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Newsletter December 2009

Dear ALL

Dates to diarise:

  • 7-24th December 2009 and
  • 2-18th January 2010 exhibition of quilts at National Cultural Museum, Pretoria. More on this later
  • February 2010 entries for Jabulisa 2010: KwaZulu Natal artists are asked to submit work.
  • Mid May. Deadline for Website submission details to Helga.
  • 14 July - 4 August 2010 Fibreworks VI National members' exhibition at artb Belville, Cape.

  • Next meeting: Friday 26 February 2010 Jeanette's house at 9.30 for 10.

    Achievements of Members:

    As this is the final newsletter of mine, I have dedicated it to the achievements of our various members:

  • Elaine Barnard:

  • Elaine spent some time in the Netherlands recently. Here is her news:

    'During June/July I had the privilege to be invited to the Netherlands to conduct a series of workshops. I did not realize how much interest there was in quilting and Fiber art in the Netherlands. I was amazed to learn that there were more than 14,000 Quilt Guild members and that they publish a glossy quarterly magazine - Quiltnieuws. The Fiber artists published their own magazine called 'Textile Plus', which has information about Fiber art exhibitions, the latest trends in Fiber art, workshops as well as artists - an eye opener for me! I have contacted some of the artists and hope to receive report back. I am sure there is much to gain if we could collaborate with them some time in the future.

    I gave classes respectively in Houten, just outside Utrecht, and Paasloo. Paasloo is situated near Giethoorn, which is also fondly known as the Venice of Holland.

    While in the Netherlands I had the opportunity to visit some of the most wonderful art galleries and exhibitions: The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is a must for all Van Gogh fans. This museum houses the world's largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh. More than 200 paintings including famous masterpieces such as 'Wheatfields with crows' (1890). and 'The bedroom (1888). The museum also shows an extensive collection of works of art by other 19th century painters and sculptors.

    The town of Ootsmarsum is certainly worth a visit. This is where the world renowned artist Ton Schulten has a gallery, museum and sculpture garden. The town of Oostmarsum is a haven for artists and each quaint little house has a studio and shop with a wide range of arts and crafts produced there. Ton Schulten's works of art are often being reproduced in quilts, as can be seen in 'Landscape in Contemporary Quilts, Design and technique' by Ineke Berlyn. No photo can do justice to his wonderful work. He has a great love for sculpture and I can honestly say that I have never visited a town with more sculptures than Oostsmarsum. More info can be found at:

    Another highlight was a visit to the Kroller Muller Museum situated in a woodland near Otterloo since 1938. The museum is unusual in many ways. There are few museums where nature and art are so beautifully combined and include a large sculpture garden. This museum houses one of the largest Van Gogh collections in the world, with more than 90 oil paintings, including classics such as 'Terrace of a café at night' (1888), 'Bridge at Arles' (1888) and 'Country road in Provence by night' (1890) and more than 180 drawings. The whole collection was previously the private collection of Helen Kroller, who donated it all to the State.

    The Stadtsmuseum of Woerden staged an exhibition 'Uit de aarde textile en mixed media'. In this exhibition the work of Dutch artists, Els van Baarle and Cherilyn Martin and two British artists, Jean Draper and Cas Holmes, were shown. These artists used fiber as medium and the theme was: 'People and nature leaving prints in time and space'. The artists made use of fabric in layers, paper, paint, clay and in some cases even found objects. It is interesting to look at their work at the following websites:

    The Netherlands has been an extraordinary experience, especially if you are an art lover and quilter, but I must add that I found that their true wealth lies in the quilters themselves whom I had the privilege to meet and work with'.

    Thanks Elaine for sharing your visit (and websites) with us!

  • Dana Biddle

  • In your Wildest Dreams

    While we were at the AGM and enjoying our breakaway at Linda Jones' home in Plettenberg Bay, the first draft of my knitting book was being scrutinised by the Lapa Publisher's board. I got the news early on the Friday morning - the vote was unanimous - it was accepted for publication! The working title is 'In your Wildest Dreams' because that's what it was - a crazy, wild dream. I don't know yet what the actual title will be.

