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

Friday 18 October 2019

About Brush Rags...

Many followers are not aware that I also paint fabric for quilters looking for something different.  This is a very low key little business as I carefully need to manage the three legs of my quilting passion - quilt artist, quilt teacher and producing Brush Rags hand-painted fabric.  The fabrics are available from me by appointment, at local Guild meetings in Port Elizabeth, where ever I teach and at National Quilt Festivals where my dear friends from our local quilt shop Pied Piper, generously sell my fabric since 2002.   

I'm sure many of you can identify with the frustration of not finding the right fabric for a specific project.   For me personally it was also one of the frustrations of living in a smaller city/town where quilt shops were a luxury in the 1990's!  Online shopping was via the mail order era of the 1990's! 

I was working on my quilt entry for the 1994 SA National Quilt Festival and the deadline was slowly but surely creeping up on me.   To my frustration, I could not find any suitable fabric for the border section of my quilt. After thinking about this for many days, I had the brainwave to paint a piece of fabric which would be the perfect match for my quilt!  I rushed off to buy a nice quality calico, paint brushes, fabric paint and excitedly set up a painting station in my sewing room!  I was ready to paint a masterpiece that would take my quilt to the next level...!   Oh dear, I froze and could not do anything that looked remotely decent.  I had a deadline and the panic struck as I heard the clock ticking...!   After a few attempts, I managed to paint a piece which had all the right colours and effects that I needed (but it wasn't wonderful!)   It did the job and looked right for the project.  From there on I regularly dabbled with fabric paints as I enjoyed the mess I created!  Fabric painting solved my problem of finding suitable fabric for the realistic nature & wildlife quilts I created during that phase.

This piece was similar to the very first piece of fabric I painted for a competition quilt in 1994

I began giving gifts of hand painted fabric to quilting friends until one suggested that I should paint fabric to sell...   As I always love a challenge, I decided to give it a go!   Brush Rags was born in 2001 and I started selling my fabrics at the Dias Quilters' Guild meetings.   The "brush" indicates that the fabric was painted with a brush and the "rags" refers to pieces of fabric.   As painting fabric is so different to the dyeing process, I'm limited with the sizes of fabric which I paint.   Once the paint is applied to the fabric, it must dry undisturbed on the surface onto which it was painted otherwise it smudges!   That is why brush rags are only available in fat quarters as my paint boards are cut to that size.  The other problem is the length of my arms - it is a challenge to handle bigger boards.   The weather has a huge impact on fabric painting - if the atmosphere is very damp, I don't even try to paint as the fat quarters don't dry properly especially if I use salt techniques.  It is the best to dry the fabric in the sun as it dries the paint properly after which it rests in the studio for at least a week before I fix the painted surfaces and start the cleaning process.

I started off by painting simple techniques on a lovely quality of calico, some of the techniques are still part of my regular stock.   Unfortunately most of our textile factories who produced good quality calico have closed down and I had to switch to another fabric.   I chose percale cotton which is available locally.  Although the thread-count is higher than calico, the quality is consistent which is important!   Brush Rags are very suitable for raw edge applique techniques as it does not fray.

Brush Rags - the beginning...

I regularly experiment and try to produce new finishes to make it exciting for me to paint.   I introduced a few new lines this year which seems to be very popular with quilters, the highlight was when Helen Godden from Australia bought some of the fabric at the 2019 National Quilt Festival at Heronbridge and was so kind to make a video clip of the fabric to promote Brush Rags.  I usually paint a range of different finishes in the same colours.   The following swatches are some of the current stock:

4 different finishes in orange, cerise and purple.

Jade, blue and purple

Olive, purple and gold

Rust, gold and navy

Orange, cerise and red


Earlier in the year I started discharging black cotton fabric which gives very dramatic finishes.  Here are swatches of the latest batch:
A selection of discharged black fabric.

I also started rusting fabric - great fun and lovely results, but so messy and rough on the hands....  I find it difficult to work with gloves as my hands are too clumsy then!

Rust Rags - some over-painted.

The thrill of painting fabric is to see how I can transform an ordinary piece of white fabric into a piece of art...   After the whole process of washing the fabric, cutting into fat quarters, painting every piece, drying, ironing to fix the paint, washing again to get rid of paint residue and salt, ironing with the press and the final folding and packaging of the fat quarters - a labour intensive process but oh so satisfying...!   Some finishes take one or two applications of paint, others take up to 6 - 8 applications to build up the design/colour.   Because the process is so labour intensive, I made the choice to keep it small to enable me to teach quilting, be a quilter and still have a life apart from quilting!   

Sunday 21 July 2019

Price tags...

