Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year!

I always get a little spark of excitement at the turn of the New Year. It's like a page has been turned and now I have a fresh canvas to work with. Yes, we move into January in familiar surroundings but the sense of the unknown reminds me of the first day of school. Exhilarating!

But the New Year also beings an urge to re-visit and reflect on the year gone. To acknowledge the events and achievements, some of which now seem lifetimes ago. To wrap up the year in a neat package and put it away in a metaphorical bottom drawer.

So here's a look back on my artistic life in 2016 …

This year I found myself in a position to take 12 months off full time work and move to Hobart, Australia where my husband had been living and working for 18 months. We bought and quickly renovated a lovely house where I was able set up a studio in the sunny front room (pics will follow in my next post) Once set up, despite having the freedom to be creative, it actually took me a while to get started. The reasons for my procrastination and how I worked through it are a whole 'nother blog post so I'll save that subject for another time. Let's just say that once I did get going, there was no stopping me and I relished my creative time in my beautiful studio (which was the warmest place in the house during the Tasmanian winter!)

My goal was to create a body of new work, and on 28 October my collection "Tears Of Joy" was opened for exhibition at Store & Co Collective in Hobart. The positive response from both friends and admirers was very encouraging and I learned a lot about my market demographic. It also gave me great satisfaction to see my past six months work hanging in one beautiful space.

Meanwhile, I was commissioned by Glen Eira City Council in Melbourne to produce a modern art quilt for an historic exhibition acknowledging the contribution of Glen Eira's repatriation hospital during WW1, entitled The Wounded Soldier: Glen Eira and a community of care. The commission involved facilitating workshops with local children who each prepared a fabric square for dyeing before being stitched into the quilt. The final piece was hung beside a 100 year old quilt made by local children of the era as a comfort to returned soldiers.

And finally, I also had a piece exhibited in the City Of Clarence Biennial Textile and Fibre 2016 Exhibition. I was proud to be among so many talented fibre artists from all around Australia. For a few days there, I had pieces in three exhibitions at once!

So that's a wrap! I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the life of an artist in 2016.
But now, as I prepare to leave Hobart (and my lovely studio) for a new life (back to full time work) in tropical North Queensland, I look forward to the fresh inspiration I'll find in 2017.

Happy New Year to you all! x

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a joyous Festive Season and good fortune in 2017!

In the spirit of sharing something creative, here's a pic of a wreath I made a few years ago which I'm pleased to say is still good for the job! 
It really was one of the simplest of hand-made creations, and used up several scraps of remnant fabric from my stash (always satisfying!) I bought a foam florist's ring and covered it by wrapping it in long strips of Christmassy coloured fabric. Then I cut shorter strips of fabric and tied them around the ring,  trimming the ends into pretty leaf-shaped points.
A little bunching, tweaking and re-arranging followed, to ensure the colours all balanced out. I then embellished with a few of my late Nan's hand-made beaded fabric flowers because who doesn't love a bit of sparkle at Christmas time (actually, I love it anytime) A string threaded under the top fabric strip attaches it to the door. All the securing was done with pins - no sewing required! - so it's a great activity to do with kids.
It would also make a lovely centrepiece. Why not try one for yourself next year? 

Best wishes! x

Saturday, 17 December 2016

A process series

I love getting a glimpse into other artists' processes, seeing how a finished piece began life and in the  order by which the  elements were added to the piece. So here's a series of images showing the process of creating one of my miniature pieces. The exercise was to take only an hour so it's one of my more basic designs.
I'll let the images do most of the talking…

I start with scrap pieces of silk for the top layer, bamboo batting and cotton (this is from and old sheet) for the back.

The fabric is layered together.

I arrange petal shaped pieces of eco-dyed silk on the top.

The petals are  lightly tacked down with fabric glue stick….

…..Then machine stitched into place. The more organic  (i.e. messy!) the stitching lines, the better.

Sheer fabric (eco-dyed organza) petal shapes are added. They give lovely depth.

Organza petals are stitched in place.

This is the fun part where I get to play with sparkles!

I stitch beads and sequins in a placement that generally radiates out from the centre, but I try to make it appear kind of random.

Then I carefully cut the floral shape out.

And then I have a little floral shape which can be combined with others to create a larger work.

Saturday, 10 December 2016


Welcome everyone!

Some of you may know that this year, after operating under the label "A Home For Tandy" for a few years creating textile homewares and accessories, I have re-considered, re-branded and re-incarnated as Deborah O'Toole Textile Artist.

The reason for this is because while I enjoyed natural dyeing and applying the technique to create the products, the repetitive nature of production work seemed to take the joy out of the process. After much soul searching, I realised that my passion is to create one off pieces of textile art. I still use natural dyeing as the basis of my pieces because I love the variation of colour and pattern which can be achieved on the fabric. It adds beautiful depth to the work. So that hasn't changed.

This decision did take quite a shift in my thinking and "letting go" of a concept I had spent some years building up and planning my future career on. Anyone will tell you that more sales can be made on lower price-point practical products however, this is ultimately my passion project so why spend my precious time on anything I'm less than passionate about??

With the decision made, I haven't looked back. I had the good fortune to take 12 months off full-time work and I used the time to develop my art practice in a  (somewhat) disciplined and structured way. (I'll write about my studio practice in a future blog) I managed to create a body of work which I exhibited in November. My other achievements this year were re-launching my website/online shop and social media, getting cards printed, professional photos taken, making contact with potential stockists and setting up other business tools such as this blog (it's amazing what can achieved when one doesn't have to work full time!)

My plan from here is to post every Sunday (There. I've committed to it now!) I will continue to share my processes, artistic influences and development, and thoughts on being an artist and life in general. I do hope you will enjoy the content, and give feedback or suggestions on what you'd like to see more of. And of course, please feel free to share this with your friends who might also enjoy my ramblings!

In the meantime, you can follow me on FaceBook Instagram and Pinterest or check out my website.
I'll finish with a couple of pics of one of my favourite pieces from my new collection.


"Florascape" detail