Liz and Marie recently returned from a wonderful trip to the US where both attended Convergence, the biannual conference of the Hand Weavers Guild of America.
This year’s event was held at the Long Beach Convention centre from 15 to 21 July. Marie returned home after this and Liz stayed on to attend the Complex Weavers Seminars held in September in Washington. Liz showed a very inspiring, tantalising power point presentation of the highlights of their trip. As Liz had only recently returned to Australia, it was a formidable achievement to get the presentation so well organized from 6500 photos!
Reg spent more than 40 years in agricultural education in the UK before moving to Australia with his wife and family. Ironically goats and alpacas were not animals he dealt with in the courses he taught but after breeding Suffolk sheep for a time and finding them too large to handle comfortably, he was convinced by his daughter to get some angora goats. While still in the UK he bought six Australasian angora goats but was not impressed by their quality (or lack of.) Goats from Texas and South America have since proven to be of a finer quality and more to Reg’s liking as a breeder.
Once in Australia, Reg found a 10 acre property, Winder Angoras and Alpacas which now houses himself, his family, pets and angora goats and alpacas.
Emma Kate Wallace from WEFTshop – Women for Education, Freedom and Textiles, spoke to members.
Emma, who is a trained theatrical tailor, has worked with WEFTshop for six years. After graduating from NIDA she was determined to involve herself in work along the Thai-Burma border camps, particularly wanting to help women. She spends part of the year working on theatrical productions, films, etc and uses her earnings to travel to the refugee camps where most of WEFTshop’s work is done.
From their website:
There are approximately 140,000 ethnic-minority refugees, who have fled human rights abuse in Burma, living in Thailand’s nine camps along the Thai-Burma border. They are dependent on subsistence-level humanitarian assistance and the majority have limited or no means to provide for themselves and their families.
Asa was a Guild member in the past and was a keen spinner until her interest in natural dyes took over. She now buys organic yarn from New Zealand as her dyeing activities (and many other interests) leave her with no time for spinning.
Asa started to spin and dye in 1975 on her parents farm in Mudgee. At the time she had access to a good supply of yellow box eucalyptus which produced a deep orange/ochre colour, a shade that has remained a favourite with her. Eucalyptus dyes are fast, ie they don’t need mordants to fix the colour. This also makes them a favourite as Asa does not use any toxic or dangerous chemicals in her dyeing and tries to use only natural ingredients. Eucalyptus dyes are also light fast and will not fade during normal use. Although what she uses for her dyeing are harmless Asa still keeps all her equipment separate from utensils she uses to cook food, as most dyers advocate.
Charlotte Haywood visited the Guild in August on the eve of her new exhibition, Blue/Orange and gave us an extremely interesting presentation of some of her work.
Charlotte told us that she had little formal artistic or craft tuition as a child or teenager – a topic she would touch on later. However she developed an interest in fashion. This led to work in costume in film and television and developed her artistic skills as a designer. Her interest in textiles was a natural evolution from this background and she went on to study tapestry weaving at Warrnambool TAFE.
A visit to Varanassi in India allowed her to explore the possibilities of jacquard weaving techniques. On a holiday in Peru she was seduced by the local weaving and the vibrant colours the weavers used. Charlotte also talked about her role as a facilitator of the hyperbolic crochet reef exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum and showed us examples of the work produced. She also gave us a sneak preview of her exhibition of shaped tapestries and installations which look at polarities of colour and the ideas of opposites as exemplified in her video installation of a Samurai council worker, or the contrasts between digital art and hand knits.
The first part of the August GM was simulcast to a small group of invited participants. Committee members Ann Jackson and Katherine Henry (with a lot of help from Katherine’s daughter Isabella) put a great deal of work into setting up the broadcast and made a lot of adjustments and adaptations throughout the morning so they could get things working in time for this month’s Tool Talk. Ann Jackson emphasised that the idea of the simulcast is not to replace the monthly meetings but to provide another
place where people can join in. Ann then explained the realities of copyright during simulcasts, anything that is broadcast on the internet (or most other mediums) can legally be copied and consequently reviewed or commented upon by anyone. The problem of copyright control for any speakers or guest artists appearing at the Guild is one that needs to be resolved in the future. Ann suggests that people need to accept that if their work is in the public arena they should be prepared to deal with some people
borrowing their ideas or techniques. Any work shown during the simulcast will be acknowledged.
Both long time Guild members and very experienced teachers of colour design and tapestry weaving, Yvonne and Marie are also involved in a trans-Tasman tapestry group which holds a themed exhibition each year – the AuNZ Tapestry Group Project.
Before telling us about the Project, Marie gave us a brief history of tapestry.
Woven tapestry has been around for at least 3,000 years. Fragments of tapestries from many centuries ago have been found all over Europe, in North Africa and in South America. A variety of ancient pieces of weaving have been discovered in Egypt where the hot, dry environment mean the fibres have been well preserved.
This month we were treated to a wonderful array of photos from the new Love Lace exhibition, which opens at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney on 30 July. The winner of this third International Lace Award will be announced at the launch of Sydney Design 2011.
Curator Lindie Ward presented an interesting collection of exhibits, giving us a run through of the techniques and stories behind many of pieces. There are many beautiful entries from an international field of textile and other media artists. It was fascinating to hear how some of the pieces were constructed and set up in the gallery spaces, including how Harris Street was closed to allow a giant truck to be transported into the exhibition site.
Many of the works challenge the traditional understanding of lace as a textile art, as the museum broadened the definition of lace to include any
openwork structure whose pattern of spaces is as important as the solid areas. As such, there were many exhibits using metal, natural fibres and paper to wonderful effect.
Marion Wheatland is
Canadian by birth, Australian by heart and has lived in Australia for over 40 years. She has been spinning for more than 20 years and runs a business called Fancy Spinning a Yarn. Marion is passionate about fibre and wool and also history, a trait she inherited from her father. As a child she used to attend agricultural shows in Canada. The Dandenong Show was her introduction to the Australian version of the Ag show. Her interest in fibre motivated her to get her wool classing certificate but she has found her niche as a spinning teacher.
In 2002 a friend of Carole’s put on an exhibition at the Bondi Pavilion which featured a series of photos taken in northern India highlighting the lives of some of the people in this region. Some of the funds raised during the exhibition were used to start a project in this area of India. By chance, the subject of the project was a traditional weaver named Tejsi Dhana Marwada.
In 2001 Tejsi Dhana’s home and livelihood were destroyed by an earthquake. His family had found refuge in a greener and more hospitable part of the region but were told by the authorities that they could not settle there. With money raised by Carole and her friends, a plot of land was bought to provide space for the weaver to work from which he could not be removed by the local government. Eventually a workshop was built on the land and Tejsi Dhana was able to secure housing nearby which was also close to health, other services and schools for his children. After establishing the weaving workshop more funds were raised so that a permanent water supply could be connected to the property to enable on-site dyeing to be carried out. Mostly natural dyes are used by this traditional weaver: madder, indigo, lac, sappan, etc applied to locally available fibres from sheep, goat, camel and cotton.