    I've been working on this book for a couple of years now and have travelled around the country twice, interviewing yarn makers, buying their yarn and working with it. I thought that the bulk of the work was done when I handed over the draft but having been back to see the publishers, I've realised that there is still a huge amount to do. Since there are a limited number of pages I've had to scrap some of the projects, which doesn't sound too bad except that some of those need to be replaced with projects for men, children and babies - a challenge as I have never considered knitting for those sections of our population*. I wanted to protest but decided that they know what sells books and so have accepted the challenge.

    I've also been very lucky that a number of friends have come to my rescue and offered to help with some of the projects. Linda Jones will have designs featured as will Carle, who spins and dyes sock wool and will be doing the socks. Natalia, my friend who is the resident knitting genius at Arthur Bales and often features in 'Stitches 'n Bears' will be doing a man's pullover and another friend, Renata will be doing a rug.

    Through this book I hope to encourage knitters to create unique pieces of work using whatever yarns they have available, but also encouraging them to use our local artisan yarns. Following basic instructions on the construction of projects, the reader will be able to individualize their work by using an assortment of yarns; changing colours and textures; using different stitch patterns and embellishing with beads, embroidery, tassels, braids etc. This book should appeal to knitters of all levels and will hopefully be interesting enough to encourage non-knitters to pick up some needles and get started.

    I will start sending completed sections to the publisher in January. These will be forwarded to the translator as the book will be in both English and Afrikaans. All the writing has to be completed by June 2010, which means all the designs too. The photography will be done in November 2010 and the book will finally hit the shelves in April/May 2011'.

    *Editors note: Yes Dana, you have to be politically correct these days! Not having projects for babies and men makes you out to be ageist and sexist! Personally, I never knew 'babies' could knit…

    Congratulations on a wonderful achievement!

  • Dana Biddle, Helga Beaumont and Kathy Harmer Fox

  • Some of our Fibreworks members have had work accepted in '1000 Artisan Textiles, Contemporary Art, Quilts and Wearables' which will be released in May 2010 by Quarry books. The authors are Sandra Salomony and Gina M Brown. Watch this space!
    (Let us know if you were also accepted.)

  • Rosalie Dace


    Yes indeed, after six months flying, driving, talking and teaching, I am now home again and have time to reflect on where I've been and what I've seen and heard, and how it could be of interest to Fibreworks.

    Briefly in summary, I spent a month in Australia and almost five months in America. I organized the traveling for me to teach and exhibit at various conventions and private venues. As I went along, the accents and the scenery changed, but much that was fascinating and amusing remained. What was not so fascinating or amusing was dragging suitcases through airports for 40 flights during that time! But sometimes one just has to Keep Calm and Carry On.

    The teaching and exhibiting were all at quilt conventions. While this may seem a narrow focus to some, we need to remember that quilt making forms a very large and integral part of the fibre world, ranging as it does from traditional work to my particular interest in the ever-growing field of contemporary innovative quilt art. My impressions wherever I went were of a medium that seeks to become more expressive with greater evidence of the individual artist's voice. Sometimes it stutters and stumbles where people have difficulty with the cross-over from functional craft, or with remembering that we are engaged in a visual art form, to an exploration of the medium and the opportunities it offers.

    I particularly enjoyed seeing exhibitions of contemporary work where compositions were either pared down to an exquisite simplicity, or enriched with textures that were so much more than a vehicle for clever tour-de-force technical skill. These were particularly evident to me in the Collections exhibition by the TACTile group at the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne, and at Quilt National in Athens, Ohio. Although these shows were thousands of miles apart they both demonstrated to me the attention that is still being paid to the use of hand-dyed and/or hand painted fabrics, and I was especially pleased to see continued enrichment of work with hand stitching, often large and bold adding texture and richness. It was wonderful to see Sue Akerman's exquisitely sensitive work Africa Scarified IV winning the award for the Most Innovative Use Of The Medium. Well done Sue. It is beautiful, evocative and well-deserved. Of course with any juried show, there are always works that are surprising, but I still felt privileged and excited to be able to see this biennial exhibition. Other than Sue's the works that were outstanding for me were that of juror Sue Benner, Karina Thompson, Harue Kanishi and an exquisite hand-dyed felt piece by Bonnie Wells. Equally refreshing was the surprising Eastbound by Ginny Smith made entirely of commercial cottons. Unfortunately photographs in the catalogue simply do not do the works justice. (Another reminder to us all of the importance of GOOD professionally photographed work!)

