Tag Archives: Roz Hawker

Retreat to Tin Can Bay 2: Wonderment is only natural

The retreat seemed to me to be organised around creating the space for profoundly noticing and being inspired by the wonderful place we were in.  It was a homage to the natural world and to Tin Can Bay as a specific, special place.  And what a place it is! When we arrived, we first went out onto the mangrove mudflats.

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I love mangroves.  They grow along the coast by Port Augusta, where I spent a lot of school holidays as a child, so for me they hold many happy memories as well as hours of experiencing mangroves.  Being on them and among them, finding the shells and sea plants that get trapped in their branches and roots as the tide recedes, peeling their seeds and even burying treasure in a biscuit tin beneath a particularly special tree.  These did not seem exactly like the mangroves I played among as a child.  I realised at Tin Can Bay that I had somehow imagined all mangroves were sisters.  But it seems that they might be cousins.  There is an extended family of mangroves.

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There were many different invitations to go out into the scrub or the mud flats or the paperbarks with a small set of creative constraints or a little imaginative task. Invitations to focus closely on the wonderment that is nature, and the mangrove flats and the Wallum in particular: to be with and among it, to be inspired by it.  I was fascinated by this process.  It seemed as though others had encountered it before–but many of my companions have had training as artists and I have not. I was in awe of others’ skills and imagination.

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I love being out in the world as an ardent admirer.  Queensland is a tropical, fecund, damp place by comparison with the place where I live, which is dry and bare by comparison.  Here, fungi were everywhere. In all states of growing and decomposition.

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Springing up in all kinds of shapes and places.

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Apparently from every kind of direction.

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The variety of texture was amazing.

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There were flocking fungi and solitary fungi.

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And some extraordinary colours.

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I took many out of focus pictures of orchids and butterflies and spiders but mostly I just gazed in awe and marvelled at sharing a planet with such wonders. I found this skink basking one afternoon.

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I was amazed by soldier crabs.  I have not manipulated the colours at all.  They really are blue, with burgundy elbows and knees!  These creatures can vanish under the sand and pull the back door closed behind themselves in a very short span of time.

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There were many small wonders. There were tiny orchids and tiny plants and tiny flowers.  Because this isn’t my part of the world, I couldn’t always tell weed from wild plant. This could be a problem in other contexts, but it was quite pleasant to have awareness of environmental devastation slightly further from the centre of my focus awhile.

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There were scribbly gums!

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India says these are Eucalyptus signata–which is wonderfully poetic in itself, to my ear.

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Banksias… tree sized banksias!  I am growing prostrate banksias and the coast in my state is home to shrub sized or low growing banksias.  They are lovely. These were immense.  Even the shrubby banksias were blessed with wonderfully large leaves.  It did have me in mind of May Gibbs’ banksia men, despite my adult critique of them as caricatures of a questionable sort. Non-Australians and maybe even younger Australians should know I am referring to a book by  Australian writer and illustrator May Gibbs called Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, in which the banksia men are inevitably villains–there are no banksia women. I will let you draw your own conclusions about Australian attitudes to hirsute and dark skinned men, particularly in the period in which she was writing–the early 1900s.  If you’re curious, google images will show you what I am talking about with a few keystrokes.  Her illustrations entranced me as a child.

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There was another workshop participant who squeaked in glee at sundews–so it wasn’t just me! Insectivorous plants–some even in flower.  Wonderful.

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Roz and India offered all manner of paths into considering how we might be inspired by nature, including videos by artists speaking about or simply showing how they work.  There was the wonderful example of these two artists themselves speaking about their own ways of working and showing some of what they do and think.  And there was poetry and writing as another pathway into how other imaginations might think the natural world and our relationship to it.  Simply wonderful.  It certainly did inspire creativity in all its diversity. But as always this close focus on the natural world inspired in me, first and foremost, awe.


Filed under Natural dyeing

Retreat to Tin Can Bay 1: Things made

This last week I have been away from my day job and away from home at the Retreat to Tin Can Bay with Roz Hawker and India Flint.  What a wonderful opportunity!  I felt as though planetary alignment must have occurred when it turned out to be possible for me to get there, and I managed to get a place.  There is a lot I would like to say about this week.  There will be a little series of posts, if you would like to stay with me a while on this theme.

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I’m going to start small, with some of the things we made.  I call this starting small both because some of the things we made were small–tiny, even!  But I also say this is starting small because, as these posts from Roz Hawker and India Flint both make clear–the things we made are, in important ways, the least of it.  I was delighted to be among other folk who clearly felt the same way–that the growing of relationships and the creaking and whooshing sound of minds expanding and the beginnings of new ideas that will grow and develop and become larger and different… are so much more than these little packages of wonderment.

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Not that I would wish to trivialise little packages of wonderment in the slightest!  Naturally, there were some bundles.

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Here is one of mine as it emerged from the dye pot.

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Weeds can give some great colour on paper, clearly!  I got another lovely print from cobblers’ pegs (Bidens pilosa), a plant with very sticky seed heads well-known by all who have worn socks in Queensland.

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There were little books and little packets cunningly folded from paper.  I know I’ll be making these again.  Small, achievable acts of genius please me immensely… and I think any regular reader knows that I am completely capable of finding repetition pleasurable.

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There was coiled basketry of a kind I hadn’t tried before, shown here prior to dyeing. It was glorious to see how different people did different things with the same concept and even with the same materials.  I have had little exposure to the kinds of exercises we did some days–using a set of constraints that paradoxically demand and therefore set free creativity.  It was rather lovely to see that process work out with a group of different minds and different skills sets and personalities.

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There was drawing and playing with ink and graphite and making marks with plant materials and… so much more…

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There was a little etching on silver.

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There was the sampling of new and sometimes unidentified windfalls.

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There was a dyepot over a glorious wood fire (the smoke came in handy considering the array of insects keen to nibble on any exposed skin–Queensland would not be Queensland without critters).

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I was surprised to get a leaf print from one of the local banksias.

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And also to get green from one of the local eucalypts.  It doesn’t show as well here as it does on my new silk bag!

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This was one of my favourite things… a small collaboration  between leaf, insect and eucalpytus-dyed silk thread.

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But there was so much more… feet in the sand and the mud.  Banksias and mangroves.  The pleasure of being nourished by poetry wonderfully read and collectively created.  Admiring the creativity, beauty and thoughtfulness of my companions.  Time to play and time to delight.  Friends to make.  Leaves to be twisted into string.  And so much smiling.


Filed under Basketry, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing