I am delighted to have my work A Merry Dance selected for Stitched and Bound 2019, which opens at Zig Zag Gallery, Kalamunda, 11 October and runs to 27 October 2019. The exhibition then tours to Lake Grace Regional Art Space 11 – 24 November 2019.
A Merry Dance is the second in a series on Domestic Maps. The work comprises layers of business shirts, dyed tea towels, woollen blanket, all retired from their original purpose in our household. The layers have been machine stitched together with some areas cut away to reveal the under layers. The work is completed with hand stitched colonial knots.
A Vegetarian, a meat gourmand and one who loves tinned spaghetti, my children all cook, often at the same time. A merry dance around each other as they wear a path from fridge to stove top to sink. I’m very proud they can all cook, but “Oh what a mess!”
Working is textiles is a rather slow process. I started this piece in mid February. It is large – 3 x 2m lengths and there are several very time consuming steps…lots of ironing, printing, machine stitching, cutting away and now covering the entire piece with colonial knots.The slow stitching is quite calming, I’ve got into a gentle working rhythm that is surprisingly easy on my back, neck and shoulders. Often the repetitive nature of my work leads to lots of pain…and always in the back of my mind – How will I complete this if my body can’t cope?I’ve started listening to Podcasts as I stitch. Thanks to a recommendation from my son, I’ve been listening become slightly addicted to 99% Invisible. I’m boring my poor husband with lots of interesting facts…
While this is probably something I say every year, this year the approach is a little different.
Moving away from the “mosaic style” of my cut-away pieces, where I stitch 100s of 1-1 1/2 inch squares to a canvas, I’m trialing whole cloth pieces. I started this in “Days Like This”. These 20 x 20cm works were delightful to make and gave me the opportunity to include some simple hand stitch; colonial knots and running stitch. The challenge of course is the design/layout has to be determined before you start any machine stitching. With the “mosaic style” I could play around with the layout on the canvas until the very last stage of making the work. However there was a huge amount of time spend edging each small square with satin stitch.In this new work I have pushed the size to over 50 x 100cm. A challenge to manoeuvre for free motion stitching on the sewing machine, and awkward for access to the centre for hand stitching. Below – back of the work. Most seasoned quilters will say I am a being a wuss “that’s not very big!” BUT, I don’t have a long-arm quilting machine nor a quilting frame and in hindsight the backing of denim may have been a mistake. It’s quite tough to hand stitch through.
I’ve also worked mostly white on white, a shift from the usually bright colourful works I make in the cut-away technique. I’ve technically learnt a lot making this piece and during the time spent stitching, I now have lotsway too many of ideas for “whole cloth” works!
Making a body of work is only one step to exhibiting your work. Midland Junction Arts Centre staff have been wonderful to work with. Ease and grace come to mind. Curator Greg Sikich and volunteer Assistant Curator Lisa made me truely admire the skills of a curator. Achieving the vision I had with some works and guiding me with suggestions and decisions when I was less certain…I learnt a lot in those two install days.
A huge thank you also to Margaret Ford for her speech to open my exhibition. She immediately understood my work and portrayed it beautifully to the audience.Of course this body of work would not exist without the support and trust of my mother as you will see in the catalogue essay below. She willingly told me her very personal stories and those of her mother, my Nanna, in the knowledge that I was going to, in some form, interpret this into contemporary textiles. My one hope is that she feels I have honoured them. The ever supporting family 🙂
Of Our Time – Ordinary Lives explores the lives of three generations of maternal women in my family.
Family stories, those incidental ones beyond the dates of significant events, are lost if not recorded. Historical events and dates of births, deaths and marriages are easy to research. However how these same events personally affected my family as they navigated changing and challenging times can only be found through inquiry.
My early experience learning about the women in my family was through the naive lens of a child. My childhood memories of my Nanna’s life paint her days as simple and leisurely. My Mother appeared to cram a much larger workload into a strict timetable between home duties, work and study. By comparison, my own feels mashed together with few clear boundaries and little structure, but for the constant putting out of spot fires. My daughter’s life I can only project.