    At the San Jose Quilt and Textile Museum I was fortunate to see part of the Walsh collection of quilts on show. Jack Walsh runs a water treatment business and has several quilts in his extensive collection with water as a theme. Among the key pieces were those by Lenore Davis, Karin Perrine, Pauline Burbidge and Kyoung-Ae Cho with her inclusion of delicate slices of wood. Exhibiting or selecting works based on a theme can give both a coherence and challenge and I enjoyed seeing the extensive variety in concept and medium.

    Other textile exhibitions I saw were part of Quilting By The Lake (QBL) in Syracuse, New York and the World Quilt and Textile Show in Manchester, New Hampshire. Our Mark In Time works were exhibited at both venues and very well received, particularly at QBL where they were simply but beautifully hung. It was here that they caught they eye of Bruce Hoffman, the keynote speaker at the opening, who seemed to think they were probably the best and most refreshing work on the show. I did not see them on show in Rochester, NY but apparently they looked very good.

    The Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, NY owns QBL, and hosts various exhibitions and community projects throughout the year. One of these shows which I always particularly enjoy every summer is called Made In New York and shows a variety of artworks by artists all over New York State including painting, sculptures, and fiber. In a move that could prove relevant for us, the Schweinfurth is moving towards developing itself as a center of excellence for textile and fiber art. I felt privileged to be asked to serve on their advisory committee along with Jane Dunnewold and Ann Clark.

    I also had a show of my own work at the World Quilt and Textile Show which I called Recollections, and that along with Mark In Time, made a striking entrance to the whole show. Part of the World Quilt and Textile Show is made up of an international competition whose South African participation is organized by Odette. I was one of the judges, and as always found it a fascinating process and an opportunity for really looking and practicing analyzing skills. I was sorry there weren't more pieces from South Africa but was pleased to see Marline Turner's and Ginny Koumantarakis's work being rewarded. This is an excellent way of getting work seen, Odette organizes it, and there are monetary prizes available.

    Obviously in traveling so long, one meets a variety of people, sometimes socially, in class, or in one of those numerous airports. Where else would I meet and chat with a Judge from the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court, someone who was mauled by a Bengal Tiger, or someone who works on the repair systems for the Hubble Telescope? Having the opportunity to meet other people involved in textile and fiber work is refreshing and challenging, be they students in my classes or fellow teachers on various conferences. What I really enjoy is the opportunity for in-depth discussions and exchange of ideas between people deeply committed to the development of their medium where the line between teacher and student is often blurred.
    In reflecting on what I've seen and who I have met, I find myself walking a narrow path. Part of me wants to say: Look at what is going on, what the trends are, how the medium is being used. Of course we need and want to do that. But it is the freshness, passion and vitality of South African works that appeals. If we focus too deeply on what others are doing, we are by definition, in danger of losing that very spontaneity. So I want to end by saying simply, we need to Just Keep Doing The Work, our own individual work, not anyone else's. Of course it is wonderful, but it can be so much MORE, and Fibreworks gives us that opportunity and freedom to continue to be the committed artists we can be. For as long as I can, while I'm traveling, I am happy to continue showing our work.

  • Celia de Villiers

  • African Mêlée - St Croix Alsace, France. Celia reports back on her travels overseas:

    Ancient handcraft traditions continue as living heritage in large areas of remote Africa. The African Mêlée exhibition introduced the unusual handmade processes, fabric traditions and symbolic use of textiles on the African continent.

