24 August 2007



The other week I was in need of some small tacks but other than the smallest blue tacks available in hardware stores here – none could be found. Artistic Journey do sell a very very small copper tack which is sensational but I needed one in between sizes.

I hunted everywhere, all over the internet too but to no avail.

You know how we all place items in our studio for inspiration. Well I have many objects. I was grabbing something off that table next to me that was described 2 posts ago when suddenly I saw that very object.

Instant inspiration.

Allow me briefly to explain…

My grandfather was a cobbler.

A ballet shoe maker, he was destined to be.

Pictured below is my mother and grandfather, Jacob Bloch.

Leaving Lithuania seeking a better life for his family, he arrived in Australia during The Great Depression. Life for the Jews there was very difficult as they were experiencing many “Pogroms”. A Pogrom is like a riot directed against an ethnic or religious group. Homes, businesses and religious centres were destroyed. Premeditated and/or spontaneous murders and massacres were common.

The family lived in a tiny town called a “shtetl” (a small town with a largely Jewish population). Sick of the raids and almost being killed on so many occasions, my insightful grandmother urged my grandfather to seek greener pastures.

Anyway the business is still in family hands – 3 generations of a family business.

So linking back now, I looked at my table and there were some of my grandfathers original ballet shoes lasts.

My brain clicked into gear and I remembered that to make the pointe shoes and ballroom shoes etc, the hand turning process required very small tacks.

Pictured below, my grandfather fitting Dame Margot Fonteyn with her pointe shoes.

One quick call later to the factory and to one of my brothers and I had my tacks – there are a few sizes as well – so how perfect was that.
Yes I know small things excite me!!!

Pictured below is the background fabric for “Numbers” in its original state.

But as I explained in a prior post, I age the fabric to be in keeping with the piece. It is a very lengthy process because of the size of it. The piece on the right looks a little darker - one should always note which way you have turned your fabric as is the case with this tapestry fabric. Somewhat like a rug, the colour will wither be lighter or darker depending on which way you turn it or view it owing to the weave.

So here is the fabric whilst I am in the process of ageing it.

You can see I have already done the left side.

And here is how it looks after I have finished ageing it. Quite a difference really.

For some time now, I have been frustrated at not being able to purchase certain elements that I want to use on my books and art pieces. Usually they are outrageously over-priced.

Or I have to get them from the USA and then the price is ridiculous with the postage expenses added on top.

So... I decided to have my own made up to designs I want.

Here is one example in its raw pewter form. I also get annoyed when companies only sell either a left side and not a right side to match. Hence I went ahead and made both sides in this example.

Here it is after ageing it.

Pictured below is a second piece I had done.

And here it is aged.

I am quite happy with the results, although the first batch had to be redone as I was not satisfied with the final product.

I have made six approximately designs which is really quite exciting. I will photograph the other designs in due course.


The most incredible thing happened to me on Tuesday (21 August). I was picking up my middle son and driving home when I noticed that people had household items in front of their houses. The council was doing their quarterly rubbish dump pick ups. Usually residents take advantage of this service to dump unwanted and usually very large pieces of items they have discarded.

A lot of the time you see people in trucks driving along before the council get to the goods in the morning, they create a huge mess while they forage through the goods wanting to on-sell some items.

This road I was driving along is a very very long road in Sydney with lots of apartments so there was “rubbish” – or junk everywhere.

All of a sudden I said to my son, I have to stop the car. So I did. He thought something was wrong with me. I told him I had to get out and go and look a pile of stuff on the side of the road.

He was horrified!!!

He told me not to embarrass him and hid under the seat in case someone saw me.

It had been pouring the day and night before and was raining all day, including whilst I stopped the car. There was junk strewn across a length of grass about 2 cars in length. I called out to my son who refused to get out of the car. I ran over to my car and asked him to help me. It was so very bizarre. I said to him, I do not know why but please help me take these four plastic bags which were completely wet, to the car. He thought I was absolutely mad!

He said you don’t know what is in them even!

It started to pour with rain, I felt there was something else I needed to take so I took a very stinky and very small vinyl brown suitcase with a broken off handle - the zipper was broken so I had to hold it together with my hands.

All I could see in it were very wet envelopes. Three was also a small brown box with what looked like new enamel pots so I grabbed that. Why i grabbed that I have no idea. I mean I would never use it – even in an art piece.

The smell of the 2 day rained on papers was revolting.

I actually thought I have gone mad too.

This afternoon I went through the bags.

Lots of cards and postcards.

