Monday, 11 June 2012

Conclusions about my Study Abroad year

I have been back in the UK for a week.  Time sufficient to re-acclimatise and consider my year abroad. 

I had a wonderful year.  I received an excellent education, if very different to what I am used to in the UK.  The education at Curtin was a "taught degree" whereas in the UK, we do self-directed learning.  So at Curtin, it was very clearly specified what we would learn, feedback on your work for your practical modules was received in every class and assessment was both mid-semester and at end of semester.  This suited me.  In the UK, we have set projects that are wide open to interpretation, and if you want to learn new skills, you need to find out about them yourself.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both styles.  The taught style suited me for my 2nd full time year, but I would not want to continue with this style into my 3rd year.  I have learned a lot and am now ready to spread my wings.  For my textile work, I want to work much more with overlaid colour in print, and to continue with my hand-drawn illustrative style.

The year abroad was expensive.  Partly because the exchange rate was not good, but also Western Australia is a very expensive place to live because mining (coal, minerals, uranium, precious metals) drives the economy and salaries are very high.  This means prices are ok if you are working in the local economy, but as I was living on savings, it was mega-expensive.  I think I spent about £20,000, but this does not take into account Jim's expenditure, and he paid for food (more expensive than in the UK) and our road trip to Cairns. 

Was it worth it?  DEFINITELY YES.  It pushed my boundaries beyond my previous experience.  I had never lived in another country, even if I deliberately selected an English speaking nation.  I had never been away from home for a year before.  It made me appreciate my home country and so many things I took for granted.  I value the extent and diversity of our history and culture in London and the UK.  I appreciate the comparative ease with which I can source textile base materials.  I am aware of how much choice there is to access part-time and full-time textile classes, and the skills of tutors (University of Herts, City Lit, Missenden Abbey etc).  I am thankful that my university runs a shop where students can access quality controlled materials at virtually cost price, rather than ordering unknown materials online, and not being able to see materials prior to purchase, without knowing the quality first.

Lots of people have been surprised that we returned to the UK.  I do not want to be Australian - I am English, and I like what the UK is.  Australia is great if you are part of the working economy.  I do not want to work any more.  Australia would only have me and Jim if we had skills that they need.  Jim is retired and I don't have skills that are in short supply, so neither of us would be wanted by Australia.  Also, I don't want to live in a country where the weather is 26C in winter, and 43C in summer.  It is just too hot.  I liked coming home to the UK, and finding I had a green lush garden, without irrigation!

I had to go away to appreciate what I have here.  I have had a wonderful year, and I learned more than I would have done in the UK.  And I am very glad to be home.

Would I recommend an exchange year to other students?  Yes.  But make sure you have plenty of funds, and expect to have a few wobbles of confidence.  And you will come home, ready to take on the world with a greater breadth of experience, and depth of knowledge, than if you had stayed at home.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

3rd June 2012 - Going home day!

Going home day has arrived.  I am so happy to be going home, although I have enjoyed my time here, and probably got more value from a year here, than a year in the UK.  But I'm ready to go home, to my husband and our bungalow, and our garden.

From the weather forecasts, it sounds like the summer temperature in the UK is much the same as the winter temperature here - except here people complain that it is so cold in the winter!  I wonder if I will have unconsciously acclimatised to the heat here, and also complain about how cold it is in the UK.

Anyway time for breakfast, and then the last cleaning session before I go to the airport.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

A meal out with my landlords

Last night Tangea and Richard took me out for a curry.  This was to celebrate my completion of  my exchange year.  Their son Mal, and his fiancee Marcie were also present.  It was a lovely meal, and they gave me some little leaving presents - 6 Australian coasters (Jim and I use these all the time at home), a koala key ring, and best of all a fridge magnet with a thermometer.  This was the best of all - because it is shaped like Australia - and the thermometer does not go below zero!!  Of course out here, why would it?  They never get a frost!  Unlike the UK where last year we reached -17!  This thermometer goes between 0-50 degrees.  In the UK we rarely get over 36 degrees and this is deemed exceptional.  So this epitomises my experience in Aus!  I found the hot weather such a struggle, being fair skinned, blue eyed and red haired. What a brilliant and appropriate gift!  Definitely a gift to be kept indoors on the fridge door.

