Category Archives: artisans

Yarrenyty Arltere Art Centre

Alice Springs Art Centre edited1The first time I saw the work of Dulcie Sharp and the other artists of the Yarrenyty Arltere Art Centre was at the Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art in Adelaide in October last year. Their soft sculptures and hand embroidery jumped out at me. I immediately felt a connection. It is as if every figure had a soul.

I spoke to some of the artists at the Adelaide event but did not have the opportunity for an in-depth conversation. While working on an article about the artists for Inspirations Magazine (Issue 91- available in July) I communicated with Sophie Wallace, art coordinator at the centre via email and phone, but I longed to see how and where the artists work and to experience the place that inspires them so much. When our family holiday plans to Central Australia came together, I made sure a visit to the Yarrenyty Arltere Art Centre was on the itinerary.

blanket taken out of dyeMy visit on a perfect autumn day in April could not have happened at a better time! I arrived at the centre on the outskirts of Alice Springs just as a blanket was pulled out of the dye vat. Wool blankets obtained from second hand shops or donations form the basis for all the soft sculptures. Opening up a newly dyed blanket bundle has everyone in suspense. The rusted metal pieces and the natural plant dyes used in the process ensure that the final product is always an eagerly awaited surprise. This one had subtle green and charcoal patterns which would eventually find their way into another unique artwork.

Concept sketchesI was fortunate to see the whole artistic process in action. From the newly dyed blankets all the way to the finished sculpture. The artists come up with concepts for their work, usually inspired by their everyday life in the town camps, or their vivid imaginations. Pattern

 

These concepts are sketched out and developed before being translated into pattern pieces. The figures are cut from the blankets, machine stitched and stuffed before it is meticulously filled in with hand embroidery. The story behind each piece dictates the pattern and the colours used for the embellishments.

Rosabella, Dulcie, Trudie, CandyAll the work is done at the art centre where the artists come together around a big table piled with yarn and thread in every conceivable colour, texture and thickness. Works in progress, and new ideas scribbled on sketchpads find a space on there too. On the day of my visit I met Rosabella Ryder, Dulcie Sharpe, and Trudy Inkamala. Candy the art centre’s mascot dog kept watch under the table, making sure everyone was happy and safe.

artists handsThe soft sculptures coming from the hands of these artists, working quietly in this far flung and remote part of the world, are in high demand in galleries from New York to Singapore. But here around the table, that does not matter. What matters are the stories that are coming to life, stitch by colourful stitch.

Seeing where these sculptures are conceived, I now understand where their soul comes from. It comes from the hearts and lives of these women who tell their stories with their hands. Needle and thread translate the soul of the Larapinta Town Camp in Alice Springs into artworks worthy of the best art collections in the world.

Assemblage by Basketry SA

007This is one of those cases where I don’t need to say much – the pictures speak for themselves.

Assemblage brought together all the strands of experience, skill and creative energy of the members of Basketry SA. It was held at Urrbrae House on the Waite campus of the University of Adelaide from 14-28 February 2016.

 

 

Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca Edwards

Liz Yates

Liz Yates

Laima Guscia

Laima Guscia

Laima Guscia

Laima Guscia

Ira Grunwald

Ira Grunwald

Gem Congdon

Gem Congdon

Gem Congdon

Gem Congdon

Deb Cantrill

Deb Cantrill

Christine Ford

Christine Ford

013

 

 

 

Wanderings with Fibre Art Network

WANDERING – To move about without a definite destination or purpose. To go by an indirect route or at no set pace.Amble. Meander.

Wandering also sounds just like Wondering, which according to the dictionary, means fascinated, curious and enthusiastic.

FAN Wanderings Chris Beardsley Fleurieu Meander

Fleurieu Meander – Chris Beardsley

And that is a perfect description of the art and artists represented here – 55 works by 35 members of FAN (Fibre Artist Network).

