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E X H I BFI ET A I OT N U RREE V I E W

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ISSUE NO. 127 Textile fibre forum

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AUTHOR: Moira Simpson

Sappers

Shrapnel

Contemporary Art and the Art of the Trenches Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 11 November 2016 to 29 January 2017

Art associated with war is most commonly seen in the form of drawings, paintings and photographs that document the horrors of the battlefield, the experiences of military personnel, and the plight of prisoners of war; or memorial sculptures that commemorate military leaders, heroic figures or the fallen soldier. The exhibition Sappers & Shrapnel: Contemporary Art and the Art of the Trenches was different; it presented a diverse range of media, including a good deal of fibre arts, and innovative and surprising approaches to the subject of war.

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appers & Shrapnel was presented at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) as part of the 2017 Adelaide Festival of Arts. Curated by Lisa Slade, Assistant Director, Artistic Programs, the exhibition brought together objects and artworks from the collections of AGSA and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, including objects made by soldiers in the trenches, as well as new, contemporary artworks commissioned for this project. In this diverse range of works, the ideas expressed are those of the individual artists, providing personal, innovative and insightful perspectives on war and the experiences of those caught up in it, both military personnel

and civilians. There are artworks that directly reflect the experiences of soldiers in the trenches of World War One and the death of soldiers in conflicts around the globe, from the Second World War to current conflicts. Other artists explore broader concepts and manifestations of war and conflict including the plight of refugees and the legacies of colonialism. Visitors approach the exhibition via a wide staircase, descending into a large, dimly-lit foyer gallery that runs parallel with and provides access to the adjoining galleries in which the exhibition was displayed. The descent provided a view of a powerful installation by Fiona Hall, entitled All the King’s

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Men (2014-15), a work that was first presented at the 2015 Venice Biennale. The work comprised eighteen elements, suspended figures which were at once corporeal and yet also ethereal, the ‘bodies’ comprising flimsy tatters of uniforms dangling beneath each head, merely suggesting torsos and limbs. Here and there, attached to these scraps of khaki green or camouflage fabric, can be seen an embroidered flag patch, a metal badge, or epaulettes with stripes, chevrons, stars or other insignia denoting rank; these tiny sparks of colour provide subtle clues to the many nationalities united by death in this sad procession. The figures were lit by a series of

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spotlights, casting ghostly shadows onto the wall behind. Currents of air caused the figures to slowly turn, exposing ever-changing views of ghastly, distorted heads made of knitted fibres. With gaping mouths, swellings and cavities, and a variety of found objects, the distorted forms hint at violent death. One has a head, cleft in two with the macabre, exposed teeth of an animal jaw; another has animal horns protruding from the skull. Some have glass ‘eyes’ that glint as the heads gently turn, while in one, a single billiard ball looks like a wide, exposed eyeball, pointedly numbered 13. Entering the next gallery space, I was immediately struck by the sight of seven lavish, white wedding dresses with frills and tucks, flounces and bows, sequins and beads, sparkling in subdued lighting. They were designed and made by Raghda Zakaria Alrawi, presented as an installation called Dresses for Soulaf, created by Ben Quilty in collaboration with refugees and aid workers, whom he met when travelling with writer Richard Flanagan to Lebanon, Lesbos and Serbia in 2016. Alrawi, a young Syrian fashion designer, escaped with her husband from her home town of Raqqa, after it was taken over by ISIS and life became too precarious and dangerous to stay. Quilty and Flanagan met her in the Beqaa Valley Refugee Camp in Lebanon, where she now lives in a tent with poor lighting and few possessions. A short film called The Dress, was playing in the gallery, showing Raghda Zakaria Alwari working at her sewing machine in her tent in the

Refugee Camp, and on a wall nearby was a display of drawings by children, also living in the camp. For Alwari, her sewing machine is a valued possession that she uses to make and sell dresses, which helps her family to survive. Despite her surroundings and lack of material possessions, she remains hopeful about the future and dreams of a time when they can return home. The white dresses stood out sharply against the dark grey walls of the gallery on which were hung three large, boldly-coloured works by Ben Quilty. From a distance, these looked like abstract paintings or painted wooden reliefs but, on closer inspection, it was clear that they are made from life jackets stitched together to create large patchworks of nylon fabric, with straps, buckles and labels. The lifejackets were gathered from the beaches of the Greek islands, where they had been discarded by refugees who had survived the hazardous crossing of the Aegean Sea. The labels show them to have been made in Turkey and warn that they are only intended as a buoyancy aid, not as a life-saving device. In fact, many of the lifejackets sold by people smugglers to desperate refugees have been found to be substandard, packed with straw and other absorbent materials that, rather than provide buoyancy, can become waterlogged and heavy, and so increase the possibility of people drowning. Quilty has used these discarded lifejackets to create what Flanagan describes as ‘an extraordinary quilt of terror and strangeness’ (Flanagan, 2016: 157).

The juxtaposition of her wedding dresses with Quilty’s wall-hangings is symbolically powerful. The dresses are symbols of purity and hope while the substandard life jackets are evidence of the callous greed of those who sell such useless devices to desperate people fleeing war. The jackets are pathetic remnants of a human crisis in which men, women and children struggled for life while others exploited and gained economic benefits from their desperate plight. The wedding dresses speak powerfully of human resilience and evoke a feeling that, for those who escaped their war-torn homelands and survived the journey by sea to reach the relative safety of the shore and refugee camps, there is always a sense of hope in the future. In another gallery, was a body of work by Olga Cironis, who uses militaria, such as badges, medals and ribbons, plus human hair, which has a historic record of being saved or given as a symbol of love and devotion. With these, she has created a series of small works entitled Echo, which are reminiscent of memento mori, items of jewellery which encompass hair from a dead loved one, a practice common in Britain from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. In preparation for this exhibition, a number of the artists were commissioned by the Art Gallery to visit the Australian War Memorial, and to respond to the museum’s collections. Inspired by examples in the collection of the Australian War Memorial, Olga Cironis has used human hair (mainly her own), combined with the militaria,

Installation view Sappers & Shrapnel: Contemporary Art and the Art of the Trenches, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2016. Photo by Paul Steed, courtesy of the Art Gallery of South Australia.

