Thursday, August 11, 2011

Australia (part one)

It's been a very busy summer for us. Stacy and I have both left our jobs. We spent two weeks in Australia, and now we are in the middle of a move to South Dakota where we'll be starting a whole new adventure. With all that's been going on, I've not kept up very well with the blog. Here's how things went in Australia.

The plane we were on
We left for the Dimensions in Leather conference in Brisbane, Australia on July 5. The plane trip over there was long, but bearable. We were met at the airport by Cherryl Mc Intyre and Les Bond. Cherryl is the driving force behind this conference, and Les is a good friend of hers (and now ours too). Cherryl took us back to her place where we were to be staying for the first few days. The drive back to her house was surprising to me. I expected Australia to be flat and dry. Seeing all the different trees and tropical plants was a pleasant surprise. After settling in and getting a little rest (not cramped in a plane), Les took us for a ride to the Gold Coast. Stacy had never seen an ocean  before so this was a first for her.

Les and I  by the beach
Stacy and I on the beach

Stacy trying sushi

Buildings on the Gold Coast
After getting  some lunch, (Stacy tried sushi for the first time ,I passed ) we wandered around a bit  more before heading back to Brisbane.

Looking down the valley from Toowoomba
Peter Tangey, Robert Withahn, and me
Friday morning we helped Cherryl pack up what seemed like half of her house in a van to move to St. Leo's for the conference. Cherryl had tubs of supplies for each of the different classes that would be held at the conference. For her own classes, she had several heavy sewing machines. She also had made up food for lunch breaks during the conference. The preparation that she puts into making this conference a success must take months. Cherryl and Les took off for St. Leo's to unload and set up for the conference while Peter Tangey picked up Stacy and me and took us on another road trip. This time we headed up towards Toowoomba. We got to see some more of the Australian country side. The drive took us through some of the area that was affected by the floods earlier this year. We ended up at the home of Robert Witthahn for lunch. Robert lives at the top of the range and has a beautiful view overlooking the valley we had driven through. His  gave us a tour of hisworkshop in the back yard. Robert has a background as a book binder but spends most of his time these days making leather covered boxes with exotic leather inlays.
Some of Robert's boxes
He showed us how he makes the cardboard boxes first, how he skives the leather with knives he makes himself, and then how the boxes are covered with leather. After our tour of Robert's shop, we spent some time exploring his backyard and all the plants and bushes. We even got to see some parrots as they landed in the bird feeder. When we got back to Cherryl's house that evening, we met Takeshi Saito. Takeshi is a leather carver from Japan and he would be in most of my classes at the conference.

CityCat ferry
One of the many bridges over the Brisbane River

Clay and Takeshi
Saturday morning, we all headed over to St. Leo's which would be our home for the next week. After getting settled into our room, seeing where I'd be teaching for the next week, and having a little lunch, Takeshi, Stacy and I took a short walk down to the river where we got onto the CityCat ferry and rode it into Brisbane. We spent a couple hours wandering around before heading back to the college. Other participants of the conference were starting to show up by the time we got back and we started to meet a lot of people.

Sunday was the opening day of the conference. Booths were open for the vendors to show and sell their wares, from leather and lace to tools and supplies. Some of the vendors represented were Birdsall Leather, Chaylor-Fenneli,  Leffler, and Les Bond had a nice selection of hand made mauls, modeling tools and pro petals. As the day went on, we met more and more people. Sunday evening was the opening dinner and official start of the conference. (I'll have to take a picture of all the neat tools I got from him)

Classes started on Monday morning. The first class I taught was on carving eyes. I was a little nervous about teaching in a foreign country to a bunch of people that I didn't know, but it didn't take long to realize this was going to be a lot of fun. The people in the class were great and quite a few of them were taking more than one of my classes so we got to know each other pretty good by the end of the week.

Everyone did a great job on the different eyes we worked on in the class. We had to work a little late and push pretty hard, but we got the eagle eye painted before it was time to eat!

Takeshi, Mary-Ellen and me

Tuesday and Wednesday I taught a class on carving and embossing a quarter horse. Stacy was off taking a class on how to make a hand bag with Cherryl, so there aren't any pictures during the class. Stacy and sewing machines don't usually get along real well, so I wasn't sure how that was going to go, but her bag turned out great!!
Stacy's hand bag

Horses from my class and some hand bags from Cherryl's class

Gabrielle and Sylvia
Cherryl, Gary and um.... I forget

Wednesday evening was the  Hawaiian night party. Everyone was supposed to dress up Hawaiian. Quite a few people did (some got really into it!) There was live entertainment, dancing, a limbo contest and a wee bit of alcohol.

Thursday I taught a class on  how to carve hair, feathers and horns. This is one of my favorite classes because there are so many different techniques that are used in "extreme embossing" being introduced.  It's fun to see people's faces when they see how some of these things are done and how much depth and texture it adds compared to traditional figure carving.  Once again, Stacy (my photographer) found a class to take. This time she spent the day with Robert Withahn learning how to make a leather covered box. (I'd have loved to be in that class too!)  They first made a card board box, then covered it with kangaroo leather with a fish skin insert, and finally, made another card board box to keep the covered box in (and they did this all in one day!!)
Stacy's leather covered box
Leather box in box

Kim and Fiona

Mick and Peter

Sample bears for class
Friday started the last of my classes, carving and embossing a black bear. Most of the people in the class has taken at least one other class during the week.

Friday evening  was "market night" where many people at the conference had a chance to sell their products from different types of leather to tools to finished products. I picked up a couple boxes from Robert, a billfold from Mick, and Stacy got some leather jewelry.

Saturday was also an exhibition of  work from all the participants in the conference. There was some amazing work shown. I was a little surprised at the variety of work shown. It was quite different than the shows I have seen in America. The Australians and Kiwis do a lot of braiding (plaiting), molding, hand bags and other types of leather work besides just carving. If you are on Facebook, you can see all the pictures from the exhibition on my Badlands Leather Art page album titled Dimensions in Leather.

Tickets were sold all week for a large table full of  really nice raffle items. Before the banquet on Saturday evening, drawings were held for the raffle items. My "Buffalo Feathers" picture was won by  our new friend Mary-Ellen McEvoy.

Peter (saddle maker)  and Neil (whip maker)
The banquet was a lot of fun. We were kept entertained by Peter and Neil, Kim and Fiona. The whip makers and the saddle makers were constantly picking on each other and Kim and Fiona.

Kim and Fiona

Cherryl  giving her closing speech.

The instructors at the convention

Pond on the campus grounds

This is where we spent most of the week
Sunday was spent packing up and saying goodbye to all our new friends from the conference. It was a wonderful experience for us. Everyone we met was so kind to us and a lot of people asked when we were coming back. We had numerous invitations to stay with people if/when we do come back and we are looking forward to it!

Les, Stacy, Clay

Cherryl, Stacy, Clay
Monday after the conference was over, Cherryl had to take off for another commitment. We said our goodbyes to her and thanked her for hospitality and for the opportunity she gave us to attend this conference and visit Australia.

1 comment:

Bibi Lindahl said...

I knew you were good with leather, Clay, but I had no idea that your darling Stacy had a neck for it, too! Not that I'm surprised that she would make beautiful things; she is an amazing crafter and VERY talented!!

Fun to read about yor trip and see some pics!