Monday, July 30, 2012

Artist Feature: Demelza Sherwood

This week we are up to our second last artist feature as the show is now under 2 weeks away! Today we are looking at the beautifully illustrated work of Demelza Sherwood. Demelza graduated from the ANU School of Art with Honours in 2004 from the Drawing and Printmedia workshop. Since graduating, Demelza has used her drawing abilities and moved into using embroidery as a medium with amazing results. 

Demelza has had solo exhibitions including last year's,  A note to the stallholder at Mailbox 141 and recently completed a residency with Bundanon Trust. She has also participated in several major contemporary textile exhibitions over the last three years including Future Fibre, Whitebox Gallery, Queensland College of Art, Sensorial Loop - 1st Tamworth Textile Triennial, Tamworth Regional Gallery, Tamworth, Petite: Miniature Textiles, Wangaratta Exhibitions Gallery and Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award, Wangaratta Exhibitions Gallery, Wangaratta.

All images in this interview are provided by and copyright of Demelza Sherwood.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background

I studied printmaking and drawing at the ANU School of Art, Canberra. I loved the flexibility of the workshop and the space to experiment with different mediums. During my third year, I spent a semester at the Emily Carr School of Art in Vancouver where two courses had a big impact on my practice - bookbinding and ‘Life Into Art’, an art theory subject that focussed on conceptual art and working across disciplines – performance, and body art, and movements such as Fluxus and Dada. My artwork revolves around documenting chance moments that catch me off guard. I often refer back to Alain de Botton’s concept of the ‘travelling mindset’ (from The Art of Travel). He describes it as a way of looking at your surroundings with a view to noticing those easily overlooked details.

I always have a notebook on the go and also make collages to mail to friends and family. I love the immediacy of collage - intuitively cutting, arranging and rearranging magazines and papers, to come up with playful compositions. Last year I was an artist-in-residence at Bundanon Trust (Arthur Boyd’s homestead in the Shoalhaven Shire, NSW) - where I made works that responded to the resident bower bird.

Offerings for the Bower Bird –mostly not the right shade of blue but he took the thread.

What led you to using embroidery in your work?

I started drawing with pen and ink onto fabric. This led to drawing just with thread and appliqué.

Could you talk a little about the process of making your work?

I‘ve been drawing from photographs of people in movement - often friends caught in conversation, dancing or gesturing. I transpose them onto paper and then hand-stitch these portraits onto fabric. I’ve been using old household linens that show signs of wear, with stains and darns that suggest previous owners. The time-consuming process of hand-stitching contrasts with photography's digital instant. My mother is a textile artist and seamstress, and taught me to sew. I often turn to her for advice about fabrics and their treatment.

Can you tell us a little about your inspiration?

Clouds, people, travel, old photographs and magazines, circuses, patterned fabrics, films, dancing, costumes and dreams.

A few artists I keep returning to include Hannah Hoch, John Baldessari, Maurizio Anzeri (a recent discovery), Louise Bourgeois, Elizabeth Peyton, David Hockney, Toulouse-Lautrec, Max Ernst, and Marlene Dumas. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Artist Feature: Haeli Van Veen

This week we are featuring the work of Haeli Van Veen.  Haeli is completing her Honours year at the ANU School of Arts in the Sculpture workshop after completing her BA (Visual) majoring in the Textile workshop there last year.  The embroidery pieces seen in this article are the stunning works produced by Haeli for her major work last year!

Since commencing her studies Haeli has exhibited in may group exhibition including the Nets project, an international textile exhibition spanning countries and continents. She has was awarded an Emerging Artist Support Scheme Award in 2011 for her major work, has works for sale at the online boutique store Velvet Lane, and also received a highly commended by the American Tapestry Alliance for her work entered in Small Tapestries International.

All images in this interview are provided by and copyright of Haeli Van Veen.

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

Growing up in Canberra with my parents in the arts meant that every Thursday and Friday night I was dragged to another opening, running around among the grown-ups that are the thriving arts scene of our Capital, a pastime that I used to resent, and have now embraced as I began to study art myself. I grew up building dolls out of chunks of wood and tagging along on my dad’s visits to junkyards, finding new dress-ups in people’s rejects.

At 14, I started to work in the theatre, designing and making costumes and sets throughout my teen years. After a few more years of travelling and aimless wandering, I decided to bite the bullet and go to art school. I am currently studying at the ANU School of Art in Canberra, doing my honours in sculpture. I finished my bachelors’ degree in textiles in 2011.

What led you to use embroidery in your work?

One of the many summer holidays that I spent with my Oma down the coast, I began to go through her Simplicity sewing books from the 70’s. Being obsessed with the 60’s and 70’s as I was, I soon taught myself the stitches from the diagrams, and began to embroider paisley and floral patterns up the legs of my massive flares (needless to say, I had a very distinctive style throughout high school).

This ability to embroider was nothing more than a way to embellish my clothing, up until my last year of my undergraduate study, when I became fascinated with tattoos and their origin. I soon discovered the connections between tattoos and women, how the ritual of tattooing in many primitive cultures was almost exclusively for women. The connection between stitch and tattoo was cemented in my mind when I read about how Inuit women would tattoo their face and hands by literally stitching into their skin with thread that’s been treated with bear grease and soot. From there, stitching tattoos into ‘skin’ seemed to be a somewhat natural progression!

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

When I learnt from my sculpture teacher, Simon Schuerle, how to use silicone and treat it to look just like skin a year earlier, I had wondered whether I could stitch into it. I spent several weeks figuring out how I could make the silicone a self-supporting canvas that I could stitch into. Eventually I found that layering two layers of tulle worked as a good support, because it didn’t fray, and then I was a case of building up the thin layers of the silicone and colouring to look like skin.

