The Meroogal Woman’s Art prize is organised by Sydney Living Museums and held at the historic house of Meroogal, in Nowra. Artists make work in response to this house, which was built in 1885 in a carpenter gothic style, was home to four generations of the same family, and is now open to the public with all its contents and rich history intact. It’s a fascinating place to visit.
Here’s the work I submitted for the competition this year: Meroogal Sampler 2016, and I’m happy to say it was awarded second place. And here’s what I wrote about this work:
There were two things which struck me particularly on visiting Meroogal: the quality and breadth of the embroidery made by the house’s residents, from crewel work cushions, to the embroidered collars. I was also especially taken with the twentieth century additions to the house’s decoration, which remind one that this house was continuously lived in by many different generations.
Thinking about the lives that were lived here long after the house was built but before it became famous I began to imagine a sampler created by an imaginary resident of the house—a modest object, made by hand, that threaded together many of the house’s lesser known but still special patterns, textures, lines and colours, a piece of embroidery which used the stitches employed by the Victorian craftswomen who lived here: french knots, herringbone stitch, feather stitch, bullion stitch, satin stitch, stem stitch and more, and applied them in a modern decorative scheme. An object that visitors might see within the house which seemed to fit in but not quite. A sampler—an embroiderer’s record of her favourite stitches and patterns–which could only have come about and existed in this particular house.
Some recent work which showed at Anna Miles Gallery’s stand at the Auckland Art Fair. I called this group of works Triangles Are Your Friend. These asymmetrical 3, 4, 5 and 6 sided bags sit alongside Richard Stratton’s ceramics. Take a look at the Viva article about this work here.
An exhibition at Anna Miles Gallery of new work including embroidered handbags, appliqued scarves and a rag rug.
The works are housed in a cabinet that was first used at the 1925 New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin. In Paris that same year, the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts included geometric textiles and handbags by Sonia Delaunay, displayed in another extremely seductive vitrine, the window of her Simultane Boutique on Pont Alexandre III.
This exhibition was at Anna Miles Gallery as part of ‘Tout Ensemble’ with Sarah Hillary, Patricia Bosshard Browne and Fiona Jack, from 29 November until 19 December 2015
This bag was commissioned recently by a friend and client in memory of her mother. It features her mother’s favourite flowers: hydrangeas, lillies-of-the-valley and violets. It is made of black wool, wool felt flowers and lined with 1940s floral fabric. Making it gave me a new appreciation of hydrangeas, which are now among my favourite flowers too.
An exhibition of embroidered bags at Anna Miles Gallery from 19 April to 29 May 2015.
These embroideries have been made on linen with thread in black, red, green, orange, chartreuse and blue. The linen is the kind of linen that painters paint on. The thread is New Zealand wool and mohair which, closely hand-stitched, gives the coloured lines a satisfying plumpness and density. Sometimes these lines do as the shapes of the bags or pockets tell them; sometimes they ignore those suggestions. And though the lines do seem to carry all the energy, they also frame and draw out the virtues of the linen that supports them. I was thinking of women modernists of the early twentieth century — Sonia Delaunay, Sophie Taeuber-Arp — and how their decorations were also great abstraction. And how some great painted abstractions borrowed from the decorative realm. The ‘her’ in ‘Her Abstracts’ could be several people. She could be the person I imagine wearing these works. She could be the person I imagine making them – an early twentieth century woman in love with geometry.
A recent commission.
‘Her petals rustled softly into the hall, and she kissed Mrs. Norman Knight, who was taking off the most amusing orange coat with a procession of black monkeys round the hem and up the fronts.
” … Why! Why! Why is the middle-class so stodgy – so utterly without a sense of humour! My dear, it’s only by a fluke that I am here at all – Norman being the protective fluke. For my darling monkeys so upset the train that it rose to a man and simply ate me with its eyes. Didn’t laugh – wasn’t amused – that I should have loved. No, just stared – and bored me through and through.”‘
Katherine Mansfield, Bliss 1918
My Darling Monkeys: pure wool scarf with fourteen hand-appliqued monkeys and silk lining, 2012. Made in an edition of twelve. 125cm x 10cm.
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From the Menton brocante market. On renfile les colliers: We rethread necklaces.
For a time I had the privilege of embellishing by hand clothes designed by Marilyn Sainty. In 2002 she sent me a full circle black linen skirt with the wonderful brief “I’m thinking about the Russian Constructivists.” Above is the result. Another year we made a dress whose bodice was covered with hundreds of flowers all in the same shade of muted green. Being a lover of colour it was a leap for me to go monochromatic. But this is the joy of collaboration: going somewhere you wouldn’t have otherwise and finding you like it there. You can see where we got to here.
Above, a necklace made from discards found in a closed-down milliners’ in Lower Hutt, and a tulle posy made from off-cuts from Marilyn Sainty’s five-layered tulle skirts.
Judy’s 65th birthday bag: an evening bag for an inspirational woman, embellished with 65 black buttons and attendant embroidery.
Ursula’s wedding bolero: decorative overdrive.