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ISSUE NO. 127 Textile fibre forum

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AUTHOR: Moira Simpson

Details: Fiona Hall, All the King’s Men, 2014–15.

Installation view Sappers & Shrapnel: Contemporary Art and the Art of the Trenches, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2016. Fiona Hall, Australia born 1953, All the King’s Men, 2014–15, Adelaide, knitted military uniforms, wire, animal bone, horns, teeth, dice, glass, mixed media, 20 parts, installation dimensions variable; Gift of Candy Bennett and Edwina Lehmann, Dr Peter and Sandra Dobson, David and Pam McKee, Simon Mordant AM and Catriona Mordant, John Phillips, and Tracey and Michael Whiting through the Art Gallery of South Australia Contemporary Collectors through the Fiona Hall Appeal 2015–16, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.© Fiona Hall, image courtesy Roslyn Oxley, Sydney. Photo: Clayton Glen, courtesy of the Art Gallery of South Australia.

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PF RE OA FT IULREES

AUTHOR: Neroli Henderson

Pink Field, Blue Fog, 2016, 10 x 15 x 4 m, thread, machine embroidery. Detail used as border on following page. Photographer: Amanda McCavour

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Amanda McCavour Toronto based 31-year-old artist Amanda McCavour creates ethereal, translucent installation assemblages that appear to float in space. This transparency and perceived fragility give her large scale painterly embroideries a dreamlike quality and surrealistic charm. Canada

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: You studied fine art focusing on drawing at York University in Toronto, Canada and moved on to complete your MFA in Fibers and Material Studies at Tyler School of Art (Philadelphia, USA). At what point did you decide to move into stitch as a medium and away from conventional art techniques? A: I started using stitch as a way to draw during my undergraduate degree. I was in a class where we were exploring an expanded definition of drawing, defined simply as “line”. I started to think about how interesting thread was as a line and how stitch could be used to create images. I wanted to see if I could make a drawing that existed entirely of thread. I tried sewing into different surfaces and then removing the base — I sewed into paper and sheets of wax before finding

water soluble stabiliser which is a surface that washes away with water and perfectly suited to my needs. N: You create large scale installations in a medium often reserved for small pieces. What led you to explore embroidery in this way? A: While participating in an Artist-InResidence Program, I was challenged by two Curators —Patrick Macaulay and Melanie Egan — to think more about scale in my work. At this point in time, I was making pieces depicting my own hands at a 1:1 scale. Patrick and Melanie asked the question- “what if the work got bigger?” This spurred me on to many projects that engage with spatial perception in a different way. N: How your pieces are suspended gives them a spooky, otherworldly quality. Is this an intentional

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emotive response you wanted to give your viewers? A: The otherworldly quality created by my thread installations allows these works to create spaces that feel in-between the real and the imagined or remembered. Many of my pieces depict spaces such as apartments I have lived in and natural landscapes, but the way that the works are rendered, through embroidery, takes them out of reality creating an alternative experience. Threads assumed fragility lends itself to installations that make people envision they would be easily unravelled and are on the cusp of falling apart. This combination of perceived delicacy is in direct opposition to the actual structural strength of ravelled fibres and I like to explore this in my work. 5


FEATURE

“Some of their muslins might be thought the work of fairies, or of insects, rather than men…In the same province from which the ancient Greeks obtained the finest muslins…namely, the province of Bengal, these astonishing fabrics are manufactured…” E Baines, ‘History of the Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain’, 1835

Stole made of Bengal muslin in 1828, was embroidered in Dresden, Germany. This was often done to suit the fashion tastes of European clientele. Courtesy of Drik-Bengal Muslin collection. Photo by Tapash Paul and Sadia Marium.


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uslin’s origins are more than a thousand years old. Its heritage is recorded in the ancient texts of the Mahabharata, reputedly written in the 9th century BCE, where it was gifted to the warrior King Yudhistira Pandu and described as ‘frothy clothes’. Known as ‘mul-mul’ in Bangla (the language of Bengal), it was named as ‘muslin’ by Marco Polo (1254-1324) when he witnessed the large cotton trade in the town of Mosul in Iraq. Rare, delicate and fine, described as nebula venti (woven air) by the Romans, muslin was the most sought-after textile, arguably the first global brand that at its height reached all corners of the globe. Before the Arabs commenced plying the Red Sea route in the 10th century ACE, Roman traders would wait three years from order placement to receiving the fabled fabric, known to the Greeks as ‘Gangitiki’ (Gangetic cotton). It travelled from the villages of Bengal, through Delhi, crossed the Levant and finally reached Rome, packed tightly in hollow bamboo containers and carried on the backs of mules. Its elevation to high-society wear, the mainstay of female fashion, raised complaints in the Roman Senate by Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 ACE) that women’s demand for the fabric was causing ‘a drain of 100 million sesterces of gold from Rome each year, half of it to India alone’ (Cited in Jha, 2010).

Fine muslin sari, mid 18th century, woven with gold, black and white threads. The full body has woven white-on-white motifs. The paar (border) and anchal (trailing end, over the shoulder) are woven in contrasting black patterns. Courtesy of Weavers’ Studio Research Centre, Kolkata, India. Photo by Shahidul Alam, Drik.

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FEATURE

The magic of jamdani (fine, patterned) sari fabric displays ageless motifs in a combination of natural dye and gold threads. The saris were woven by master weaver, the late Haji Kafiluddin, from Narayanganj, Dhaka, in the mid-twentieth century. Photo by Habibul Haque, Drik, courtesy of private collection of Ruby Ghaznavi.

