Posts Tagged ‘West Australian Embroiderers guild exhibition’

Browsing Through Stitches

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Browsing on my FB page this morning, I was enticed by a wonderful pic of a very textural work (by Clarrissa Callesen) advertising the Ballarat and Toowoomba winter textile art workshops this year, at It looks like a great program, as usual, Glennys and Noni! and I’m sorry I can’t be there but will be able to come one day. On this year’s tutor/class offering list is international tutor Clarissa Callesen of USA, whose work I did not know of, but am very glad to have found this interesting mixed media artist

When I’m browsing and find something interesting, I always look for a web page for that name, hoping there’ll be a statement by the artist revealing something of motivation and influences in their art. Clarissa’s entire statement is worth reading and contemplating, but several sentences in particular resonate with me: “I am less concerned with an object’s original purpose and more interested in the evidence of life a thing wears upon the surface ….. I am fascinated with the relationships between decay and fecundity, repulsion and seduction, chaos and order.  The compost of life creates new growth, whether that is the literal forest floor feeding new life or the wounds and scars of human life that bring forth strength and change.” I wish I had written those words. ‘Recycled’ easily finds its way into artists’ statements these days, often sounding a deliberate attempt to endow the work with some extra merit. But reading her statement shows this is this is not just empty virtue signalling, as her work is an expression of deeply thought out views and feelings, and requires no dressing up with fancy words.

Callesen’s art recycles and re-purposes discarded man-made materials, plus other natural objects such as stones, driftwood and shells she has collected; and her stashes of materials and objects must be amazing. What she finds is already in some state of disuse and decay when found, and on some of their surfaces she enhances signs of decay or stress using various processes, so that looking at some images it’s not possible to be sure of the composition of many of them. With the exception of some tetrahedrons I made a few years ago, I’ve mostly worked in 2-D – art quilts since 1989, but before that I was making framed or mounted creative but very low relief embroideries, examples of which are in my mixed media gallery Seeing this lovely stitched art is inspiring me to think about a couple of 3-D ideas …

In the same browsing session I clicked on a link someone posted to Exquisitely Gifted a major exhibition among several scheduled events celebrating the West Australian Embroiderers’ Guild’s golden anniversary. It may just be the photographer’s choice, but looking at the pictures of this exhibition, including many framed and mounted works with very few free-standing or sculptural pieces, I think little has changed in the guild since I was a member over 20 years ago. Some of those mounts are box lids (I myself made one or two fabric covered boxes with decorated lids) and many are nicely framed. Book or album type presentations are popular, like this one I made in 1985 while a member of the guild:

Mineral Study 1985. 46cm x 28cm Mineral specimens property of M. Schwabe.

It takes time and care to achieve high standards in traditional embroidery styles, and some of the fabrics and specialty threads are pretty expensive, so no wonder these kinds of works are regarded and presented as ‘precious’. Craft guilds like WAEG are the repositories of the historic knowledge and techniques of traditional embroideries that, but for the incredible guild activities , might otherwise disappear. The textile art world exemplified by Callestan and other practitioners of contemporary hand stitch depend on the deep knowledge and enthusiasm of the traditional craft guilds.

Attention West Australian readers and textile artists – In September an exciting sounding Threads Of Gold Convention will be held at Fremantle – check out the guild’s news pages for details – their taster workshops sound real fun!

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All images and text are © Alison Schwabe
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