Fibres and Fabrics Fight Old-Fashioned Furphy

Sandy Beilenberg is one of the artists involved in fibres and fabics exhibition 'Threads' IMAGE: Pania Witoko

Artists from Mission Beach and the Cassowary Coast are challenging the preconceived notions of fibre and fabric art in a group exhibition at Townsville’s Drill Hall Studio.

The richness, diversity and mastery expressed by the pieces in Threads seeks to debunk the idea that fabric and fashion arts are merely women’s work.

Threads stitches together pieces by artists from Mission Beach’s Threads Fibre and Fabric Artists and The Cassowary Coast Yarners.

Founding member of the Threads group and exhibition convenor Sally Moroney said the artistry, time, and mastery of skills of textile artists is often underrated and undervalued.

“It’s not just a domestic craft,” says Sally.

“It’s a serious art form in a lot of ways.It’s very expressive, and sometimes fibre and textile art will have a really strong political message or environmental message to share.”

Labours of love

Sally draws together her love of nature and fibre and fabric within this exhibition. Her works include palm frond and textile coiled baskets, mixed media paintings and crochet.

“My artwork is all very much nature themed or inspired”, says Sally.

“I use colours in the crochet that relate to nature.”

Fellow crochet artist Ria McCormack uses her work to bridge physical distances.

“Ria crochets shawls as an expression of love,” says Sally.

“Her work is a way of physically enveloping people who you can’t hug in person.

“She started crocheting when a friend died in South Africa. Ria couldn’t give her a hug, so she crocheted her shawl.”

Leafy Basket – Small by Sally Moroney IMAGE: Pania Witoko

Tougher than you think

Innisfail’s Sandy Bielenberg creates non-traditional patchwork and free-form embroidery using a domestic sewing machine.

Exploring the joy of colour and nature, Sandy has made fun and imaginative neckpieces from dyed silk pieces, applique and creative stitching.

She says her work is not as delicate as people often expect it to be.

 “Because it’s on fabric, people don’t think it’s art, they seem to think it won’t last, if it’s not behind glass,” says Sandy.

“People think you can’t hang textile art on the wall, whereas you can. You can even wash it and hang it back up again.”

An eclectic collection

The Threads exhibition includes many other eye-catching creations.

Nina Dawson’s silk and wool shawls use eco-printing techniques to create a rich layering of leaf motifs in rustic tones. Libby Clegg uses more traditional screenprinting techniques to create tropical table runners. Wendy Sheils’, large random weave basket of palm inforescences is a beauty to behold in both size and organic form. AndAnnette Anderson’s Embroidery Sampler is a visual vocabulary of hand stitching in various forms, playing with the canvas upon which they are stitched.

Bush Shawl [Detail], Nina DAWSON
Crochet Shawl [Detail], Sally Moroney
Embroidery Sampler [Detail], Annette Anderson

Fabric and fibre art expresses itself in many forms, and offers a wide scope of exploration for an artist. It is clear, however, that fabric and fibre artisans are fuelled by their passion to create:it’s passion that drives the needle through the fabric stitch after stitch. It’s passion that collects nature’s litter to dye and weave. It’s passion that knits together mindfulness and persistence worthy of appreciation.

In Threads the artists of Mission Beach and the Cassowary Coast explore traditional techniques in more contemporary times, to keep fabric and fibre art fresh and relevant.

Threads is on display at Drilla Hall Studio until 10 August 2022.

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