Thank you Tangea, Richard, Mal and Marcie.

Friday, 1 June 2012

A meal out with the students

Lauren organised a meal out to mark the end of semester and my return to the UK.  It was a lovely evening, if more eventful at the beginning than anticipated. 

Cassie picked me up in her car, and we set off to Fremantle, to meet the rest of the group.  We clipped a kerb as we approached Manning Road.  We turned on to the main road, and instantly Cassie said the car was handling differently and pulled over into a side street.  We leapt out, and I saw immediately that the rear nearside tyre was completely flat.  It was getting dark and starting to rain.  Cass took advice from her Dad on the phone, then set about changing the tyre, the way he had taught her to when she acquired the car. (No way could I have done this, so I was very, very impressed with her calm skill level).  She knew she (and I) were not strong enough to lift the spare tyre from the boot - she is small and slight (I am not!).  So Cass rang her flatmate, who came out to assist (without batting an eyelid)!  By the time Ben arrived, Cass had got the tools from the boot, and jacked up the car!  My role was limited to holding the umbrella over her, so she did not get totally soaked.  Ben helped by jumping on the lever to release the nuts on the flat tyre.  We inspected it, and there was a minor ding on the hubcap and a slit in the tyre.  We wondered whether the tyre pressure was low (the car has recently been transported by train across Australia) and this meant when we clipped the kerb, it pinched the tyre wall. 

Cass also rang Lauren to come to pick us up.  So once Lauren arrived, we had completed changing the tyre, but decided to leave the car at the side of the road, under a street light, and go for dinner.  Then we would come back and collect the car afterwards, so as not to drive far on the spare tyre.  I was ever so impressed with Cass's skill level.  No way could I have done this.

Cassie jacking up the car

Ben - strong enough to lift the spare tyre and release wheel nuts!
So Lauren, Cassie and I were a bit late arriving at the meal.  It was lovely to see them all, and we had a delightful meal together. 

Hannah and Sam

Cassie, Karen, and me

Steph and Lauren
Ellie and Cassie
Ellie and Violet
Ellie brought her daughter Violet with her.  Violet was a delight all evening.  She was sweet natured and well behaved throughout, and once she discovered the water dispenser, played the role of the perfect hostess, bringing glasses of water to everyone who wanted it.  She also provided water for all the plants in the vicinity too!

I was thoroughly spoilt, as my dinner and drinks were paid for by the group.  It was a lovely evening.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Final assessment for the year - Textile review

Today was the last assessment of my year in Perth. I have to admit being a bit apprehensive because I found the mid-semester review quite demoralising.   But Mollie, Ellie, Victoria and Lauren had considerably boosted my confidence, at least to the level where I felt I could put in a lot of effort and give it my best shot.  As it turned out, all my worrying was a complete waste of time, and the review was a lot kinder and more gentle than the last one!

I had taken on board feedback at mid semester review and worked up two sets of work.  The "simpler" patterns from my original idea; and patterns that used my natural organic style from my sketchbook work.

The devore fabric was printed with a border design, and a 6 spot random motif. Lucas said it was much better than in the mid-semester review, but actually it is the same border, with a smaller spot motif. I have now read the notes of my review, taken by my friends. Feedback was that the velvet, was sexy, sophisticated, interesting and lush. I had mastered simplicity by knowing what to remove. (I'm not sure that I've mastered it, but I managed to get it right this time.) Herringbone and discharge samples were succesful, with subtle colouring. Great body of work. Fantastic folio; really pushed yourself. Smaller samples relate well to chosen concept. Dimension and depth to series of work. Responded well to original printed layer with additional layers. Relates to aboriginal work.
Having done so much angst in the last few weeks, it was a massive relief to receive such positive feedback on my work.  And as I was third to go, I was able to contribute positively to other people's review, as I was no longer worrying about my own.
Devore velvet, acid dyed
Lauren with her print representing decaying wallpaper
Ellie with her water prints
Mollie with her installation about blood transfusions for plants
Cassie with her rose prints.

