slow textiles

a thousand faces of the feminine

One of Merilee Bennett's hand-painted, hand-stitched wisdom doll "goddesses". Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

One of Merilee Bennett's hand-painted, hand-stitched wisdom doll "goddesses". Photograph by Emma Byrnes

Over the past couple of years I have had the pleasure of working with Merilee Bennett - artist / film-maker / writer / educator / workshop facilitator.
She is a woman of many talents and someone whose company I have come to cherish and love. She is generous, warm-hearted and has that rare ability to exist in the present moment. Much of Merilee's life and art has been an exploration of the archetypal realm and how we interact with that realm in our everyday lives. 

Over her career Merilee has moved seamlessly from painting to film to photography and has, for now, settled in the three dimensional realm of wisdom doll making. She hand-stitches, beads, adorns and paints textile figures inspired by myths and fairytales, paleolithic goddesses, dreams, the natural world and the occasional mystical revelation. Each of these figures, when cradled in one's palm, has a special energy and feeling - they seem to speak of Merilee's own personal journey and inner wisdom.

As she mentioned in a recent interview with Popcraft Studio:

"The Wisdom Dolls started with my menopause doll, to celebrate entering that particular rite of passage. From then I have been listening to their whispers, and following their inspiration...She is everywhere! In seed pods and flowers, and the wind! In the feeling of sun on my skin, or the night sky when the stars are out. In the feeling of my body moving, or the energy within me during meditation. There are ancient stories that speak to me, and ordinary fabulous women around me who embody the archetype of the feminine in so many different ways. It is the grandmothers, the old goddesses, the earth under my feet."

Merilee has an interest in the incredible power of stitching and meditation - of when these two elements are in unison. When speaking of a recent wisdom doll workshop that she hosted:

"The quality of conversation around the table, over the making, as they refined their ideas and we worked out together how they were to create what they envisaged, reminded me of the aeons of women of every culture, working together, sewing or cooking or problem solving or building relationships, building community. There was an element of that feeling as this group stitched and painted and constructed, all the while talking in that free wheeling, looping manner, where technical questions give way to moments of deep emotion and intimacy."

Merilee will present her textile sculptures at the monsalvat residents gallery from 18 january - 19 march. She will also facilitate an art making workshop where attendees will explore archetypes, life narratives and create their own talisman. Spending time with Merilee and her "goddesses" is a privilege and one that I would urge you to follow up during her time at montsalvat. If you get the chance to attend one of her workshops you will find that the time spent will be deeply enriching.

Em x 

 

 

beyond the cloth

Clara Vuletich at her beloved Bondi Beach. Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Clara Vuletich at her beloved Bondi Beach. Photograph by Emma Byrnes

"I am equally passionate about fashion and textiles as I am about sustainability. My journey has essentially been to try and make sense of how these two concepts can coexist."
- Clara Vuletich, 2016

These are the words of my dear friend and collaborator, Clara Vuletich and lead us into a wonderful in-depth interview recently posted at Intent Journal for which I have supplied the photographic portrait. Clara's journey is one well worth hooking into - she has much depth to her investigation of the environmental damage and misery caused through fashion’s business activity and her conclusion is that the answer to our woes lies in creativity, innovation and collaboration. What a positive approach to a dire situation! You can listen to a recent TED talk that Clara gave to hear more about her ideas around these principles for sustainability and fashion.
Intent Journal is a fantastic new discovery for me. It features wonderful long-form interviews with people who dedicate their lives to exploring the purpose, impact, craftsmanship, longevity and lifecycle in the fashion and textiles industry. There are some wonderful profiles featuring people who value the story behind our clothing. Be sure to carve out a little time for this one - it is not one of those online spaces that caters to the 3 second concentration span. This project has some substance, as do the ideas explored within it!
Em x

heavenly hmong

Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Photograph by Emma Byrnes

One of the aspects of travelling through Vietnam that I was most looking forward to was visiting the ethnic minority hill tribes. The local textiles traditions have fascinated me from afar - these people who live such incredibly colourful lives through their age-old handicrafts and traditional costumes.
Finally this week I was able to glimpse some of the magic at the Pa Co Sunday market (about 45 minutes from Mai Chau) and was able to watch the Red and Blue Hmong locals come together to trade in textiles, costumes and haberdashery. Endless supplies of extraordinarily coloured appliquéd panels, beads, tassels, fringing - being haggled over by women whose outfits are just out-of-this-world inspiring when it comes to everyday fashion.
There is a new blog post up over at our travel blog that has a few extra pics of the market and also includes information about our time spent in the region.

