Featured artists profile – Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation

Our featured artists for May are from the Warlukurlangu community in Central Australia. Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation is a community owned and run organisation representing artists from the remote desert Warlpiri communities of Yuendumu, Nyirripi and Yuelumu, which are located in the centre of Australia, 290km northwest of Alice Springs.

Warlukurlangu’s aim is to share and promote Warlpiri culture, to promote greater understanding of Aboriginal culture and to support local community projects  such as the Yuendumu Community Swimming Pool, the Kurdu Kurdukurlangu Childcare Centre and a scholarship fund supporting Aboriginal students studying medical and health related degrees at the University of New South Wales.

Joy Nangala Brown

Warlukurlangu is one of the oldest and most successful Aboriginal community-owned art centres in Australia. It has been owned and run by the Warlpiri and Anmatyerre people of the Yuendumu community since 1985. Works by Warlukurlangu artists are held in galleries and private collections around the world.

Ursula Napangardi Hudson

Warlukurlangu artists’ paintings act as ‘Dreaming tracks’ or maps and explain where and how features such as mountains, rocks and water sources/soaks were created. The paintings reflect and interpret the landscape (including the sky), birds, animals, plants and rocks – all full of significance and cultural meaning. Landscape features such as mountain ranges, valleys, soakages and rivers are seen as the result of ancient events and battles.Justinna Napaljarri Sims

These paintings do not reveal secret knowledge: they  share a certain level of knowledge that anyone is allowed to have access to. In keeping with Aboriginal laws, the artists reveal only a small amount of knowledge to the uninitiated. Artists talk of two broad levels of interpretation, the “inside” stories which are restricted to those of the appropriate ritual standing, and the “outside” stories which are open to all. Painting is an important way of passing on knowledge from Elders to the younger generations. Before Western paints and materials were introduced in the 1970s, Aboriginal people would draw in the dust, make petroglyphs and use ochre to decorate their bodies, tools and rock formations such as caves (rock art).

Alice Nampijinpa Michaels

To see more of these incredible artworks by Warlukurlangu artists, go to the Warlukurlangu catalogue or contact us if you are in Rome to visit the gallery. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram feeds as we feature more artists throughout May.

[Information used with kind permission of the Warlukurlangu Aboriginal Artists Corporation. Copyright of all artwork and text remains with the artists and Aboriginal traditional owners and is administered on their behalf by Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation.]

Kimono fabric and alpaca fibre in the shop!

We’re adding craft supplies to the Counterweave shop! You can now buy vintage Japanese kimono fabric by the yard or in pre-cut packs. At the moment there are four types of kimono fabrics available.

There is also beautiful soft alpaca fibre in deep black and cream. Sold in packs of 100g  simply type in how many lots you want – if you want 400 grams put 4 in the quantity box.

And there are three lots of my handspun paper, perfect for mixed media work, shifu weaving or to incorporate in your next special project.

Little Weavings workshop with Mary Burgess

We’re very excited to announce that Counterweave artist Mary Burgess is coming to Rome and has offered to teach her Little Weavings workshop. Mary is an acclaimed Australian artist whose work we are featuring throughout April. Mary’s exhibition Woven Memories was held at Counterweave in July 2017 and we are very pleased to welcome her back to Rome.

Explore the creative possibilities of weave using a little loom and found and recycled materials through a three hour workshop.

Using a little cardboard loom you will keep at the end of the workshop, we will weave with a wide range of textures. These will include things you bring, plus silk, mohair, wool, paper, old photos, and raffia that will be provided. You will be able to explore both the weaving process and the possibility of different products. Even on a tiny loom it is possible for a beginner to create a little wall hanging or a neckpiece, a brooch or a little bag. Lots of unexpected effects can be created through weaving unusual materials together. There will be lots of yarn and scraps of beautiful silks available. Please also bring anything you would like to experiment with. The little weaving you make may stand alone, become part of a series or become incorporated into other art works you are developing.

