Cheryl turns hand to paint

Marie Johnson Harrison

Fine art machine embroiderer and textile artist Cheryl Bridgart has turned her talented hand to painting following a mishap with her ankle which forced her to abandon the sewing machine.

Renowned for her delicate embroideries of portraits and surrealist dream-inspired works, she has been painting vibrant contemporary characters on canvas and will present her collection at this year’s SALA Festival opening on Friday July 29.

In January this year, gloom pervaded beautiful Beltana House in Carrington St Adelaide where Cheryl lives and works and which is also an exhibition space.

 “I injured my ankle at the beginning of this year – I ripped the tendons in my ankle and split the tibular and fibular,’’ she recalls.

“It was a serious injury and I wasn’t to use it at all. I initially didn’t know what to do.’’

So she began to paint figures on canvas, adding tiny understitched embroidered masks to cover one eye of her subjects.

A retrospective of Cheryl’s embroidered and painted art will be exhibited in the Adelaide Town Hall upstairs gallery  from Thursday August 5 as part of SALA Festival.

“My work has always been dream themes which are related to music, and fun and happiness,’’ she said.

Her works will also be on show at the Innovation Science Gallery in Gays Arcade off Adelaide Arcade.

The vast space of Beltana House, with its lofty ancient exposed beam roofline, reveals a congregation of painted faces of both men and women, wearing flamboyant hats, colourful clothes –anda those embroidered masks added yet another dimension of flair.

Her home was once Pikes Brewery’s city stables and much of the renovation was carried out by society couple Lynette and Anton Schmidt.

Each room once housed Clydesdales from Pikes or later, the Police Greys are now converted rooms off the big central space, which was once the carriageway.

Cheryl’s rise to professional status began when she entered a national art competition for tourism in 1996 and titled it Billy Tin’’ and won.

“I went to England on the prize money and in 2000 I left my job teaching children art at  St Andrews School,’’ she says.

“I am now full-time a professional artist and I work seven days a week 10 hours a day.’’

 She attended the North Adelaide Art School, but is self-taught in her embroidery and clothing art.

“I began sewing as a very small child. I would visit my grandmother before I strted school. She had the big Women’s Weekly magazines and I would go through them and cut out pictures. Then I would design clothes for my dolls from the Women’s Weekly.

“I would work on my child’s hand cranked sewing machine.

“My first day at Kindy I drew everyone in the class a horse. So, it has always been playing with fabrics, drawing and making clothes.

“When I began embroidery, I didn’t realise I was embroidering, I was  simply drawing with my machine.’’

Her work is not the traditional embroidery of colouring in with zigzag.  “I would take off the foot of the machine and I used the same techniques by moving the fabric around the needle.’’

Cheryl has exhibited and taught extensively in Australia and overseas. She is the winner of the Australian Council, Qantas and Tourism Australia “Dreamtime Art Competition’’.

“We will be producing a small booklet of both exhibitions.’’

Cheryl Bridgartwill hold a “”meet and greet’’ opening of her exhibition at the Adelaide Town Hall on August 5 from Noon – 2pm until August 22.

One July day- A lesson in tolerance

It’s Saturday morning and I have hair appointment this morning at Gauci hair stylists at Mitcham and a speaking engagement for my book From France With Love at 1pm.

The beautician at Gauci is a recent arrival from New Zealand and offers me a free facial. “We have a new organic range and a beauty therapist is here this morning to demonstrate the product,’’ she says.

The idea to be glamorised for nothing for the gig at the West Beach Novita’ fund-raising afternoon tea  at 1pm is too tempting.

Soon I am perched on a stool before a softly-spoken gorgeous woman, who introduces herself as Miriam, from Iran and that she has migrated here seven months ago. Her thick accent reveals a good command of English and I am fascinated as she powders me up telling me how she and her husband Shahran decided to come to Adelaide through the Internet.

My husband is in IT and we are sponsored her by the State Government because he has a skill which is needed,’’ she said.