— THERE WERE FIVE PRINCIPAL TYPES OF MUSLIN, RANGING FROM PLAIN (MOSREEN) TO THE FIGURED AND FLOWERED (JAMDANI) TYPE, WITH OVER 100 VARIETIES CLASSIFIED AND NAMED BY QUALITY, DESIGN AND EVEN MANUFACTURING LOCATION. ONE OF THE FINEST, SUCH AS MUL-MUL KHAS, WOULD BE AVAILABLE ONLY IF YOU WERE A MUGHAL.

In 17th and 18th century Europe, muslin dominated royal haute couture, an essential accessory for royalty, a necessity for the privileged, and an aspiration for the emerging merchant class. Jane Austen (1775-1817) glorified it, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) wore a muslin fichu (scarf) to her guillotine and, despite Napoleon’s aversion for a fabric symbolic of his arch enemy, Josephine’s (1763-1814) official portrait at the Château de Malmaison depicts her wearing a muslin dress, one of the eighty dresses she owned. Until 2014, before I embarked on the trail of this unique textile, I knew little of the above. I could recite muslin’s 8

ISSUE NO. 127 Textile fibre forum

common history and emotive connection to Bengal i.e. that it had been produced near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh; that six yards could be drawn through a ring; and that the British East India Company had brutally eliminated Bengal’s textile industry during their two-hundred-year rule (17471947) over the Indian sub-continent, but not more was known either to me or our country. When an organisation in the UK, the Stepney Trust, suggested a joint exhibition with Drik, our multi-media organisation in Bangladesh, we found that their research could not give effective responses to our queries about muslin: why were our museums bare? Why were there no definitive accounts of the gossamer-thin fabric? And, most importantly, why could the production and trade of fine muslin not be continued by the existing generation of weavers? I lived in the UK and decided that to satisfy my nascent cultural curiosity, I needed to head back to the centre of muslin’s past, to my country of birth, Bangladesh. There I found that every person had a favourite story about muslin, every organisation an agenda, many overlapping. From University professors, fashion designers, cultural historians to artisans, I accessed multiple versions of muslin’s origins, its production, use and demise. I learnt that the two independence events in 1947 and 1971 had resulted in tumultuous, often violent partitions, during which museums had lost artefacts and Bangladesh’s heritage had fallen victim to the successive struggles for independence. Continued lack of resources and research had caused our version of muslin’s story to be subsumed by foreign versions, by books scripted by European authors; but I also learnt of other fascinating facts behind the myth. One of these is that its cotton had been sourced from a distinctive species of cotton plant, Gossypium arboreum var. neglecta, identified by William Roxburgh, the father of Indian botany (1751-1815). It was known www.artwearpublications.com.au


AUTHOR: Saiful Islam

locally as ‘phuti karpas’, a rain-fed cotton crop that grew only on the banks of the old Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers. Creating the Dream Until the development of artificial fibres in the mid-nineteenth century, four primary materials had served humans as clothing since antiquity: linen, silk, wool and cotton, attributed primarily to the Middle East, China, Europe and India respectively. Woven cotton’s historical traces are spread wide from Dhuwelia in Jordan and the Indus in Pakistan, to Huaca Prieta in Peru, but none wove it to the level of artistry and finery as practised in the muslin karkhanas, or factories, of Bengal, India, in Mughal times (16th-19th centuries). The cotton fibre obtained from Gossypium arboreum var. neglecta was described as ‘silky, glossy and short’. It underwent delicate cleaning (with razor sharp teeth of a fish jaw), ginning and spinning, ultimately leaving only 8% of the crop suitable for the finest muslin, reaching above 1000 count. Yarn was always spun by women, on boats moored beside river banks to take advantage of the natural humidity; Subscribers get a free newsletter every issue, filled with exhibitions and calls for entries

Top left: His eyes fixed on the line of filament being drawn by his outstretched left hand, while the box charka (spinning wheel) is spun with his right hand, Joytish Debnath, master spinner, demonstrates his art in his house in Kalna, Morshidabad, India. Photo by Shahidul Alam, Drik. Bottom left: Names of different cities, some visited during the project research, are shown behind the author, outside the Topkapi Museum, in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Ozcan Yurdalan, Turkey. Top right: Three generation of tantis (weavers) at Narayganj, near Dhaka, Bangladesh. Their ancestors were the muslin weavers of the past, while they are involved in producing today’s jamdani saris. Photo by Tapash Paul, Drik. Centre right: Intricate designs and bold colours on jamdani (flowered and figured) saris are brought to buyers’ attention by the weavers, at the weekly haat (bazaar) at Rupganj, Dhaka. This highly popular and relatively expensive sari is the only variety of muslin is being produced today. Photo by Tapash Paul, Drik. Bottom right: Al Amin, the master weaver, manufacturing a new-age muslin shawl of 300 count on his loom. This shawl replicated one worn by Empress Josephine and was displayed in the Muslin Revival exhibition. Photo by Tapash Paul, Drik.

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AUTHOR: Ellen Wignell

Crispin II

Australia

by Linde Ivimey

Newcastle Art Gallery collection

Creatures stretching, holding, and posing with a haunting gaze are distinguishing features of Linde Ivimey’s sculptural works of art. They contain a somewhat abject quality that at once intrigues and repulses, yet there is a quiet beauty to be found in them. This is exemplified in Newcastle Art Gallery’s recent acquisition of Crispin II, the second sculpture of Ivimey’s to enter the collection.

Linde Ivimey, Crispin II, 2006, 35 x 85 x 30 cm, steel armature, cast acrylic resin, natural fibre, dyed cotton, earth, cast and natural chicken and turkey bones, and emu feathers. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Martin Browne 2016. Newcastle Art Gallery collection. Photo courtesy the artist and Martin Browne Contemporary.