All were addressed to the one man named Willie.

Even though I only glanced at the cards and letters very briefly I gleaned quite a bit about this man.

Then I realised that Willie was Jewish from a newspaper clipping related to some friends of his.

I became more intrigued but did not have the time to read it all – as there are literally hundreds of cards spanning his life. Plus everything was soaking wet.

I went to my garage where the brown bag was and saw more cards.

I thought well this is interesting but nothing amazing.

I thought there has to be something else. Why else would I have been compelled to stop my car, get out at one particular pile of rubbish amongst an entire kilometre of dumps.

I needed a coffee so I opened the last plastic bag. More postcards – I have never seen so many before. Then all of a sudden I spotted what looked like a very old photo envelope. I took it with me to the coffee shop.

Well needless to say I found the most amazing documents and photo’s related to this mans family history. It so happened that some of my friends were having coffee too. We were all in shock that this persons familys history was strewn all over the street ready for the dump. By the time I was finished looking through what I had, a crowd of 11 people had formed around me – it was quite a scene really. I was shaking and I still am.

What I found should never have been thrown away. I am now compelled to document this in a book form. This is the beginning of the story. Already there has been one coincidence related to this.

I am now beginning a journey on behalf of this family, a family I do not know – which is unusual for me as we live in a very tight knit community. I will explain more soon. For now, some research has to be done. But only after I have finished “Numbers”.

I hope you will all come along this new journey with me, the journey of ‘The Brown Vinyl Bag’.

Hopefully the next post (can't promise yet) I will be uploading panel 2 of 'Numbers'.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend.


azirca said...

Judy, I am so intrigued after hearing just this small snippet of your story. You never cease to amaze me.
Something drew you to that brown vinyl bag for a reason, maybe you are yet to learn the real reason as to just why.
I would love to go on this new journey with you, count me in.

Thanks so much for the glimpse into your fabric aging process. You really put so much thought and effort into every element that you add to a piece.

lindaharre said...

You are such a sensative person.....your story is amazing and yet so you! I believe that most of us miss these small whispers in our ear......but you catch them all and turn them into ART! Can't wait to hear more about this man and his family:D

Lissy said...

How absolutely fascinating that all sounds!

And looks likes some great bit sand pieces you are creating :)

Debbi Baker said...

Hi Judy - I have missed a couple of posts so just spent time catching up and what amazing posts - I have goosebumps! Love all the photos and little teasers - can't wait to read and see more. And I think it is pretty amazing that your son actually got out of the car - I know my 16 year old would not have!

fromthepines said...


Everytime I check here and there is a new post, I am so happy!
Those bags of stuff sounds so cool! I would definately have stopped too and my daughter would have also have been in the car hunching down in the seat - Been there, done that!

Can't wait to see more,

Sharon said...

Yes Judy, Serendipity indeed. We just have to be open to it. Loved this whole post. That's not new but you told and showed so much. Love seeing your fabric aging in progress. Totally relate to "making art to make art". Now, you must be having one of my AAAs, Art Anxiety Attacks with working on "Numbers" and this new journey waiting. I'm on your journey with you and loving it and somehow I'm thinking the paths of these two journeys may cross.

nina said...

you.are.amazing. i can't wait to see what happens next.....xxx

izabella said...

I am on the edge of my seat..girl!! I can't wait to hear more of this intriguing story!!

xo!! ~Bella

lklight said...

Judy what an awesome story, thank you so much for posting it.
I recently received some bad news from my dr. & I've pretty much been in shock all week. I haven't been able to make art or do much of anything.
Reading this snapped me out of it & reminded me that EVERYTHING happens for a reason, there are no accidents, & that there's a bigger picture that I don't know about yet.
Isn't it just amazing how the smallest, most insignificant thing can make such a huge difference?
I can't tell you how grateful I am that you posted this. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

There are angels guiding your hands. My husband's family are russian jewish immigrants and the older ones are dying off. No one really wants those letters and photos. I tell him to grab all he can get.
I can see how those things wound up in the trash.
And I can see how some of us are guided to protect the past. Amazed Guardians. Protectors of past truth that is no less important now that it is past. Treasures.
I love reading your blog and wish you more wonders.

Judy Wise said...

Judy, you are amazing and you come from an amazing family. I am so grateful for all that you share here. Your work; so meticulous and textural,your life; so thoughtful and rich. You are a natural teacher.

artgirly said...

Oh the suspense is killing me. You are definately working from a higher power! You go girl!

Anne said...

