Saturday, October 04, 2008

Why Textile Arts? - Part 3: Uni and Beyond...

Whilst at Uni my house mate and I both took up Cross-stitch. Needless to say we weren't much interested in Wednesday night dances or Friday night drinking sessions. We'd save our $$ by compromising on our grocery shopping (making do with 2-minute noodles instead of proper meals) in order to make a trip to Toowoomba to buy a cross-stitch pattern each. The cross stitch that I'm finishing now is one that I bought after Uni at a craft fair that I went to T with.

My next textile-related passion would have to be the cloth dolls. I became interested in cloth dolls during my first “real full-time job” after Uni. I was living on my own in a new town without too much to do in my spare time (still not a big one for going out – even though there wasn't much of a night life in Blackwater). I think that I discovered dolls through a magazine – it was either Bears, Dolls and Collectables, or a special Cloth Doll edition of the same magazine. I started out by saying that I just wanted to do one to try it. That doll is now hanging on the wall at Mum's place, along with several others that followed, so no I didn't stop at one. From the simple doll that I started with, I then went on to sculpted faces, wired armature and separate fingers.

I think that by this stage I new that sewing and crafts were definitely my 'thing'. Spotlight and the local quilt shop were my favourite 'hang-outs' as was the craft section of the newpaper shop (still is, but now I just browse and dn't buy – not so much anyway!). During one job I had I worked at two different locations and had to travel and stay away for two to three days each. I would take my sewing machine and the latest doll with me to work on in the evenings at the motel I was staying at – now that's dedication.

At one stage whilst I was working for Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, I was relocated and stayed at a friends house at the beach for about 4 weeks whilst I found a place to live (all of my possessions were in storage). I needed to have something to do after work so I was working on an embroidery kit that I bought. This embroidery was raised embroidery and involved needle-lacing. This was where my love of stumpwork and raised embroidery started. During that same time I found a book called Hand Embroidered Country Scenes, by Sue Newhouse. Inspired by this book I created these two pieces...

This one is hanging in Mum's house (yes she has lots of my work)image0
And this one I gave to my friends as a thank-you for letting me stay. image2

This is the start of my real love of textiles and making threads and fabric do things that people wouldn't normally think possible. Over the next 12 months I continued with the cloth dolls and dabbled in embroidery. I joined a group at the local quilt shop where we'd sit and work on our own projects. As I was reading an issue of Textile Fibre Forum I saw an ad for Box Hill Tafe's Studio Stitch course and I decided that I really loved what I did with textiles and embroidery and wanted to take it further.

This was a big leap of faith for me. I took 12 months leave from my job, uprooted myself from the house that I'd established for myself and drove down to Melbourne with what I could fit into the car to attend a course on textiles and stitch. At the time I left Mackay, where I was living at the time, I had no place to stay and no idea what I was in for. I still to this day don't know how I had the guts to make such a decision. I still don't know how Mum stood back and let me do it. But I'm so glad that I did!

I have been in Victoria for almost 7 years now. I completed the Studio Stitch course in 2004, have participated in 3 exhibitions and have found the man that I'm going to marry (an added bonus). It's more than I could have wished for when I packed the car 7 years ago half expecting that I would be back on Mum's doorstep in 12 months time.

What happens next is anybody's guess but textiles are a part of my life and I will continue to explore and play!!!


magikquilter said...

Wow this is so interesting ....and a good idea to document this as you may be asked to do a book on it one know how famous and talented artist got started.

You were very brave and a girl after my own heart...I left everything behind when I went to England when David had to go back to England after his work permit ran out. It is interesting the turns life takes especially if you are willing to try new things.

So are you working full time at this now or working at a normal job to fund this?

The cloth dolls are amazing and love the you still do it Sophie?

Can't get enough of this sort of thing, it's what I adore about blogging, the motivation and journey not just the actuality of the finished work.

Lesley Barnewall said...

Thanks Sophie for being my first ever visitor to my blog. Will have to get really serious about it now.

BigCat said...

Your work is lovely. I love those last 2 pieces in your post especially the one with the long grass.

Thanks for joining the Blogtoberfest fun.

Penny said...

Wow Sophie - I just finished reading your three part story and loved hearing about your journey.

As I was reading I was wondering to myself, 'yes, but how does she know all that stuff that's current on her blog?'. Imagine my surprise when I read to the end and see you attended Box Hill (where I currently study)! However, what struck me the most was your determination and drive as a single young woman, to uproot yourself and move to Melbourne.

Your story reminds me not to take my opportunity to do this course for granted. For that, I thank you.