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ISSUE NO. 127 Textile fibre forum

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C

rispin II is a small sculpture made of strange materials, including resin, natural fibres, dyed cotton, dirt, fake bones, chicken bones, turkey bones and emu feathers. The sculpture resembles a human form with rabbit features, buttons for eyes, buck teeth and is wearing a roughly-sewn jumpsuit. This creature is lying face down, propped up on ‘elbows’ and is holding a pair of red high-heeled shoes. These delicate shoes are the key to unravelling this work of art, which speak of the littleknown biblical story of St Crispin, the patron saint of tanners, curriers and importantly cobblers. Although there are differing accounts of Crispin’s sainthood, it is believed that he and his brother Crispinian were Roman nobles who lived during the third century AD. They were persecuted for their faith and sought refuge in northern France. Here they made shoes to support themselves, aided the poor, and also preached Christianity. Their successful cobbler and missionary work attracted attention and they were further vilified, tortured and beheaded in the late third century. As martyrs, they are both celebrated with a feast day annually on 25 October. Obscure or little known saints are a source of continued inspiration for Ivimey and feature throughout her series Saints and Sinners. She explores strange and morbid historical stories in this series, underscoring her dark sense of humour. Growing up in a Catholic household, Ivimey’s interest in saints thrived when she travelled across Europe. Through her use of corporeal materials, sculptures like Crispin II refer to the holy relics of saints that can be found in European Churches (and worldwide), where pilgrims pray and tourists ogle at embalmed body parts. With her preoccupation with bones, Ivimey is not traditionally thought of as a fibre-textile artist;

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however, fibres play a large part in her practice. She is an avid collector and finds inspiration in a diverse range of accumulated items. In addition to collecting bones, Ivimey also sources textiles such as old towels, mattress protectors and pillowslips - as well as her own hair: “I have saved laundry lint for years, ever since I owned my first washing machine and it features somewhere in most of the works…I never let my hair go down the drain, it surprises me to have collected so many hair balls of varying colour over the years; I collect seeds and pods and organic plant fibre, dried grasses and leaves that all get ‘twined’ into string and light rope; I collect whatever fabrics I come across, off-cuts from canvases, favourite garments, old towels, body wax strips, mattress protectors, the occasional hotel pillow slip, so full of strangers’ dreams, night sweats, tears and spit…” (Strange Cargo, ‘Make It Strange’ Online Education Resource, Newcastle Art Gallery, 2006) Ivimey’s work is directly related to the body. The bones and fibres she uses are ‘relics’ of human consumption; chewed chicken bones saved from being thrown away and recycled material that contains residue from its previous owner. This material clothes the bones that construct her sculptures, which are ultimately human-like forms. Linde Ivimey was born in 1965 in Australia and has been exhibiting since 2003. Newcastle Art Gallery is committed to collecting works of art that build the history of Australian art and the oeuvre of an artist. Ivimey’s works continue to draw audiences in with their striking presence and the artist’s exploration of unusual materials. Her works depict new and unexpected ways fibre-textiles can be embraced. Ellen Wignell, Collection and Exhibitions Officer Newcastle Art Gallery

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ARTIST PROFILE

Australia

MAKING DREAMS COME TRUE


Paul Vaselli with the Paolo Sebastian Gilded Wings collection, presented in the Empire Room of La Maison Champs-Élysées Hotel, during Paris haute couture week in July 2016. Photo by Simon Cecere.

Paolo Sebastian - Snow Maiden collection. Photo by Simon Cecere

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THE PRINCE Young Australian of the Year for 2017, Paul Vasileff’s star is shining bright; not only here in Australia, but on the catwalks of Europe and the red carpets of Hollywood, too. His Paolo Sebastian label produces custom-made wedding dresses and evening gowns that are sought after around the world. At the age of 26, he is the Prince of Couture.

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ARTIST PROFILE

— ONCE UPON A TIME, ... A YOUNG BOY DREAMED OF BEAUTIFUL DRESSES MADE OF SOFT, FLOATY, FEMININE FABRICS AND COVERED IN HAND-STITCHED EMBROIDERY AND SPARKLY BEADS. THEY WOULD BE DRESSES WORN BY WOMEN WHO INSTANTLY TRANSFORMED INTO PRINCESSES, AS IF TOUCHED BY THE MAGIC WAND OF A FAIRY GODMOTHER.

Paolo Sebastian Snow Maiden collection. Photo by Simon Cecere.


AUTHOR: Ansie van der Walt

Paul Vaselli with the Paolo Sebastian Gilded Wings collection, presented in the Empire Room of La Maison Champs-Élysées Hotel, during Paris haute couture week in July 2016. Photo by Simon Cecere.

A Fairytale Once upon a time in a beachfront suburb of Adelaide - the small, capital city of South Australia - a young boy dreamed of beautiful dresses made of soft, floaty, feminine fabrics and covered in hand-stitched embroidery and sparkly beads. They would be dresses worn by women who instantly transformed into princesses, as if touched by the magic wand of a fairy godmother. The boy, Paul Vasileff, loved clothes, art and his family. He learned sewing from his grandmother who not only taught him the skills, but also the love of beautiful fabrics. At only 11 years of age, he designed and made his first dress for a special friend. He spent his high school years studying textiles and pattern-making culminating in his first charity fashion show featuring a mammoth 63-piece collection. Paul used this first catwalk as a launching pad for his now famous Paulo Sebastian brand when he was just 16 years of age After a year at TAFE SA and an apprenticeship at Di Fabio Bros Tailoring, where he learned about technique, craftsmanship and hard work, Paul won a scholarship to study

at the coveted Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan. The fairy tale continued in Italy. Paul learned more and worked harder than ever before. He met remarkably talented people, famous names in the international fashion scene. His work was shown at the London Fashion Week and the Milan Bridal Fashion Week. It was a dream come true. The Villain But as with all fairy tales, there had to be a villain. In this case, severe homesickness. “I was 19 years old, away from home for the first time, and the only Australian student in the course. It was the best year of my life, but also the hardest.” At the end of his course, Paul returned to Adelaide determined to stay and build his fashion label in the place that he loves, surrounded by the people he loves.