Little Weavings workshop with Mary Burgess

Saturday 8 June 2.30 – 4.30pm.

Counterweave Arts Gallery & Workshop

Via Tor De’ Conti, 22

Rome

Min 2, max 10 students.

Cost: €45

Please let me know if you have any particular dietary requirements or allergies.

Featured artist profile – Mary Burgess

Silk neckpiece

We are delighted to feature Australian artist Mary Burgess during April.  Mary is a hand weaver based in Melbourne, Australia. We were very proud to stage Mary’s exhibition ‘Weaving Meaning’ here in Rome in July 2017, which featured some of the works from her Woven Memories project.

Mother Rug, part of the Weaving Meaning exhibition, Rome, July 2017.

As part of Woven Memories, Mary works with people who have kept precious clothes, fabric, scarves and buttons, often when a family member has died. Collaborating with individuals and family groups she takes apart and then re-works their loved items through the medium of hand weaving. Mary creates unique keepsake pieces such as baby blankets, bedspreads, throw rugs and scarves. These new pieces nurture and comfort and continue to hold memories of loved family members and special times.

Woven Memory project in progress

We have a number of Mary’s incredible pieces of wearable art in the Counterweave collection. As well as necklaces made from vintage Lyon silk, we have some of Mary’s very special talisman pouches, woven from eco-dyed silk and often incorporating found objects like parrot feathers and special sticks from Mary’s travels through Central Australia. You can buy Mary’s pieces through the Counterweave Arts online shop or contact us if you are in Rome to visit the gallery.

Talisman pouches

Australian hand weaver Mary Burgess in her Melbourne studio

 

2019 spring workshops

Small group workshops or private lessons. Book by clicking on the photos, or email me for more information.

13 & 20 April Knitting for Beginners  – if you’re new to knitting or just starting to find your way.

27 April & 11 May Meditating the Spindle – learning to make your own bespoke yarn

18 May Eco Kitchen – learn to make beeswax wraps, handmade dishcloths and tips for making your kitchen more eco-friendly and less plastic-y!

Meditating the Spindle Masterclass for Artists – a one-on-one immersive workshop for artists. Tailored for your practice and curiosity, there’s a lot of experimenting and fun! Email me to discuss your needs and to make a date.

 

Meditating the Spindle Masterclass for Artists

I had the pleasure of working with ceramic artist Kirsten Stingle in a Meditating the Spindle Masterclass. Kirsten was here in Rome for a month-long residency at CRETA, an international centre that promotes ceramics and visual arts. Kirsten uses mixed media in her practice and was keen to explore using fibre.

As well as mastering the art of using a spindle with wool and silk, we experimented with incorporating feathers, silk loom waste, and cotton thread. For artists spinning your own materials can be freeing and lead to all kinds of happy discoveries. There are so many ways you can combine colours and textures to create something unique to use in your work.

In a Meditating the Spindle you get to work one-on-one with me for six hours over two days. You will start to get an idea of what is possible and how you can adapt different materials for use in your artistic practice.

You can also add extra short modules in experimental mixed media including

  • silk papermaking

  • embroidery

  • using found objects

  • spinning paper

The Masterclass can be adapted to your needs and current artistic curiosities – email me to start the conversation!

 

 

 

Featured artist – Lisa Sewards

This year we will be doing monthly profiles on all our artists. Our featured artist for March is Australian printmaker Lisa Sewards.

Lisa uses traditional printmaking techniques including etching, drypoint, aquatint, and engraving. She also explores the potential of solar plate etching. We have a number of Lisa’s etchings in our catalogue. You can see them online or make an appointment to see them in our Rome gallery.

Lisa Sewards Little Parachute Pigeon

Lisa’s work combines delicacy of touch with strong imagery and a limited palette. Her iconography reflects a preoccupation with memory, identity and loss stemming from her family’s experiences in World War 2. Parachutes, carrier pigeons and water are all recurring motifs, loaded with emotional significance.

