Blog Hop Day – Fabric Art Galore!!

Remember to thank the Cleaner (Shrimp) by Dione Gardner-StephenFabric Art and the Art of being Grateful

G’day! Today is the last day of the 2017 Fall Art with Fabric blog hop, hosted by Alida at Tweety Loves Quilting. I hope you are here because you have been following along all week. But if not, the good news is that you have a lot of fun art quilt exploring to catch up on. Either way, I am so excited that you are here! 

Art with Fabric blog hop @

The parameters for the Art with Fabric blog hop are pretty broad….  posts all feature an original art work done in fabric, inspired by a “more conventional” form of artwork (for example a painting, sculpture, etc). The blog hop also has a secondary theme.  All works are to celebrate Mother Earth in some way. When I heard about this blog hop, I knew immediately which artist I wanted to use as my inspiration. Thanks for including me Alida!

Inspired by the work of Kim Toft

As my muse, I chose an Australian artist whom I have long admired. Her name is Kim Michelle Toft, and she is a silk painter who illustrates books. She resides in Brisbane and is an active advocate for environmental protection, especially of the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s oceans. 

I first discovered Kim’s work when I rescued one of her books from a local library’s excess book disposal sale. I bought it “for my children” but it was the bright flowing pictures that attracted me, and the book has spent most of its time since on my resource/inspiration shelf in my sewing room. 🙂 Her art appeals to me in a similar way to my love for batik fabrics.

Kim Toft Reff Superstar book
My slightly worn copy of Reef Superstar by Lesley Killingbeck and Kim Toft.

The book is called “Reef Superstar” and is about a talent show amongst the creatures found on a coral reef. It is written by Lesley Killingbeck, illustrated by Kim Toft and published by Brolly Books (2005). The text is cute (even though a few rhymes are slightly forced), but the illustrations are superb. It is out of print.

Kim Toft illustrations
A fraction of one double page of Reef Superstar. Every single page is a riot of colour and activity like this one. 

You can find Kim Toft’s website here. She has published lots of books since this story, all with excellent illustrations. Please note, several attempts to get into contact with Kim about this blog hop have been unsuccessful, so this post in no way represents her opinions or endorsement. But I hope this will not stop you popping over to her website to have a look. She is very talented.

The background to my Fabric Art piece

In 2015, our family did a 3-month road trip around Eastern Australia. Thousands and thousands of km in the car with two small children and a camper caravan. It could have been awful. But we loved it. One of the many highlights was the ReefHQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium in Townsville. Here I fell in love with the Pacific Cleaner Shrimp. Amazing, shy little guys that help keep reefs healthy.

Cleaner Shrimp
Pacific Cleaner Shrimp in a tank at the ReefHQ in Townsville 2015

Ever since then, I have wanted to have a go at depicting these creatures on a piece of fabric art. They are bright red on top, with white “speed stripes” and are just fascinating. Pacific Cleaner Shrimp eat refuse and clean up the reef, keeping it clean. They also remove parasites from client reef fish, such as parrotfish. 

Parrotfish meets Pacific Cleaner Shrimp

So without further ado, I give you my fabric art piece. It is called “Remember to thank the Cleaner (Shrimp)”.

Remember to thank the cleaner (shrimp) fabric art by Dione Gardner-Stephen

On one level my art piece is a celebration of the colours and life on a coral reef…. and hence the link to the Mother Earth theme and Kim Toft. But it is also a statement piece about being grateful for the people in your life who do the less glamorous jobs that you couldn’t live without. The hospital orderlies, the garbage collectors, street sweepers, office cleaners and other “sanitation engineers”. The reality is that these people are indispensable to healthy communities, but are too often taken for granted.

The Details

The Pacific Cleaner Shrimp is thread painted over appliqué and has a little black bead to give him a goggly eye. He is oversized, because for today at least he is being recognised for his importance.

Pacific Cleaner Shrimp, thread painted by Dione Gardner-Stephen
Pacific Cleaner Shrimp, thread painted, detail

The background is improvised patchwork  and appliqué using batik and solid snippets from my scrap bins and is lightly quilted.

Remember to thank the cleaner (shrimp), detail. By Dione Gardner-Stephen
Remember to thank the Cleaner (Shrimp), background.