Paolo Sebastian - Gilded Wings collection. Photo by Matthew Kroker.

Today, a mere seven years later, his atelier in Adelaide’s CBD, is a place where he makes other people’s fairytale dreams come true. With his small team of highly skilled seamstresses, embroiderers, and assistants, Paul creates dresses for weddings, red carpets, and catwalks across the globe.

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FEATURE

Australia

TRACEY DEEP

UNDER THE SEA In her latest work, sculptor Tracey Deep draws upon the beauty of the natural environment of the sea. Here, Emma Peters reviews her exhibition, Under the Sea, reflecting on the works and the ways in which the artist draws attention to both the beauty of the environment and the fragility of the ecosystem.

Tracey Deep pictured between (L) Sea Spirit, 2017 and (R) Clownfish, 2017.


EXHIBITION REVIEW

AUTHOR: Emma Peters

Angel Fish, 2017, 10 x 80 x 20 cms, driftwood, raw silk fibre. Photograph by Nicholas Watt.

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n this time of fast-paced living, we need to be reminded of the power of nature upon our minds and bodies. It is well-recognised that the innate beauty and moodaltering effect of being immersed in the natural landscape can have immense benefits for our cognition and emotional regulation - empathy and generosity increase while anxiety and rumination diminish. Moreover, we require encouragement to act upon reestablishing a respectful and symbiotic relationship with our environment to ensure its survival. Recognising the value of nature can play an important part in this reparation process between humans and the earth. Nature asks us to stop, disconnect and pay attention. The task of drawing our attention to the sometimes unnoticed power of nature is one that sculptor Tracey Deep

quietly assumes. Her 2017 exhibition, Under the Sea presented an evocative seascape within Saint Cloche Gallery in Sydney, where twisted driftwood and sea-sponge defied gravity to suggest impossible buoyancy and beauty. The artist generously explained her creative process while we walked amongst the floating arrangements. Deep’s practice explores the overlooked beauty and significance of nature’s offerings. She has the wellhoned eye of a bowerbird collecting specimens to attract our attention, and a similar aptitude for assembling natural materials into graceful compositions. Each piece is derived from decades of coastline collecting, and imbued with a sense of stormy winter walks trawling beaches. She explains of her foraging, ‘I can’t help myself. Mother Nature washes up these

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beautiful gifts. It’s the art of seeing that’s the basis of everything I create. It’s the materials I source – I seek patterns and shapes – and then it just falls into place’. Deep understates the part she plays in transforming discordant pieces of tidewrack into compositions of balance and beauty. Her intervention is light-handed – natural materials blend seamlessly with man-made fibres, as seen in the work Jellyfish. Lightly feathered sea-green fibre is methodically spiralled around a bamboo structure with a multitude of hanging threads that respond to nearby movement. Deep once again defers to the materials, ‘It has created its own scribble. I left the ends loose, to let it have its own language, and it cascaded by itself – magic. It is knowing when to intervene, to detangle, to stop.’ The

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Sea Urchin, 2017, 117 x 117 x 20 cm, burnt willow. Photograph by Nicholas Watt.

“THE NATURAL DEBRIS GIFTED BY THE OCEAN, DISCOVERED UPON THE LIMINAL SPACE THAT IS THE SHORE, APPEAR TO BE MESSENGERS OF NATURE’S SECRETS, IF ONLY WE WOULD LISTEN.” spaces left between thread and bamboo vibrate, creating an energy that is unexpected from a work so gentle. ‘The work always has an energy,’ she adds. Coral Reef, a mandala of red coral ferns, emits a similar energy. Deep comments, ‘I am drawn to anything that has a prehistoric, ancient undercurrent’. She likens them to a primeval underwater tree-scape, each one suggesting a journey of time. The artist deftly integrates fine hemp fibre to suggest flowing roots, adding movement and to extend the 38

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Coral Reef, 2017, 216 x 120 x 5 cm, coral, hemp.

conversation. The work inadvertently challenges us to question the appropriateness in using marine life that is prohibited to collect under most circumstances. Deep explains, ‘You cannot pick this coral from the ocean. However, there are licensed growers, coral fisheries, that are allowed to grow and sell such items. I was able to acquire them over many years.’ Searching, collecting and foraging for natural materials is a vital component of Deep’s art practice. She describes the rarefied experience of finding perfectly knotted driftwood, more difficult than one might presume, ‘Mother nature needs to go through intense storms - eucalyptus branches flow into rivers and travel to the seas along the coastline - they come from everywhere’. The natural debris gifted by the ocean, discovered upon the liminal space that is the shore, appear to be messengers of nature’s secrets, if only we would listen. The artist’s senses are highly attuned to these messages, made evident as she shares her interpretation of the installation piece, Under the Sea, a collection of kelp and hemp fibre suspended from a distinctive length of

driftwood. ‘The forms are so simple, and they all have patterns from being washed up – turns and twists. Each one has its own signature - the language of the sea … it is nature’s poetry’. Each piece of work in the exhibition Under the Sea is a collaboration between nature, time, and Deep’s sensitive eye. All the elements work together to create a sonnet to which we can’t help but pay attention. Deep’s curiosity and respect for nature’s provisions reminds us to adopt a similar approach when experiencing the natural world. She hopes that her work will ‘reconnect people to the unbelievable wonderment of nature, so people will walk the beaches and look at things differently, in another light’. The subtle power of her work lies within this desire. Deep assists us to renew our connection with nature, which in turn can only impact for the better our appreciation of and behaviour towards our fragile eco-systems.