“I am an architect and I practiced for 6 years in Iran, but you don’t need architects here, so I studied to become a beautician and did my 12 months practical work in Iran.

We also took English lessons for two years. It took us three years to prepare to come here and to be accepted.

“When we had everything ready it took eight months and we were accepted.’’

Her husband is looking for more part-time work because he needs to fulfil the immigration requirement to work full-time for two years here in Adelaide. He now works part-time in Mt Barker as a networking engineer.

I tell her my son Tyson is in IT and that he is 30 years old.

“My husband is 36 and I have just turned 30,’’ she replies.

To keep conversation flowing to this quiet beautician, I ask her birthday and I cry out in delight when she says “June 12th, just last month’’.

“Wow! I cannot believe it. That’s the same birth date as my own son.’’

And I look at this beautiful, serene young woman, and I absorb the meaning of this exchange, the universality of humanity and I say “Welcome to Australia!’’.

It triggers her to tell more. “After the Revolution, religion came into Iran and then politics and politics has ruined my country,’’ she said.

“We are forbidden to be seen in public without a scarf and fully covered,’’ and she shakes her head in a kind of sadness.

“There is no freedom and we must have freedom to be happy.’’

Did she miss her family? “My mother phones me every two days and we talk for an hour. I miss my sister, too. But we have spent three years of our lives planning to make Australia our home.’’

It is now 7pm and we meet our friend from France, Dominique Bievre, to dine at Le Riad, a favourite Moroccan restaurant in Pulteney Street, City.

We have eaten there before and soon we have colourful  Tajine pots in front of us piping hot with chicken bubbling,  while husband orders chicken hearts and livers with couscous as an accompaniment.

A big television belts out Moroccan programme with  music and exotic girls and sexy men dancing on stage. We enjoy our time, and are about to leave when the owner exhorts us to stay because a belly-dancer is about to perform.

She is Australian and shakes and shimmies in her skimpy embroidered bra top and hipster skirt flowing with chiffon. She dances with a sword on her head and wriggles like a snake.  She pleases us all with her performance, but only my husband, who served in the French army in North Africa knew the custom to slip money into her skirt.

We move on and join a rowdy mob of revellers at the
Comedy Cellars to watch fledgling comedian “the old fella’’ Rodney Gregory,  make us laugh. He is a  big bloke of a certain age, from Yorke Peninsula, a former farmer who has metamorphosed into a comedian.  

However, before his turn, we sit, sip wine and watch a handful of young comedians, who are introduced with slick style by  Mickey Dee as MC.  White Anglo entertainment by 19-year-old comedian/ footballer, Amos Gill hits the spot with jokes about Cougars and the downside of footy culture, but then we cheer Ajit, a traditional Sikh, who may or not have been born in India because his Aussie accent is true blue. His head swathed in a bright orange turban and his swarthy features, black eyes, black moustache and long black beard are dead give-aways of Indian roots. He wiggles  his head in Indian style claiming “Indians really do do this,’’ he says before sending up  Indian telemarketers. He makes cracks at Aussies  who can’t spell his simple four-letter name and reckons he is sick of people calling him “towel-head’’. “This is five metres of wrapped fabric,’’ he says swirling himself down the stage to reflect his point. “Imagine five metres of towelling up there’’, he adds, pointing to his head. He cloaks racism in humour and makes us laugh at ourselves.  Tall, handsome Mahmoud, tells us he is of Egyptian origins and confidently shares that he is studying architecture at university. 

It is fun to watch these young aspirants, some of whom have  done Dave Flannigan’s 10- week comedy course, which includes a gig at Comedy Cellars. The course was also the entrée for Rod Gregory, who at 66, has us roaring with laughter at his self-depricating jokes on the downside of age. (The full story on Rod’s metamorphosis  next month.)

For now, one ordinary day has proven to be a powerful lesson in the success of multi-culturalism, in a hairdressing salon and on stage – young people from other cultures move effortlessly into Australian society and make themselves at home here.

