Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Come on 2023

 I am finally starting to feel like I can fly again

The last few years have been tough and coming out of the fog this year I was wondering whether to start tours again or not. I was egged on by previous guests and now I am finally very excited that I decided to give it a go.

What I like about my tour work

  •        The research… what is there, where is it, history, what is the view from local eyes.
  •        I love to read like crazy, quiz the internet until my fingers are numb, ask questions on the ground
  •        Visiting and sitting, watching people [ not stalker like- should I say people watching, is that better?]
  •       You learn a lot just sitting and letting the world happen around you
  •        Wander the streets at sunrise, watch the world wake up- it is generally all locals not visitors
  •        Making connections, meeting artisans
  •        Learning new textile and craft skills
  •        Being influenced/inspired by what I see in what I make myself
  •       Eating, getting a feel for local specialties

Basically, I am a sticky beak, and my job encourages that 😊

-        Tours mean I get to share this with others, nothing better than knowing something wonderful is coming up and watching your guests as it unfolds.

-        I love the feedback I hear from guests about what worried them before a trip, what they learnt during and how it impacts their world view.

Mostly my tours are to the Developing World and a comment I have heard often is a fear of facing the poverty.

I realised early in my travels we are all very similar whether privileged or impoverished and some of the most content people I have met have had to work the hardest to put food on the table and they are some of the most generous too.

When I first moved to India, I used to work in a Street Kids Programme, we would help get kids into school, meet them after, help with homework and then feed them lunch.

Down the road were the parents of one of these children, they worked together over a tiny forge as metalworkers. They had a small lunch box with them and skerrick for lunch and every time I went by, they smiled and would try to feed me! I learnt a lot about being happy in the day to day and the small pleasures of the day from those people.

They had almost nothing- like really nothing and yet exuded a contentment and a generosity that was a lesson for me.

There is poverty in the dollars and cents way and there is a poverty of the soul that comes from lack of appreciation of the world around us.

When I first went to India it was the Made by Hand aspect that really hooked me.

The crafts and textiles are all hand work- active sectors of the community. Akshardham Temple was just being finished- built mostly by volunteers and representing millions of hours of labour – it is all made by hand, carved by hand and extraordinarily beautiful.

The story that fuels my Rajasthan Tour is the Made by Hand

After Indian Tours started, I had a group of students at a textile retreat say they wanted to go to Vietnam, and said I would be just the person to find textiles and take them… it seemed a bit of a challenge but I had put in a lot of thought into what I wanted to offer in India so I knew the bones of what I was looking for.

Praveen and I went on a jaunt to Vietnam in 2007, wondering what we would find…. Lots of poking around but we forged connections and cobbled together a support system that still flourishes.

My Moroccan foray unfolded in a different manner….

In Delhi you will find the Lodhi Gardens, the style of architecture in those monuments I had heard was similar to those found in Andalusian Spain from the time the Islamic World linked Spain to India. The story of Ibn Buttar’s 14 century travels linked the places for me and I wanted this trip to have a real sense of travel.

It is exactly what we do…travel through Moorish Spain, off the most southern tip of Europe- Tarifa, cross where the Pillars of Hercules must have once spanned [Strait of Gibraltar] to another continent, the lands of mystery -Africa.  To me it always feels like such an adventure just getting to Morocco.

This is the first time I saw Morocco in the distance [it is there in the mist] and this guy was standing there looking out from Tarifa in Spain with longing- it had a great impact on me and influenced my desire to follow this route to Morocco.

these stories also had me fired up

Then winding through the beautiful landscape of Morocco itself. I Love a bit of travel with lots of craft and textiles thrown in and a bit of storytelling on top. My Moorish Delights of Andalusia and Morocco is just such an adventure

Just before the pandemic I started working on the idea of collaborating with others…. Using my connections and tours to host tutors and making a movable workshop experience.

That idea is finally starting to take off, and I feel very excited to be working with some great people- we will travel together and develop a creative record of our travels.

Jo Beal is fun to travel with, we've enjoyed her company a number of times and loved watching her work on her travel journals, now we will get to create one too.
Gillian Travis has been a mate for years, I am always so inspired by her travels and well as her creative work.... now we are offering the opportunity for people to travel and create with her. 

