posted in: country living, The Outback | 2
#doitfordolly has flooded my social media feeds the past week or two. I didn’t know Dolly. I don’t know her family. But people I care about do, and they are hurting. Hard.
Dolly took her own life last week. She was 14 years old, and the way some people spoke about her, hurt her so profoundly, she found death held more hope than continuing to live. There’s been a flood of calls to deal with bullying in the wake of her death. Which is, of course, the right thing to demand from our educators, from our communities, from one another.
As a writer, I know how much words matter. The right words here, or the wrong word there, can change the intention, the power and meaning of my writing. The words we speak are no different. They have the power to slice deep, wounding in ways we cannot see. When enough of those wounds land on a heart it can be shredded beyond repair.
There are some young women (and possibly young men) out there right now, whose words sliced through Dolly’s heart. They’ve been called bullies, which, by definition, is correct. But, would they recognise the bully in themselves? Will the people who love them recognise them as bullies? Or will they believe their words were only empty sounds, tipped out in an effort to make themselves feel superior? Perhaps they believe the old adage: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. But they can. They do. They did.
I’ve been thinking about this thing we call bullying a lot these past few days. I’ve thought about the way people comment on social media with cruel putdowns, ugly names and hateful words. About how we live in an era where all the opinion we see is carefully curated to be the same opinion as our own. We ‘follow’ people whose opinions, lifestyles, politics and experiences are the same as ours, and when we stumble upon an opposing view, many are quick to call it wrong, or stupid, without taking a moment to dig a little deeper – to try to understand – or at the very least accept that different views and opinions and experiences are all valid, all real. That those views belong to human beings just like us who have fascinating stories and history, and hearts as tender and vulnerable as our own.
I’ve thought about the times I have carelessly said words that weren’t a true reflection of what was in my heart, words that have stung – or perhaps worse. About how easy, tempting even, it is to jump to self righteous indignation when others are ‘wrong’ and we know we are ‘right’. But what is the cost? What damage are we causing others – whose stories we don’t begin to understand – to reassure ourselves we are ‘right’? How much richness and wonder do we miss out on, when we hold tight to our beliefs and leave no space to discover other points of view?
Perhaps as well as demanding that our law makers and educators do something about bullying, we can start with ourselves. Can we choose curiosity over judgement? Can we model open mindedness and acceptance to our kids and all the people watching and listening to us? Can we choose open hearted caring over gossip? Can we remember the power of our words, and choose them with care, with kindness? I’m going to start there, to #doitfordolly.

Feeling My Way In Cunnamulla

“Feeling My Way” exhibition  at the Cunnamulla Fella Centre Art Gallery
I can’t quite believe it’s been 6 weeks since this:
I’m pretty sure I promised a report on the exhibition… somewhere I seem to have lost some weeks (I do in fact know where they’ve gone, and over the next little while, I might even get as far as telling you about some of the things I’ve been up to!) But, for today, a little step back in time to Cunnamulla.
My beloved came along (it was an eight hour drive, so the company was great for a start!) I have to say, at around three o’clock on the afternoon we were hanging it all, I was overcome with thankfulness to have him. His skill, care and attention to detail with tape measure, screwdriver and ladder made me fall in love with him just a little bit more (if that were, in fact, even possible!) It’s a good lesson for those of us who are the ‘creatives’ – it’s of tremendous value to have as your sidekick, someone who has a natural inclination to practicality and order. A ‘thinker’ as opposed to a ‘feeler’; if you’re a follower of Meyers Briggs Personality Profiling. Whilst I am perfectly capable of locating my practical brain, while I’m deep in creative brain mode, it’s more of a stretch. I learned some very interesting things about myself out there!

But, enough about me already! The gallery space at the Cunnamulla Fella Centre is, as you can see, just beautiful. It’s a fabulous facility; part of the centres museum – which is brilliant and well worth a look as well.
The staff – Carmel, Sally, Courtney and Mike were everything you’d ever hope for – friendly, helpful, kind and fun!

It was great to meet a few locals while we were there, and I was super excited that sales on opening night were beyond my wildest imaginings!
We had three nights in Cunnamulla, and the recount wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to Pieta and Pitisi at the Club Boutique Hotel . Have you ever had a vase of fresh roses on the bedside table in your hotel room? That’s just one of the things these girls do in order to make their guests feel welcome. It truly felt like coming home to our family at the end of a day. We discovered Pitisi has a great appreciation for tractors – and my art work – which enamoured her to both of us!
Thanks so much to everyone at Cunnamulla – we had a wonderful stay, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how my fist solo exhibition turned out. 
If you’re out that way, you still have a couple of weeks to see it – it closes on the 24th May. While you’re there, would you say hi to everyone for me?