Almost a million people arrived here in the 2000s, bring the tally of 7 million immigrants since 1945. Mirian and her husband were  accepted under the skill and family stream of the migration program which saw 171,000 migrants arrive here in 2008-09, while 13,500 refugees were admitted in the same year.

Whether an Australian girl wants to bellydance in a Moroccan restaurant, or a young Sikh wants to entertain, they are free to do it in Oz.  As Miriam, who forsake all to come here legally, said: “We came here for freedom.’’

Boeuf en Daube a la Provencale from Christine Wilkinson of Lavande French restaurant

(cooked in a cast iron pot on top of stove.)
Adapted from a recipe from DK Books publication Provence Cookery School by renowned French chef, Gui Gedda and Marie Pierre Moine of Le Lavandou, Baumes-les-Momosas.
Don’t be put off by the four hour preparation and cooking time. It’s actually simple.

2 kgs chuck steak; 2 tbsp olive oil; 250g thick cut steaky bacon; 1 large onion, chopped; 2 tbsp plain flour; some sea salt and ground black pepper.
5 garlic cloves; 3 carrots sliced; 2 celery sticks chopped; 2 large onions chopped; 10cm strip of dried orange peel; 3 sprigs of parsley; 2 sprigs of frsh thyme; 2 bayleaves; ½ teaspoon of grated nutmeg; 112 black peppercorns crushed; 4 juniper berries, crushed; 4 cloves crushed; 2 tbs red wine vinegar; 1 bottle of robust red wine.
Some salt and pepper.

Cut beef into 5 cm chunks, place in large bowl add marinade and leave overnight.
Remove beef from bowl and dry with kitchen paper.
Strain marinade through a sieve and reserve liquid and sieve solid ingredients separately .
Use large sauté pan on moderate heat and add oil, bacon and onions. Cook for 5 minutes. Add beef and sprinkle over the flour. Brown for 10 minutes on all sides. Add well drained marinade ingredients. Cook for 5 minutes, add reserved liquid, reduce the heat, cover tightly and cook very gently for 3 hours. Towards the end of the cooking time, taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat. Let it go cold. Remove surface fat and then put in the oven at 190 degrees. Heat only.

Serve with creamy potato mash.
Is lovely with wood fire bread or tiny little dum[plings.
If it is all too much trouble, Lavande of Callington will be open again on July 29. 85385 138.

Moving moments

Moving Moments

We are on the move.  The time has come after 12 months of the usual harrowing, time-consuming, finicky process of deciding to demolish and build another more functional, safer retirement home on the same site. And each room in our house is a sea of boxes.

We reckon on moving day – two weeks from now – our earthly possessions other than furniture – will be packed and taped away in about 100 boxes. Between us we have enough books to open a second-hand bookshop, enough art to open a gallery and countless china, objets d’art, memorabilia and bric-a-brac.  The question is what do you keep and what do you throw away, or give away, or sell.

Ours is a unique case. We are a blended household anyway with two households of goods and chattels jammed into a smallish, cream brick, four-walled 1960s house in the Mitcham Hills in Adelaide.

Husband Olivier has lived here for 35 years and it was where he and his late wife and their four children settled in Australia after the family migrated here in 1973.

This is my second Belair home and the fourth major move in 10 years when  I left my own marital home in Belair to move into my father’s house. One would imagine it would be a breeze to move out.

Which is why I cannot quite understand these waves of nostalgia sweeping over me as I sit in the midst of boxes, feeling fazed by the piles of folders, photograph albums, paintings, framed awards, notice boards, filing cabinets, and filled book cases. The desks, one for writing, the other for sewing, are  the responsibility of the removalist.  My concern is that every square centimetre of my study is covered with other clutter. All must be packed or discarded – and each item has its own part in the history of my life.

The framed Christening gown on the wall, for instance. I made it as a young woman for the baptism of my first child, daughter Serena. It took so long to make in the mayhem of early motherhood that those tiny elasticised sleeves, now puffed with padding, only just fitted my 6-month-old baby’s chubby arms.