Lisa Sewards Love is in the air

Lisa has been represented in major exhibitions around Australia, including solo exhibitions at the Port Jackson Press and fortyfivedownstairs galleries in Melbourne.  In 2018 she was a finalist in the Collins Place Gallery Summer Salon Art Prize and the 45th Muswellbrook Art Prize
Works on Paper Section

Lisa Sewards Chaos-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sock yarn success!

So, my hunt for 100% natural fibre sock yarn for my Sock Wizard Workshop was successful! As I said in my previous post, I found a number of yarns that looked good and met my criteria of

  • wool and other natural fibres like silk or mohair
  • no plastics (nylon or polyamide)
  • no superwash
  • affordability
  • minimal air miles.

My shortlist for this workshop was

All the yarns on my shortlist were 100 per cent natural wool, had good reviews on Ravelry and were suitable for socks. It was a hard decision but Bio Shetland and Isager Highland Wool from Lankakauppa TitiTyy in Finland won the day. It came down to a close finish with Blacker Yarns British Classic 4ply, but in the end the yarn from Titityy was slightly cheaper and the postage was €15 instead of £23, and it was coming via a courier instead of Royal Mail. So I knew I would get my yarn within days and not weeks. Titityy’s customer service was excellent, friendly emails were exchanged, they shipped my order the next day (Friday) and it arrived safely on Monday. I’m looking forward to buying more yarn from them, especially their Tukuwool Sock which looks luscious.

I’m keen to try other non-plastic options for socks too, so Blacker Yarns’ Mohair Blend is still on my list. I’m thinking of adding a natural sock wool page to this website – would that be a useful resource? Let me know what you think and any suggestions!

 

searching for sock yarn…

Well, to be more precise, searching for non-plastic sock yarn. Which is much more difficult than you might think. Most commercial sock yarn either has nylon added to it or is made from superwash yarn, and now I know what that means I don’t want to use them anymore. Which is a real shame because sock yarns come in great colours and cool self-striping and other patterns.

There has been an unquestioned assertion in the handknitted sock world that socks ‘need’ to have nylon to make them stronger and more resilient, less likely to wear and pill. Similarly, it’s assumed that the yarn must be superwash, so they can be thrown in the washing machine for ‘easy care’. But for the reasons I outlined in my previous post on why I choose to use wool and other natural fibres, I don’t want to knit or wear plastic and I’m happy to handwash. So, what’s wrong with superwash? After all it’s still wool, yes? Well yes, but. And the ‘but’ is what they do to the wool, so it can be put through a washing machine without felting, shrinking, stretching or otherwise being destroyed. The wool is processed by being exposed to chlorine as a gas or bath to remove the scales that give wool the slightly fluffy halo of fibres. Then it’s coated in plastic resin.  Some of the sources I consulted gave this as a two-step process (treated with chlorine then plastic-coated, others stated that superwash processing can be done with the chemical or the added plastic resin. Either way there are a lot of chemicals being used and a lot of toxic waste going into the waterways. While the end product yarn isn’t toxic to use or wear, the superwash process is incredibly bad for the environment and for the people who are doing the processing. In my book that’s worse than synthetic yarn because you have ruined a perfectly good natural yarn. You can read more about superwash yarns here, here and here.

As I’m teaching a Sock Wizard Workshop for The Bird House Panicale next month and we are absolutely committed to eco-friendly textiles, I can’t compromise my principles and give my students yarn I’m not happy to use myself.

In the meantime, I have been scouring the internet looking for the right yarn, using the following criteria:

  • wool and other natural fibres like silk or mohair
  • no plastics (nylon or polyamide)
  • no superwash
  • affordability (there are some gorgeous yarns out there but €30 a skein is a bit much for beginners)
  • minimal air miles (so far I haven’t found Italian sock yarn but I’ll keep looking and asking).

I’ve discovered that mohair or silk make a perfectly acceptable alternative to nylon. Some knitters say that using a strong, long-fibre wool like Blue Faced Leicester is adequate and can be used alone or blend with merino. Merino by itself is soft but doesn’t wear well.