Over the background I have appliquéd coral and anemones inspired in the style of Kim Toft. The reef creatures are more sparse than in the illustrations of “Reef Superstar”, because the reef we snorkelled at the Great Barrier Reef was disjointed, with large stretches of sand and rock between coral growths. So this reflects more my personal experience.

Remember to thank the cleaner (shrimp), detail. By Dione Gardner-Stephen
Kin Toft-inspired reef creatures.

I drew the reef creatures onto batik fabrics with black permanent fabric pen and added extra colour with wax crayons. The glitter on the pink coral was already embedded in the wax of the crayon, and on ironing, became very firmly stuck to the fabric. This was more a lucky discovery than a ensured outcome. Sometimes it pays to experiment! I then cut the shapes out and attached them to the collage with quilting.

The parrotfish  is purposely partly obscured because he is not the star of this piece. The parrotfish is derived from Kim Toft’s book illustrations, although we did see (and hear) parrotfish while we were snorkelling. (Parrotfish scrape the reef with their beaks for food, and it’s quite audible!) To create this fish I combined wax crayon colouring with dense thread painting.

Remember to thank the cleaner (shrimp), detail. By Dione Gardner-Stephen
Parrotfish detail

Fabric art, not a quilt

To finish the piece I stretched it over a painting canvas. I display in my dining room it on this art stand.

Remember to thank the Cleaner (Shrimp), detail. By Dione Gardner-Stephen
Remember to thank the Cleaner (Shrimp) on display in my home.

red clever chameleon logoI hope you have enjoyed my fabric art, and will visit the other contributors to this blog hop.  You can find the schedule and direct links for all the blog posts at the bottom of this post. 

I like using wax crayons on fabric. They are so vivid and easy to use. Have you used them to decorate a piece of fabric art? If so, what did you make? – I’d love to know. Or would you like a tutorial on how I get this result from wax crayons on fabric? Happy to schedule one if people are interested. 

Fabric with Art Blog Hop – say hello to the other fabric art bloggers on the hop list:

Monday, October 9th, 2017
Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 
Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 
Thursday, October 12th, 2017 
Friday, October 13th, 2017 
P.S. Today’s post also doubles as part of my 31 Days of Finding Quilt Inspiration in the Everyday series. Day 13 to be precise. By the time this publishes, I will be on the first of several airplanes home, so I hope you will agree that is fair!
Anyway, two good sources of inspiration you can use for your own quilt designs are represented here: picture books and animals in your local aquarium/zoo/wildlife park. You can certainly learn a lot about capturing the essence of your quilt subject by studying illustrations in picture books. 
I hope you enjoy(ed) the Art with Fabric Blog hop!
Linking up with Free Motion Mavericks

9 Replies to “Blog Hop Day – Fabric Art Galore!!”

    1. I really encourage anyone who likes bright colours and batiks to have a look at what Kim does. Amazing!!

  1. Absolutely amazing!! I really enjoyed the story of how the inspiration art came to you and all the techniques that you included! I never tried anything like that and your result is so beautiful that it really encourages me to stretch my skills! Thanks for sharing your talent in the blog hop!!!

    1. Hi Alida, I think you’d love adding some of these ideas to your already amazing repertoire! Well done on organising such a great blog hop.

  2. Your piece of art is stunning!!! I love the vibrant colors and enjoyed reading how and why you made the art piece. Truly inspirational. I’ve never paid much attention to illustrators in kids books. Evidently, I’ve been missing out on a lot. Great piece!

    1. Hi Karen, so glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for stopping by. It was a great blog hop, don’t you think?! I encourage anyone reading here to take the time to explore it.

  3. Hello Dione,

    What gorgeous colours, and such a lovely theme. I particularly love the range of colours in the fish. Shrimps here are insignificant little creatures, nothing like your gaudy Pacific shrimp.

    Thank you for linking up with Free Motion Mavericks!

    Love, Muv

    1. Perhaps the shrimp colours are a warning to fish that they taste bad and are not food? They are certainly funny little critters. And parrotfish are amazing. As well as their amazing colours, parrotfish can change gender multiple times! The things you learn through quilting!

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