the piece and loved it from the first stitch.   In the process, I found recycled silk strips in the same natural hues as the tie inners in my cupboards...  Some pieces had little bits of black designs printed on it and I stitched these down onto the inners - the silk was very delicate and perfect for the effect I wanted.   The next step was to fuse the rings down onto the background - the various sizes and colours were scattered randomly to ensure that balance was created and was then stitched using free motion stitching.    As I have a punching tool for my Bernina sewing machine, I filled the insides (cores) of the rings by needlepunching all sorts of wools, yarns and commercial felt into the insides of the rings.   It created beautiful texture.    As the background for the rings were all natural shades, it looked rather light and needed a border to contain it.   As I have various pieces of fabric which I previously discharged, I used some of it for the side borders as the colours were perfect for the project. The recycled silk strips also had pieces of rust, magenta and black and I prepared a strippy top and bottom section using these.   I also added snippets of these to hide joins in the side sections.    

The Core 2014 - detail of the rings, stitching on the tie inners and border sections.

As I used the pointed sections of the tie inners, the bottom section of the foundation section was irregular which provided an interesting line.   I made loose rings which I hung from the bottom section, resting on the lower silk panel like beads.   That way I used the design shape throughout the piece and filled the otherwise unused space on the bottom section which provided the necessary balance.

Bottom section of The Core


The Core 2014
It is amazing how easy some pieces fall into place, with others one have to do major battle...   With The Core, everything just worked and I loved the process... The more I look at it, the more I like it...

Artist Statement for The Core:
Exteriors can be deceiving as it does not show what is inside...    These unseen inner elements give us shape, structure, foundation and stability.  It defines and contains us - gives us shape and direction, the core of our existence as it defines all aspects of our lives..!    

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Unity from Within

I promised some time ago to tell you about the Mandala which I made.  I don't know when last I enjoyed making a quilt so much as I did for this particular piece...!

I had that feeling of "full circle" as it reminded me so much of my early years as a quilter, the entire design process.   A big sheet of paper, pencils, compass, protractor, ruler and an eraser....!   Yes, I erased many lines which did not work.   And all the way I had this excited smile on my dial, it was pure joy to create this piece and I remembered many years ago how limited my design skills were, the tentative attempts....    How difficult it was then and how easy it has become...   I feel so blessed that Willem gave me the space and means to develop my creativity as through this journey, I found the real me...

In 2013 I applied to become a member of Fibreworks, a renowned group of fibre artists in South Africa and was so excited when I was accepted into their prestigious ranks.    With it however, came added work to an already busy schedule.  I believe that when one commits to something, one has to participate.    Luckily there was  no theme or major size restrictions, so I could create a piece which would relate to where I am at the moment.   I decided to explore Mandalas...

It took me almost a week to complete the design while the eraser did daily sessions!    I find that it takes some time to design, I cannot rush the process...   I would add lines and curves, walk away and do some chores, come back, stare at it....   Any way, it was wonderful to finally choose a colour palette, fabrics and to start cutting...    Some of the pieces were really minute.   I found solid fabrics as well as hand dyed fabrics worked particularly well in this type of design, I added some Bali fabrics which I could not resist...!    I finally finished cutting and fusing and put the piece on the design wall and took a photograph.   I downloaded it onto the computer and immediately saw problems...  Quite amazing how this particular process helped sort out visual problems.   Any way, I had to re-cut certain sections, re-fused and took more photographs and this time I was satisfied...

Unity from Within 201455cm x 55cm
Unity from Within was fused onto a foundation piece, raw edges butting.  Feathered stitch, a decorative stitch on my sewing machine was used on a few areas, others were partially stitched with raw edge applique technique and other raw edges were sealed using a couching technique.   Cords were also used to add definition to certain lines.    Additional detail was quilted into the design using variegated quilting threads. Some pieces were really very small, each little piece on the mandala was cut out individually using small embroidery scissors, my main cutting tool.   It was amazing to see how the stitching transformed the piece.  

