Sara you joined the tapestry workshop in 1976 when weaving was experiencing a furious popularity, how does the current revival compare?
In many ways it is very similar and is driven by ecological issues, the slow art movement and a renewed examination of feminism by many artists. When I started studying at art school in Melbourne in 1972 the weaving department had recently been closed and the looms had been burnt. Tragically, after a dynamic period of crafts based education in universities, the same thing is happening again. However, the positive side to this is that many artists are now self-taught, often from You-Tube, and are making wonderful experimental and innovative work which transcends boundaries. In addition, the rise of private studios, such as Popcraft, where there is an emphasis on skills development will hopefully ensure that complex skills are not lost.
What is your favourite piece of art that you have interpreted into a tapestry?
I have made work about my family's relationship with Sri Lanka since my first visit in 2005. My most recent major piece "Cargo: China Tea Cinnamon Ticking" consists of 11 parts made from cinnamon sticks and tapestry. The largest part, which measures 72 cm in diameter, is a circular tapestry based on a large chinese ceramic plate which was purchased by my grandmother in her then home of Ceylon in 1923. This plate travelled to England and then to Australia with my grandmother. After her death it hung in my mother's house and is now in mine. It has been broken and repaired and for me the weaving/repairing of this plate was an important act linking events across time and space.
Has literature influenced your weaving practice?
Reading is very important to me and I do get most of my ideas from literature. I enjoy reading fiction which is culturally specific and have a bookshelf full of novels by Sri Lankan and Japanese writers, the two countries that I visit most often. I am about to go to Europe and will be spending three weeks in Lisbon so I am now discovering Portuguese literature. At the moment I am also reading some more theoretical texts, 'Confronting Silence' by the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu and 'Black and Blue' by Carol Mavor which includes many references to film, another of my passions.
Weaving is a meditative process to say the least. Do you know of any weaving proverbs?
There is a myriad of proverbs and myths which relate to weaving in many different cultures. Possibly the most famous is in Homer's Odyssey where Penelope, wife of the absent Odysseus, unpicks at night all that she has woven during the day. Having said that she would choose a suitor once she has finished her weaving this strategy keeps the suitors at bay and she remains faithful to her husband! I recently discovered a Sicilian proverb which I like. "To appear and not to be is like weaving and not making cloth".
Sara will be exhibiting some of her retrospective tapestries at Pop craft Studio this Friday 17th, Saturday 18th, Sunday 19th and Friday 24th, Saturday 25th, Sunday 26th of July from 1-5pm.
All Photos courtesy of Heartland