For years I have had the idea of stitched travel journals but too busy to really start. My Vietnam Scroll is underway, and I am working the leaves of a Morocco Travel Journal, ready to take with me and stitch into as I travel.  Very happy to see these start to come together.


Vietnam Scroll
My Moroccan Journal is in kit form at the moment- I have been fiddling and looking at what is possible.....

Handmade paper and ephemera I collect along the way can be stitched in.... permanent markers and Inktense pencils are good for little sketches

It is small enough to be easy to carry and stitch into.... very pleased to finally get out of my imagination and into my hands to work on....

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Vietnam Stitched Travel Journal


I have been 'a gunna' make this for so long...

Finally making headway....

It will be a scroll relating to my Textile Travels in North Vietnam. 

When you travel it is easy to pick up bits and pieces that hold little memories..... but what to do with them later?

More junk? stashed into a draw or catching dust somewhere?

I put some things in Preserving Jars, they are a pleasure to look at [and easy to contain things and relatively dust free]

During my Vietnam Tours it is easy to collect a whole heap of small treasures- many trips and a little each time....
each time I also learn a little more about how they all go together, too.

Every little piece of cloth represents so much work and care, I hate it just sitting lost in a bag somewhere.

So, I thought I would make a Stitched Travel Journal and am finally making headway

It is only a little thing but I am rather pleased with myself for finally getting it happening.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Moorish Moroccan Salads

Sometimes you travel via your palette.
I often cook, chasing memories of meals I have experienced or flavours that have crossed my palette.
In Morocco, it is hard to get into people's kitchens. The guest is special and must relax whilst a feast is prepared. 
At my riad in Marrakech, I managed one year to be allowed to chop vegetables and 'help' the women. 
I remember the smell of roasting Capsicum over a flame.
Then, the wonderful salad we made combining it with preserved lemons and other things.

The weather is warming up and it is time to get our salads going.
When you think of Morocco you probably think couscous or tagines, the real treat though is their
fantastic fresh salads. Each meal starts with a salad of some kind before you have a meat dish- or
Couscous on Friday [ like a Sunday roast special idea], then finished with fruit.
The simplest is a mix of fresh chopped vegetables and a squeeze of lemon juice but there are a
whole range of more complex mixed salads.
Here is a favourite- it uses those preserved lemons I put a way
in lemon season. Last time I made it I
used some of my broad bean crop [fresh broad beans- steam them in a little water, splash of olive oil,
garlic and thyme to heighten their flavour] or use cooked butter beans or borlotti.
Roasted Peppers and bean salad with preserved lemons.
Red capsicum- char them over a flame or in the oven until all gnarly and black on the outside, let
them sit under a tea towel to cool down, then rub the black charred skin off and you have luscious
roasted red capsicum- cut it into strips. Heap it on a plate, add cooked beans and make a dressing
from fine diced preserved lemon, garlic, lots of parsley, olive oil and lemon juice. Sumptuous and
refreshing with the bright pops of preserved lemons.
The garden is starting to produce a summer feast, we need lots of recipes to honour its’ bounty.
Feel free to contact me if you have questions Fiona fiona@creative-arts-safaris
Or daydream Morocco with me

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Getting Going again

 Boy has it been a tough few years...

I ended up in Australia and have been running the workshop by zoom.... it is not so hard, I had it all set up to run to an online system becasue I was away on tour so much, anyway.

After the disaster of lockdown and all the hassles getting to Australia I did not know if I would have the enthusiasm to organize tours again but here I go again.

and I am wearing a grin 😊 

reaching out to my contacts around the world, checking in to see how they are going...

hearing their enthusiasm to welcome us back again and the many elbows nudging me to get the show on the road as enlivened me.

My enthusiasm to get out there, explore our beautiful world and meet her people is still with me, 

I look forward to all the fun



great conversations that I find along the road.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Create a Travel Journal- Rajasthan

Before the big pause Creative Arts Safaris had been really taking off. 
I had so many great tours to offer lead with me as cheif group leader
We were exploring collaboration with others. They would be the tutor, it would be a mobile workshop basically and we would organize everything and make it run smoothly.

