Sea States


Recently, I heard blue water sailors discussing sea states. I was intrigued by the term and investigated the Beaufort scale. I love the idea of the sea having a recognized state of being. Water movements, air movements and waves in varying degrees of calm and violence. A beautiful and ancient metaphor for our psychological states, based our own continuously shifting conditions.

Katia Mokeyeva and I have a shared exhibition at Timeless Textiles in Newcastle, Australia in March 2016.  In our conversations around this exhibition, Sea States presented it self as the perfect theme.  We both live and create on the Pacific Ocean, but in very different coastal environments. Our collaborative felt collection will be exhibited on another part of the Pacific. A clear artistic narrative developed out of this geographic triangle; one that explores  this common relationship with the sea, and its states of being. Sea states refer to the overall condition of a large body of water—with respect to wind, swell and current—at a particular moment and location. Each sea state offers a beautiful metaphor for our own personal, overall condition, and an excellent platform for exploration in surface design through feltmaking. It’s a very exciting project.

And it has to start somewhere! For me the long process of building a new exhibition collection begins with this dress. A transition piece from the SHIFT exhibition 2015 to the Sea State exhibition 2016.



A long dark steely grey layout…itself like a great sea swell. The darkness is so atmospheric…like a wintery sea, under overcast skies.


Texture is absolutely key to this piece, so to add more dimension I shibori dyed some of the silk organza that would become the wave forms.


The beauty in creating work for exhibition is the opportunity to take time, and work with complex surfaces, in ways that are hard to justify with more everyday felt works.


Slowly and gradually, I built up the wave forms. Each one requires gentle and patient hand work to create the connections of the organza waves to the felt base.  This slow time is perfect for thinking/sinking/diving deeply into the theme. What it means for this piece and where I might go with it in the next work.


The finished shift dress has many layers, transparencies, and overlapping crests way above the surface.


Rachel is my most wonderful model. She is always calm and elegant, impossible to fluster. She keeps her internal sea state at about 1!

What you don’t often see in any of our photo shoots is what is happening on the edges.  This photo shoot included a family picnic at the beach….and while Rachel settled into her demure sea state beautifully, there was  a lot of action around her….Sea state here is a perfect metaphor for how we hold ourselves as parents…our internal composition while surrounded by blustery winds and strong currents!


The uncropped pictures. I just had to share these with you…this is real life! The ebb to the flow in the thoughtful, reflective felting time in the studio!


The dress holds upright the dimensional scupltural forms. They wash over and around the dress like a great wave….And then, once underwater, the wave forms take on  a whole new aquatic life…like waving bull kelp…

“Kelp’s survival depends on flexibility and extensibility. Each alga can grow up to 20 to 45 m (22 to 49 yd) long and consists of a holdfast, stipe, float, and fronds. The holdfast uses a flexible network of root-like haptera or anchors to attach the kelp to the ocean floor. By being flexible, the haptera allow the kelp’s base to rotate slightly, thus providing some protection from the high torque created by waves.” (Biomimicry Guild Report)

We all need this kind of anchor, and flexibility.


Now, whenever I look out at the water, I try and determine the current sea state. A new way of viewing a familiar environment. I would say this dress has a sea state of 3.  There are much more wild conditions to come …..





  1. ginger February 20, 2016 at 2:13 am

    Fiona, I’ve been trying to figure out how to manage my experience of the frequent quarreling of three young boys and their exuberant, abundant energy and everything that goes with that and all the other things that we live in our daily tasks and strivings in our chosen roles. Thank you so much for the imagery of the sea states. That will take me far, I am sure, in this adventurous voyage.

    And your adventurous voyage makes me think of a ship on the high seas with the wind in its sails. Thank you for sharing the process with us. Your work is so inspiringly beautiful.

  2. Barbara Fox January 20, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    The dress is gorgeous and s so representative of the attributes of kelp. I love the metaphor of the changing sea and our changing personalities. Beautiful work!

  3. Luvswool August 18, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Only you could have designed such a beautiful dress! The sea theme is intriguing, offering so many possibilities. But, oh, the dress went into the water! Fiona, very clever idea but I hope the dress survived.

  4. Els August 18, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    What a beautiful dress Fiona !
    It must be (another) special cooperation with this time Katia !!!
    Great to see the process , thanks !
    Ha, ha, great photos too, the uncropped ones 😉
    Love, Els

  5. Eloise Holland August 18, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    oops, that was me below Fiona. (at 1:45)

  6. Anonymous August 18, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I love the metaphor of the Beaufort scale. It was part of our teaching when our boys were young. I loved the translation of a number to a statement of what you might see.( At 8 on the scale: “walking becomes difficult”.)
    Attaching this to a garment, a piece of fabric art is mind blowing. So many things to think about here.
    Amazing work as always.

  7. Josie August 18, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Your work is absolutely stunning. I love the story about the dress and look forward to seeing your new exhibit materialize.

  8. Gwen Martinuk August 17, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Inspirational and beautiful and very spiritual. Love all the photos.

  9. jonatha foli August 17, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    i live 6 miles from a northern california beach and can spend hours watching magic happen.
    yesterday seals, blue heron, pelicans, gulls and a most wonderful pod of tiny silvery fish skimming
    the surface just off shore. your stunning piece and words capture it all fiona and i cannot wait to see
    where this all goes.

  10. Anonymous August 17, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    stunning work. i live 6 miles from a northern california beach and
    your words and work honor everything i love about the sea. you have
    captured it all.

  11. Beth Marx August 17, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    The anonymous comment from 8/17/15 was from me. I forgot to leave my name. I just love your work and so awe and admire all that you do.

  12. Anonymous August 17, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    The whole thing is absolutely stunning…the dress, the images, the photography, your creativity. You are so amazing Fiona.