Spotlight on Stitching and Beyond – Part One
The Tasmanian based ‘Stitching and Beyond’ group was started by Wendy Koolhof and Mahdi Chandler in 2005. It’s purpose is to explore innovative approaches to fiber and textile arts as well as offer members a textile art workshop programme and a variety of exhibition opportunities. It’s diverse membership has now grown to over 150 artists including local, national and international members.
Here Wendy Koolhof gives a brief overview of the groups history, its aims and what we can expect from them in 2014 and beyond.
How did Stitching and Beyond start?
Tasmania is a unique island environment which engenders creativity – a higher than usual number of artists live here, drawing inspiration from our extraordinarily beautiful surroundings.
The concept of our group began with just two people who encouraged others to come together to explore and promote every aspect of traditional and contemporary textiles. The key idea was to explore collaboratively and so stimulate and extend each other’s art practice within the supportive network of the group which now numbers in excess of 150 people.
Our members’ connection is a passion for fabric, fiber and threads, colour and texture together with a desire to share ideas and knowledge collected over many years and from varying backgrounds – people who are like minded yet retain their diversity and unique artistic voice.
What is the aim of the group?
Essentially, we aim to take our artistic expression beyond where we were last month, or last year.
Members try to take a fresh approach to traditional textiles, moving “beyond” the recognised conventions, exploring, expanding and taking risks in their art practice. We often hear the words “what if…” when we are working together, and from this may emerge wonderful ideas, new ways of doing things, and gorgeous unheard of colour combinations.
We share resources, techniques, knowledge, materials; we develop, encourage and learn from each other; we exhibit together in an understanding and supportive environment.
The workshop programme
Stitching and Beyond has an extensive textile art workshop programme with local and international tutors teaching new skills, processes, and media; these sessions are open to all members. Announcements for new classes are eagerly awaited and classes often fill within an hour of enrolments opening.
Some members organise solo exhibitions or exhibitions of the work of a group of friends, or people with similar textile expressions.
Annually we hold a challenge open to all members with themes such as ‘Trees’, ‘The F Word’, ‘Bark’, ‘Circles’ and ‘Encrustations’. The art work created in response to the challenge set is now a sought after intrastate travelling exhibition primarily organised through Tasmanian Regional Arts.
Our biennial Exhibition “Out of Hand” aims to showcase the broad approach we take to textiles from traditional and art quilting, embroidery, painting, dyeing, printing, mixed media, to 3 dimensional pieces, basket making and wearable art. We also demonstrate a variety of textile techniques to encourage the broader community to take up needles, threads and fabric, and share our enjoyment.
This year, 48 members exhibited a diverse range of fiber works and filled the vast space of the Long Gallery in Hobart. The textile art workshop programme was also featured to help the viewing public to understand our work through exhibited samples, journals and works in progress, with a focus on the processes of making textile art.
What have you got coming up next year?
2014 plans include workshops by tutors such as Diane Savona, Kay Khan, Lisa Walton, Effie Mitrofanis, Alison Schwabe, Ken Smith and Penny Eamer; a new challenge; touring the exhibition of our 2013 Challenge, “Encrustations” around Tasmania, as well as working towards our next biennial exhibition “Out of Hand 2015”. Above all, we seek to maintain our diverse and creative group of textile artists.
The work of a few selected members
To truly represent such a large group of people practising such an array of textile expression is well nigh impossible. We believe the philosophy, practice and works of the upcoming interviews with the six selected members accurately reflects the essence of “Stitching and Beyond.” All of these chosen artists imbue their work with their personality, their journey and their individual ongoing relationship with textiles.
Galleries of past exhibitions, workshops and challenge collections as well as notice of what is happening in our group can all be seen on: stitchingandbeyond.com
Article by Wendy Koolhof, founding member of Stitching and Beyond.
Make sure to check back over the next few days for Parts Two & Three. If you’ve enjoyed Part One why not let us know by leaving a comment below.