    The exhibition in the St Nicolas Catholic Church in St Croix Alsace, France consisted of a combination of textiles from the women of Mali using methods involving natural dyes such as mud and tree bark and fabrics from the Fula tribe in West Africa containing traditional indigo stitch-resist patterning. The Mossi tribe from West Africa presented vibrant coverings in black and white. There were colourful antique and contemporary Kente cloths from Nigeria that consist of long thin strips, traditionally woven by men and stitched together by women. There were also beautiful striped Aso-Oki and Nupe fabrics woven especially for the loose fitting smocks worn by men in Nigeria. The exhibition included examples from Ugandan artists who transform banana fibre into beautiful textiles as well as ritual garments, Kuba cloths and antique belts adorned with cowrie shells worn by royalty from the Democratic republic of Congo. From South Africa the women from the Venda language group contributed Mincekas decorated with gold safety pins. There were beaded dolls and jewelry from the Ndebele tribe living in the rural areas outside the city of Pretoria. A number of richly coloured hand-woven cloths from Morocco and appliquéd tent decorations from Egypt were also on display. The amusing Kanga cloths from Zanzibar in East Africa depicted the transmission of personal, political and cultural messages.

    In addition the curators commissioned selected South African fibre-artists, quilters, beaders and embroidery collectives to create significant artworks depicting their traditions, heritage and rituals especially for this 15th European Patchwork Meeting. Many of these artists excelled themselves by presenting work that the audience found totally compelling. According to ticket sales there were 20,000 visitors. Numerous viewers returned to the show several times and the visitor's book overflowed with compliments resulting in some viewers expressing their appreciation in a visitor's book belonging to the church!

    Celia also gave a lecture at the 15th European Patchwork Meeting St Marie-Aux-Mines, Alsace, France. 17 - 22 Sept 2009. Here is the introduction to her lecture:

    'Textiles play a significant role in African social life and rituals. Because large areas of Africa are very remote the people living there have guarded and upheld rich ancient handcraft traditions. Weaving, dyeing and embellishing cloth in unique ways is an intrinsic part of lifestyle in these rural areas. This lecture aims to elaborate on the quaint traditions, symbolic use and delightful narrative qualities contained in textiles from various tribes on the African continent. The presentation will conclude with an overview of internationally renowned contemporary South African fibre-artist's response to the magic rites embedded in their African heritage.

    Textile production has been activated and sustained by three factors:

    · Ritual needs: Birth, Rites of passage (circumcision, first menstruation, marriage, childbirth and death).

    · Religious conversions: Christianity in the South and Muslim in the North introduced modesty strict codes of ethics about covering the body even in the hot African climate.

    · Trade and Fashion trends in interior design '

    Celia has also achieved various prestigious nominations, some that were mentioned in the June newsletter.

    Thank you, Celia and Rosalie, for the time and effort you lavish on promoting African and South African fibre art abroad! On behalf of Fibreworks I salute the dedicated and professional service you do for us all.

  • Lynette Douglas

  • Lynette reports back:

    'Slowly my millinery business is taking off in Durban, but my main work this year was for the Zanele Mbeki Golf Day in Johannesburg, where I exhibited my hats, donated two for auction and sold one very expensive hat from stock.

    I also exhibited at the Durban SMME Fair, where I had a stall. Cinnamon and Silk in Ballito has sold some of my work and have ordered again. The Yellow Pages bring in some work too.

    I have done some bookbinding repairs, mainly for faithful clients who send books to me from Johannesburg, but that is growing here too. As usual word of mouth is my strongest means of selling. I find paid advertising has very disappointing results.

    I was pictured in JEWISH LIFE issue 22, September 2009 edition at a table covered in my hats'.

  • Fiona Kirkwood

  • In 2008 Fiona spent much of the time outside South Africa exhibiting in the USA, Lithuania and Italy. In 2009 she was invited to exhibit on the main curated exhibition at the 5th International Biennial of Textile Art, Buenos Aires, Argentina, sponsored by the South African Embassy. This exhibition was curated by Argentinian Art Historian, Florencia Battiti. She was one of 19 international artists to exhibit on this wonderful show. She traveled to Argentina to set up her work and had a truly great time in Buenos Aires!