Emma Peters http://www.emmapeters.com.au hello@emmapeters.com.au

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EXHIBITION REVIEW

Stitch Fetish 5 Stitch Fetish is an annual exhibition held at the Hive Gallery in downtown Los Angeles in the USA. It’s the brainchild of LA-based Ellen Schinderman, a textile artist in her own right. Neroli Henderson interviewed the curator to discuss the ideas behind an exhibition that challenges stereotypes of women and stitching. AUTHOR: Neroli Henderson

Crapestry, Puppy with Found Object, 2016, 16 x 16 inches, cross-stitched on vintage pattern. Photograph by the artist.

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FEATURE

AUTHOR: Neroli Henders

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ith embroidery, sewing and other stitching pursuits long being relegated to the domain of ‘homemaker’ or ‘mummy crafts’, it’s commonplace these days to see a backlash to the positioning of textiles as a feminine and subservient activity. Stitching is no longer just something ‘nice girls do’, or the making of useful or decorative items. The subversive stitch movement has tackled this head on, with cross stitch featuring lewd words, tattoo art and nudity, but Stitch Fetish takes it one step further. Sex has been used as a form of oppression for centuries but, unlike stitch, ‘nice girls don’t’ - or if they do, they had better not talk about it. Where men could go forth and sew their wild oats with abandon - an expected part of bachelorhood - women were meant to be chaste, learning how to cook, clean, sew, and otherwise take care of their husbands. The sexual revolution and advent of the pill has seen sex become more acceptable. It’s on the cover of almost any magazine. Pick up any issue of Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire and the emphasis is on being sexy, if not on sex itself. However, while sex is now acknowledged as having women as active participants, ‘getting your kink on’ is still seen as a dirty little secret we’d best not talk about. So, what better juxtaposition than to contrast fetishism, and all the sordid, kinky, quirky eroticism it implies, with the wholesome medium of stitch? And all stitch at that: cross-stitch, knitting, art quilting, teddy bear making, and the list goes on. With such a unique idea and its exquisite mix of humour and kinkiness, Stitch Fetish exhibitions have proved incredibly popular, with artists from all over the world, including Australia, vying to take part. Stitch Fetish 5 exhibited in LA in February 2017 and proved so well-received that it has spawned a San Francisco offshoot showing in October and November this year. I’ve been lucky enough to chat to the show’s mastermind and curator Ellen Schinderman to find out about the evolution of the Stitch Fetish exhibitions and the responses to them by artists and visitors. What made you first come up with the idea of Stitch Fetish? I had just finished my first curation, Home is Where the Needle Marks, and was having a featured solo at the Hive. 40

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Karin O, A Little Box of Love: Mr Pettersson, 2016, 9 x 10 inches approximately, embroidery and plush in a sardine tin. Photograph by the artist.

Nathan Cartwright, the owner of the gallery, had seen the Home show and in May 2011 we started talking about the possibility of my doing something at the Hive. The next open slot he had was for February of 2012. Between the works I was making at the time, that were strictly erotica, and the fact that Valentine’s Day is in February, it was an obvious thought. How did you find the reaction in the community, particularly the more conservative crafting and quilting communities? People are mostly really amused and accepting. The most common comment is, ‘My grandmother did that’, followed very quickly by, ‘but not like that!’ When I first re-learned to needlepoint (I had done it as a kid) the ladies at the shop

thought my ‘dirty works’ were very funny. Only the owner of the store got shirty with me, and it wasn’t about content, it was the fact that my canvases weren’t hand-painted; so funny! How did you go about approaching venues? I’m shameless! Once I’ve shown somewhere for a while or know someone a bit, if I have an idea that I think is right for the space, I’ll just pitch it. I also ask to be in shows if I hear about them and think I’d be a match. I’ve gotten a lot just by saying, ‘Hey, can I play?’ I encourage asking. Why the Hive Gallery? The Hive is so diverse and such a great testing ground. So many talents have come through the Hive. It allows me www.artwearpublications.com.au


— WHAT BETTER JUXTAPOSITION THAN TO CONTRAST FETISHISM, AND ALL THE SORDID, KINKY, QUIRKY EROTICISM IT IMPLIES, WITH THE WHOLESOME MEDIUM OF STITCH? — Jess de Whals, 2017, Five a Day, 22 inches round, embroidery. Photograph by the artist.

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FEATURE

— THE FINAL SCULPTURAL FORMS ... REMAIN INHERENTLY ADAPTABLE AND MALLEABLE STRUCTURES THAT WILL EMBODY A NEW GESTURAL FORM WITH EVERY INSTALLATION OF THE WORK. —

Sorrow at stillness 1, 2016, dimensions variable (adaptable composition), linen, lamé, cotton thread, mild steel, swivel clamp. Photo: Robin Hearfield. Courtesy the artist and ALASKA


AUTHOR: Kate Scardifield

TRACING SOFT FOLDS AND SHIFTING STATES Australia

— KATE SCARDIFIELD — My engagement with textiles began with an interest in the body’s relationship to cloth and thinking about fabric as a substitute for skin. Informed by concepts around materials and the knowledge they convey, I actively seek out and employ a range of material languages. Recently, this has included casts of my own severed fingers in bronze and adaptable, modular sculptures made from turned timber, acrylic and coiled thread spools. Although my approach to art-making is broad and varied, whatever I am working on is always channelled through three key modes of enquiry: research, conceptual thinking and material investigation. The exhibition When moving through ruins comprises a series of interconnected and relational forms that span sculpture, installation, textiles and video. This project was developed for exhibition at the Glasshouse Regional Art Gallery in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, following on from a residency there in July 2016. However, the work was 18 months in the making and originally conceived during field research and residency programs undertaken in Seville, Spain and Oaxaca, Mexico. Polyrhythm I – V, 2014/15. From the series Patterns for Penance, turned timber, oak dowel, coiled thread spools, acrylic. Dimensions variable. Photo: Matthew Venables. Courtesy the artist and ALASKA Projects Subscribers get a free newsletter every issue, filled with exhibitions and calls for entries