It is an idea that has a lot of potential and we are bow working on 2 moving workshops.
Travel Sketching-Vietnam
Create a Travel Journal- Rajasthan
Starting to feel all tingly and excited again....
So many places and ideas to explore and share with the wonderful, warm and adventurous 
participants we attract.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Plots and Plans

 It is so exciting to be planning again to travel.

I have pulled my head in since pandemic struck, I was shell shocked at the loss of work.

Of course it is not the same, but I had been incubating those babies for so long and they were all just gone!! Traumatic.

Finally it is all starting to open up again.

Travel insurance companies are all replotting there products to respond to a world that has moved past lockdown.

I know many people are still nervous, we we need to find our ways forward, just as you do after any great upheaval, I guess.

Creative Arts Safaris tours are available again, I have a mad rush on sorting out Vietnam details now we have confirmed we are off [could squeeze another in if your are fast]

Sketching Vietnam is almost at final call

and Morocco and Ghana are really starting to fill up- yippee

Working on some new Collaborations too- as my mate Gillian Travis said “Take every opportunity” Yeh Girl you have got it 😊

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Stitched Squares

2008 I moved to India- I had a lot of time on my hands and so each day worked at a Street Kids Project. Idea was to get kids off the street and into school, after school each day we would help with homework, play games, and then have a nutritious lunch.

Parents were so grateful, and I came to know quite a few of them.

Illiterate parents face a mountain of obstacles trying to get their kids into school- financial – paying for uniforms and books, loosing a helper to earn money is the most obvious one, but think about it, you can’t read, you can’t fill in the forms to get your kid into school and you are embarrassed, some teachers are not supportive….


I was helping as I could and then saw a guy go by with a huge load of saris- I followed and met the neighbour who was a tailor and turned second-hand saris into garments.

Ohh boy, what could I make from them?

I started an Etsy shop, I thought if I taught some of the Mum’s to stitch it could become an income stream for them…

After some wins and many dramas there came a day where I had these stitched panels.

I thought they would be great components for Crafting People to turn into treasures.

All the wonderful colour from silk saris and amazing hand stitch would work a treat.

Then I made a few samples to give people ideas of what they might do.

This jacket was the first thing, then pillows, quilts….and soon I had a mountain of stitched panels to sell.  

I realised the women could not sell them, but I could in my travels and teaching venues…. somehow this all lead into what The Stitching Project is now.

We still upskill people- especially women, we upcycle saris and our cloth offcuts, we make gorgeous clothes based on Hand Made components. Hand made cloth, hand blockprint, hand stitch, natural dyes.

The jacket idea took off, but people wanted a finished garment not the pieces to make one, so we followed that direction.

When I recently moved back to Australia, I found a stash of things I used to sell at Textile Fairs, and these were in the pile.

So, hoping to clear them out and send them onto good stashes to be used up….

Here are a few suggestions- I am sure you can think of many more 😊

1.     Biscornu Pillow- google the name, they are quite magical to put together 2 squares for a bigger one or 1 square cut carefully to make 2 smaller ones

2.     Kindle stand. 1 square- stitch it into a tub, about one third along stitch 2 lines a cm apart- this is the fold. Smaller end fill with rice.

Tricky bit to explain- the other end you are folding vertical compared to the horizontal end. This will make it sit up when you stuff it.

Just make the tube and when it is in your hands you will see what I mean.

3.     Dowry Bag- over lock the edges or pipe them, turn in…. then lash stitch the edges together to make an envelope shape, add a long string for closing- needs to be long enough to go around purse twice and tuck in. corner tassels or beads to be pretty? Great to store kindle, electrical bits when travelling, small sewing kit. Magnificent wrapping for gifts or all your gold and jewels.


4.     Quilts- we stitched panels together and piped over the seams- would work just as well if you stitch together, overlock the seams tightly and then stitch them flat.

I have always wanted to put these squares amongst black velvet squares to make a quilt- an idea to try.

5.     Garments- assemble the panels with a French seam, overlock and stitch  or cover with piping. Cut to shape for jacket- AS LONG AS you assemble the jacket using 2 close rows of stitch it will not fray.

My jacket is 11 years old, well worn and I can’t see the stitch fraying our where we cut.

 You will find these squares in our shop soon- looking for a good home and to be used in creative ideas. They were stitched with love.