    A Chinese Art Historian has requested that she send images and text of her work to be published in a book in China, along with Chinese artists and others.

    Next year in 2010 she will represent South Africa on the 13th International Triennial of Tapestry, Lodz, Poland.

  • Leonie Malherbe

  • Leonie worked on the Beaded Flag which is displayed at the Moses Mabidha Stadium in Durban for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup. Here is her report back:

    Carol Brown, former DAG director, was tasked by the city to find artists and commission works. The whole idea was to celebrate our local and lesser known talent and that the art should reflect the KwaZulu-Natal environment and traditions of bead making, woodcarving, telephone wire weaving, painting and mosaic.

    At least 300 artists have worked on the more than 40 pieces adorning the stadium on five floors. Hlengibe Dube, Manager of African Art Centre, submitted quotations for a 3,5m x 2,5m Beaded flag wanted for the Presidential Atrium. I was asked to help co-ordinate the workshopping of the flag as we had both been responsible for the Constitutional Court Flag of 2006 - beaders/embroiderers Spindile Knosi Zibuyisile Zulu, Xolile Ndlovu and Ntombi Hadebes' skills were summoned. Nozipho Zulu helped keep a diary and photographic record.

    Comments were that this time it would be easy as we've done it before - NOT SO. First the pattern had to fit specifications and we couldn't enlarge it successfully. After sleepless nights, Hlengi took the drawing to OMM Design Architects who miraculously spewed out a Life Size pattern - thank you again!

    The next shock was that the variety and sizes of beads and cottons were no longer available - the juggling of ideas and run around for materials began, even up to Johannesburg.

    We workshopped the flag colour by colour, divided into half metre panels for each beader to take home and return beaded to African Art Centre each week. We would all decide on bead combinations and patterns which I drew with a template and fabric pencil.

    Two and a half months later we lay the panels together and the powers that be proclaimed it 'much better than expected.'

    I stitched all the panels together on my tiny machine. Some had to be hand stitched as the beads were too close together - two completed halves were taken to Durban Awning and Tent to join on their industrial machines.

    I suggested that the flag be framed on a stretch canvas and this was approved. The completed piece has been mounted in place and is surrounded by a silver frame.

    On 15 December 2009 all the artists gathered at the stadium for a press conference and a guided tour of the art works: we first had a power point show of the works and each artist or group went up front as their work was shown. Carol Brown, with megaphone, then led the several hundred artists, starting on the 5th floor, to view all the works floor by floor. It was a three hour walkabout, abuzz with admiration and excitement of meeting all the artists.

    Viewing the pitch from the Presidential Suite was AWESOME - in the true sense of the word. The charged aura of anticipation in this space is palpable:- dwarfed by this mighty structure it is hard to believe that it, like the artworks, is HANDMADE and a MUST SEE!

  • Annette McMaster and Kathryn Harmer Fox

  • Both Annette and Kathryn had work selected into the final round of the Pfaff International Art Embroidery Challenge in France. Kathryn's work entitled Handkerchiefs from Africa and Annette's piece, called It is in our hands were featured in the catalogue.

    Annette reports back:

    'The organization of the show is mind-boggling. They receive at least ten thousand visitors per day. There is a free shuttle service from the tube and most visitors use this. Because my work was juried into the final selection of the Pfaff Art embroidery competition, I was lucky to receive a complimentary entry ticket . At twelve pounds entry fee, this was really appreciated!

    The palace - Alexandra Palace - was never used by royalty, but was established and built for the specific purpose of being used as an Exhibition Centre. The building with its Victorian facade and magnificent stained glass window in the Great Hall, takes your breath away. There are a number of catering stalls and over four hundred exhibitions and vendors combined. On entering through the main entrance, one usually finds the work of an invited artist or group whose work is showcased in the Palm Court. This year the emphasis was on knitting with gigantic needles. It was all a bit twee for my taste, because there were knitted mermaids, boats etc. a kind of Maritime scene. On entering the West Hall there is usually a showcasing of a 'Challenge' issued to schools or colleges.