Shalom. You have the most sensational stories to tell. You have such sensitivity to your surroundings. I think you must be an angel sent especially from God to make these stories of his chosen people known to all men.
Psalm 113:3
Isa 45:6-7

Helen Suzanne said...

firstly I had to just say wow! at the bit of your grandparents story... lol now I'm off to read the rest of your blog ;)

jo said...

Oh My God!! I got chills reading this! How many people would have driven past those discarded bags without a second glance? But something guided you to stop and now Willies story will be told and read by all of us with great interest. Maybe Willie is with Sam guiding your way? I think it is a sign of approval from greater powers, the work you have done, the storys you are bringing to light! I am so intrigued and can't wait to see more!!
Love Jo

Julie H said...

Oh Judy, what a sad -sad story. How can anyone throw such important history away. Praise be that you responded to the prompting. If I can help in any way (as a history teacher and lover) please let me know. Really.

As top the rest of your post - Wow and wonderful Wow to the amazing family you have and the tack discovery. Wonderful castings.

rochambeau said...

Dear Judy,
Great post. The things that touched me is your Grandfathers profession, and his tacks. Also the way you aged your fabric.

It is so obvious how you put you soul into your art!

Pearl Maple - Mandy Collins said...

Have only recently found your blog and amazed at the art you are sharing with everyone here.

The story of how the little bag found you will only make the ultimate creation all the more exciting. One of your posts refers to Amazed Guardians & Protectors of Past, how sad that this persons story was not valued enough and was almost lost to time.

Will be waiting now to see how you interpret the story which will sure to be amazing.

Jen Crossley said...

Judy,Judy you never cease to amaze me both in your fabric ageing and your stories The brown bag is unbelievable you were meant to stop girl and what a find it makes me sad that there history was all over the sidewalk ,but it fell into the right hand a stranger with a love for just this

Susan Tuttle said...

I loved reading about your experience with the wet, brown bag---it really moved and excited my spirit--such a clear example of synchronisity at work in the Universe--you were so meant to have Willie's family items. That strong sense you had to stop in the rain and grab the bags--I could picture it in my mind--this dramatic, beautiful, perfect moment in time. Truly beautiful Judy...I cannot wait to see what amazing things you will do with the documents...what a miracle...what a blessing.


lklight said...

Judy, it's lklight@copper.net.
This is the only way that I can reply to your emails also. I think that there is some setting on blogspot, but I haven't figured it out yet.

Ro Bruhn said...

More fabulous stuff Judy. Both of my daughters wore Bloch ballet shoes.
Maybe you could start selling your embellishment casts, they're divine.
I love the way you age your fabric.
I can image your son sitting in the car hiding, I made a jumper once, in fabric strips with the knots on the outside, my daughter asked me one day if I'd mind not wearing it when I picked them up from school, as it embarrassed her, needless to say I wore it often, made up for all the times she embarrassed me.
I'm a regular at the roadside collections finding things I can take apart to make jewellery, but I've never found anything this exciting, can't wait to see what you make of it.

Elaine Kerr said...

Wonderful read, Judy, thank you. How many pictures to you suppose there are of Margot Fonteyn wearing one heel and one ballet slipper? and on top of that, your grandfather fitting her!

(P.S. Can I take a peek in your shoe closet? Any lovely handmades?)

Gisele said...

More hair raising tales from the master story teller! Looking forward to seeing what evolves from these marvelous finds Judy. Thanks for sharing your aging processes, it's always great to see before & after photos.

LINDSAY said...

O! I can't wait to watch this story unfold, as you will no doubt tell it better than anyone else could.

Emmcee .... Marie C said...

Good - another interesting story coming up!!! Love the photo of your g'father, and your fabric treatment looks tres kewl!

Karen Cole said...

A great big "DITTO" on just about everything everyone else said.

Boy I wish I hadn't dropped out of , what was then know as typing, in high school. My fingers move so slowly on this keyboard. I don't know how you do it.....but don't stop.

Sharon Manning said...

Wow, love the Red Velvet Creations!
Your new story sounds intriguing and I never picked you as a roadside junk scavenger, especially in the rain too!!!!! LOL
Look forward to hearing more.

Deb L said...

You were obviously meant to find this treasure to preserve... I can't wait to see how it develops. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with all of us... xox Deb

Sue McGettigan said...

I'm so glad you listened to your inner voice, can't wait to discover the secrets of the brown vinyl bag :)

Dawnie said...

You hear without even listening Judy.
Amazing.I love what you share.Edge of your seat stuff,just wonderful.