Cunnamulla… I’ll See You Soon!

In a month, I’ll be off to Cunnamulla! A town in South West Queensland, which I have never visited, to hang an exhibition in the Cunnamulla Fella Centre Art Gallery. I’m a bit excited, a bit nervous and kind of busy.
Some of the pieces that will be getting loaded into the car:
Keeper of the Mystery 101cm x 76cm
Acrylic, tissue, oil stick, lace and pencil on canvas
© 2013 Tracey Hewitt
If you’ve been visiting here for a while, you’ll know that the human face is not something I generally look to for subject matter. Keeper of the Mystery certainly didn’t start out with any intention of a person appearing, yet, as it evolved, she insisted on making an appearance! (My family of practical males are bewildered when I suggest that an ‘inanimate’ object like a painting  might be telling me secrets, or what is to happen next…but, that’s how it works sometimes). And, I have to tell you – she knows the answer to all those questions that we mere mortals struggle with. But, no matter how hard I look into her eyes and plead with her to share them with me – she doesn’t. You see, she’s not called the Keeper of the Mystery for nothing!
I’ve been having a great time with resin, as well. This lovely ring (I keep wondering if I can, in fact, bring myself to part with it? I LOVE this) has a bunch of tiny millefiori glass pieces set in it. How cool would this look with your jeans and favourite white shirt?

My awesome framer, Les Rigby, is currently weaving his magic with this piece, as well as a number of others. This is a concoction of woven felt strips that had all sorts of goodies applied which was then dry felted with a machine felting technique. Have to give a shout out to my sister here – that triangular piece in the top centre was in fact one of her earrings in 1986. ( If you hang onto something long enough….)
This one is in need of a name – any suggestions? Coming up with suitably engaging names for a number of works is just one of the things that will be keeping me busy over the next month. (Containing my excitement about the wedding of our middle son is another – but that’s a story for another day!)
Do you know anyone in Cunnamulla? I’d love you to share with them that the exhibition “Feeling My Way” will open there at the Cunnamulla Fella Centre Art Gallery on Friday 5th April from 6pm; and I’d love to meet them!

Blackall – A Cultural Community

As promised, here’s a peek at the Blackall Cultural Association’s Centre, where I recently taught a couple of workshops. This terrific building is a great venue; with a good sized workshop space, a number of smaller rooms that are put to very good use as, among other things, a library, a dedicated patchwork and sewers space – even a lounge room and enormous kitchen. Also, there is accommodation for a number of visitors. I was lucky enough to get the double room with my own bathroom…very comfortable and cosy. The building was once a hostel for students who had to live in town to attend school. It’s been taken over by the Cultural Association – a very busy and dynamic group, from what I could tell! While I was in town, they had a circus workshop and performance travel though, and the day after I left a Youth Orchestra arrived. There’s plenty happening in Blackall – including these fabulous sculptures…
Jill took me for a tour of the towns art…impressive! Richard Moffat visited and as an artist in residence created this incredible eagle and nest from rusty, abandoned junk from peoples dumps. She sits metres in the air, surveying the river and quietly being just awesome…(Some of Richards work can also be found at The Priory at Bingie) Click on the photo for a better look at her body, which has been constructed from the blades off some kind of farm implement…very clever! (I’m secretly in love with this eagle, and want one for my own backyard! I’m not sure that any of the fellas around here were too enthusiastic when I suggested they give it a go though! Apparently they’re more fond of chasing cows.)
Then there’s this! A huge spinifex ball. All rusted wire wound just like the spinifex, sitting in the open a few hundred feet from the highway…as you can see, it looks magical in the evening light. I believe the original intention was for the ball to sit in the longer grass, but the local authority has cleared around it and put a road right up to it…which I can understand, I guess lots of travellers were hiking across the flat to get a better look – probably seemed sensible…but wouldn’t it be cool sitting nestled in the grass?
There were other pieces of inspired art too…my favourite the horse, rider and beast sculpture. The body of the horse was created from pieces of driftwood collected from the Barcoo River. It is a very skillful piece of work…such a pity that I wasn’t a very skillful photographer! I discovered too late that I had changed my camera settings and the photos were all horribly overexposed…We live and learn. It’s just one more good reason for you to make the journey to Blackall – so you can see it for yourself!