Although ‘fibre art’ are often perceived as a very narrow niche, with many limitations, the array of work produced by fibre artists are limited only by their imagination. With techniques ranging from hand and machine embroidery, felting, lace, and quilting,  to printing, stamping, dyeing, painting, and beads, as well as knitting and crochet, mixed media, feathers, and basketry, a common theme can be interpreted in countless ways.

In this case the limitations was the theme ‘wanderings’, the size of the artwork (max 24ʺ or 61cm wide) and a time frame of around 18 months in which to plan, design and produce the work.

FAN Wanderings Alvena Hall Arboreus in Brachina

Arboreus in Brachina – Alvena Hall

Bev Bills (OAM), RSASA director and founding member of FAN, opened the exhibition with a short glimpse into the history books. The initiative came from Alvena Hall, who invited a group of fellow fibre artists to an informal meeting back in June 1994. The aim was to meet informally, without agenda, to promote local and interstate fibre art. FAN was born at that meeting and grew from strength to strength, with many significant South Australian textile personalities as past and present members.

Meetings were held at different venues and supported by galleries, guilds, and academic institutions. FAN meetings are currently held four times a year in February, May, August and November at Marden Senior College, under leadership of Suzanne Gummow.

FAN Wanderings Margaret Carberry Citrus Vessel

Citrus Vessel – Margaret Carberry

In the current exhibition, as the theme and the background suggest – the work on display covers a very wide spectrum of techniques and materials, and even include a few three dimensional works. Wendy Redden’s WAVES and Margaret Carberry’s CITRUS VESSEL stood out for me.

FAN Wanderings Madelaine Hedges Op Shop Mandala

Op Shop Mandala – Madelaine Hedges

A few of the works are by current Marden College textile students and I was excited by their eagerness for experimenting and playing with materials and techniques. Their wanderings are fresh and full of enthusiasm. I particularly liked the techniques used by Tanya Davies in WILD WEEDS: DANDELION and Chris Beardsley’s use of natural dyes in FLEURIEU MEANDER.

FAN Wanderings Wendy Redden Waves

Waves – Wendy Redden

Then there are the works by established artists like Madelaide Hedges, Alvena Hall, Joy Harvey and Cathy Boniciolli among others, which delights with their years of experience combined with their confidence in exploring new unknown territory.

But I guess that is what wanderings is all about – to be sure footed even when the destination is unknown.

Wanderings is on at Gallery M in Marion until 6 March 2016.
To learn more about FAN contact Suzanne Gummow.

 

Deborah McKellar Talking Textiles in Singapore

The taxi dropped me off on a busy intersection in down town Singapore. The narrow side walk, stacked with car and motorcycle tyres, fronted a row of workshops where men huddled over dismantled wheels and greasy axles. My inquiries about the textile studio indicated on the map was answered with blank stares. Just when I thought I had the wrong address I found the narrow staircase tugged in between the tyre shops, with a sign saying Talking Textiles: 4th floor.

Talking Textiles Stairway to heavenWinding my way up the steep stairs, I’m encouraged by phrases painted onto the steps saying things like ‘Stairway to Heaven’; ‘Art lovers, design enthusiasts and shopaholics – Welcome’. As I was about to run out of breath near the top, this one, ‘Feeling unfit? Join the Pilates class.’

Once I reached the top landing a wooden door opened up into a light filled, airy studio where I’m welcomed by designer and artist, Deborah McKellar, and her assistant Adeline. With a refreshing cup of green tea in hand, Deborah leads me on a guided tour of the open plan studio, office and retail area. The glass wall making up one side of the space opens up onto a wide roof terrace where a cat lounge lazily on the sofa overlooking the Singapore cityscape. The vantage point and the view is a far cry from the tyre shops below.

Talking Textiles displayDeborah, born and raised in South Africa, completed a BA in fine arts at LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts in Singapore, followed by a Master of design, majoring in Textiles, at the College of Fine arts at the UNSW in Sydney. She now divides her time between her textile design studio, lecturing in Fashion Textiles at her Alma mater, and practising her fine art.

