ema for aotearoa

textile | transformation


Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons - Ema for Aotearoa


Painting on silk, laminating, collage, assemblage
Silk Habotai, canvas, card, fishing net, fiber-reactive dyes
305 x 610

An ema is a votive or prayer tablet commonly found hanging at monasteries and temples in Japan.

The central motif was inspired by an exhibition of Maori cloaks, or kahu; the cowries and fishing net speak of the sea and its generosity. The fiery background refers to the volcanic undercurrents that create such havoc in these ‘shaky isles’.

This is a simple prayer for protection from nature’s excesses.

misfits & memories

aroha awaroa aotearoa


Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons - Aroha Awaroa Aotearoa

aroha awaroa aotearoa
Nelson, Aotearoa-New Zealand
1000 x 900

painting and dyeing on silk, laminating,
shirring, hand and machine stitching
silk Habotai, card, recycled cardboard,
laminated papers, sea shells, acrylic paints,
fiber-reactive dyes

England was home-base for the 90’s – a wonderful period of educational work and travel.  There were several visits back to New Zealand to visit my family, but only one that was long enough to complete a work.  The long grayness of the English winter had deepened my appreciation of one of my favorite places in New Zealand – Awaroa Inlet on Golden Bay. When I returned to the area to spend some months in Nelson, a profusion of joyful memories of sun-drenched childhood holidays spent beach-combing in my shirred ‘cozzie’ all came together in this piece.

wandering and wondering


The last post, about thigmomorphogenesis and the Gurukala Botanical Sanctuary in Kerala, India, unleashed a host of delicious memories of time spent in India. Time spent teaching, offering workshops, making art – and wandering, absorbing. It prompted me to post a few more items about the joys of being a nomadic artisan.

I’m starting with  a piece from – appropriately – India.  A while back I posted a piece from India titled hand of suttee, and earlier, two pieces from the earthworks series. There are many countries included in the nomad collection and almost 100 works in the collection, so sharing the joy could span a fair few posts. Today’s one features one of my favorite subjects – windows.

An innate curiosity has meant that travel has played a big part in my life. I’m one of those people who are more at-ease on the road than at home. But I don’t travel to paint; it’s rare that works are completed within the context that inspires them.

I travel to absorb, to immerse myself in other languages, beliefs, realities. I spend time in places rather than passing through. This immersion yields surprising impressions – often years later, when I reflect on my visual and written records and feel moved to express some form of synthesis.

For me, the essential impressions seem to need the geographic gap and gestation time in order to surface, and when they do, they often arrive fully formed. I simply assemble them.


Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons, window - Uttarkashi

window – Uttarkashi
Uttarkashi, India
450 x 1330

painting on silk, card and wood
collage, assemblage
washi, hemp twine, recycled cardboard,
wooden panel, mosquito gauze
acrylic paints, dhoti lengths,
fiber-reactive dyes, wooden window catch

Doors and windows interest me wherever I travel. Perhaps it’s the way they speak of openings, of new and unfamiliar views and perspectives. During a long retreat up in the Himalayan foothills I would often wander along paths that wound through simple rustic villages. The ‘window’ works that were inspired on those walks were pieced together using items scavenged, mostly, from the countryside. The painted silk panels were added upon my return to Bangalore.

nomad collection

hand of suttee


Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons - Hand of Suttee

hand of suttee
Varanasi, India
640 x 510

painting, collage, gilding
burning, wrapping

canvas board, wooden frame, bindis,
henna template, key, gold thread,
gauze bandages, gold leaf, nails,
dhoti fragment, acrylic paints

On the funeral ghats beside the Ganges in Varanasi one sees hand prints left by the women who, while very much alive, joined their deceased spouse on the funeral pyre.

I’m told that this practice – suttee – is outlawed in India.

But that it still happens.

one Italian summer …


Another piece incorporating objets trouvés, this time from Italy.

The canvas was originally the ground for another work which had failed to please me. It ended up in the bathtub to have all its texture and pigment soaked off. The stains and markings that remained had possibilities.

A battered old market basket was picked up amongst grape vines near Alba. It was cut, pressed flat, and like the canvas waited for years in the studio for its destiny to unfold.

One day the two got together. They liked each other. Along came some stitches and shells and sticks to join the fun – and this was the result.


Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons, casa columbina

casa columbina
1000 x 880
staining, stitching,
distressing, collage, assemblage;
recycled canvas, acrylic paints, woven market basket fragment,
linen thread, sea shells, bamboo sticks

Many works in the nomad collection incorporate, or are entirely composed of, found objects.

earthworks in India


Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons, earthWorks series 1

earthWorks series 1
640 x 510
Folding, burying and distressing paper, stitching, collage;
Khadi papers, mosquito gauze, cotton cords and tape,
hemp twine, coconut twine, old hand-embroidered and woven textile fragments,
thorns, cowry shells, earth pigments, powder pigments
scraped from walls of village dwellings, pva glue


After I published the last post – about Deb Haugen’s organic art – it occurred to me that I too had a series of works that could be called “organic art.”

While teaching art and design in India it became apparent to me that many of my students couldn’t afford the cost of expensive art materials.  How could I make them curious about the possibility of only using items that were very cheap at the village markets, or that could be found lying around?  It was an interesting challenge for me as well!

I call these pieces ‘earthWorks’ because, after folding the local hand-made Khadi paper, I buried it in the mud for some days and allowed the natural pigments to stain the distressed folds.  There was also some rubbing and pounding involved!  The finished pieces speak of many aspects of the Indian culture – including its pervasive hand-made crafts and the way everything is folded up for storage.


Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons, earthWorks series 3

earthWorks series 3
Rishi Valley
640 x 510
Folding, burying and distressing paper, stitching, collage;
Khadi papers, mosquito gauze, cotton cords and tape,
old hand-embroidered and woven textile fragments,
thorns, pva glue, earth pigments,
powder pigments scraped from walls of village dwellings


nomad collection