As a mature adult I started asking the right questions and discovered that the stories of my Mother and Nanna were much more complicated than I had believed. I have been fortunate to have access to old family letters: some nearly eighty years old, to records, memorabilia and photos. I have also been fortunate to have access to my mother, between heartfelt conversations and a shared visit to the Midland area much in the style of Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery.
Often we can’t think of the right questions, or aren’t interested until it is too late, and as I observed this in my friends and family, I was determined not to let the intricacies of my own family history slip away.
My left-handed Nanna, who taught me how to crochet right-handed, was the eldest daughter in a large family, and long considered a confirmed spinster. As far as we know she never had paid employment outside of the home. In 1941, at 37 years of age she received a marriage proposal by letter and travelled from Melbourne, Victoria to the Midland Junction Train Station to meet her Husband to be: a man she had only met on a couple of occasions. With whom she would start a new life in Western Australia.
I was drawn to the precious items my mother has kept: Nan’s letters, including the proposal by my grandfather; her exquisite hand embroidered and crocheted doilies; telegrams, ration cards, and receipts for major purchases; the documents relating to my Grandfather’s early death; immunisation records; swimming certificates; five books in the Anne of Green Gables series. I began to get a sense of her experiences leaving a loving family in suburban Melbourne, a few tram stops from the city, to living through Perth summers near Midland, during WWll and the rationing of most living necessities. The only means of communication being via letters and the occasional telegram.
During my Nanna’s time, concepts of recycling and zero-waste were of necessity. This exhibition was created entirely from materials I already possessed: scraps from previous projects, recycled and gifted vintage fabrics, older Op Shop finds.
2000 Miles Away uses tie linings complete with stains from washing, marks from manufacture and the remains of unpicked stitches, sewn together with recycled envelopes and overhead projector sheets. On a recreation of my Nanna’s hexagonal tiled floor their conversations are blurred by distance and time.
In 1962 my nineteen-year-old mother married my father and had to resign from her clerical job at the Government Railways in Perth, Western Australia. The “Marriage Bar” was still four years from its eventual repeal, requiring married women to give up their jobs in the Australian Public Service.
She found employment in a private company until I was born two years later. As time went by she worked in many clerical roles and in her 40s followed her true passion, gaining a degree in Literature and History from UWA aged 50.
My mother’s life has been marked by massive shifts in the means of communication, along with the frequency and also the access across remote distances, thanks to developments in technology.
The typewriter in its many forms has been a pivotal part of her life. Starting with the “clunky old Remington with round black keys,” on which she learnt to type in High School, to a bright red Olivetti Valentine portable: I remember her squeals of delight in receiving it for her birthday from my father, and when she came home perplexed, having had to take a speed test on “one of these new Golf Ball Typewriters,” during a job interview. As technology has changed, her progression has continued with electric typewriters, computers, iPads and mobile phone texting.
The individual typewriter keys, unique and separate, when linked together have been the means to tell stories, write essays, apply for jobs, write letters to family and friends, and more recently, send emails and texts.
The title Remington Keys is taken from the typewriter brand she learnt to type on in high school. These keys show the structure of life, bound by society’s conventions, order, and acceptance of those rules imposed upon women. My mother worked within this framework in acceptance of these societal expectations and employed these skills to create the space to explore her dreams. The work employs vintage fabrics and op shop ties in the hues with which my mother would decorate her home across the decades and the fashions she followed.
Keyboards are now less a skill in and of themselves but a means so many of us use to communicate, shop, write our thoughts, and play. Textiles have changed in a similar way: they are no less present in our lives, but our relationship has changed. The traditional sewing, knitting, crocheting and embroidery skills passed down from my grandmother to my mother as important tools to make a home, have become a means of expression and exploration, when passed down to me.
Made from minute scraps leftover from my previous works, Days contains a timeline and travels of my own art practice. The approximately 20 000 squares, recreate the days of my life so far. As a group, they all blend together, similar though unique, frayed, complex, simple, broken, amazing and any other combination on any given day. Held on by a thread. A life and a day can go from happiness to sorrow and back.
These individual days are shown in their complexity, detail and contrasts when scaled-up in Days Like This. Minute details which are glossed over in the context of the whole, make up the subject matter of these individual works.