Down the road from Blackall, you’ll find Barcaldine (if you drive for about an hour…and don’t do it early in the morning or late in the evening; the kangaroos are out on force at daylight and dusk. Didn’t think you’d want photographic evidence of the way the combination of kangaroos and vehicles looks on the side of the road!).

These photos are taken at the Tree of Knowledge in the main street of Barcaldine. A significant site,for over a century, the tree died (under somewhat suspicious circumstances) and this structure has been built over and around the remains of the tree, recreating the feeling of being under it’s canopy. It’s quite clever, but I have to confess to feeling just a little uncomfortable underneath it – all those pieces of timber are free to swing, and you get a sensation that they could fall…I kept telling myself that as they built it they would have been very careful not to let that happen…but still…

I hope I’ve given just a little taste of the ‘Outback’…it’s funny, really, no one seems to really be sure where the famous Outback begins! There are doubtless residents of Blackall and district that would say the Outback is further out than that, but, for my money, you’re getting pretty close. I have visited  that area, and much further west than that, a number of times; and while it’s a long way between towns, and maybe not the most picturesque landscape, there is a beauty about it that I haven’t found equal to anywhere. The sunrises and sunsets are especially breathtaking – open sky as far as you can see, they’re pretty special. I hope one day, you’ll have a chance to experience it for yourself!

Teaching – A Wonderful Way To Learn…Blackall Style!

Meet Jill. It’s all her fault. She’s the one who tracked me down and asked me to do a couple of workshops in Blackall. I have to wonder if it really is OK to get paid for having that much fun! She’s also the one who patiently directed me to find her home in the drizzly rain (that took three separate phone conversations, at the end of which, I’m certain she was worried she’d employed a complete fruitcake!…I did struggle with the ‘head west ‘ direction when there was no sun out though! We had a good laugh about it all later…) Jill looked after me SO well! I enjoyed wonderful food and hospitality throughout my stay. My ‘flat’ at the Cultural Association Centre (which I’ll do a post on soon) was very comfortable, and everyone I encountered in this lovely town was remarkably welcoming. There is much to tell you about the trip, so there’ll be more photos to follow, including the fabulous sculpture dotted around the town and the great Cultural Centre facility that this creative community puts to excellent use.
While this isn’t a great photo, it gives you an idea of the size of the workshop area – this was once the dining room in the days the centre was a student hostel. The girls are busy exploring different mediums, making beads, silk paper, textile bases…we managed to make a lot of mess while they created some very cool little pieces!
Lisa is Jill’s daughter. I seem to remember her suggesting she hadn’t sewn much…I think I must be mis-remembering, because she powered on and produced a couple of gorgeous scarves on soluble films. The one she’s working on here ended up very lacy and light – a perfect summer accessory! (Clever girl, this one.)
In fact, they were all clever girls! Above, Penny and Jenny show off their creations, along with Robyn and Yvonne below… I was fascinated that at the end of the workshop, their scarves – that had been started the afternoon before –  all matched what they were wearing very well!
Jill had finished two scarves by ‘modelling’ time, and Lisa’s lacy one is off drying on a railing while she has her picture taken.
My greatest hope is that these terrific ladies enjoyed the workshops as much as I enjoyed being there!  As is always the case, when I head off to teach people something new, I learn such a lot myself…watching these girls pick up the techniques I was sharing with them, and taking off to use them in their own unique ways was fascinating to me – they instinctively did things that I have never thought to try – like including wool tops in the scarf, that we washed the soluble out of with boiling water! I have always avoided that on the assumption that the wool would felt…Yvonne’s didn’t, and it created a lovely warm, thicker scarf – perfect for those cold Blackall winters! Of course, we were very careful not to agitate it too much as we washed out the soluble.
Thank you to each of you for your warmth, hospitality, thoughtfulness and interest (including Veronica and Sandra, who weren’t available for modelling shots on Sunday afternoon.)
Stay tuned over the next few days for more about beautiful Blackall on the Matilda Highway…home of the Black Stump (which Jill tells me isn’t the same black stump, in the same location, that was in the back of the school yard when she was a child!)

