Studio pop-in with Mary Good

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Tell us about your experience studying visual art at RMIT as a mature age student?
I think being older made some things much easier for me (I was 65 when I began). I had been looking at art for at least forty years longer than most of my fellow students and was able to distill what I had learned, even though my technical skills were limited. Most of them were far more skilled than I was. 

Your repertoire of artworks shows off numerous skills ranging from moulding latex to embroidery. With which medium do you feel most comfortable?
I find that quite a hard question to answer. It depends on what I have been doing most recently. Most recently I have been doing a lot of hand stitching and that is something I enjoy doing and which I find can say things I want to say. Having said that, when I was doing a lot of painting I couldn't imagine not wanting to paint all the time because it is so meditative. I have also done quite a lot of work sculpting in paper and wire, and while that can be very rewarding it doesn't give me the same sense of timelessness that painting and stitching do.
The question asked about most comfortable… often I feel quite terrified before I begin any new project. I want to do it but I don't know what will happen, where I will go and what I will discover.

You fervently collect stories and  singular characters. What are your favourite stories from your childhood?
I think I like stories of things I did with friends most. I had two best friends, Jane and Margaret and we had great adventures together. Their mother would encourage us to go exploring the suburbs around us. (we lived in Sydney). We would pack a lunch and off we would go. One of our favourite places was Vaucluse House a National Trust house,nearish to where we lived. The rooms were all furnished as they would have been a hundred years ago and we would walk around it, imagining we lived there. Another favourite place was a huge park nearby called Cooper Park. It was a fairly wild place and I remember one time there was a creepy man there, but there was solidarity in numbers and we avoided him. There was a rubbish dump at one end of the park, I can still remember how it smelt. It must have been where they sorted paper and dumped it .We loved sifting through it and finding exercise books and diaries and reading them to one another. We were allowed a lot of freedom, and I know it was enriching for me.

Playback theatre has played such a significant part in your life. How has it influenced your art practice?
Probably the most important thing to come from Playback Theatre is learning to trust what comes to mind, not censoring and looking for the next thing. I learned through Playback Theatre to find what was the essence of the story and this was an enormous help in knowing when I had done enough and to have a sense of balance in where things needed to be placed. This is true for abstract work as well as figurative work. When you are enacting a story you need to develop a sense of where to put the emphasis, what must be included and what discarded.

Mary’s exhibition All Stitched Up will showcase a range of stitched artwork.  At Pop Craft Studio from the 21st to the 4th of December. The studio will be open on weekends from 10-5 pm and by appointment during the week.

All photos courtesy of Heartland.


SHUKLAY TAHPO and MU NAW POE, unwavering weavers.

In early 2013 a group of Karen refugee women undertook a tapestry training program at the Australian Tapestry Workshop in Melbourne. Their tutor, Sara Lindsay, has continued to work with 2 members of the group, Mu Naw Poe and Shuklay Tahpo, visiting their homes on a fortnightly basis to encourage the development of skills and design material.

Mu Naw arrived in Australia in 2008. She learnt cloth weaving from her mother in Burma and continued her weaving practice in the refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border that she lived in for 20 years. Since 2011 she has produced colourful, patterned collages portraying the natural world. Mu Naw has adapted to tapestry weaving with great ease, demonstrating a highly intuitive use of colour and pattern. Shuklay also arrived in Australia in 2008 and has produced numerous collages as part of the Karen Art Group. She had no experience of weaving prior to arriving in Australia, but has quickly developed her significant lyrical style, which displays a deep passion for the medium. “When I am weaving I am happy”, she says. Both artists have received awards for their collages in the Heartlands Refugee Art Prize. In 2010 Mu Naw was awarded 2nd prize and in 2012 Shuklay received a Special Mention prize.

Mu Naw and Shuklay's tapestries are on exhibition in the studio this weekend 1-4pm.

Photos courtesy of  Heartland and Gus Kemp, words by Sara Lindsay.

studio pop-in with Soft Stories

Isobel you grew up speaking French, regularly sharing your home with foreign exchange students and believing that "our land abounds in nature strips" was a line from Advance Australia Fair. Do you ladies have uncanny childhood coincidences or similarities? 
Cat had to wear cotton wool in her ears and I had camphor strung around my neck all through primary school. I’m sure we would have been best friends. We both grew up in regional Australia with crafty mothers and grandmothers who taught us so much about what we do now.

After so many hours spending working together have you developed any freaky idiosyncrasies?
We often turn up in unplanned matching outfits, usually of a stripey nature. Through the couple of years we have worked together, we have developed a keen eye for subtle differences in cardboard and felt qualities! We also share a weakness for fun puns.