    I headed straight for the Pfaff exhibition, because I knew where the stand was. My work, as well as Kathryn's, was displayed on the outer wall of the stand facing the public. The theme for this year was: 'Landscapes - we will travel'. Needless to say, Sewula and the special memories I have of the landscape there, played a prominent role in my portrayal of the theme.

    It was gratifying to see the work of prominent artists like Alice Kettle up close and personal, and to realize too that I would not have chosen the winning entry, as is often the case! I did find the fact that most machine embroiderers use the soluble material as a base most interesting and I will definitely experiment with this in future. The overall winner was a Canadian, who used an almost "paint by number" visual to portray a landscape. (I will have names and countries later when I receive the catalogue from the organizers). I did not buy any this time, because, after visiting Barcelona and trying to get around London, I was sure that my baggage would be over the permitted weight limit, which it was and that finances might be limited, which they were!

    Those of you that know the work of Cindy Hicock, an American artist, would have been delighted by her small-scale machine embroidered, satirical work. She takes famous classical paintings like Botticelli's 'The Birth of Venus ' and puts a modern, humorous spin on it. Imagine Venus surrounded by a lot of fish and chips with the title of 'take-away'!

    I was extremely pleased to see huge numbers of young people who obviously study textile and its applications at various colleges and universities. Oh, the bliss of becoming aware of the emphasis still placed on cultural development, and in particular, our fibre art form(s) and wishing for a greater awareness of that here. The vendors sell a huge variety of goods that most English people can obtain on-line. We are still lucky in that we can obtain most of what we want from our local shops and we mostly 'maak 'n plan', if we can't.

    I left, knowing that we can hold our heads up high, here at the bottom of Africa. We compare very, very well with most of the artists and their work.
    § Roy Starke
    National Cultural History Museum, Pretoria

    As many of you know the South African Quilters Guild hosts a traveling exhibition of quilts every two years that travel around South Africa to promote quilting. The latest one is titled African Pizzazz and it is being exhibited at the National Cultural History Museum in Pretoria by Christo Rabie. Some of us have quilts on display. The museum had added Roy Starke, ATKV quilts as well as museum pieces from their own collection.

  • Sally Scott

  • Report on 'Intertwined' Exhibition
    1 - 11 July 2009Grahamstown

    'This exhibition marks a milestone in my life. It has been ten years since I packed my bags, bade farewell to my marriage, my home, Durban and all my friends and embarked on an epic journey to the Eastern Cape where I started my life all over again. Ten years seemed an appropriate mark in time to pull things together and finally display the fruits of my endeavors.

    I wanted the exhibition to be a celebration and to clearly reflect the emotional place that I am in now. I know that I could not have got to where I am without the help of so many people, my family, my friends, my students and so many angels along the way. I wanted therefore for this exhibition to reflect the rich intertwining of souls, the interwoven nature of my work and the interconnectedness of life in general. I chose to represent the three different but connected areas of my work; my fibre art, my landscapes and my teaching.

    The fibre art was all new work, reflecting a move into bright, bold colour and expressive design. Essentially they are inner landscapes and refer directly to my healing and sense of wholeness at this point in my life. The pastel landscapes, also all new work, reflect the external landscape in which I live, the Eastern Cape landscape as I see it.
    I chose The Red Shoe Workshop to represent my teaching, as it is this workshop that I consider to be my baby and the work of which I am most proud. I asked all forty students who have taken part in the workshop so far, to take part in the show and to exhibit the shoes that they have made. These shoes are exquisite, each one made lovingly from scratch, borne out of the joys and pain of their lives. Each one tells a story and the poignancy with which the women so honestly shared their tales brought tears to many eyes.