Detail Centre Section
Detail can be seen which was quilted into the design e.g. tiny leaves between the burnt orange leaves as well as additional leaves on the magenta sections.

Corner Section
Additional detail added around the lime green spots with the quilting process e.g. on the purple and blue sections.

Unity from Within was part of the Fibreworks VIII Exhibition at the IQCA in July 2014 in Johannesburg.   It will be seen at other venues as well.

I really enjoyed the process so much and decided to work on a concept for a workshop on Mandalas.  This workshop will be during the annual Spring Show of the Dias Quilters' Guild, Port Elizabeth in October 2014, date to be finalized.

Sunday, 20 July 2014


I really haven't had time to write a post as I was working on a commitment which swallowed all my free time...   Luckily for me, that is now done and dusted and I can settle down in my usual routine and already ideas for new projects are swirling around......

I did however finish two pieces for Fibreworks VIII and Major Minors V as part of the Fibreworks exhibition which opens at IQCA in Johannesburg this coming week.  

I have previously mentioned that Willem and I love travelling around our beautiful country.   Two years ago we went to Namibia on holiday and the trip also included a section of the Northern Cape.    We were so taken with the Northern Cape that we went back last year to explore more.....   I was so enthralled by the quiver trees, the first time I saw them close up was in Namibia and I took photographs where ever I saw them...  The trees are so completely different to the beautiful and lush indigenous forest of Knysna where I grew up.     As always, I was fascinated by the variety of patterns on the bark of these trees which offers endless scope for fibre art interpretations..!

A flowering Quiver Tree at Canon Road House en route to lookout area of Fish River Canyon, Namibia

When the brief came for the Fibreworks exhibitions, I immediately thought that using the quiver tree idea would be perfect for the Major Minors exhibition as the dimensions was only 25cm x 25cm.   Also, I would be able to manage with my other commitment....    I chose one photograph to work from, cropped the image and had a colour print made from which I worked....

Section of a Quiver Tree

I had bought a selection of chiffon, organza and pongee lining, but it can be rather difficult as the right colours and shades are not always available for a specific project...  You might wonder about all this synthetic fabric!   The idea was to heat treat the fabric to distort it to recreate the intricate patterns of the bark.   I tore strips off the different fabrics and singed the edges using a candle.   I prefer using this technique to a heat gun as I have more control over the burning, luckily I haven't burnt myself so far.   The smell of certain fabrics burning is rather vile and not recommended for those who are asthmatic.    Any way, I burnt a lot of strips and started to play, keeping an eye on the picture I was working from..... Burning fabric with a candle also slightly changes the colour of the fabric a bit and gives lots of dark to blackish edges which adds to the drama.    

   Quiver 2014

The first step was to place the singed strips onto the foundation fabric, after which it was stitched down with the machine.   Hand embroidery stitching was added for more texture and interest and adding a few beads finished it off.   The edge around the piece was very untidy and needed a brainwave...     I put it to the candle once more and singed the entire outer edge, sealing it this way worked rather well and it looked very effective.   The piece was machine quilted.    As the piece is so small, I decided to give it a short name, so I named it Quiver after the trees....  

Next time I'll tell about the Mandala also on show at IQCA next week....!   

Friday, 13 June 2014

Food for the soul

Why, oh why does time fly so quickly....     Symptom of modern day living I suppose...   The month of May somehow disappeared, but it was good for me...    Sometimes it is good to take a back seat and absorb everything that comes along, rest and recharge the batteries.

Firstly I was on the teaching panel at the Quilt Camp in St Francis Bay organized by the ever efficient Antoinette Kriel of the Kouga Quilters Guild where I taught two different workshops.   Once again teaching was such a rewarding experience and I also made new friends!   For me the most satisfying experience as a teacher is to take the hand of an extremely anxious student, connect with her and at the end of the day, that same lady stitches with so much potential, totally at ease.   And the smile of achievement you get goes straight into your soul...   I love the interaction teaching provides, seeing those excited smiles....