So here’s the short list and I’ll come back and let you know which yarn or yarns I choose!

I would love to know what you think about nylon and superwash in sock yarns, or if you’ve tried the non-plastic alternatives and what you recommend.

I choose to use wool

My students won’t be surprised to read this. They know I always choose to knit with wool. Or linen, hemp, mohair, cashmere, or nettle fibre. What I will not use in my knitting, or my clothes for that matter, is acrylic, polyamide or any other form of synthetic yarn. I made this decision years ago mainly because synthetic fibes and fabrics don’t breathe and become hot and smell bad very quickly, which means they feel uncomfortable and they have to be washed more often. I also found that knitting with acrylic yarn felt horrible and made my hands hurt, probably because there isn’t any ‘give’ in the yarn.

Over the last few years we have become much more aware of the impact of plastics on the environment and how synthetics shed microplastics into the water system, ending up in the oceans, inside fish and reappearing in our food. When you add the fact that synthetic yarns are made from oil, contributing to our fossil fuel problem, there’s a very compelling case to avoid them.

But there is also a positive case for choosing wool.

  • Wool is a natural, biodegradable fibre
  • Wool keeps you warm in cold weather, and cool in hot weather
  • Wool breathes and wicks away moisture
  • Wool is easy to wash and doesn’t need washing as often as synthetic garments.

There are arguments that we shouldn’t be exploiting sheep for their wool. I think this is false reasoning: sheep have been bred by humans for thousands of years for their fleece. They need to be shorn regularly, or the wool becomes heavy, water-logged and a breeding ground for parasites and flies. It is cruel not to shear them. Many farmers care a great deal about their animals and are dedicated to keeping them as healthy as possible, using careful organic methods of sheep-raising.

I choose to support farmers who are trying to preserve rare breeds, producers who are trying to develop alternatives to the ubiquitous plastic. We need to support them and choose to buy their products. This has been brought home to me recently as I have been trying to find a sock yarn without nylon. And believe me this is not easy. It has become accepted that sock yarns need to have a percentage of nylon in them to make the socks more hardwearing. But there are alternatives to nylon, including silk and mohair. And of course there are sheep breeds with tougher wool that can be incorporated into sock yarn to make it more durable. Or if, like me, you don’t mind darning, you can factor that in when you knit socks and just use any 4ply or fingering weight yarn. If you want to know more about nylon-free sock yarn I recommend this excellent article on nylon-free sock yarn by Clare Devine of KnitShareLove. 

Whatever you decide to do, please make an informed choice. Do your research and work out what’s important for you. Just bear in mind that farmers and suppliers need to be encouraged to provide cruelty-free, 100% wool or natural fibre yarns. They need to know there is a demand and a market.

I’ll list some of my favourite places to buy real natural fibre yarns and some suggestions for nylon-free sock yarn. Please send me your favourite natural yarn shops too and I’ll make a downloadable list. And let me know what you think of the whole wool, natural fibre versus acrylic issue.

Places to buy wool and other natural fibre yarns

Loop London

Blacker Yarns

Great British Yarns

Maridiana Alpaca Farm

Nylon-free sock yarn

Blacker Yarns

Madelinetosh Sock

Daughter of a Shepherd

 

 

2019 winter/spring workshops

Happy New Year and welcome to 2019! My usual resolution is to learn a new skill, and for me this year it’s drawing. I like playing around with pencils and ink and charcoal but it’s not something I’m confident about. So a more methodical approach to drawing is top of my 2019 list! If learning something new is on your list too, sign up for a Counterweave workshop. Click on the images to find out more or email me at [email protected] if you have any questions.

2 February                   Knitting for Beginners (Rome) – if you’re new to knitting or just starting to find your way.

16 & 23 February       Sock Wizard Workshop for The Bird House Panicale  (Rome) – make your own cosy wool socks.

9 & 16 March               Meditating the Spindle (Rome) – learning to make your own bespoke yarn

 

Small group workshops or private lessons.