A few years ago, two friends and I visited exhibitions at the Grahamstown Art Festival and we walked in on artist Daniel Novela talking to students about his work. This man is truly one of the finest artists whose work I have had the privilege to see.  He exhibited extensively overseas to great acclaim and the price tags of his paintings reflected just that - he was successful and his work respected and appreciated by art lovers.  One of the students referred to a specific painting (with quite a steep asking price) and asked him how long it took to paint the specific piece...   Daniel told him about 25 years - the students could not believe what they heard.  He went on to explain that it had taken him 25 years to get to the point where he could paint like that...!   In short, he had put in the hours experimenting, learning and honing his art and at last he was free to paint with finesse, confidence and understanding of his creative medium.   

A friend and I recently discussed pricing of artwork as it can be rather tricky, I think most artists find this to be a huge challenge.   The process of creating a piece of art whether it is textile art, pottery, sculptures etc. is slow and requires skill, lots of patience and experience.   Added to this will of course be the costs of the materials used which artists usually purchase at retail prices...  Often items needed for the process, cannot even be seen in the finished product but it must reflect in the price tag!  For some artwork, even electricity and water consumption must be factored in which will increase the cost of an item which the buying public often are not aware of...!     

The creative process is really addictive, but realistically, what does one do with all of the art pieces?  Obviously it is a good option to sell as it helps to recoup some of the expenses and it can finance the next burst of creativity while some artists make a living by selling their art!  As I've been in a creative limbo or slumber after Siyadala, I decided to make small mandalas to sell at the Dias Shoppe at the 2018 Dias Quilters' Guild annual Spring Show to get out of my limbo!  This provided an ideal opportunity for me to create and sell original pieces for collectors of fibre art.   I must admit, I initially planned to make 6 mandalas and ended up with 10, I was having great fun and wanted to experiment with different colour combinations and once I got going, I could not stop! 

The starting point was size as my focus was on selling, it had to be affordable!   As already mentioned, it is quite difficult to put a price tag on ones work...!   Workmanship, uniqueness of piece, stature of the artist and the concept should all play a role when deciding on value of a piece.   An artist who have honed his/her art/craft for more than 30 years and have won multiple awards for her/his work, should be confident enough to factor expertise into the price tag, a lesson learnt from Daniel Novela.

I made the mandalas in pairs, using colour combinations and the selection of fabric and threads as the common "thread".   Each mandala was individually designed, fused, raw edge appliqued/quilted and certain sections were outlined with couched cording.   All the mandalas were stretched onto artists canvas which was the ideal option for a small piece of fibre art.  All the mandalas were created from cotton and silk.

Herbs & Spice 1                                          Herbs & Spice 2

Lapis Lazuli 1                                             Lapis Lazuli 2   

Tropical Summer 1                                       Tropical Summer 2

Vintage 1                                                            Vintage 2

Vivid 1                                                            Vivid 2

I loved creating these mandalas and I trust it will also give the owners great joy to own a bit of my soul.

Thursday 18 October 2018


Sometimes one word is enough to trigger a whole new design source to explore.  In 2016 while we were processing the teacher applications to teach at the 2017 Siyadala National Quilt Festival, I was bowled over by a workshop submitted by well known South African quilt artist, Paul Schutte.  The concept of the workshop was inspired by the mosaics of Gaudi.  It immediately took me back to the time my son Jopie studied architecture when the two of us loved visiting book stores to find interesting books on the old masters of architecture.   He particularly wanted to show me images of some of the iconic buildings of Antonio Gaudi such as Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Casa Batlo to name a few.  I loved paging through these books filled with images of the legacy of this very imaginative and creative soul.  My daughter Elizabeth was fortunate enough to visit Barcelona and she brought me a beautiful mosaic thimble as gift, the detail is very small (and my eyesight bad) but it looks like a mosaic lizard, I presume it was inspired by the mosaic lizard from Park Guell!

Thimble inspired by Gaudi  from Barcelona

Every year, our Transitions group focus on the work on one of the masters of yesteryear to broaden our horizons.  As Gaudi presented himself to me in three different guises already, I decided that this was the year of Antonio Gaudi, an architect by profession, but well remembered for the mosaic work he used to decorate buildings and public spaces.  Mosaics can be so easily interpreted in fibre art and has the potential to open up a whole new design spectrum.

I also came to the realization that lately, my work has become smaller in scale - often with minute pieces of fabric.  Trying my hand at textile mosaics would be a wonderful new challenge to explore.  I also realized that I started using mosaics in my work since 2013, albeit in a more rigid shape (geometric squares and triangles) such as the backdrops for the Glow and Willa quilts as explained in previous posts.

As with this kind of work, I find it easier to start off with designing on paper.  It gives one an idea of scale and proportion and how intricate a design will/can be and as bonus, it creates a pattern to work from.  The primary focus of my first effort would be to create organic spaces within a specific design which could be filled with small fragments of fabric to create a mosaic and secondary to fill the surrounding areas (background) with a pleasing fractured layout in a contrasting monotone colour palette.  The design possibilities are endless, from abstract to pictorial whatever takes your fancy.