And then Willem and I took another road trip which took me off the radar as it was "our" time.   We were blessed with moderate weather and we traveled safely.    We re-visited beautiful places, drove on well maintained highways and also the most horrific roads - to Gamkaskloof (The Hell off the Swartberg Pass) and Prince Alfred Pass between Avontuur and Knysna which was badly damaged during heavy rains earlier this year.   All I can say, is that we survived the onslaught...   It was two passes on my bucket list and I really never ever need to drive there again as one needs courage and skill to drive on those roads!    But the most amazing was the scenery and the abundant flora, driving through fields of flowering proteas and other fynbos, too beautiful... And in between little buck, quite tame and patiently posing for photographs...   So very special.

I have to mention the gift shops and galleries in both Hermanus and Prince Albert....   Food for the creative soul.   I saw the most amazing art in Hermanus, I really  needed ABS breaks to curb the spending...   The most amazing ceramics I have seen to date - I could appreciate the patience, skill and creativity of each beautiful, finely crafted piece....   Seeing paintings of Pierneef, Coetzer, Bettie Cilliers Barnard etc at the Onrus Art Gallery, so very special.   I felt like my soul was in heaven, what an experience!   I left feeling my mind was filled with so much joy...

I came back with the thought that although our creative mediums are so different, for each artist the creative spirit within is so powerful.  For productive artists, it is an inner necessity to create like Bettie Cilliers Barnard who painted each day almost to the end...   What a blessing to be able to create to expose the world to beautiful art, to fill spaces with either functional or decorative objects of beauty...!   I feel so inspired to be creative after this holiday, but have mounds of paperwork to slouch through before I can settle down and be busy in my studio....

I don't really have anything to show apart some cushions which I made at the end of last year as gifts.  In March I was fortunate to visit the International Quilters Day exhibition display at the Kouga Quilters in Humansdorp and saw beautiful patchwork cushions...   We always seem to regard cushions as inferior compared to quilts, but those cushions on display were really small quilts, so lovely.  I kept on going back to where the cushions were displayed, it really appealed to me.   So, I thought I would share these cushions with you as making them, does not require much time, but it is equally rewarding to make than a bigger project.


2 cushions I  made in 2013 as gifts.
I often like to make small gifts like cushions as it satisfies my need to work in different colours.   I have been collecting some Bali prints as well as silk fabric and love the combination as it works so well together.   For both these projects I used a triangle shape, but the placing is different.   Both were fused and stitched with the feathered decorative stitch on my sewing machine.

I'm working on other projects, but cannot share it yet as it is for an exhibition...   So in the meantime, be creative and enjoy it...

Sunday, 27 April 2014


As quilters, we are so blessed to enjoy our creative journey at this time we are living in...    We can choose the most beautiful fabrics, threads, patterns, books and gadgets to make the process easy.   Because of modern technology, we are exposed to so much information and visual stimulation.  We share our work on blogs, websites, social media etc with people we don't know from Adam.    The common thread is that we share the same passion for fabric and stitching.   We feel we know these icons personally as we know what they look like, we see their work in our own homes with the wonderful aid of the internet and we can aspire to reach their heights or maybe one day, meet them in the flesh and touch their work.   For me the downside of this overload of information, is that one can spend so much time on the computer ogling the work of others that one tend to forget to do your own...

As a creative soul, I battle to settle down doing repetitive work.   I regularly need to change direction to maintain and feed my passion for fibre and thread.    I often explore in a series, but when I'm done with that, I need to move to the next challenge.   I might combine elements of a previous series with a new element which can take a simple idea much further.     This creates much excitement.

