2005 Recollections: tapestry, topiary & timeout

- a collection of memories from a working trip to Britain.

Craft Victoria, 3 November - 3 December 2005

I was surprised how different an experience living & working in another country was to being a tourist on a brief visit.

It was not as if I had never been to Britain before – I had even twice visited the studio where I was to work. Maybe it was some to do with the fact that outside working hours all my time was completely my own, no partner, no housework, no deadlines with exhibition work, I had time to really look. Most of my spare time was spent looking around & recording images on my digital camera - I took hundreds of images. I felt like a sponge, soaking up images.

Being a 4th or 5th generation Australian of British decent (how can I deny it anyway with a surname of smith !) the culture was generally the same to my experiences here, but it was all the little details & subtle differences that fascinated mehe pebble beaches, villages/houses, animals, pub culture, the seasons & the gardens…


Bobbins are the tools used by tapestry weavers. They carry yarns which are wound around their shaft & beat these yarns down into place to form an image based fabric. I was fascinated with the difference in shape, weight, length & varieties of timbers used. A well designed bobbin balances in the palm of ones hand in a very pleasing way & is so pleasant to use that it becomes a natural extension of ones hand. I feel that my favourite bobbins meet a high design criteria where good design should not only ‘work' well, ie be a useful tool, it should be beautiful to look at. These utilitarian tools are quite desirable as beautiful objects.

Bobbins – Australian 2004 15.5 x 12 cm Sold

Bobbins – international 2004 18.5 x 23.5 cm - Sold

Bobbins – English 2004 18.5 x 11 cm $500


Amongst the neat orderly houses & gardens – whether big or small, topiary with its sometimes precise geometrical shapes or more madcap organic shapes (that seem like they would move when you look away), were a relief to me. I felt that the British in their gardens were allowed in a very ‘monty python' way to express their artistic bent.

West Dean topiary – summer, 31.05.03 2005 10 x 29 cm $685

West Dean topiary – autumn 2005 10 x 29 cm $685

West Dean topiary – plum-puddings 2005 10 x 29 cm Sold

Hampton Court topiary 2005 10 x 28 cm Sold

Matt & Pats topiary 2005 10 x 20 cm Sold

West Dean – west lawn 2005 10 x 24 cm $675

Levant Hall topiary 2005 10 x 30 cm $675

Scottopiary - Newtongrange westies 2005 10 x 21 cm $650

This goes with that.

During the 5 months of waiting for my job & visa applications to be approved I filled my spare time planning the one suitcase of clothes to last nine months. This was a fun but difficult task. It ended up being a very practical case of ‘this goes with that', with hot pink & aqua being the basis. Not surprisingly I was rather visible as a tourist amongst the subtle blue & grey tones of the English…!

This goes with that’ – undies 2005 10 x 27 cm Sold

‘This goes with that’ – aqua 2004 10 x 40 cm Sold

‘This goes with that’ – pink 2004 10 x 35 cm Sold

‘This goes with that’ – charity shop 2004 10 x 35 cm Sold

‘This goes with that’ – shoes 2004 10 x 34 cm Sold

This goes with that’ – earrings 2005 10 x 31 cm $685

‘This goes with that’ – glasses 2005 10 x 21.5 cm Sold

Pub culture

The English pub culture really appealed to me – especially the older quaint village pubs. Some with their ceilings so low that a 'height disadvantaged' person like me could actually touch them. There seemed to be a direct connection – the older the pub the lower the ceiling. I developed quite a taste for real ales – those that were made in small quantities by the local brewery. Most of these had ‘interesting' names, I must admit I had great pleasure in ordering ‘1/2 a ferret, please'. It only got better when my mate ordered the other ½ at the same time. The beer was much nicer than the name implies.

Last orders - 1 2005 10 x 20 cm $650

Last orders - 2 2005 10 x 20 cm Sold

Last orders - 3 2005 10 x 20 cm $650

Mille fleur -The Onion Series

The last series in this exhibition relates to the project that I went to the UK to work on ‘the unicorn tapestries'. A Scottish friend misheard & asked how the onion tapestries were going….. this comment brought an image to my mind of a field of mille fleur that that was made up of plants from the allium family, onions, garlic, etc. Tapestries of this era & style often had a rabbit or two, so I decided to substitute my cats and some Australian plants.

The onion series 1 2005 10 x 20 cm Sold

The onion series 2 2005 10 x 20 cm $650

The onion series 3 2005 10 x 20 cm $650