Her workspace is full. Rolls of textiles, huge colourful canvasses, and piles of hand printed cushions overwhelm the senses and create a feast for the eyes. Yet, the huge printing table, the neat desk and the well organised supply shelves, creates a sense of order and calmness. This combination of overwhelming creativity and calm order, I soon realize, is what makes Deborah a successful artist and business woman.

Talking Textiles scissorsHer work is distinctly Singaporean. Deborah’s habit of photographing typical Asian architecture, the tropical landscape, and other local design features, forms the basis of her work. She uses these images to create various screen prints which are then used in different combinations and colours to create cushion covers, tea towels and other décor items, marketed under the trade name Talking Textiles. Her series Raffles, inspired by the architecture and features of the famous Singaporean hotel, can be viewed, and bought at her retail space in the hotel.

Talking textiles screen printing

photo courtesy of Talking Textiles

The huge canvases covering the studio walls, are layered with screen printed images and textile strips, overlaid with freehand machine embroidery, creating works of fine art. “My first solo exhibition was back in 2012 and I aim to do one solo exhibition every year,” Deborah explains. “I enjoy the freedom of making fine art, but it does take many hours to create a big enough body of work for an exhibition.”

As if a busy textile design business, her role as part-time lecturer at LASALLE-SIA, and a successful fine arts career is not enough, Deborah believes in giving back and paying forward. The Talking Textiles studio takes on apprentices and students, to teach, coach and prepare for careers in the textile art world.

Talking Textiles Deborah McKellarBefore I left the studio, I asked if I could take a few photos. While I busied myself trying to capture the riotous colour and rich textures of the textiles, Deborah rummaged through a stack of tea towels to find one of each design, so I could pick one as a gift. I asked if I could photograph her in front of one of her canvases to which she readily agreed. As she took up position in front of the canvas, she took the clip which held her hair up in a bun out to let it fall over her shoulders. In one quick movement Deborah changed from a designer-business woman into an artist, and the switch between calm order and overwhelming creativity which I noticed on my arrival happened right before my eyes.

As I exited the narrow staircase back onto the busy side walk filled with tyres and noise, all I could see was rich colour, tropical designs, and the distinctive Singaporean style. The narrow staircase did in fact lead to heaven. Textile heaven, that is.

Dijanne Cevaal – Sentinelles

Sentinelles is a concept inspired by Dijanne’s spiritual connection to the land. The colours of the hand dyed fabric reflects the colours of the Australian landscape while the hominid form give homage to her European heritage. The haloed female form appears across religions and cultures to depict a sense of reverence, holiness and spirituality. Dijanne chose the word Sentinelles, which means to watch over, as opposed to Guardians, which also implies taking care. Sentinelles only observes. It is for us to act. To take care of the environment, the land, the earth.

What started out as a solo artwork has grown into a collaboration. Dijanne made several hand printed sentinelles and made them available to her students both in Europe and Australia to embellish. Each person brought their own personality and style to their piece.

The collection has travelled extensively in France and Australia and will soon go back to Europe for a new round of exhibitions. We were fortunate enough to experience this collection at the Craft and Quilt Fair this past weekend.

With Dijanne’s permission I took a few close-up photos to focus on the magnificent use of colour and personal interpretation represented in this exhibition.

Go forth and be inspired.

Sentinelle 1 Sentinelle 2 Sentinelle 3 Sentinelle 4 Sentinelle 5 Sentinelle 6 Sentinelle 7 Sentinelle 8 Sentinelle 9 Sentinelle 10 Sentinelle 11 Sentinelle 12 Sentinelle 13 Sentinelle 14 Sentinelle 15 Sentinelle 16 Sentinelle 18 Sentinelle 19 Sentinelle 20 Sentinelle 21 Sentinelle 22 Sentinelle 24Read more about Dijanne’s work, her future projects and her new book here.

