Summer in the ‘Bool

I won’t tell you that thousands congregated down in Victoria’s whale capital for the Diploma of Visual Arts – Tapestry summer ‘camp’ – but we were certainly a respectable gathering of both off- and on-campusers from all the diploma years and from all across the country – and it was, of course not the right season for whales. Which was as well as it gave us time to do some work. There seemed to be workshops in, well, actual weaving of course, starters, advancers, historical copiers,  and technical samplers, And in design, business matters – and a printmaking workshop.

Though the Centre for Creative Arts Building has been open quite a while now,  it has no air-con – and the weather, to put it mildly was  b l o o d y  hot. So we did the weaving material in the main building  – and a weaving session there looks like this ( though this is last year’s group in the photo):

weaving at camp

We moved back to the Arts Building for the printmaking. We tried monoprints, using acetate sheets as the plates.

First up – a reduction print – remove the ink directly from the plate with whatever takes your fancy, then press the paper to the plate:


This is of course  a positive of the plate, but reversed laterally.

Then we moved on to the transfer method – the paper is placed on the inked plate and then drawn on – the ink adhering to the parts pressed down by the drawing tool(s):


Above is the actual print. Below is the reverse side of the paper where I drew the image  (with pressure and some hand rubbing).  My drawing and the print are both positive – though the drawing does not show the hand-rubbed areas, but the print is laterally reversed. The plate is oriented the same as the drawing, but becomes negative to it. I was clearly confused over the reversal – my signing is on the wrong side! Here is the drawing:

leaf original

Calling the plate the negative, with transfer monoprints there are three options:

1. The plain transfer – the print is positive, and laterally reversed

2. The “ghost” print – laying a second sheet on to the plate after the first print has been pulled, and        pressing it down – gives a negative print laterally reversed, and

3. The ‘double print’ – laying a new sheet of paper over the damp first print and pressing, gives a            positive print not laterally reverse – or as a truth table:

                                                                        colour                                           reversal

plate                                                 1                                                         1

print                                                0                                                        0

ghost                                               1                                                         0

double                                             0                                                        1

From there we skipped making a direct monoprint – drawing the image directly onto the plate – and moved onto intaglio prints – again using acetate sheets which we disfigured with various sharp tools ranging from  orthodox burins to ground nails. We discovered that using newsprint can be as effective in wiping the plate surface clear of ink as traditional tarleton. I have found a web post which suggests organdy silk as a longer lasting substitute.   We each attempted to pull several prints off our plates:

tulp1 tulp2 tulp3






Intaglio is fun – but what if you have no access to a press? Well, see this blogpost which will solve the problem IF you are a very very patient person:

After that we looked at a couple of already prepared collographs – a plate made by pasting onto a cardboard base other pieces of whatever, and treating that as a relief print – inking it and printing using a press – I guess it would be possible, but difficult, to pull a print by hand.

Oddly enough, after seven hours or so there wasn’t time to start actually doing a lino cut though we did watch a detailed presentation by Silkcut on the methodology. I took my design away with me to be worked on later:


And now it is on to the dreaded three-part technical sampler – watch this space!

Warrnambool Tapestry Camp – summer 2013 (that’s January in Oz!)

We (my wife came down too for a week’s break) decided to use our seniors’ vouchers and get to Warrnambool by train and bus – and that would let my wife get to see the countryside for a change rather than concentrating on the road while she drives (I don’t drive – really). Flat basalt plain stretching westwards. Nobbly rocky chunks with stone strewn paddocks and hand-built  sharp edged stone walls. Ideas for compositions in sandy ochres and orangy reds…

I was surprised at the way Warrnambool seems to eat out a lot – at a number of very decent little cafes and restaurants like Figsellars, Images, Java, Logan’s, Brocky’s – it’s clearly no disadvantage to be in the country theses days!  The cafes were useful on the several days that it was both cold and rainy! And all roads lead down the hill to the Tafe College (Technical and Further Education) – which is a mix of preserved beautiful old buildings and the very new and refurbished:


Tapestry has just moved back into this central campus after a number of years’ ‘banishment’ to the Deakin University campus a at Sherwood, out of town. Not everything is fully set up yet – so dyeing will be deferred till later in the year.

It was great to meet tutors face to face for the first time – Cathy Hoffmann, Jude Stewart, Karen Richards and Sue Ferrari.  Cathy showed us a couple of her middle sized pieces including the Lake Mungo one (and in the library I found the brochure about her work on the Ballarat University tapestry).  Jude introduced us to the HUGE one of the bay that she worked on way back when – it’s hanging in the Lighthouse Theatre – and she also showed us the long historical strip tapestry she worked on, at Flagstaff Hill.

The four of them  presented, demonstrated and oversaw work on colour, drawing and mark-making ( this was a new area to me – mark-making – very great fun), history – and of course weaving:

Warrnambool weaving

As you can see, there was a variety of frames both wooden, metal, and combinations…

And then one met  fellow students. There were five first year, three second and two sixth – a good mix.  When you are face to face it is so easy to ask those little questions which seem to be too small to bother people with when you are away off-campus –  then when you do ask them it can lead into a discussion which illuminates several useful areas. And actually seeing how a professional does even little things – like holding the bobbin – and suddenly a light flashes!

As I noted before, we were doing a lot of other stuff than weaving, but even so all the first year seem to have done more than half of the first sampler – and none of their circles were squashed eggs. In second year, what with choosing the segment of historical wave we were going to do, making cartoons and warping up with 9 or even 6, we only got to doing most of the hem – we are hemming and not braiding.

The library catalogues and some material is available to us on-line, and the Tafe will send us books if we need them. Great.

A local wood-turner, Judith Sharrock makes and sells plain and brass-tipped bobbins (15 and 17 cm) for considerably less than one can get them in Melbourne!

All in all, this was a very rewarding experience and I look forward to the next one, even though it will probably be much shorter – a couple of days concentrating on dyeing.