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FEATURE

— MY ENGAGEMENT WITH TEXTILES BEGAN WITH AN INTEREST IN THE BODY’S RELATIONSHIP TO CLOTH AND THINKING ABOUT FABRIC AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR SKIN. —

A

s an exhibition, the work consists of a seven-channel video piece accompanied by seven large, soft, sculptural forms that attempt to create a space for speculation and slow breathing when encountered. The work intertwines perceptions of time with cross-cultural mythologies and converging symbolic cues. Where the number seven encompasses a wealth of worldly mystic, spiritual and sacred connotations, in this instance, my reference was drawn from the Seven Sorrows in Christian theology. The work attempts to trace the soft folds and shifting states of being that can materialize between points of convergence and collapse. At a base 50

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level, this work explores ideas about loss and longing, sadness and grief. The seven unique textile forms that make up the sculptural component of When Moving Through Ruins, are formed from cloths that are draped, hung and folded over rudimentary steel frames, resting as static compositions in the gallery space. The soft-sculptural forms are made from black linen and overlaid with an accretive patterning of silver lamé. This appliqué technique is free-form and does not follow a predetermined template; each silver shape is laid in response to the previous, the final pattern revealing

itself over time through piece by piece construction. The final sculptural forms reflect a similar ethos. They remain inherently adaptable and malleable structures that will embody a new gestural form with every installation of the work. Each is its own composite of conical shapes, flat lay folds and oversized pockets, the intention being not to contour, but to envelop the body. This desire to envelop, to create volume and interior space for the body to move freely was prompted by the following questions: how might the body elicit and then translate emotional residue through the textures, tooth and grain of www.artwearpublications.com.au


AUTHOR: Kate Scardifield

A Trace of One’s Own Passing, 2016, bronze, dimensions variable. Photo: Robin Hearfield Courtesy the artist and ALASKA Projects.

When moving through ruins, 2016. Production still, 7-channel HD video 1080p, silent, unique durations, looped. Video production: John A. Douglas. Courtesy the artist and ALASKA Projects.

The artist’s studio, 2016, textile construction for When moving through ruins. Photo: Kate Scardifield. Courtesy the artist and ALASKA Projects

fabric? What does a person’s sadness look like when it reverberates through cloth? I asked seven women to inhabit the interior spaces of these forms, to animate them through slow and pensive self-directed movement. Without a choreographed sequence of gestures, agency was given over to each mover to explore the form from the inside in ways that could include running their hands along the seams, pressing their fingers into the textured appliqué surfaces, discovering crevices, pockets, holes, grasping at the fabric or pulling at the cloth. The resulting video sequence is a seven-channel work in which each video is of its own unique duration determined

by the individual’s movement and gestural response.

linear, I think about art-making as a process of excavating fragments; a way of tracing arcs around what is lost or unknown. Allowing this work to evolve interchangeably across textiles, sculpture and video has been reliant on a diverse collection of material, conceptual and iconographic threads. In turn, hinging these elements together has been a chorus of slow movements. The methodology at play is best described as a meditative and accretive approach to pattern-making.

Each form exerts its own distinct rhythm and physicality, yet as a collective of bodies they appear at times to be in conversation or coupled together through gesture, although these points of cohesive movement are momentary and are only ever generated through chance. They echo the shifting states of form and formlessness suggested by the mercurial, metallic shapes that appear floating in an inky black void.

Kate Scardifield

Whilst my method of realising a body of work could never be described as

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51


E XFHEI AB TI T U IROEN S

AUTHOR: Patricia Kennedy-Zafred

USA

Stories of

MIGRATION April 16 – September 4, 2016

Stories of Migration: Contemporary Artists Interpret Diaspora, is an exhibition filled with thought-provoking works which addressed historical issues, racism, and prejudice — coupled with the accompanied loss of homeland, family, culture and language. Some pieces are distinctly personal, reflecting on painful stories or memories of the artist or their families. Other works articulate a historical commentary, whether addressing issues of the past, or interpreting the unsettled world we now live in.

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his exhibition was the culmination of shared interests, and a willingness to collaborate between The Textile Museum, (now part of The George Washington University Museum) and Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. (SAQA). It was inspired by significant research being conducted at George Washington University’s Diaspora Program. The result was an exceptional juried exhibition of work by thirty-eight SAQA artists that not only pushed the boundaries of the definition 22

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of “art quilt” in concept and technique, but also addressed the theme of diaspora through individual and personal stories of migration. Of the nearly 300 pieces submitted by SAQA members, most of which were designed and created specifically for entry in Stories of Migration, Co-Curators Rebecca A.T. Stevens and Lee Talbot of The Textile Museum, had the arduous task of choosing the 38 pieces for display. The exhibition, which filled the expansive gallery spaces of two floors

of the Museum from April 16 through September 4, 2016, included innovative technologies, digital printing, video projection and internet imagery, and presented work as diverse as the artists themselves. Racism, and the resulting issues of slavery and prejudice, were addressed in several pieces, by both American and European artists. Alice Beasley used the metaphor of a train, with three distinct cars, in her expansive piece, Blood Line, to tell the story of her www.artwearpublications.com.au