As I’m writing this I am close to my self appointed deadline of the end of this month, to have all my work finished for my exhibition in November Of Our Time – Ordinary Lives My studio and our house is covered in dust thanks to the endless cutting fabric into small bits and reassembling.
I was actually a little bit ahead of my deadline and that is a problem. In that I thought Ooh, I could see that exhibition…and that other one…and maybe go out to dinner. You know, have a social life like other people. There goes the weekend. And then over the past week or so, so close to being finished a few unexpected challenges consume my days. The washing machine hoses leak and flood /stink out the laundry, the dog starts limping – will this be the second trip to the vet in a fortnight? A car is purchased for our daughter = an afternoon sorting out insurance, money and collection of the car.With a couple of days to go I have officially finished making!!!As I have mentioned to friends that my work is almost finished, they comment on how organised I am. November seems a long way off. There are still many steps other than making work in order to prepare for an exhibition – attaching work to canvases, backings, hanging devices, all leading up to photography day mid September. And on to catalogues etc.
Firstly a transformation of the studio into boudoir for our friends from Sydney for a long weekend. It’s amazing what you find when you have a good clean up…
Five lovely days including an unheard of visit to the beach on a Monday morning…what an extravagance. The beach and weather stunning – it was meant to be 🙂
Then the submission of my 2017 entry for Wearable Art Mandurah WAM. The work has been finished for a while, photos taken, but pressing that “submit” button…it’s when you let go of your work.
On Saturday I gave a talk to the WAFTA WASG (Wearable Art Study Group) about my journey and experiences over the past 4 years making wearable art followed by a mini workshop.A simple way to start making Wearable Art – Discover the possibilities of upcycling your recycling bin!
Participants worked directly on dress forms, playing with recycled materials. Using pins, staples and masking tape to speed up the process.
It’s always interesting to see a garment develop on a body shape. You can do lots of drawings and designs, but when you place the items on a body form it comes to life.
All the participants made wonderful and unique starts to wearable art garments, including two 10 year old girls present by default. I could see the start of some wonderful garments for the 2018 WAM competition!
The workshop reminded me that I really enjoy teaching, something that I have been pushing aside for a long time.
I’m well into the next deadline and it’s slowly progressing with machine and now hand stitch. This needs to be my focus for the next few weeks.
twentyONE+ exhibition has finished – works packed up and collected, walls patched and painted, final paperwork soon to be completed and then a celebratory dinner 🙂 The development of new work has been distracted by this and a few other pleasant events…
“Brooching the Subject” is the latest exhibition at Timeless Textiles gallery in Newcastle NSW. Approximately 100 fibre artists from across Australia and the world have entered this inaugural exhibition. July 13-17th.
At the same time I’ve packed two enormous boxes (thanks again to theboxman)
with my wearable art garments Fire Flies and The Gilded Cage. The size gives a clue as to why I have not been able to work get into the studio! Today they are heading to sunny, warm Broome (sadly without me) for-
A vaudeville inspired melodrama that is part 2 of the trilogy titled “Poppy Child of the Lane” – A little girl who grows up in Shiba Lane(Broome’s red light district of old) and her quest to find her father. It features stunning costumes, dance and circus!
Susie spoke about her own stunning work and also her career over the last 18 years as a craft consultant and artistic mentor for projects in India and Mexico. You can follow her wonderful projects here.
The Machines & Makers Project has numerous interesting events including workshops, artist talks, community and historical exhibitions, an open day…
Fire Flies was made in response to the competition theme of “Illumination”
The original idea for this work came about through a couple of connections. Firstly a female friend who worked on a mine site for many years, said “There is no flattering Hi-Vis clothing” at the same time I started seeing people wearing Hi-Vis clothing EVERYWHERE. Not just in the work force for safety reasons, but down the shops, walking the dog, I even saw a guy asking survey questions on a sidewalk wearing a Hi-Vis vest. I began to question the “visibility” people have in this saturation of Hi-Vis. How do you stand out from this crowd?
Ironically, many roadside construction workers I see are wearing faded, worn out and dusty versions of the clothing designed to protect them…
I also considered if people always wear their Hi-Vis clothing, what could I make that they could pack in their suitcase and take to the mine site for a disco night?