Sing Me Your Story…the final part of It Starts With An Emu

 While this is technically the end of the series following the development of these pieces; I’m going to take a minute to slip back to the beginning…although, at the time, I didn’t realise it was the beginning. Confused yet?
The images above are of the Devils Marbles in the Northern Territory. These marble shaped granite rocks are dotted over an area of about 1800 hectares, balanced on one another in seemingly impossible formations. The traditional owners, the Warumungu people, share the creation stories that tell of these rocks being the fossilised eggs of the Rainbow Serpent. The Aborigines have songs that record a great deal of their culture – their stories – which are handed on through song to following generations. Walking among the devils marbles, you come across an information sign which tells of the belief that spirits inhabit this area; that they coax the children in to visit with them and never let them return to their families, and that the people have ‘forgotten the song to sing the children home’. It’s a little chilling. And, after wandering among these remarkable rocks for a while, losing your way once or twice, it is easy to imagine that thousands of years ago – when there weren’t thousands of tourists tramping around every year – that little children would run off playing, become lost and simply vanish!

A couple of weeks ago I started to share the creation of these pieces with you. We left off with the background of this one in a condition I was very happy with, and waiting for the strong focal point it needed to tell it’s tale.
I settled on a black dimensional paint – called Xpandaprint – applied with a rubber stamp. This stamp has a series of oval shapes and wavy lines that reminded me of the Northern Territory – especially the Devils Marbles. When heat is applied (with my trusty heat gun) the paint bubbles up and becomes lumpy and crusty and delicious! Perfect for the application of a very careful and gentle rubbing of gold gilding wax.

Sing Me Your Story 13cm x 18cm
© 2010 Tracey Hewitt
All that remained was to tear some more map pieces with the words sing me your story written on and apply them to the canvas. There is something about the power of a song – think of nursery rhymes and even those awful commercials that you will never forget the words to – handed down through generations to help a culture remember, that speaks to my soul.
Thanks for following along with these little canvases – I’ve enjoyed sharing them with you and have loved the comments some of you have shared with me!
They are, as I write, in their new homes in Indiana…And, if their new owners happen to visit here – I hope you like them!

It Starts With An Emu, Part 2

When I left you last time we talked about these canvases, I was off to add some more layers. First up was more paint. A lovely deep, rich red went over both pieces, a little heavier at the bottom than the top, sponged up in places with a scrunched up paper towel.
While they were drying (is anyone else as impatient as I am about waiting for paint to dry?!), Ernie’s photo got a bit of Photoshop treatment – nothing too tricky, a quick change to black and white and a bit of cropping were all that was needed. He was then printed onto TAP (Transfer Artists Paper) and ironed onto the canvas. The light coloured residue wasn’t blowing my frock up, so that was quickly scratched off, painted over and gotten on top of! Ernie, however, was pretty much exactly as I hoped he’d be. The next challenge is to get the rest exactly as I want it! (which proved to be a challenge, but you’ll have to wait for part 3 to discover what happened there!)
The second canvas was telling me it wasn’t feeling it for Ernie…it had the ‘desert’ feel happening though, and what it was telling me was it wanted to talk about those spirits and lost souls inhabiting such soulful places as the Devils Marbles, Uluru and Kata Tjuta (Ayers Rock and The Olgas). The addition of a little stamping in walnut ink on the tops of the torn paper pieces and a stencilled spray of Starburst Stains across the surface, and this one is right on track. All we need here is a focal point…hmmm….Stay tuned to find out how this ends!

It Starts With An Emu

Welcome to the first in a series of posts about a couple of canvases that are destined to travel with my Dad to Indiana, as thank you gifts for his hosts when he visits Clown University (There’s a whole other story there isn’t there?!)

Dad has requested a couple of uniquely Australian artworks, so, with a long plane trip and limited space in mind,I’ve decided to work on a couple of light, small canvases.

While Ernie the emu here is not populating a terribly impressive photo, I think he’ll make a presentable transfer…so that’s my start point.

The canvases are primed with a coat of gesso, along with the last of the ‘altered book collaboration’ books, which I hope to be showing you soon, as well! (It’s tiny!)
Now, I share this in the spirit of discovery and exploration…I really dislike how this is looking just now (not to mention how completely lame the writing is!), but my expectation is that when it’s done, the writing will be mostly obliterated, and just the odd hint of it will remain. First, a layer of acrylic paint in this lovely warm rich colour, which should glow through the subsequent layers.
Canvas number two is receiving a slightly different treatment…torn scraps from an old Australian map, again with a coat of acrylic paint in that perfect colour (at least, I think it’s perfect for what I’m shooting for).
I’m heading back to the studio now to add some more paint and layers – I think I’m aiming for a hot, desert-y, outback feeling in these pieces, and as I’m working on them, I’m remembering all we learned about aboriginal culture during our trip to the Centre…in particular that they have songs for so many of their stories, laws and customs; and that they’ve lost the song for singing the children back out of the “Devils Marbles”, which is another story for another day.