Art

Public knowledge/ private performances.

10 October, 2012

At first I wanted to draw empowering pictures but then I realised they were empty, almost lies. I’ve been avoiding my real self my whole life because I thought I wasn’t suitable. Confession is familiar, it keeps me in the dark; now I feel like it’s time to live transparently so I am drawing my secrets as if they were common knowledge.

Instagram of a pad with watercolour splotches and the text “Why would anyone choose to be ugly? Who gets to choose to be ugly?”


Watercolour and ink drawing of a fat white lady (me) in a ratty black bra and grey undies looking unsympathetic. Text says “Not for you.”


Watercolour and ink drawing of a fat white lady (me) wearing a green polka dot dress and sweating profusely, fanning herself with a notebook and wiping sweat from her brow.


Sometimes I’m astounded and depressed that we still have to talk about the male gaze.

Art

Ladies, monsters and morality.

5 October, 2012

A pen and marker drawing on transparent polymer sheets of a fat white lady with lilac hair wearing a swimsuit and sporting tattoos, with floating men and food in her stomach.


I slightly resent having to find words to accompany things I’ve drawn. I guess I draw things so I don’t have to find words. I’m trying to find a new way to express the monstrous ugliness inside me, how it is a normal/ neutral thing in my mind but a feared, castigated and hidden set of traits on a cultural level. How there are ugly things I can get away with because I am white (having straight hair that I don’t brush, being typically white and pale), and other things I can’t get away with because I am fat (dressing sloppily, not visibly reducing my fatness, taking up space). How I perform femininity in acceptable ways (I like crafts and flowers) and obscene ways (too much make up). In private spaces I am very comfortable doing my own thing in my own body, slouching, picking zits, pulling faces, sitting with my legs open, burping; yet in public spaces I am extra vigilant in policing my posture, demeanor, behaviour, and dress. I hate being uncomfortable, and I resent having to hem myself in to make other people comfortable. Surely our culture would be better off doing away with the discomfort, the niceties, the shaming, and focusing more on not being dicks to one another.

A self portrait of me with dark brunette hair, squeezing a zit on my stretch marked breast. A purse with a floral china pattern spills out to the left and around me, and a banner with “nice white lady” stretches over me. In the background is a pattern of pink and purple fuchsias, and a doily shape on the lower right.

Life

Watching as the locals pass silver balls…

4 October, 2012

It would be remiss of me not to include a lyric from Ben Fold’s “Adelaide” about the city we just got back from visiting for our niece’s wedding. We didn’t actually pass the silver balls in Rundle Mall on this trip (and it’s been over a decade since I’ve done it!) because we were in the Barossa region north east-ish of Adelaide. Sadly, this post is silver ball free but it is enriched with the soothing power of grapes.

Collage (clockwise) of blue sky through wisteria vines; wisteria flowers; and an arched window sitting in a wall covered in vines.


We went to six wineries on our day trip, but the most memorable and photographic was Seppeltsfield. Featuring an amazing range of ports that Nick partook in tasting (I stole sips) the winery also boasts 100 year old ports! We got the opportunity to smell 1910’s vintage and I swear it smelt like a sexy lady. I honestly can’t think of any other way to describe the rich perfumey scent! After elbowing in on the port tasting I’m beginning to think I may just be a port drinker after all.

Me peeking through wisteria vines wrapping around a rotunda.


Six HUGE barrels of wine, each about the size of an elephant torso.


A bottle of 100 year old port in a wooden presentation box.


Myself, standing amongst grape vines, arms outstretched and enthralled with my first encounter with a wild bunny.


We ventured back to the Barossa for the main attraction, our niece’s wedding, held in the garden of Lyndoch Hill which contains a ridiculous amount of rose plants (reportedly over 30,000!) Many of the roses were in bloom, but the bulk of the garden wasn’t and while disappointing, I’m sure it’ll look absolutely incredible whenever the roses do decide to pop out.

Jacqui and Kris surrounded by family and friends on their wedding day.


After the garden wedding was crowned by late afternoon sun peeking through the branches and the clouds, we headed up to the hall for delicious food and wine, meeting new people and singing raucously to The Righteous Brothers as we waited for our dinner! It was a lovely day to celebrate Jacqui and Kris and I feel so blessed to have been there to witness it.

Garden, Life

Perks’ Backyard *

18 September, 2012

I haven’t posted much about our new place mostly because I’m still working on it. The garden has come a pretty long way since we moved in and I may as well show you the progress!

