The importance of the environment and journeys into it

My earliest memories as a child in Malawi were of a beautiful garden bordering a tea estate, a jungle of growth, and the majestic Mulanje mountain as the backdrop. It was isolated and very rural. Later my family moved to Zimbabwe, where my family farmed. Once again, I was surrounded by a beautiful garden moving into the natural landscape of trees, grasses and huge rocky outcrops that we children climbed with great joy. When I arrived in Australia, with my family of two small babies, we were posted to a remote one teacher school. The vastness of that part of Australia (in the far west of New South Wales), the flat, never-ending outback landscape, the immense sky, the dryness were a stark contrast to my previous lush landscapes. All these experiences have contributed to my love of and engagement with the natural environment and my response to it.

It is this particular interest in, and high regard for, the environment that has led me to so often working with carefully foraged leaves, seeds and flowers in my art practice. The magic and alchemy of plant matter and boiling water and their interaction with fibres and fabrics is a gift. I am always surprised and delighted when I unwrap the parcels and discover the beauty that has been transferred to whatever textile I have immersed in the dye bath.

I then allow these diverse pieces of dyed fabric, thread or paper to dictate to me how they can be utilised or embellished to create a finished piece.

More often than not I do not have a visual concept of the final outcome. My work is frequently an experimental process. I allow the fabric, marks and colours to dictate the process. I usually work on more than one project at a time, and I react to the changing surfaces, the ways in which I add layers, or contrasting textures as I slowly stitch. I respond to the accidentals, the colours and the tactile quality of the materials. There is a rhythm and feel as I stitch. It is so very meditative.

This is a journey I take every day. All of us have a range of journeys in our lives. We grow up and move to another place. Or we go on holidays near and far. Our lives change as we may marry or have children. We may experience a range of emotions as we journey through our lives. For me, my journey is absolutely fundamental to my artistic practice. The complexity or the simplicity of what I do is a journey of exploration. The process is the pleasure of this journey.

The value of creativity, of ‘doing’, is invaluable to our mental health and well-being. During this last eighteen months and the pandemic I have been so grateful to be able to spend time with my creativity. My work has been stimulating, exhilarating, at times frustrating, but always a pleasurable and fun activity.