Saturday, June 23, 2012

Artist Feature: Carly Altree-Williams

(I'm Still Here - 2012)

Our next feature is with Melbourne based textile artist Carly Altree-Williams. Mum to Audrey with another on the way, since returning to her arts practice last year Carly has recently had her first solo exhibition 'Feminine Realm' at the Brunswick Street Gallery. She has also been featured on the Frankie blog and Mr X Stitch blog's 'Cutting and Stitching Edge'. She was a finalist in the Buda Contemporary Textiles Award 2012, has work consigned to Graphis Gallery in Sydney and is also the curator and organiser of Needle Work Needle Play.

All images in this interview are provided by and copyright of Carly Altree-Williams.

Tell us a little about yourself and your arts/design background

My education into the world of art and design started in the home when I was a child, my mother was into absolutely anything and everything with a background as a textile designer, potter and sewer she was always experimenting with something new and still does. My Dad, although not obviously claiming to be an artist or artistic was also a great influence, crafting model plains and trains from scratch, executing beautiful technical drawings of shelving he would make from an old bed, and he also owned a leadlight business for a time which I got involved in.

Having this background led me to be somewhat of a dabbler for a while with things such as painting, leadlighting, ceramics, needle felting but never sewing - I was always bad at sewing! When I moved to Canberra after school it was for work, luckily one of my oldest friends Andrew Battye had started attending Canberra School of Arts and took me along to a grad show one evening and I was in heaven. I thought it was the best thing ever that you could spend your days at art school instead of my boring office job at the time!

(Otis - 2012)

I then spent the next three years doing my BA Visual majoring in textiles at the Canberra School of Art. After uni in 2007, my husband Andy and I moved to Melbourne and I commenced a Diploma in Studio Textiles and Design at RMIT as I was interested at the time in heading towards textile design. Half way through I fell pregnant with my first daughter Audrey and art was put on hold for a while! It took me three years to get back into making stuff again dabbling with stop-motion animation with Andy, doing an animation short course at VCA and starting a blog on stop-motion animation in Australia, to gradually building towards my first solo exhibition this year and now organising this group show. After all this time of getting back into my art I am now pregnant again - it will probably be another three years till my next exhibition!

What led you to using embroidery in your work

(Detail from Dream Series - 2005)

I started to be interested in embroidery in my final year at art school. I was researching dreams and the dream process and needed an illustrative tool that was quicker for me then screen printing. I had been given a sewing machine by my mum and started to experiment with machine embroidery combining this with recycled fabrics, degumming, screen printing and felt.

(Detail from Dream Series - 2005)

Since then I have always used some element of machine embroidery in my work. With my current body of work  I have started to use hand embroidery as a major focus, combined with elements of collage, machine embroidery and applique.

(Pollo and Buho - 2008)

Could you talk a little on the process of creating your work

(Spring is a New Beginning - 2011)

My work always starts with a sketch, and is built on from there. I will then use an air erasable pen to sketch my idea onto felt and then move forward to get the basics down with the sewing machine.  From there its a matter of cutting, collaging and embroidering along the way and testing out what I do and don't like. The works change alot during their creation as I find different fabrics or have different ideas. I always like to place them down at some point with the embroidery hoop to look at the composition and see how things are working.

(Spring is a New Beginning - process shot)

(Spring is a New Beginning - process shot)

Can you tell us a little about your inspirations?

I can't keep track, I am constantly inspired by many great artists, designers and musicians. But maybe in relation to my current body of work I could name a few key influences starting namely with the book "The Divided Heart" written by Rachel Power which was paramount in getting me back into making again.

I'm very inspired by particular bands where the visuals created for the album are as important as the music such as John Baizley and Baroness (Red and Blue albums), Paul Ramano and AJ Fosick for Mastodon (all of them) and 3D and Massive Attack (Heligoland).  Strong female artistic figures such as Patti Smith (especially her book "Just Kids" and the documentary "Dream of Life", PJ Harvey (the old and the new), Adalita (solo album is amazing) and Frida Kahlo (everything about her!). Also worth a mention are Directors such as Miyazaki, Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth esp), Federico Fellini (La Strada) , David Lynch and Tim Burton.

And to end animals, adornment, portraiture, life, my family and friends and my husband's insane love for music and his music knowledge!


  1. Carly! It was lovely to read more about your journey and processes. I hope we get to see more of your work before too long after post baby bump #2! x

  2. Great to see the images of your dream series Carly - I love those shadows. Nice to hear about your history and what got your into textiles too. I hope you keep on with projects you can pick up and put down around the baby.