Our courtyard garden as it was when we moved in. A small paved area bordered by a low hedge with taller plants behind.


Collage of the courtyard during process of ripping out the garden and pavers. (Also Miffy enjoying the new turf!)


We don’t have a large yard, and we weren’t fond of having the small space made even smaller by claustrophobic hedging. Miffy needed a place to go to the toilet and sun herself too! The whole yard was ripped out (mostly by Nick!) but we did keep the lovely pink camellia tree on the left hand side. The garden beds were pushed back a little on each side to allow for more grassed area.

The backyard blitz was done on the cheap: we pulled out plants on the weekends (a good thing to do because some were damaging our front fence!), recycled the tiles and sleepers into garden edging, and housewarming gifts bought our turf. We had (and still have) a heap of dirt which has been great for potting up cuttings from my mum and Nick’s mum. Sharing cuttings is FANTASTIC for getting a garden started! I never knew you didn’t really need to buy plants! (It sounds so basic, right? But I never knew!)

I have plans to put lattice up on the big fence (on the right side) and train vines up it, and to hang small pots of colour and herbs on it as well. The right side fence extends down the length of our property and could do with some softening! I hope to scour junk yards for cheap lattice – I checked on pricing at Bunnings the other weekend and discovered it’d cost $25 a piece of lattice and we can’t afford that!


I took a video this morning as I did my regular garden check up and prepared to plant seedlings given to me by my gorgeous friend Erin. I thought I’d share it here so you can see what I’ve been working on. Gardening is something I’ve wanted to do, but never had the chance; any pot plants I’d ever had died rapidly in my care so I was really nervous in the beginning. It’s nice to have things to take care of, that you can watch growing. It all seems very magical to me!

* For non-Australians, my punny title refers to Burke’s Backyard – a long running gardening show on the teev that starred Don Burke.

Art, Mental illness

~tortured artist feelings~

11 September, 2012

Illustration with purple clouds and the text “I’m so sad. What do I do with all this sad?” written in orange and surrounded by rain/ tears.


I’m really fed up with the tortured artist trope. People have said it about me since I was a teenager, and while it’s true that I am kind of a bit artistic and also depressed as fuck, the latter does not positively affect the former. If this were the case I’d be a lot further along in my artistic practice and career.

My craziness has affected me to the point where I can’t leave the house most of the time, let alone go to ~cultural events~ and network with local art people. Making connections is incredibly difficult for me. It’s not that I’m shy, I actually really resent being called shy, it’s that I am overcome with panic whenever I try to do certain social/ professional things. When I say panic, I don’t mean butterflies in my stomach. I sweat. I don’t perspire. Sweat rolls down my face, I get flustered, I forget how to form words and I get disoriented and dizzy. People don’t tend to react favourably towards a leaking, bumbling mess, and so I end up compounding panic with the fear of looking ridiculous. And so on and so forth. I only found out there was a name for this a few years ago, and it’s called Social Anxiety Disorder.

So I don’t go to art events, I don’t hang around with arty types, and I rarely get to immerse myself in discussion and critique. It’s frustrating. Every few months I descend into despair over my worth as a person who creates things, in addition to my worth as a human; but it’s balanced out by hypermanic episodes of frenzied sketching and creating. So it’s ok I guess. My psychiatrist says I might have Bipolar 2. I was put on Lamictal (lamotrigine) and for the first time I felt almost balanced, but now I am experiencing very familiar depths and all creating has halted.

This is my life since 15 and from now on, and that’s very difficult to come to terms with. I don’t wish to receive advice when I talk about my health (I want to emphasise that mental health IS health), I just think it’s important to talk about it instead of feeling ashamed. I try to talk about it, but it’s a struggle, because people’s responses pretty much always fall into one of the following:
* unsolicited advice (try this diet! meds don’t work!)
* redundant platitudes (chin up! be positive! it could be worse!)
* conversation terminated awkwardly (and usually the relationship)

So don’t do that. Thanks.

Illustration with text “Jam sandwich club” surrounded by jam splatters, a jam sandwich, jam donut, jar of jam and jam on a crumpet. A faint piece of bread is in the background.

What I am trying to do is be gentle with myself. I have started to learn ACT techniques, and it’s challenging remembering them but I’ve made a start. I wrote a list of steps I want to take towards sorting some of my drawing feelings out, and that made me feel less hopeless about my creative situation. My plan is to focus on research as well as technique, and to draw every day. Even if it’s simple.