I started with drawing a few curved lines from a random point on the paper, often using the eraser.  The first tentative lines were all erased and I restarted various times - one needs patience to create original work!  Finally I got into the rhythm and the design took me where it needed to go...!  I wanted to incorporate circles in the design somewhere and used my round quilters perspex templates...  But somehow, I lost my mojo!  I stopped using the perspex circles and reverted back to drawing free hand and from thereon it flowed as I stopped thinking about the process with the pencil in hand finding its own path.  I found that the perfect rounds of the perspex templates inhibited my creative process, all I could focus on were the red perspex circles on my paper - it was most interesting to observe that!   After I was satisfied with the main elements of the design, I started filling in the background which was almost more exciting than drawing the abstract lines.... I extended the spaces around the circles of the main design in a circular motion.  The colour palette in the extended circles would be the same as the rest of the background - this would create interest and balance with the bigger size of the curved motifs, but would not detract from the focal design. I was so taken with my design, I immediately started working on a second while I was sitting outside on the stoep, sipping a glass of red wine while Willem lit a fire for our Friday evening "braai"!   For me this was a big breakthrough as it was my first new work since the 2017 Siyadala Festival!  I felt the excitement of being creative building and could not wait to start the project.  I just knew it would work and I could not wait to get into the studio....

These two pictures were designed in two layers and had to be cut in the same way.  The fabric used for the background of the main elements, would form the grout with the fractured bits fused on top forming the mosaic pattern.    Cutting these two pieces took more than a week as some of the pieces were really just fragments and I had to use tweezers to position every little bit.  Every piece was fused onto the backgrounds and raw edge applique doubled up as construction and quilting technique.  The edges of certain sections were sealed with couched cords to add definition and texture.  I used the same fabrics for both pictures and both were blocked on stretched artist canvas to finish it off.

Mosaic #1 - 2018

Mosaic #2 - 2018

I loved creating these two pictures and cannot wait to explore further.  I used a variety of cotton, linen and silk fabrics.   Both pictures are 30.5cm x 40.5cm.  For me, blocking small pieces of textile art on artist canvas adds an interesting and perfect finish as it hangs well, it can also be displayed on an easel.  

Sunday 26 August 2018

Snowflakes etc.

I'm so busy having a good time in the studio, that I forgot to write the blog :-)   The amazing thing is that I once again realized what truly makes me content (apart from a very blessed personal life).  Being creative makes me feel so alive and energetic..., what a joy!

For me, the most important thing for a fibre artist, is the play aspect...   By playing (technically experimenting, but I prefer to call it play as it sounds more like fun), we often stumble upon wonderful ideas.   In our Transitions group, one of our members Brenda Dickeos reintroduced us to the simple paper folding and cutting technique, also known as snowflakes.   It reminded us of our childhood and art classes at primary school - this simple technique provides endless design possibilities for a quilter who enjoys pushing the boudaries.

I used the technique in the Glow quilt as well as the Bag-a-Square workshop where I used the technique to prepare tiles for certain sections.   I so enjoyed the process that I decided to make a table runner for a small side table using this technique.   I prepared 8 tiles, each using different fabrics in  neutral shades.  The continuous thread would be the one tile design. The cut out section was fused to the base of the tile with the use of applique paper, the excess of the base fabric was cut away to match the edges of the tile.

Paper Cut Tile

The next step was to prepare the border section before the tiles were stitched.   Recycled sari silk ribbon was used for this and randomly fused to the sides of the runner and roughly stitched down to the foundation fabric.   

Border section 

After the border section was stitched, the tile section was placed and fused on top of it.   The raw edges were secured with raw edge applique in a matching colour thread, this also doubled up as the quilting.   A lovely ivory shade DMC crochet cotton was couched around the edges of each tile to give it a lovely finish.   This added some texture and definition.   The outer edges of the runner was finished off with couched cords.  

Finished runner (bad colour quality!)

Paper cutting designs is a simple way of creating your own patterns.  The only complicated question is how to stitch the blocks...  I used a washout marker and connected the spaces to try and find a stitching path which will somehow add movement and interest to the block!

In a similar exercise, I cut a bigger block/tile for a cushion cover.  This was more complicated due to the size, but I'm thrilled with the result!   I used a fat quarter (border section) as colour inspiration. 

Paper Cut Cushion Cover 

After completing the stitching, it somehow looked incomplete and flat...   After staring at it for a few days, I realized that the edges around the cut out section and around the teal border, looked "bare", it needed additional work!  Because I thought it would be tricky to navigate couched cords around the edges, I decided to embroider whipped chain stitch around the teal edge and bead around the cut out design.   I had a huge packet of flat, neutral shade wooden beads which were perfect...  It transformed the entire design and I was so happy with the end result.   I used the outer edge of the motif to echo quilt the border.  

Embroidery and beading detail.

Happy stitching, hope you have time to play!