Some time ago I saw a TV clip about an Afrikaans singer/songwriter Lise Beekman who lost her partner under very sad circumstances.   At the time, she was so overcome with grief that she could not make music....   She found herself doodling on paper and the result was the most beautiful mandalas created with inks, crayons etc.   I was enthralled by the beauty of her creations and immediately saw the endless possibilities by creating mandalas in fabric...    As I really love symmetry and playing with my geometry tools, I was ready for this new challenge and took out pencil, eraser, paper, compass, protractor, paper scissors and a long ruler.   It reminded  me so much of the beginning of my quilting career when I designed traditional quilts for my students - it was as if the process was completed in a way, full circle!

A month ago I started doodling a mandala in my drawing book and have done a few drawings since...   I paged through this book today and was amazed at how many of the sketched ideas in my book actually became pieces...

Any way, I was invited to make an A3 quilt for a fundraising auction.    I designed a small mandala, quite simple but set on a background of small embroidered squares.    It almost gives the feeling that it was floating on the background.      Cotton fabric and mostly variegated threads were used -  all the coloured fabrics used for the mandala was repeated in the binding.    All the motifs were secured with the raw edge applique technique and the edge around the mandala was sealed by couching a commercial cotton thread.

Synergy 2014
I have subsequently designed and cut a second mandala which is for an exhibition in July.   I worked until late at night this past week, so engrossed in the excitement that sleep eluded me...   It is now ready to be stitched and I cannot wait to bring it to life....    But I can only share this one with you at the end of July, so in the meantime it will be other little things I'm dabbling with...

Sunday, 30 March 2014

30 years...

This year I'm celebrating my 30 year milestone as a quilter, half of my life so far...   It's been a long time and my love affair with fabric is still ongoing.    When I started quilting, I was instantly hooked.    One project immediately followed the next and I stitched like a woman possessed...     Every book on sale had to be bought regardless the content, magazine cuttings were carefully kept in files, fabric carefully bought and treasured.   I still have scraps of the very first pieces of quilting fabric (I don't throw fabric away), it might just be the little piece needed for another project.  Nowadays we are so spoilt with books on every topic imaginable, beautiful fabric in abundance to suit the likes of everybody, threads galore, gadgets to make life easy etc, etc.    30 years ago it was slightly different...

Nowadays I'm a much more selective shopper and invest in interesting variegated threads, yarns, all sorts of beads, cords and presser feet for my sewing machine.  It is amazing how the appropriate foot for a specific technique can make creative stitching so much easier with wonderful results.    I buy fabric very selectively as I always dip into my brush rags stock, the privilege of my own range of painted fabrics.     My stash is relatively small compared to some serious fabric collectors....!

At our monthly Guild meeting yesterday, prize winners from our Guild at previous National Quilt Festivals were asked to bring their winning quilts along for a special display.   As I unearthed quilts from the cupboard, took others off the walls in our home and brushed the dust from the prized rosettes, I realized once again how blessed I've been (and still am).   I've had this incredible journey as a quilter and the judges have always been very kind to me.   As we  hung some of my quilts yesterday, I deliberately hung them from the oldest to the latest....   Discerning eyes would immediately see the progress in my technical and design skills and I hoped that it would be encouraging to newer quilters.   The oldest one was my first protea quilt, African Heritage (see post 1994 - A Memorable Year) made in 1994, exactly 20 years ago.   It was my first entry into a National Quilt Festival in South Africa and for many years hung in the entrance halls of our homes.   It looks a bit faded and not fresh anymore, but will always be an affirmation to me that anything is possible if one tries hard enough and that one should not be afraid to follow your own path.    In retrospect, sections of that quilt now looks a bit ugly to me, but it remains special.    For me it is a reminder of where I came from in my quilting journey, very unsure in where the journey would take me, but patiently doing battle with my ideas and limited technical skills. I now see the mistakes which taught me to find better ways and do things differently - a constant reminder that it is natural to crawl before you can walk or start running...

