Saturday, October 8, 2011
Perth is different from Melbourne, of that I’m sure. I have been here a little over thirty hours, so I can’t say much authoritatively. Add to that that I slept for eight of those thirty hours, spent five hours with Designing Women (a group of textile makers at their monthly meeting) and fully two hours trying to find a wireless Internet connection which included several visits to various McDonald’s, and you will see that I haven’t spent much time really getting to know Perth. I shouldn’t be saying anything at all yet.
But here goes. Perth seems Mediterranean. It is clean and well-kept. The houses have red tile roofs and are made of stucco or brick. Many, maybe most, have huge windows and thick plantings that you would expect to see in a display of Moroccan gardening. The water in the Swan River is an exquisite blue. There is a downtown business district that is full of high-rise buildings and the requisite posh shops. Some beautiful historic buildings have been made into museums, cafés and arts centers rather than torn down for new construction. This is a young, vibrant city with a laid-back California vibe. When I say young, I mean that the city itself as well as the inhabitants are young. (It’s interesting being in a country that is even younger than the US.) These impressions may all change next weekend when I have more time to check it out but for now that’s my story.
I haven’t spent much time on the ground, so to speak, because I spent most of the day with a group of a dozen women who are very familiar to me. They call themselves Designing Women and have been meeting once a month for twelve years. They are dollmakers, quilters, weavers, papermakers, designers, feltmakers, stitchers and more. They are familiar because they are like most textile people I know: talented, kind, funny, hospitable and eager to learn and share. Today a member of the group brought beautiful materials to share with everyone for making cards with collaged leaves, fabric and her own handmade paper. They were kind to include me and I am grateful.
Delys is my host here in Perth and my ride to Bunbury for the Fibres West conference this week. She is a member of Designing Women and makes fabulous dolls. Two knee replacements make walking difficult for her and so we saw a good deal of Perth, including parks, the University and the yacht club where her family went sailing when she was a child, from the car. It really was a good “crash course” in the highlights of the city. Since it was Saturday, there was modest traffic downtown which made it easier to see what was around us.
As we came out of the building where Designing Women meet, Delys pointed out a small grouping of grasstrees, or zanthorrea. They grow extremely slowly and the “grass”, actually the leaves of the tree, are used often in basketmaking here. But it was a dead grasstree that caught my eye. The trunk of this tree is made up of thousands of slim strands that grow from a hollow center, ending in the grassy leaves, but in their decay, they become an organized pile of single elements. They are gorgeous. The orange substance they secrete makes a type of shellac.
The materials for basketry here are amazing and probably hold a lot of people back artistically because they never get beyond the beauty of the materials. You could explore what is outside your door and never run out of possibilities.