Concertina and folding came to mind…
I started with recycled plastic strips from ReMida. Stapling them together, playing with shape and design ideas. I went down the path of investigating spray paints in fluro colours and primers to adhere paint to plastic, although when scaled up, the plastic option became too heavy and I am sure would have been very uncomfortable to wear.
Accepting that I would no longer be in the Upcycled category gave me the freedom to choose the most suitable materials for the project design. I bought fluro t-shirting by the meter, stiffened it with interfacing, then cut it into strips ready to stitch together.
I was quite pleased with the sample results on the mannequin, so continued on…
Endless hours of stitching many, many meters of thread and bias binding…I trialed a variety of ways to create shape in the garment and use reflective tape.
And how to finish the neckline…
Ultimately a navy blue under garment referencing the “work-wear pants” without reflective tape worked best.
The title Fire Flies comes from this Wikipedia reference –
…Experimental use of high-visibility clothing began in 1964 on the Scottish Region of British Railways. Fluorescent orange jackets, known as “fire-flies”, were issued to track workers on the Pollokshields to Eglinton Street electrified section in Glasgow...
I’ve known Anne Williams for about 8 years. We met through WAFTA and got to know each other very well serving on the general committee together. Anne has always been a great resource for information, offering helpful ideas and advice when I have been stuck on a project. She is always busy making something. She often talks about the very steep driveway to her house in the Perth Hills, that no one is prepared to tackle. I was prepared for this and parked at the bottom of her driveway, I wasn’t however, prepared for the lovely tranquil setting and the stunning views back across Perth.
Anne is busily preparing work for her 1st solo exhibition at Mundaring Arts Centre, Artist in Focus – “Through the Singing of My Hands” 19th March – 17 April 2016
Anne’s studio is her kitchen / living area. So we sat there with a cuppa and a slice of delicious home made pear cake and started the interview.
One of Anne’s many notebooks
Anne describes her house as her studio, mainly working in her kitchen/living area, although extending throughout her house are storage areas for books, resources and completed works. She describes the space as being comfortable and having good light. She spends most of her time doing hand work (hand stitch, knitting, spinning etc) sitting in a comfortable chair in the living area or standing at the end of her kitchen bench. She draws and writes at the dining table nearby. This whole area has large windows looking out to her garden and views beyond. She is surrounded by works in progress and beautiful collections of objects and works by other artists.
My studio has comfortable chairs and good light
When her children were younger it was the perfect place to work whilst supervising piano practice! Although Anne has had a separate, purpose built architecturally designed studio since 1980s, where her husband “hoped she would keep all her stuff”, it gradually found its way back into her living area and she uses the studio as a store room! She has her sewing machine set up there although says it is not a good work space, it is really hot in summer, the light is not very good, especially at night and it just doesn’t feel right. Doesn’t have good Feng shui. Fortunately her husband was very patient with this!
Anne works every day. Her hands get itchy if she is not working. She often has many projects on the go, sometimes starting work in the morning and going till 10 o’clock at night. She has spent 6 – 8 – 10 hours standing at the kitchen bench working when that feels like the right place to work.
Anne often works standing at the kitchen bench
“There is extreme excitement of developing an idea, knowing it’s working”
“That is rare, sometimes you can work on a piece for three weeks and then go ‘That’s a dud!’”
Anne said she “draws a huge amount”, she has beautiful notebooks filled with “a drawing a day”, others with ideas sketched out, how she might do things. Her work books and coloured pencils are on the dining table at all times, she also carries a notebook in her hand bag, often writes her ideas on a used envelope and then transfers to a notebook.
Anne writes a lot, often inspired from quotes, Rudolf Steiner’s work, art history and her daily reading of Anthroposophical literature. She has journals full of detailed plant studies accompanying dyeing notes and samples. Anne has been working with Natural dyes since the mid 1970s, keeping meticulous records since 2006, including recording rigorous fade tests. She makes lots of samples, trials, experiments, sometimes drawing the ideas, sometimes written. She uses mostly recycled materials, simple low tech stuff. She doesn’t as a rule go and buy specialised tools and materials.
