You might remember the Australian Tapestry Workshop exhibition at the Manningham Gallery. I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t wait to head south to see the Workshop itself in full swing.  To say I had the best time just doesn’t adequately tell you how much I loved it.

Before I even got into the workshop, my camera was put to good use. Workshop manager Sara Lindsay, showed me into the gallery where the shortlisted works for the Kate Derum Award for Small Tapestries were on display. It’s an award open to local and international professional tapestry weavers.  Director of Heide Museum of Modern Art, Jason Smith, along with Professor Kay Lawrence, (Universtity of South Australia) were this year’s judges. Prizes include a non-aquisitive award of $5,000 for the winner and a non-aquisitive award of $1,000 for an emerging artist who has been practicing for less than five years.

Scroll down to see a small selection of entries. Talk about ‘think outside the square’ …





…and the winner is…


Joy Smith© Chainsaw


As luck would have it, the winner, Joy Smith was in the workshop that day so I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting her and hearing a little about the making of the winning work.  It’s part of a series of work inspired by tools from her father’s shed.  Joy tells the story that when her parents were moving from the family home and dispersing a lot of unwanted possessions, Joy asked if she could have some of her father’s tools from the shed.  He declined her request, so in true artist’s style she hit on an idea that meant, in her own special way, she could ‘have’ those tools. Chainsaw is one of the works from that series. Dont you just love the way artists think!

Joy has an exhibition scheduled for May 2012 at the Hawthorn Studio and Gallery.

Feeling pretty pleased with myself already, we moved from the gallery into the workshop proper. There was so much going on and such a hum of creative work that I just wanted to stay there and soak it all in…forever. Several large tapestries were in progress. Display boards held important references for each work and long tables were the collection point for large quantities of wool and cotton thread, in the most gorgeous colours imaginable. Another weaver was busy archiving samples while an artist in residence was hard at work amongst the hum. 


Work is well under way for the Workshop’s second woven tapestry representing the work of David Noonan. As you can see from these pics, this woven tapestry uses the tonal range from black through to white.  Three weavers were working on this piece while I was there. Every so often they would confer to work through a weaving issue, then they would settle in with fingers, bobbins and wool flashing across the warp once again, adding more of the image little by little. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see a tapestry of this quality emerge before your eyes!



Before a work is begun on the large loom, weavers spend several days creating samples which test out the palette of colours and also the ways that the weavers will interpret the shapes in the original artists work.



The loom had just been prepared to begin weaving this wonderful aboriginal painting (below). Weaver Pamela Joyce was busy working on her sample when I arrived. For this woven tapestry, three days were allocated for sample making. Australian Tapestry Workshop is a well oiled machine.  Weavers work to very specific schedules in order to ensure that work is completed in the allotted timeframe.





Annette Iggulden- artist in residence at Australian Tapestry Workshop. Annette is represented by Watters Gallery in Sydney.



The Workshop is in a beautiful old factory building in South Melbourne. The soft sounds of tapestry weaving waft up into the very high ceiling and bounce like balls of yarn onto the walls. What happens here has the magic of creation stamped all over it. 

If you would like to share this unique experience yourself, public tours are available.  Check out their website for details.  Australian Tapestry Workshop was originally modelled on the work of the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, maybe that’s one for my bucket list!

My sincere thanks to Sara Lindsay and the team at the Australian Tapestry Workshop for their hospitality and assistance with this post.  All work in this post is © the artists.