I started knitting at 8 years old taught by my mum and nana, knitting is my meditation. I spent 6 months at teachers college many years ago learning the basics of sewing and other crafts. When I retired, I did a patchwork class, joined a club and sewed all afternoon. When I moved to Torquay, I met Celia Bolton and became involved with Boomerang Bags and have done other upcycling projects like fruit and vege bags, face wipes, peg bags and aprons.
In conjunction with Rosewall Community House in Corio, I helped establish a Refugee Sewing group and developed ideas for them to sew and sell to community groups. I joined Quirky Craft at the Torquay Community House when we moved to Torquay, making many friendships. Amitie is my happy place to sew and do classes. Craft in communities is a reason to form friendships and support others, my favourite thing is the chat and connection with others.
My favourite craft memory is the love I developed with and for my mentor in Cobram when I first started with Maisie Dunn, now deceased. The laughter after she told the “possible” joke and telling me off for sewing big stitches “galloping home”. She taught me patience and care for my work, instilling confidence in me.
My mother’s traditional embroidery was beautiful, as a child I was surrounded by textiles, textures and colours developing a strong tactile relationship with the world around me. Apart from the obligatory 70’s ‘flower power’ embroidery it was moving to Lorne twenty years ago that suddenly, between the forest and the ocean, I again felt compelled to pick up a hoop and some needles and threads. This piece was unplanned. As a meditative, mindfulness process I became immersed in this new environment, particularly the ocean and our little bird nest house on the forest edge. For me it created a huge sense of release and new beginnings. Suddenly I felt like I was channeling my mother. It was quite an extraordinary feeling. I continued embroidering more traditional pieces but the approach was still quite random and unplanned.
Using sourced material from the environment has always been pivotal to my creative process. Last year I took an online workshop with India Flint and one of the tasks she set was making these little ‘talisman books’ using eco-printed fabric and paper and decorating the covers using a slow stitching process, applique etc. Every step in the process is a delight, totally engaging and serendipitous because you never really know what the end product will be.
You would use these magazines (pictured) to see what was happening overseas because we were always behind, what would happen in their Summer would happen in ours later. My education started when I first went overseas. In 1976 when I went back to Italy, all the girls were folding up their pants and sticking safety pins through their pants and all these different coloured beads. They were creating their own fashions, school fashions. These cheeky designers, they saw this and they started making what they call knickerbockers again. Growing up in the 60’s with a mother that was pretty talented was a subconscious influence on me. At the time, you didn’t get too deeply into it, but the world opened up in the 60’s with the influence of the art, music, fashion and design as well as women’s liberation, the questioning of authority and more awareness of Indigenous cultures.
One day I just started messing around with wood and starting making picture frames, carving gumnuts and leaves on them and I did a few of those, then it just got bigger and bigger. It was again when I was in Italy I was fascinated by all the marble sculptures and the Renaissance paintings. It became entrenched somewhere. I’ve always been fascinated by faces, because we’re all different. They’ve got stories and you can make up your own story about that face, you don’t know what it is but you can make up a story about it. Sergio Leone and Federico Fellini were huge influences on me, they used flawed characters, ‘real people’. The body is very interesting because you’ve got this Hollywood cultural thing where everybody is perfect but nobody is perfect.
Jewellery making is relaxing for a start. You’re using your imagination, not just when you’re making it, but when you’re away doing something else or through the night when you can’t sleep. Craft has been a relief, being able to do something that I like to do for myself, to get the satisfaction that you can do it and you can make things that people enjoy. It’s just the satisfaction of doing something that you really enjoy; it doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to be complicated and you’re learning. What inspires me is putting the colours together, the different shapes of beads, how they’ll look when it’s finished and hopefully the joy people get wearing the pieces of jewellery I’ve made. I set the beads out that I have chosen to the length I want, in the pattern that I want and then I thread them and it takes me about half an hour or an hour depending on how complicated the design is, whether it’s on wire or going on a chain.
I first saw jewellery making at a hand craft exhibition and thought ‘I can do that’. I found that I could just focus on the beads and it cleared my mind of day to day worries and problems, it relaxed me. It’s like when you’re knitting, crocheting or out in the garden. I wouldn’t know how many pieces of jewellery I’ve made, thousands! It makes me feel proud when I see someone wearing a piece of jewellery I’ve made, you see it and you think ‘gee that looks nice on them’. I might finish a necklace and someone will come over and the first thing you have to do is share it with them. Sharing my craft with others is very much a reason for why I love it.