So that’s what I’ve done for the last few days. I hope I can keep it up. These vector illustrations aren’t super slick or fully rendered but they’re something.

Illustration with two roughly cut out photos of manatees that look like they’re about to embrace with “Manatee hugs” above them.


People seem to like this one. You can download it to use as a desktop picture if you like!

For Sale

Raid my wardrobe!

8 September, 2012

Garments from my wardrobe.
“Wardrobe clear out – sizes 20-26 – if you love black you’ll love this!”


It’s spring and time for my annual wardrobe clear out! Please come check out my shop and see if there’s anything that takes your fancy.

Don’t forget you can take home a print (or two) or a necklace!

Life

Goodbye Nana

20 August, 2012

A photo of my Nana with hand drawn roses and freesias surrounding and a banner saying “Nana 1926-2012″.


My Nana died on the weekend. She has always been an exceptional woman, and an exceptional Nana. Her love and support for me and my creative work have been unflagging, and she helped me a lot with setting up my shop.

I still don’t really know what to say. I spent yesterday scanning photos and making a slideshow for her funeral. She still feels alive! I can still hear her chuckle and feel the way she’d grab my arm when she wanted me to listen to her.

Nana in 1946 at 20, wearing a cute square neck dress and a curled fringe.


She was a cool lady. You should have known Nana.

sewing

The eventual bull’s eye: Burda Style Dart Dress.

18 August, 2012

This has certainly turned into a sewing blog of late, and shall continue to be one for at least this post because I want to show you the fruits of my labour on the Burda Style Dart Dress. Firstly I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kate for sharing this pattern with me, mwah mwah! Secondly, this is a pretty good pattern but I strongly advise sewing a muslin first because I had to grade the largest size up four sizes to EU 60 instead of my regular 56. I probably could have done with the 58 but more ease in garments is a bunch comfier!

Instagram collage of pattern pieces undergoing grading and the dart dress made in polka dot fabric.


Burda made this in a polka dot fabric which is so cute, but I couldn’t find anything besides rough-as digital print cotton at Lincraft (yeh I bought some what of it?) and I’d rather have something a bit nicer with more weight. The original pattern has 18 darts, so yes it is aptly named, but I eliminated the darts at the hem because on my muslins they restricted my ability to walk comfortably. That’s the beauty of a muslin too, you can edit the pattern to suit your body as well as the way you move.

I made two dresses from this pattern, the first was a wearable muslin made out of some brown gabardine I had metres and metres and metres of, and the second was made out of purple ponte. The ponte is super soft and easy to wear, probably not the best choice for the structure in the design but whatever!

Full length photo of me (fat, white, with short blonde hair) wearing a brown knee-length dress with a V neckline, cap sleeves and darts at the shoulder, neck and waist.


The back view of my brown dress, with darts on upper bodice and top of skirt meeting at the waist.


The purple dress, staring Miffy.


The back view of the purple dress. Miffy glares at the camera.


Miffy jumping up on my knees in a blur of cute.


I have a feeling this pattern will be used quite a bit because the darts can be sewn the other way around for a less ~darty~ dress, and the neckline darts can be taken out with a bit of nifty pattern altering. I’m very glad I ended up making three muslins (including the brown dress) in order to figure out the right size for me, because it’s a good basic pattern with scope for flexibility and adaptation.

sewing

You sew and sew: don’t tell me DIY is my only option.

8 August, 2012

The mystical lower workings of my overlocker.

For interest’s sake I want to list the costs of making some of my clothes. So take for example my recent black dress.

Fatina Plus pattern – USD$4
2m ponti (50% sale) – AUD$13

Cool so that’s easily quantifiable and given a $ value. A $17 dress! Bargain! But there’s also the matter of time and access to resources.

Resources:

  • Internet
  • Printer
  • Tracing paper
  • Sticky tape
  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing skills
  • Energy
  • Ability
  • Suitable fabric
  • Sundry sewing supplies

Time:

  • Print pattern and sticky tape it together – 30 minutes
  • Trace pattern and make sizing adjustments – 30 minutes
  • Dart to princess seam conversion, cap sleeves, side panel slash – 30 minutes
  • Cut pattern, pin to fabric, mark seam allowances, cut fabric – 30-60 minutes
  • Construction – 1-2 hours
  • Pressing – 30 minutes
  • Fitting – 30 minutes
  • Adjustments – 30 minutes
  • Battling with glitchy machine – 1 hr
  • Hems and finishing – 30-60 minutes
  • Final pressing – 30 minutes

I’m a pretty competent sewer and cut corners here and there, i.e.: I rarely baste things except when inserting a zip or gathering/ easing fabric. I have no idea how to assign a dollar value to my time but that dress took around 6 hours to make. Maybe more. I can’t remember.