    To open the show I decided to ask Margie Garratt, for not only is she a good friend and a woman I greatly admire, she is the one person who has done so much for fibre art in this country and who has helped so many of us to get both national and international recognition. She and her family have taken good care of me on my journey back to health and I am forever grateful to her for that. It turned out that she was the perfect choice, for not only did she ably assist me in putting up the exhibition, but she opened it with grace, charm and warmth and set the tone for a wonderful evening. She was supported in this task by poet laureate, Harry Owen, who read out a poem he had written specially for the occasion. The evening was dedicated to my 89 year old mother who sat beaming and bewildered in the spotlight. It was a joyous occasion with huge support from the local community who poured into the gallery in droves, spilling out onto the verandahs of the Carinus Art Centre and out onto the lawns. My students, their friends and families were all there to celebrate. There was good wine, good food, laughter and love and I couldn't have hoped for anything more. It was wonderful.

    The ten days that followed were busy, with a constant stream of visitors coming through the exhibition, many people coming back several times, each time bringing more friends and family with them. The positive energy in that gallery was tangible, people commented on it and kept coming back for more.
    Although the focus of the exhibition was not on selling, I did sell well, made lots of new contacts and have enough new students to keep me busy for all of next year.
    The mounting of this show required me to dig deep financially and emotionally and demanded huge reserves of energy and effort, but it was worth every bit of all those things and was definitely one of the highlights of my career. I am grateful to everyone who helped and participated in any way. The great challenge that faces me now is, where to from here?

    Well done Sally. I think a number of us should try to have a solo before we're 60! No, 70. 80 perhaps? Point is, it's never too late. Think of Louise Bourgeois. Born in 1911. Considered one of the most original minds of the 20th century, she represented America at the Venice Biennale in 1993, and in 2000 was one of the participating artists in 'Encounters: New art from Old' hosted by the Tate Gallery in London. She was 90.

  • Odette Tolksdorf


    In August I went on a fascinating three week tour of South Africa that was the culmination of a great deal of preparation and seeking out some of the best, the most wonderful and the most unusual arts, crafts, people and places. Nancy Crow and her son Nathaniel Stitzlein promoted the tour in the USA and I organised it in South Africa. While the focus of the tour was on the arts and crafts of South Africa, we also experienced the diverse cultures, spectacular scenery and wildlife of our country. We had a wonderful group of 29 Americans, many who were involved in some way in the arts and crafts fields.

    There were so many highlights in the tour that I can only mention some of them here: in Gauteng: the guided tour of the Constitutional Court where we saw the huge beaded flag that Leonie Malherbe helped to create, the tour of Soweto including a visit to the Mandela House Museum, and the visit to The Cradle of Humankind and Drimolen where specialist palaeontologists kept us spellbound with their knowledge.

    Driving out to the Winterveld, we visited the Mapula embroidery project where the embroideries were hung on washing lines strung from house to house and the tour group-spend in 2 hours was equal to the average monthly income of the Mapula project. The Mapula women also received clothing and other items that the tour group had brought from America as well as a monetary donation from a Rotary group.

    The Drakensberg mountains, with its sheer beauty and scale of the surroundings was a highlight for many. Our 3 hour walk which turned into a 5 hour walk to see San rock art paintings was a mighty endurance test! A local community group performed isicathamiya music for us and we visited the inspirational Ardmore Ceramic Studio to meet the artists and admire their intricately detailed and exuberant work.

    In Durban we enjoyed the collection of the Phansi Museum and a visit to the studio of sculptor Carl Roberts. We went to the African Art Centre and the opening of the Fibreworks Vista exhibition at Artisan Gallery and several people managed to go back for second visits.

    Zululand highlights included three events involving woven baskets but the most unusual was a visit to the small rural town of Hlabisa, driving down dusty roads to meet the basket makers and the many baskets they had collected for us - everyone was so excited, both buyers and sellers - I won't forget a Zulu grandmother sitting and ululating and then doing a couple of joyful dances!

    We managed to have two braai lunches in Zululand, one was at Cape Vidal during our guided tour in Unimogs, of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the other was in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. Our journey to Simunye was a mini-expedition deep into the heart of Zululand to a secluded lodge overlooking a river. We could choose between different modes of transport to travel down into the valley and back up again: ox-wagons, horse-riding or walking.