I've been toying with the idea of sharing the the story of my first creative wallhanging which I made for Elizabeth's room in 1985, she was 2 1/2 years old at the time - I was so proud of this piece!    Any way, in 1985 we did not have all this lovely quilting products available to make life easier that we have today...    I did not have applique paper (or know about it) to fuse the motifs to the background!    I tacked every motif to the background by hand using little bits of leftover threads to empty the reels in a variety of colours.   I also started the tacking with big, fat knots!!!    It took me days to finish the satin stitching and oh dear, then realized that not all the tacking was covered with the stitching...    I spent many hours with the tweezers pulling all the tacking out, but it was a good lesson learnt!   I also decided that it was not necessary to quilt it -  maybe I was in a hurry to start another project...    But I actually think I did not have the skill to quilt it - at the time I only knew how to quilt in the ditch with crochet thread!   I did not even know quilting thread existed, neither finishing off a quilt with a binding or that a sleeve was needed at the back to hang a quilt from...!

Elizabeth's farm quilt made in 1985

Nowadays quilters see the likes of me and see prize winning quilts and the accolades...     They feel intimidated by the "name" and the standard of the work on display, the same as I felt 20 - 30 years ago in the presence of the top quilters in South Africa ....   My reason for sharing the story of my first wallhanging?    It is a reminder that some time ago, I knew just about nothing about quilting!   This piece was also my tentative baby steps in designing my own quilts.   But with spending many  hours behind my sewing machine, I somehow got better at it...!     

As South Africa's famous golfer Gary Player said:  "the more I practice, the better I get...!"

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Time out...

It has been a long time since I've written a post as I took time out to do other stuff...   I was shunted out of my studio as Jopie took it over to complete his architectural studies....  I only had limited time to check emails and important things, no luxury of write blogs...   My supporting role was extremely stressful and exhausting...   He subsequently moved out and it was time for the big clean-up as for the first time since 1982, it is now Willem and me alone at home.    As Willem is retiring at the end of this year, we also decided to do a mini upgrade to our kitchen and also painted tired looking spots all over the house...!     Even the studio worktable top  has been sanded down and resealed, waiting for action!

I realized that I will always find excuses not to do things around the house as I always have urgent quilting matters to attend to.....  I had to be very firm with myself, the house first this time!   Curtains were washed and ironed, broken things turfed out and not used stuff around the kitchen, given away.    So, at last my mind is uncluttered and ready to be creative again.  

While painting Jopie's room from top to bottom, I realized that the bed in "his" room needs a new quilt as the old one is very threadbare.   As Willem is retiring, I'm planning to make a scrappy quilt from his old ties which I have kept for "one day"....   There are still a few beauties in his cupboard, they might disappear...     It will take some time though....   More about that later in the year, I feel such a bed quilt can be a fitting memory of his working years.

In the meantime, Elizabeth has two lovely Spaniels who were rather naughty puppies...   But oh so beautiful, so one could not really be angry at them for too long....   I made two scatter cushions for her some time ago and I really liked it...   So did Abigail and Rebecca, I still don't know which one was the culprit...   The corners of these cushions never looked the same after they got hold of it, maybe the teeth were itchy...   Any way, Elizabeth and I both liked the cushions and I decided to recycle it as it was such a shame to throw it away.   However I don't like to remake projects as the excitement is gone, so it took some time to finish....   Luckily I finished those before the end of last year.  I had to unpick all the hand stitching and re-embroider it, this time on cream fabric instead of the black of the first version.    Every time I visit them, I check the cushions and am happy to report that Abby and Rebecca are now two well behaved dogs...!  

Fused squares stitched with blanket and chain stitch.
Embellished with pieces of leather, clay and wooden beads.  Hand quilted.

Fused squares stitched with blanket and chain stitch.
Embellished with leather, wooden and clay beads.   Hand quilted.

Close up of second cushion.  Some of the black stitching "slipped" a bit ...
Because the covers had inners in when I took the photographs, the designs look slightly distorted...
And the little buggers who made me repeat all the work again.....

Rebecca (left) the smooth hair beauty with curly top Abby (right), the headgirl!
Enough said!    They are gorgeous, well loved and always so excited to see me!