Em x

space + craft

Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Photograph by Emma Byrnes

I was recently commissioned by long-standing Melbourne printmaking studio - Spacecraft - to formulate a visual strategy for their brand; produce a bank of images for use on their website; and host in-house training for their staff on maintaining a strong, cohesive style for their daily social media needs. Considering my history as co-founder of Harvest Textiles screen-printing studio; having worked in communications/media for many years; and my love for all things visual - this was a dream brief!
What an incredible small business Spacecraft is and a real life example of small-scale, local production. I spent time getting to know their dynamic approach and running between their print studio and Gertrude Street store, taking photographs as I went. The small team screen-print all of their textiles in their Collingwood studio, then walk the fabric up the road to their beautiful Fitzroy store, where their in-house sewing genius, Rosie conjures it up into homewares or clothing. Then it is ready to place in the store for sale. They also undertake loads of collaborations with artists which keeps things interesting for the whole team. It was an absolute pleasure spending time with such creative and cohesive folk - they have such a strong spirit and a dedication to handmade and locally-made artisan products. 
The image above is of Stewart and Danika from Spacecraft hand-printing a Northern Rosella from their Ornithology series. As part of the studio work process, the table backing cloth also takes impressions from each and every print, slowly unfolding as it's own, stand-alone artwork - layers and layers of labour and love. Just wonderful work.
The results of my strategy job will roll out over the next few months and I am excited to watch the brand begin to truly communicate their elegant aesthetic.
Em x

 

knit one, om one

Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Photograph by Emma Byrnes

An article in Knit Wit Magazine's latest issue features long time collaborator, slow textiles inspiration and dear friend of mine - Clara Vuletich. (I was the photographer on this story by freelance writer Neha Kale.)
Clara is a textile designer, sustainability strategist and yoga teacher. She is one of those treasured folk who greets the birds and flowers in the morning with vigour and fills her life with colour and texture, honouring age old craft traditions in the process.
The article in Knit Wit investigates a link that Clara has been ruminating on for many years - the one between meditation and textile craft techniques. Her belief is that there exist similarities between these simple hand-techniques and meditation, both activities that make us feel calm and relaxed. The piece coincides with another article last week by the New York Times about how craft activities promote the development and maintenance of cognitive health.
Her insights motivated Clara to establish Sutra Stitching workshops in 2013 where she teaches both mantra meditation and hand-stitching side-by-side. Her plan this year is to extend these workshops to a much broader audience - so, if Clara's mindfulness bent piques your interest, be sure to follow her journey. Having spent many hours in her company I can guarantee that you will find nourishment and inspiration.
Em x
 

home sewing élan

Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Photograph by Emma Byrnes

My friend Nita-Jane always turns heads. Her eye for style and fashion is acute and most of her garments are made from scratch. And when I say 'from scratch' I mean that NJ conceptualises fresh ideas, translates them into patterns and then constructs beautiful one-off pieces. She truly is an original and marches to the beat of her own drum.
And the good news is that she now shares her aesthetic with others as her new enterprise Pattern Fantastique sells sew-at-home digital patterns. The other bonus is that Nita-Jane wants her clients to extend their technique and sewing skills and encourages discussion and problem solving via her blog.
Despite having what at first glance appears to be a fairly limited range of designs available for sale, on deeper investigation you will find that each pattern can be appropriated in many ways with dramatically different outcomes depending on slight alterations and the fabric used. In fact, Nita-Jane is hosting a workshop at Pop Craft Studio in March to explore the myriad of ways the Aeolian tee (pictured above) can be executed and she will guide people through assessing fit, fall, prints and texture. For anyone who wishes to inject élan into their home sewing - this workshop would be for you.

Em x