A less experienced sewer might spend double the time working on this dress, even more if they follow the often confusing instructions that come with patterns (and they all love telling you to baste ridiculous shit like darts.) Someone with restricted time and ability could be working on this dress for longer than a week. I didn’t make a mock up of this dress (a muslin) but I have with more complex patterns. That’s extra time and material!

It really chafes my bits when people are smart arses and suggest “oh sew your own clothes” to criticisms fat people have about the clothing they’ve got access to. It’s not a skill everyone has, it’s not an activity everyone has the time to do or the physical or mental ability to carry out without barriers.

Sketches of clothes I want to sew for myself including a button down skater skirt, a slip dress and tapered pants.


I am very privileged to have an interest in sewing that has been developed by attending a high school that taught me how to do it, and to have a family that has nurtured my sewing. My mother bought me my sewing machine, my Nana gave me her sewing cabinet, and recently my Granma gave me her sewing machine, overlocker, lots of fabric and another sewing cabinet! I am truly fortunate.

For many people though, they don’t have access to the skills and resources I have access to. When it comes to clothing for fat people, it’s slim pickings and many affordable clothes are produced overseas, sometimes in factories that have poor working conditions. Domestically produced garments, especially in Australia, are way too cost prohibitive for me. It’s a situation fraught with the tension of guilt vs class with the added bonus of being too fat to get an actual choice.

Sewing is political. It’s something I enjoy, and a skill I use to make the things I don’t get an opportunity to purchase in stores. It’s not especially cheap, especially when it comes down to time, but it can save cash money. I would never sew as a job because the honest truth is that most people can not or will not pay the true cost of a hand made garment, but then again… we’ve all got to wear clothes as per our unspoken agreement with society, so what are we to wear if we can’t pay domestic designers and machinists? Criticising and shaming poor fat people for wearing cheap clothing produced in questionable (and often outright awful) working conditions is futile because there are few other options, and telling poor fat people the last resort is to sew their own clothes is flat out bullshit.

Fashion, sewing

Another Fatina dress.

6 August, 2012

I’ve been sewing like a woman possessed by the ghost of a sewing machine lately! My Granma gave me her overlocker, machine and sewing cabinet along with a bunch of fabric so I haven’t really come up for air in the last fortnight. My initial priority was to sew EVERY stretch fabric into booty shorts and leggings but I’ve discovered how ridiculously expensive stretch fabric is so that project has been shelved.

The dress pattern pieces laid out, showing the side panels that are slashed diagonally at the waist.

Lincraft had a 50% off fabric sale so I scraped together some money to buy black ponte (and then went back to get some purple!) and made this dress based on the Burda Style Fatina plus pattern. I’d already cut a pair of leggings that were too small and got turned into short shorts, a second pair of leggings that were a little better (ugh I need to perfect the leggings pattern!) so there wasn’t much fabric left to work with. I decided to alter the pattern and converted the bust darts to princess seams, thus leaving me with three front panels that were much easier to accommodate on the fabric I had available. I also dropped the shoulder length for a little self-sleeve. Thanks to my home ec sewing classes and the internet for helping me out with the pattern adaptation skills!

The dress on a hanger turned inside out to show the seams overlocked in grey thread. The skirt is a lot less a-line shaped than this!

An outfit photo of me (fat and white with white hair) wearing a black sheath style dress with a sheer animal print button up blouse underneath, black tights, Docs and a human tooth necklace.


Some of the seams pucker a bit, I’m yet to figure out the best way to sew using an overlocker, but considering many off the rack clothes often have worse construction I’ll deal with it just fine. (I know people who are super picky about puckering seams but I’ve got more pressing things to worry about in my life, such as hastily sewing new clothes before my old ones fall apart.)

The back of my dress.


Ineffectually modeling my fake human teeth necklace. (Made out of paper clay and the dental records of my foes.)


The teeth necklace laid on a table. I’m thinking of selling these?


Another front view, with hands on hips.