Will your book characters be speaking other languages i.e have you planned a worldwide domination? Surely, they would pick up Japanese with great ease.
We are putting our characters through intensive bilingual training, we hope there will be a tortue, Schildkröte, tartaruga, qoolleyda and kame living in treehouses all over the world very soon!

Apart from ergonomic scissors what your tools of the trade?
Our tools are as simple as they can get, but we couldn't live without tacky glue. Having said that, we have been known to pull out big drills and circular saws!

Cat and Isobel will be leading the "Thinking in 3-D with felt" class on Saturday the 5th of September from 10-4pm. Bookings here.

All photos courtesy of Heartland

studio pop-in with Sara Lindsay

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

Studio pop-in with John Brooks a.k.a Looming

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Your woven sculptures are strangely totemic, do you have a spirit animal?
Not exactly, but maybe. I think horses were my anti-spirit animal for a little while, but lately the horse symbolism has stopped tormenting me, possibly since the year of the horse ended. My zodiac sign is the rat which is apparently the horse's number one enemy. I did a spirit guide meditation at a festival about a year ago but it didn't really work right away. I'd been watching a lot of The Face with my housemates at the time and so the next morning at a yoga class I really wanted to come out of downward dog because my arms were sore, Naomi Campbell popped into my head, yelling at me, so I figured it must have been a delayed response to the meditation, obviously. So Maybe Naomi Campbell is my spirit guide. Also maybe it's a goat, and I also had a recent obsession with manatees and dugongs. A lot of the forms I make come from collages and abstractions of animal pelts, rather than living animals. I don't eat meat, but I really like fur. I don't really buy it under normal circumstances, but I have friends who probably wouldn't leave me alone with their pets because I might have made a passing comment that my friend's long-haired guinea pig would make a really great shoe or that another friend's dog's fur would be a good texture to weave with.

What music do you listen to while you weave?
I am the worst repeat listener in the entire world. For the last year I have almost exclusively listened to Cocteau Twins while I work. I think it's started to feed into the work a little bit, I ended up making all of these videos with blue yetis jumping through portals. Sometimes I'll switch to Cibo Matto if I need to lighten the mood a little bit or if things are getting too serious. In my early work that was really dark and theatrical The Cure was my work music. Apparently I only listen to bands beginning with C when I work.

What do you write in the "occupation" box, weaver or artist?
It really depends on the situation, but more often than not it would be artist. Sometimes unemployed, sometimes waiter. Student was the most common answer for about 8 years. I make a lot of video work, maybe as much as I weave and lately I've been having a little bit of a break from weaving and making works on paper, so I would probably say artist as a generalisation, rather than locking myself into one discipline. Weaving's probably still my favourite though, it was the first discipline I ever really invested time in.

Who are your favourite textile artists?
This is a tough one. There are so many. He's not a textile artist, but I'm really into the work of the Thai director and video installation artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The costumes in his film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives were great. Ernesto Neto's suspended soft sculptures are an old favourite too, I was pretty happy when one of his works came to the NGV. She's not a textile artist, but I was really into the lily pad soft sculptures you could recline on in Pipilotti Rist's show at ACCA a couple of years ago, I Packed the Postcard in My Suitcase. I also have a little bit of an art crush on Dani Marti, I have a soft spot for Tracy Emin's textile work, I have massive respect for everything that Anni Albers and Sheila Hicks did for textiles as an artform. Anna Batbeze's work is pretty awesome, although she destroys textiles rather than makes them, I kind of wish her art was my art sometimes, it looks like it'd be fun to make. When I was studying drawing I was really into this book called Beyond Craft: The Art Fabric, if you haven't looked at it I'd really recommend it, it's a survey on a wide range of 1970s textile artists and it's incredible, there's a lot of amazing artists like Ritzi and Peter Jacobi, Peter Collingwood and Magdalena Abakanowicz. Also, more of a textile engineer than an artist, but Junichi Arai's textiles are so innovative and a little bit mind blowing. Also not a textile artist, but I like Mike Kelley's soft toy installations, More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid might be one of my favourite titles for an artwork. And the last one I wanted to mention isn't a textile artist in any way, but I've been thinking about Pierre Huyghe's work a lot for the last year or so, his practice is nothing like mine, but I really like the way he deals with temporality. He's having his first retrospective in Australia at Tarrawarra Museum next month which will definitely be worth seeing.

John is showing his woven sculptures at Pop Craft Studio this Friday to Sunday 1-5pm.

All photos courtesy of Monica Ramirez