 

PRUDENCE MAPSTONE: TOTEMS

027Prudence Mapstone needs no introduction. She is the queen of freeform knitting, crochet, and yarn manipulation. Her colourful, vibrant and fun work always draws a crowd – and admiring sighs and smiles. Her totem exhibition at this year’s Fair is no exception. The totems, displayed in a small alcove next to her yarn stand, cannot be missed – just follow the crowd.

021Totems represent a kinship group – a clan, family or tribe – where some totems celebrate cultural or religious believes while others are merely decorative and an artistic expression of a shared experience. Prudence’s totems fall into this latter group. She celebrates yarn. It is as simple as that.

022The colours, textures and thickness of the different yarns dictate how she applies them. “It is an organic process. “I start by choosing a colour palette and it just grows from there.” Prudence makes a swirl, or a scrumble as she calls it, adds new colours, change the stitch patterns and builds on it until she, well… stops. When she has a few of these, she lays them out on a flat surface, plays around with it, then she fills the gaps with more knitting or crochet stitches. And so the totem grows, until the scrumble clan is complete.

029Sometimes there are recurring themes, like the mitred knitting, or the bullion flowers, or the felted balls, but other times many different styles and stitch patterns sit comfortably next to each other like different personalities in one big happy family.

Prudence is as delightful as her work, she smiles, talks and shares. It is obvious that she loves people, yarn, and yarn-loving people in equal measures.

To see her work and find out about her classes, books and patterns visit her website at http://www.knotjustknitting.com

Margaret Lee – Silk Legacy

Margaret at work

Margaret at work

Margaret Lee is familiar name in embroidery circles both here in Adelaide and further afield. Her magnificent exhibition Silk Legacy – A showcase of Chinese Embroidery Tradition is on in the Artspace Gallery at the Adelaide Festival Centre, as part of the OzAsia Festival, until 12 October 2014.

As an artist, teacher and curator Margaret specializes in the ancient art form of Su silk embroidery, which dates back from the Shang Dynasty (1700 – 1027BC). It is known for its detailed, intricate and highly realistic style, and perfectly suitable for contemporary applications.

silk-CranesThe exhibition includes Margaret’s own work, some glorious historical pieces on loan from various Guilds and private collections, as well as works by Margaret’s students, both local and international.

“In China embroidery has always been viewed as an art form as opposed to craft and has left us with a legacy that is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. Such a long and rich tradition deserves to be maintained and further developed into the future.” Margaret’s passion lies in preserving the tradition and she is committed to passing these knowledge and skills on. In doing so she developed a program to teach Chinese embroidery to western embroiderers, and is currently mentoring students from Australia, New Zealand, France, United Kingdom, USA and the Netherlands. SILK LEGACY is an opportunity to showcase their achievements. “These art embroideries created by western embroiderers in the traditional way shows that art has no boundaries and we are one through our shared passion in creating beautiful art embroideries.”

A close-up of a still life by Margaret Lee. Look at the exquisite stitch quality on the glass ware

A close-up of a still life by Margaret Lee. Look at the exquisite stitch quality on the glass ware

Looking at all the extraordinary works in the exhibition, it is difficult to believe that some of these works were created by people who did not grow up in this tradition. The collection of student’s works sits proudly next to the ancient artefacts and Margaret’s own extensive body of work.

The explaining text next to each art work gives a thorough background of where each piece fits into the hierarchy of silk embroidery skills. Apart from the absolute visual feast, the show gives a thorough education in the understanding of silk embroidery and where it fits into the social structure of both Chinese history and modern needle art appreciation.

I took some photos with Margaret’s permission, but it is very difficult to convey the depth of skill, the exquisite use of colour and fine stitch management in each piece. It is best viewed close up and in person.

This is a must see exhibition. Don’t miss it.