With the skin figured out, I then had to try to find a way to hold then skin in a way to stitch into. After trying to prop the wobbly skins against my knees as I stitched, I then decided to rig up a frame with clamps to secure the skins while I stitched into them. Due to the size of the frame, and the length of time I was working on the pieces, I ended up only being able to work slightly reclined in an armchair, positioned under the frame.

I tried many stitches throughout the process, and decided on a loose satin stitch and a backstitch best achieved the result I was looking for. Each large piece takes about 30 hours of stitching, and 2-3 days to make the skin.


Can you tell us a little about your inspirations?

I draw inspiration from everything around me. A lot of the tattoo images, I got from the old school tattoo designs in various books and archives, but I also found that anthropological studies and even textile patterns were great visual sources.

Looking at images and motifs that someone has chosen to permanently mark their body with is a fascination and personal experience. During the year of work, I travelled to Berlin to a tattoo convention, and, through getting some tattoos there myself, I came in contact with the Berlin tattoo culture. My interests, however, do not lie so much in the ‘fashion fad’ side of tattoos, but more in the primitive ritual, permanent motif aspect of tattooing.

I also identify a lot with Canadian landscape and animals, as well as much of their indigenous art, especially Inuit and Haida tribes. My work is currently drawing a lot on cultural identity, which still relates to the idea of tattoos, tribes, and heritage. The idea that by embroidering, I am carrying on a pastime of my Grandmothers and Great-Grandmothers gives me a sense of connection and identity that I felt I was beginning to lose.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Satisfaction - Work in Progress from Emma

 Here's where I'm at! My uppers are almost assembled, I just have to put the lining and zips in and then I'm ready to last them. Gulp, that bit is always daunting, no matter how many pairs I've lasted, I always get nervous at this stage.

 I embroidered the second panel in record time, here they are top to tail, don't they look awesome? They are quite heavy and plush, I ironed them to keep them a bit more streamlined, which felt a bit naughty, I'm sure you're not meant to iron embroidery.

My delightful tin of yarn will no longer be my constant companion.

 Stitching the uppers makes me feel so happy, it's like the best jigsaw puzzle coming together to make a whole. It's one thing to draw a crappy sketch and imagine what it will look like, but to get to this stage, grinning from ear to ear and doing a happy dance, is such a buzz.

Today I'll get the lining and zips in, get the stiffeners made, make some minor adjustments to the last shape and attach the insoles which I made ages ago. Might have time to last them before school pickup.

More soon!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Artist Feature: Cat-Rabbit

This week our artist feature is with the lovely Cat-Rabbit who is well known for her wonderful and whimsical textile/plush label amongst many other achievements. In 2011 Cat had her first solo exhibition "Secret Animal Realms" at No Vacancy Gallery which included one of her earliest collaborations with Melbourne animator Isobel knowles. She has also exhibited in numerous group exhibitions both nationally and internationally, featured in many online and print publications such as Frankie Magazine, The Design Files, The Age Newspaper and participated many times in design markets such as Craft Hatched, Markit and Finders Keepers.

Most recently however Cat has collaborated again with Isobel Knowles to create the beautiful children's book Owl Know How which has seen great success and led to another exhibition at No Vacancy gallery, book readings by Clare Bowditch at Outre Gallery, and workshops at Harvest Textiles.

All images in this interview are provided by and copyright of Cat-Rabbit.

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

My name is Cat and I have a textile/plush art label called Cat-Rabbit. It began quite modestly, around 6 years ago, when I started making (very basic) felt toys based on the little characters I would draw between my lecture notes at University. I gifted them to friends and family, and sold them in the little craft and design shops that were starting to pop up at the time. 

I studied at University in Hobart, completing Honours and Masters in Contemporary Arts before I realised that all I wanted to do was keep sewing. I received an Artstart grant from the Australian Council and was able to set up a studio and turn my attention to making things full-time. It still amazes (and mystifies) me that I am able to call this my full time profession, I'm still waiting for the catch. 

What led you to use embroidery in your work?

Primarily, embroidery plays an illustrative part in my work. I love to draw, and incorporate it into my work however I can. With embroidery I can adapt my illustrations to a textile medium - it allows me to add the next level of detail to my work - at the moment I am particularly enjoying embroidering patterns onto any spare felt surface I can find. One of my favourite things to shop for is embroidery floss and cotton, all those colours all lined up is overwhelming and exciting and gives me little heart flutters.

Could you talk a little about the process of creating your work?

I usually spend as much time as I can afford drawing out my ideas and writing lists and little thoughts until I have a good handle on the project I'm working on. From there, the making process is quite sculptural I guess - I don't use a pattern as such, just cut out pieces and sew them together until I have the shapes I want. The embroidery and embellishments usually come last, and I keep working until it looks like a finished product to me. Lately I have been enjoying working in little series - sloths, turtles and coming soon are some wintery rabbits. I like the idea of making a little group of characters, to keep each other company I guess. 

Can you tell us a little about your inspirations?

I am inspired by that lingering childhood daydream that animals have secret worlds where they wear clothes, have underground houses, town meetings and read the newspaper. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Invites and Craft Cubed flyers have arrived so keep your eye out! and if you feel like inviting folks along via email please feel free to forward our digital invitation below.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


A big thank you to Sarah from for writing an article on the show on their blog which you can see here. Only 6 weeks to go and counting!