MOGADISHU, Joy Nebo Lavrencik, 2012, 8 x 11 x 12 inches, hog gut, blood, seeds, leaves, threads, silk and cotton fragments, sculpted and collaged. Photographer: Nancy Merkling

family’s history from freedom in Africa, to slavery in America, to the Great Migration from the Jim Crow South to the American North. The colours used in the work were designed to amplify the condition of the passengers, some of whom are nameless, featureless faces, representing her unknown ancestors. Known relatives were recreated based on old family photographs printed onto fabric. Beasley became absorbed in her family’s genealogical roots, attempting to trace her family lines using existing

family records, assisted by the wealth of information now available online. She even went so far as to take a DNA test, in an attempt to more specifically hone in on her slave ancestors’ African origins, only to be met with even more surprises, some of which are tucked away on the elaborately detailed train cars. In another impressively large piece, Daniela Tiger’s free motion stitched work on silk organza, is delicate and fragile in appearance, but the weight of its story is heavy, uncertain and

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compelling. On The Path was inspired by experiences of Tiger’s parents, who were both pushed out of their homelands by war and anti-Semitism. Migrating from different countries in Europe, they met in Venezuela, and thereafter migrated together to Canada. Tiger remarks that she grew up listening to stories of homes left behind, and family lost; that safety often meant moving, leaving behind yet another home. As the result of multiple migrations, Tiger has family members all over the world, and 23


E XF H E IABT IUTRI O EN

Kasia, Viktor&Rolf Ready-To-Wear Spring/ Summer 2010, Cutting Edge Couture Image Credit: Team Peter Stigter

Viktor&Rolf Fashion Artists

Netherlands

NGV AUSTRALIA OCTOBER 2016 – FEBRUARY 2017 www.artwearpublications.com.au


Rolf Snoeren and Viktor Horsting, Viktor&Rolf at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia Image Credit: Wayne Taylor

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esiding in Amsterdam, innovative design duo Viktor&Rolf are headlining the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) International summer program. The exhibition will be running from 21st October, 2016 – 26th February, 2017 in Victoria, Australia. One of the biggest fashion showcases to be displayed by the NGV, the exhibition features over 35 couture pieces from the designer’s collections alongside earlier designs from over 20 years of Viktor&Rolf archives and museum collections. This is a not to be missed exhibition for everyone interested in haute couture. Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren met in their first year studying fashion design in 1992. They became fast friends at the Netherlands’ Arnhem Academy of Art and Design. Feeling like outsiders, both found solace in the fashion world— which they feel allowed them to become

authentic versions of themselves. They graduated in 1992 and moved to Paris to try their luck in the fashion industry. While residing in a small Parisian apartment they developed their first collection. An instant success, the collection won three prizes at the salon Européen des Jeunes Stylistes Hyères in France. The works were based on ideas of reconstruction and included ten looks, consisting of vintage suits and shirts reconfigured into fresh ideas. Viktor&Rolf used elements of stitching, oversized linings and embellishments to bring the collection together. The second collection was based on a copy of a dress the duo found at a flea market and recreated. Viktor&Rolf tapped into the deconstructive fashion of the late 1980s and early 1990s to make their mark on the fashion world. The deconstructive aesthetic was considered a rejection

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of ideas associated with glamour and high society. First pioneered by prominent designers such as Martin Margiela, Commes des Garçon and Yohji Yamamoto, Viktor&Rolf followed and began receiving global media attention. The aesthetic focused on a specific and innovative cut which was recognisable only to those who knew what to look for. Instead of dissecting the garments, Viktor&Rolf took apart the whole fashion industry. They used avant-garde creations to comment on the industry and how they felt in it. The pair has never shied away from creating controversial collections that elicit major reactions from critics and fans. For this exhibition, guest curator Theirry Maxime Loriot is back after his successful curation of the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition for the NGV in 2014, and it has been developed in close collaboration with Viktor&Rolf

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FEATURE

Marte-Mei, Viktor&Rolf Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2015, Wearable Art Image Credit: Team Peter Stigter

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www.artwearpublications.com.au


Yumi, Viktor&Rolf Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2015, Van Gogh Girls Image Credit: Team Peter Stigter

themselves. ‘Viktor&Rolf stretches the definition of both fashion and art,’ said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV. ‘Their boundarypushing designs challenge the way fashion is developed, presented and disseminated with masterful craftsmanship, intellectual rigour and an ironic sense of humour. This exhibition will be a rare opportunity to experience the unconventional creativity and technical brilliance of this innovative Dutch duo.’ Showcasing some of Viktor&Rolf’s most spectacular work, Melbourne once more demonstrates why it is the fashion and cultural capital of Australia. The curation of the work is in itself a

highlight of the exhibition, including both performance art and installation pieces. Viktor&Rolf are drawn to couture and its symbolic function, including the interaction of fashion. Interestingly Viktor&Rolf have done what very few did before them, and entered the ‘couture’ market prior to having an established ready-to-wear line. Loriot notes how the pair use fashion as an art form, considering them ‘artists’ rather than ‘designers’. One thing visitors can get excited about is the collection of archetype ‘preparation’ dolls dressed in iconic Viktor&Rolf designs. The Dutch duo use vintage dolls to recreate some of their most iconic designs from each

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collection. The complexity of recreating iconic designs in miniature scale requires immeasurable application of effort and attention to detail. All fabrications, embellishments and details are identically recreated to that of the original couture designs. The dolls wear hand made wigs of human hair and the makeup is professionally applied as an exact replica of that worn in each piece’s runway show. Each collection Viktor&Rolf select up to three looks that best represent the collection to recreate. The dolls usually reside with the artists in Amsterdam. The NGV will show work from over two decades of the Dutch Designers’ archives including The Russian Doll 1999

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Textile Fibre Forum  

A collection of spreads from Textile Fibre Forum. Design: Daniel Cordner Magazine available online from: http://artwearpublications.com.au/m...

Textile Fibre Forum  

A collection of spreads from Textile Fibre Forum. Design: Daniel Cordner Magazine available online from: http://artwearpublications.com.au/m...

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