Peter Clark came to the July general meeting of the Guild to tell us about his father’s role in the establishment of guilds in Sydney in the 1930s. At the end of the article are links to some historic documents.
My Journey into the World of Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing in the 1930s and 40s
Good afternoon Guild members. Thank you Jenny for your kind invitation to address members of the guild today. I have termed the talk as my journey into the world of spinning, weaving and dyeing in the 1930s and 40s.
Margaret loves colour and fibre. While still at school, she wove a long wall hanging that has linen/hemp, natural and dyed hand spun wool and slits. Since then she has moved to knitting the lovely colours, making shapes of glazed porcelain [Margaret donated one of her neck pieces for us to raffle] and, most recently, embroidery. She loves making things and needs to do things with her hands even though along the way she developed carpal tunnel syndrome that did not respond well to surgery. She finds that when she is doing hand work she must sit up straight with a pillow behind her back to protect her hands.
Because of the aftermath of her surgery she is very sympathetic to people in pain. Margaret realised that much of our brain is involved with the nerves in our hands and that if she stressed and worried about getting back at the surgeon, the healing process would be blocked. The corollary works: if you are using your hands, you cannot obsess about what worries you. Out of everything bad, something good comes.
Beth Hatton last spoke to us in 2008 about her exhibition Baseline, about the remnant grasslands of Lake George. SInce then she has participated in many exhibitions combining new works with pieces exhibited before in a different context.
Beth arrived in Australia in 1976 and soon became concerned with environmental issues. She developed a series of rugs that used kangaroo and wool offcuts to highlight the plight of native animals.
The curator of A Red World, Wangaratta Art Gallery, June-July, 2008, asked for her woven rugs for the show. She showed Extinct & Endangered Species, 2002 with three pelt shapes reflecting the pelts stored in museums of endangered, native animals. It was bought by the Wangaratta gallery. Beth’s rugs have a very fine, red weft and are woven with shaft switching.
Helen MacRichie calls herself a textile artist because she combines lots of different techniques including felting, embroidery, lacemaking, sewing. She has been selling and exhibiting her work for seven years but has been crafting for many years. As a five year old in Scotland, she was obliged to write a daily diary. She soon discovered that a drawing filled lots of space to pad out a little text. Helen always did art at school but listened to her mother who said there was no money in art and continued with science. She earned a PhD in pharmacy and worked in pharmacy research. When her husband moved the family to Switzerland, she stayed at home with the kids because her german was not good enough to continue working. To assuage the boredom of being a hausfrau she undertook the City and Guilds, long distance embroidery design course. When the family moved to Australia in 2004 Helen continued the City and Guilds course which has become the inspiration as well as the method of much of her current practice.
Linda, continuing her discussion of Eco Dyeing from the mini, said that she has been working on it for about two years since an India Flint workshop. (It took her two years to get into the workshop.) They connected. They both have a feel for dyeing plus both India and Linda’s husband are Latvian. India was willing to share information. Linda is willing to pass on what she knows to people who are interested in the art.
Laverne is devoted full time to practicing, writing and raising the profile of and educating people about backstrap weaving.
She first learned to backstrap weave in Peru in 1996 and has studied with indigeous groups in Bolivia, Chile and Equador. Her talk gave a general overview of the people she has worked with, the cultures and their role in weaving.
A few years ago Flora read Jed Pearl’s article The Artesinal Urge in American Craft and found the suitable name for her fibre affliction. She has had the desire/need/drive to make things since she was a little girl. The magic of art is in the making.
What is a basket? – a container, woven, with a handle and/or lid. They were utilitarian but recently basketry has changed. Ancient techniques are used with non traditional materials like plastic bags. Some baskets are purely sculptural pieces. Baskets can start with vine, cane, leaves to make a 3 dimensional shape. No two will be the same unlike mass produced merchandise. Uniqueness creates anxiety in some people. Creative spirits cannot make a mark on the world unless they have made a mark on their materials. It has taken a while for basketry to be accepted as Art and to loose the occupational therapy and utilitarian flavour.
Gary Sheen is a retired engineer who worked in three dimensional design and construction. He developed a fibre business with his partner, Kristen Ashley, a high school art teacher, as a result of falling in love with felting.
Although his mother was a crafter, he grew up a city boy in Newcastle and had no experience of fibre animals until he went to a Tocal Field Day 10 years ago. After walking the Inca trail in Peru the following year, he bought a pair of alpacas. Within two years the flock had increased to 65 suri alpaca. If he had realised that Huacaya fleece is easier to process . . . . Now he has reduced his flock to 25 with one Huacaya male.
He had a stockpile of 200Kg of fibre when the alpaca industry collapsed. Then Kristen gave him a felting workshop for a birthday present and he fell in love with felt. And he had the fibre to make lots and lots of hats. He has made and sold at least 350 cloche hats in the last three years but still has a stockpile of fibre. Plus he has added other fibres and yarns to his stash. Adding merino to alpaca makes it easier to felt. Mohair yarns make lovely accents. And when you are making articles to sell, it makes sense to buy wholesale, in bulk. This leads to a serious stash. The obvious solution is to share it with other fibre devotees. Hence, his business, FelfFine has developed.
Sue applied for the grant on behalf of Carmel Buggy who is a weaver without sight, speech or hearing. Sue runs a Studio Artes, an organisation which helps adults with disabilities explore their talents in various branches of the arts including painting, dance, sculpture and textiles. After working as an occupational therapist, Sue decided she wanted to do something which celebrates peoples abilities rather than tries to compensate for their disabilities. She uses her training and experience to find ways for people who may otherwise have no creative outlet to express themselves.
Christine has been a milliner for 20 years. She started off as an office worker but after marriage and children, she decided that she never wanted to go back to office work.
She didn’t grow up knowing how to sew but went to TAFE in the mid 80’s to learn as much as she could including felt making and using felt. Her first hats, made in the late 80’s were of felt and were very flamboyant.
After she saw the Phantom of the Opera, she realized that she wanted to work in the theatre and was lucky enough to get work experience with the Australian Opera (AO) in ’95. She continued to work there casually and when the assistant milliner retired, she took over. Carol worked from designs drawn by various designers to create hats that could be actually be worn by an actor or singer: they should be no heavier than about 1kg. They also need to be tough because actors tend to take off their hat first and throw their costume on top of the hat.