Second daughter Felicia’s embroidered durndle, bought in Germany when she was 7 years old, hangs from the pelmet. She forgot to take it back to Melbourne when she picked out her stuff.  Pillows and cushions are piled up in one corner for packing. I msut admit I am swamped with memorabilia.  Scrap books with 20 years of newspaper cuttings from my time as a journalist at the Advertiser must be kept and not one of the umpteen stacked photograph albums will be discarded. But the stuff overflowing from a handful of in and out trays and myriad colourful vertical plastic folders will all need to be processed.

Method is important, but my mind is too foggy to remember how. Now I do remember I made a cup of tea half an hour ago and forgot about it, so I think I will take a tea break and mull over the problem some more.

Aboriginal Art becomes English class act


One of the nice things about being a grandparent, I imagine, is watching your children coming to the slow realisation that parenting is a muckup, not a conspiracy!!

By which I mean of course, that most of us do our best and when things go wrong it is most often issues of bad timing, communication or just plain exhaustion.

So it was with joy that I watched my mother (Nadine) have a moment of pure grandy serendipity with my middle son Angus during our last visit  from London.

Angus had to do a project for show and tell entitled “I made this!”, while he was on holiday in Australia.  But Angus is not the most hands-on of children. He prefers sports and telling stories, not making stuff.

However,  he had been fascinated by the shields and spears at the brilliant Aboriginal culture exhibit at the Adelaide Museum, and particularly when he saw an old movie of two little boys his age spearing and then barbecuing a small bird.

Now mum is not the making kind of grandma either – I have never seen her with a paintbrush in her hand and she never kept glue either, claiming she was allergic.

So it seemed I was going to have to try to make something while also attending to my sick dad, who was the reason we’d made the trip from London back to Adelaide with my children in the first place.

But that’s when mum had her brilliant idea. One of her grandchildren from Olivier’s side of the family is emerging sculptor  Andre Lawrence, who was doing some work on their house, to ask him for to spend some time helping Angus creating something interesting to take to class.

It all worked out so well, in the way grandparenting ideas do. Andre came over the next day with a dingo tooth to show Angus and the duo examined Papy’s collection of authentic Aboriginal spears and he discussed why they had been designed the way they had.

Because of distances, these two grandchildren had not really had much time together. Andre told Angus many stories of his childhood growing up in the Northern Territory, while showing him how to design and make a shield out of a mailing box.

Angus had an expert art and cultural teacher all to himself (did I mention that Angus also loves to ask questions, millions of them).   Andre left his box of paints and brushes for my 6-year-old son to decorate a beautiful shield, so symbolic of Aboriginal culture.

When we finally left for the airport, Angus gave Andre a hug and said “I’ll never forget you,” Hopefully he’ll never have to, as one day soon we’ll be close enough to see Andre more often.

And Angus’ show and tell in his London classroom was a huge success, too:  “Mum, every single person in the class had a question, they thought it was so interesting.”  He was so pleased with his handiwork. And his teacher thought he was brilliant too.

So thank you Grandma, you’re so much more than a pretty face! And thank you Andre for handing on your knowledge of Aboriginal culture.

Frolic around France

Myriad things trigger Francophilia fever in July, not the least being celebrations of France’s national day Bastille Day on July 14.  Coverage of the Tour de France provides a nightly nostalgia trip and countless Francophila gift shops mean we can drool over myriad clocks, cards, books, glassware and even doormats.

All these things flood my mind’s eye with memories of my times in France.

I smell the scent of the pines in Provence, I see countless vineyards, all neatly clipped, crucifixes galore, lavender fields in purple pom-pom rows and I drive by  patisseries with crowds lined up out the door, I pass boulangeries under striped canvas awnings in every village and I stop for any colourful market along the route.

But my favourite activite is sitting sipping coffee au café simply to people watch from la terrace. Read more »