Hannah and Sam with their Running Man installation,
which leads to the evacuation sign.

These are a good bunch of people.  May their respective careers all be successful!
Trying to make my display "simpler"
Banksia embroidered using herringbone stitch
on random dyed cotton, printed with discharge paste
As above but worked in self colour, on linen

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Final History of Art tutorial

I went to my final History of Art tutorial on Friday.  One of my friends, Joanna, gave me a leaving present, which was completely unexpected.  It was a hand knitted ruffled scarf that she had made.  It was fantastic.  I was wearing my turquoise cardican that day, and the scarf matched perfectly.  It was particularly pertinent too, because I had just had my hair cut, and asked the hairdressed to cut off all the chlorine damaged hair on the back of my neck, so the scarf was just what I needed that day.

Thank you for the scarf, Joanna.

Yesterday I had great plans to do my weekly shopping in Perth, hurry back and stash the food, then leap on the bike and go to uni, to get on with my textile portfolio.  As I came into Perth on the bus, we went past the exhibition centre, where the Perth Craft & Quilt show was on.   So I got off the bus, and spent two and a half hours looking at everything.  I bought some expensive (but lovely) random dyed thread in the colours of my portfolio, then looked at the quilt show.  The quilts were fantastic.  Very, very high quality work.  Several featured australian plants.  Did not have camera with me unfortunately.  But even the official publicity material does not convey the fantastic-ness of seeing the quilts for real.  The format of the show was similar to the UK Quilt show at the NEC, in Birmingham.  But the Perth show was only one-tenth the size of the UK show - and much the better for it!  There is far too much to see in the UK show: it's too hot; far too busy; far too noisy; and totally exhausting with virtually no seating.  The Perth show was just right.  Enough people to make it an event, and adequate space to be able to see the quilts and show stands.

So by the time I got back to the flat with my shopping, it was 1pm and I was exhausted.  I had a little sleep and did some stitching at home.  I was quite pleased with my achievements but it was not as much as I had planned!  So, today, I must go to class and make up my portfolio.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Thank goodness for Mollie, Ellie and Victoria

I've had a tough few days working on my textile portfolio.  I have been trying to work in a different style to usual, making designs that are "simpler" than usual.  This is completely unnatural to me.  I was trying to make my work fit with the specification I had defined.  As a second year, I am trying to diversify my styles and I have found it incredibly difficult.  What I was trying to achieve did not fit with the feedback in mid-semester review that my organic sketchbook work was my best. 

I had made several different screens, and trialled different designs, and did not really like any of them.  I was trying not to layer several images, as this makes it more complicated, but layering was the advice I received several times.  I was getting very downhearted about it. I tried stitching into some samples, but felt it was all very pedestrian.  And when I struggle with my work, I just want to go home.  If I could have changed my flight and gone home this weekend, before final assessment, I would have done.

Yet, when we were in class, my group, Mollie, Ellie and Victoria, said my work was good and imaginative.  It was diverse and showed a lot of experimentation in the dozen or so samples I had cut for the textile portfolio.  Then when I got out some of the pieces I had sampled, but not cut, they said to use everything I had printed.  And had ideas for further stitched samples.  I now have a lot of stitching to do over the weekend!   I have a couple of pieces in the portfolio that are quite simply printed, that achieve what I intended - simple patterning - plus a 4m silk velvet devore piece for the length of cloth, that is also a simple pattern that fits the specification in my written proposal.  But I think everyone else preferred the (busier) prints that were on random dyed fabric. 

So, now I feel a lot less anxious about the review.  I still don't like the busier prints but I can now see the skills I have used to make them - a couple of different, and skilled, dyeing processes, drawing skills for the prints, stitch skills for the embroidery.  The portfolio will show a lot of diversity in skills, techniques, and experimentation.  Ellie also described how she would display the work, and this gave me a mental picture, which simplified the layout.  This was really helpful, as I find displaying work and privileging the most successful work to best effect to be incredibly difficult.

Mollie, Ellie and Victoria - Thank you.