Anne came from an artistic family, her parents were both artists and skilled craft workers, her mother trained as a commercial artist and later became an art teacher, her father was self taught. Although the family was poor, she said there was always quality art materials, tools and books around which she was encouraged to use. She was taught to use them in the proper way and that it is important to respect tools, even simple tools. Through her parents interests she was exposed to weaving, painting, pottery, china painting, leather work, lino cutting as a young child. At Primary School she along with all girls of her generation was taught sewing. If work was not up to standard, it had to be pulled out and started again. Anne says at 11 years old her stitching was immaculate.
Anne went to Perth Modern School where there was no option to do art so she ended up in a science course which she felt unsuited to. At the school there was never an attitude that girls can’t do anything. Following this she received a bursary to attend teacher’s college gaining a BA Dip Ed majoring in English Literature. She got married at the beginning of the year she graduated (1966) and taught English and Social Studies for 5 months. She had her first child later that year, never returning to teaching in the state school system. For almost the next 20 years she was a mother at home with her children. Anne’s husband worked away from Easter to October every year as a field geologist. These were the days of communication by letter (sometimes taking three weeks to arrive), no skype, rarely a phone call, no mobiles nor emails. She said the few visits to see her husband in the bush have been the highlights of her life. They built and moved into their current house in 1969.
At home with her young family, Anne would visit the Kalamunda Library every week and take out all the craft books she could get her hands on, learning all she could. She craved to make things. She made all the family’s clothes, even made shirts for her husband, knitted their jumpers and socks, her husband loved her brightly coloured socks. Anne said all the “practical stuff” of sewing she learnt at primary school. In 1974 she began spinning, she was drawn to it, right at the beginning of the spinning movement. She still uses the same spinning wheel 40 + years later. At this time along with another parent she ran weaving and then embroidery classes at the primary school her children attended. As there was no budget for the classes Anne would buy fleece and started natural dyeing, purely experimenting at this point.
In the early 1980s Anne was asked to teach off-loom weaving, spinning and dyeing at Nedlands Teachers College, firstly for a semester then continuing for two years. When the colleges amalgamated and all part time jobs were lost, including Anne’s, she flipped her role and at 37 enrolled as a student in the art school, gaining a Diploma in Secondary Art Teaching.
Whilst studying part time with two teenagers at home and a husband away for most of the year, Anne attended a talk by a visiting German family about the Waldorf Steiner school system. This lead to Anne becoming an instrumental member in the foundation of the Perth Waldorf School. This was all voluntary work, from fundraising, writing constitutions to finding land for the school. She was fully involved on the school council for the next 21 years. Over this time Anne set up the craft curriculum for the school, kindy to class 12. She retired from teaching at the school in 1997 although even now teaches adult classes in spinning, knitting and drawing, and the occasional school class. Anne became involved in WAFTA and around this time started to develop her own work.
Anne describes herself as having two types of work: (i) Bread and butter work, such as sewing/mending/knitting/spinning/making socks and jumpers…saleable items; and, (ii) What is becoming increasingly more important to her is her own body of work as an artist. At the time of the interview she was working towards her first solo exhibition which consists mostly of hand stitched works on linens, denims, tea towels and mining sample bags. Anne uses lots of recycled fabrics. Many are heavily stitched works, lots of running stitch and chain stitch, layers of fabrics, often backed with woolen blankets.
Anne’s work is influenced by her study and readings of Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner and art history. She hasn’t met any other artists trying to express Anthroposophical teachings in a textile form. Anne said her parents treating children with respect as artists, and a belief that their work has integrity “has gone throughout my childhood, my teaching and my own work.”
“I get inspired by people who have done terrific work in later life”.
Untitled – Made for Memory and Commemoration exhibition
‘Housewives’ (sewing kits) were standard army issue for the ‘Nashos’ of the 1950s. They have been carried into battle zones all around the world. This one was issued to Pte. Ian Williams in 1956/7.
The above work made for WAFTA’s Memory and Commemoration exhibition, will be on show in Lake Grace Regional Art Space in March and Art Geo, Busselton in April.
If you would like to contact Anne please do so via this page.