    Our first stopover in the Cape was Stellenbosch, one of my favourite towns in South Africa, where we stayed for two days as it's a wonderful base for the winelands, including Franschhoek and Paarl. In Cape Town one of our big highlights was a guided tour of Nova Constantia by Rick Garratt who spoke about the interesting history, architecture and contents of this beautiful Cape Dutch home. We also travelled around the Cape Peninsula down to Cape Point and visited several successful empowerment projects such as Mielie, Monkey Biz, Streetwires and Zambane who do wonderful potato print fabrics. In the Bo-Kaap we went on a walking tour and had a delicious lunch at a home in the area.

    At the end of the three weeks we had a very satisfied and appreciative tour group who had shown great interest and enthusiasm about the places we visited. The whole experience was an amazing journey for me, doing the study and research, introducing visitors to some of the finest creative work in South Africa and to witness the power of creative industries to contribute to the economy.

  • Mariss Stevens and Sheila Walwyn: World Quilt Competition

  • Odette Tolksdorf is also the South African coordinator of the world Quilt Competition. For entry form and contact information please see her website: Also see :

    Here is what she says about the show:

    'The organisers of the World Quilt and Textile show in America have an annual World Quilt Competition which is usually held as a travelling show in 4 different venues across the USA. They have part-sponsored shipping arrangements to encourage international contestants to enter. This year, 2009, saw the largest number of South African entries since we have been taking part in the competition - 22 entries were accepted including two from Fibreworks members: Egoli by Sheila Walwyn and Window to the Future by Mariss Stevens.

    Next year will be the tenth year of South Africa's participation in the competition and I hope that Fibreworks members will take this wonderful opportunity to exhibit in America and possibly win one of the cash awards. Fibreworks members who have won prizes in previous years are: Elaine Barnard, Jenny Hearn, Sally Scott and Sue Akerman'.

  • Jeanette Gilks

  • Here is a letter from Rosalie that was read out by Helga at the AGM in Plettenburg Bay in October.

    'A very heartfelt thanks to you Jeanette for your wise and spirited leadership of Fibreworks since its inception. Your passion and professionalism for the role of artists generally, and fibre artists in particular, has inspired and informed the group in a way that will not be forgotten. You have encouraged us to lift our sights and demand the best of ourselves. Thank you for your guidance and inimitable wisdom, intensity and humour.

    Although it could be quite scary to imagine Fibreworks without you at the helm, we all know that you have more than earned a respite from the role, and look forward to seeing what marvelous work will emerge now from your untrammeled energy!

    I feel sure that the members will continue to foster the democratic nature of Fibreworks that you have encouraged and that was envisioned from the start. With this in mind, I am willing to offer my help as part of a team, to chair some of the meetings. As I am spending so much time out of the country at the moment, this job obviously has to be shared, and I would be very happy to share it with Odette. I have enormous faith in her integrity as an artist and friend, and know she would be an excellent leader of Fibreworks. Along with all the other people making up the group, we can continue the work of developing Fibreworks into a professional platform for fibre artists, be it in exhibiting, discussing or otherwise engaging ourselves in furthering the art form'.

    Thanks Rosalie. There are three other people who have helped me over the last decade and I would like to thank them publicly:

    Margaret has the unsexy job of money collecting which she does with grace and efficiency. I particularly enjoy her quiet wit and her well-developed capacity to listen.

    Odette, thank you for the tireless and unobtrusive contributions to the smooth running of Fibreworks and other related arts and cultural activities. Your meticulous eye for detail has made me rely on you in many different ways.

    And finally, Helga. In the olden days I used to travel up to MACS in Pietermaritzburg and photocopy the eight page newsletter by hand! In those days we had a collaged newsletter with Leonie's delightful pen and ink fringes. Later when the Fibreworks group got bigger and more sophisticated and the newsletter got bulkier and more difficult to collate, it was Helga who came forward with help. Without her expertise on the computer and her patience with my frustrations, the newsletter as it currently appears, simply would not be. Thanks Helga, for sharing the physical labour involved in running the Fibreworks group.

    Thanks too for having your finger on my emotional pulse.

Blessings and Peace

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