………. no  not that elusive creature,

these are 2m long (6ft) enlargements, of my footprints being hooked by the Wanneroo Rugmakers as part of a research project using single-use plastic bags.

Textile artist Susan Feller (USA) included this research project in a presentation she made on “Educating about Craft” at the recent Association of Traditional Hooking Artists Biennial Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

Here’s project information sent to Susan Feller by Sue Girak PhD Visual Arts Specialist City Beach PS, Perth, West Australia, :

Walking Together with Pride is a collaborative installation that represents society’s ecological footprint. The initial phase of this project took place at City Beach Primary School in 2016. City Beach Primary School is a small government primary school located in Perth, Western Australia. Approximately 160 students attend the school which is situated in an affluent beachside suburb. Our local beaches are pristine, so it is very easy for children to underestimate the environmental degradation that is caused by plastic pollution in our oceans. As a means to highlight the growing dependence on plastic and its associated problems, the older children and I came up with the idea to make a large-scale installation artwork that would highlight the negative impact single-use plastic bags are having on the environment. When we first exhibited our eight footprints the younger students wanted the project to continue, so we invited others to add more footprints for a second showing in 2018. There is an associated research component that accompanies the project. My colleague Dr Jackie Johnson and I are interested to know if reusing discarded materials in art-making will make a difference to artists and crafts people’s environmental attitudes and behaviours. The Wanneroo Rughooking group was the first group to participate and make a start. They are using the proddy (proggy) hook method to make a pair of 180cm (6’) footprints made from salvaged plastics. As well being involved with the Wanneroo Rughooking group, Jo Franco is a member of the Western Australian Fibre and Textile Association (WAFTA). WAFTA have decided to work with my school as part of their community engagement initiative in 2017/18 and to teach rug making. I want to use old t-shirts to highlight the environmental problems associated with fast fashion. Further afield, Mandurah City Council is interested in extending the footprint project. Mandurah is a city 72 km (45 miles) south of Perth, and they want to work with their schools and community groups to produce pairs of footprints, which will be exhibited at the Drift Exhibition in May 2018. This means the footprints made by the Wanneroo Rughooking group will be exhibited twice next year. Finally, in August 2017, I presented the project at the International Society for Education through Art (InSEA) conference in Korea. The response was positive, I have schools in Beijing and Slovenia who wish to do their own footprint project and inquiries from Deakin University (Melbourne, Australia) to incorporate the concept into a community arts program.”

Susan’s presentation continued  ……..

“If any of this audience wants to participate in their research that would be great. Contact info if seriously interested in a group participation is Sue would be happy to work with a group from the US or Canada. Jackie and Sue are very interested in the creative reuse of salvageable materials in art-making and whether that would trigger shifts in environmental attitudes and behaviours.  (Sue) Originally thought that the research would only be for locals who would contribute to her school’s exhibition. However, if there are international rug makers that would like to participate, they would love to hear. While there may be problems sending actual footprints to Australia, if people are willing to make a pair (as per her instructions) and photograph them, Sue will include that in the exhibition. Her students would love to see how their art is inspiring others around the world. The research component is a before and after survey, photos to show process and the possibility of an interview.”

The Wanneroo Rugmakers have completed the “before” survey and are enjoying thinking of different creative ways to embellish the footprints. While it’s a group project, members are working independently on the footprints – each adding their own ideas and techniques.

Anna thought it would be humorous to indicate a shoe-size and knitted a strip using white plastic bags and sewed the strip onto the footprint in the shape of a figure eight, adding a one – these footprints are surely bigger than a size 18!  She is using plastic wrappers off sliced bread to fill in the foot. Coloured department store bags are being used for the toenails and the flip-flop straps.

Sharon, a new member, was taught the proggy technique and is practicing by edging the footprints. Kath made elaborate floral decorations for the flip-flop thong straps added to the footprints by Peta.

Kath discussing footprint embellishments with Adele
Colourful department store bags cut with a Townshend cutter are used to hook around the embellishments on the thong strap.
Tricia who normally works with proggy is learning to hook on this project – a challenging endeavour using the slippery plastic!

From the Editor: Jo Franco – With my WAFTA hat on, having volunteered to teach Sue’s students how to rug hook, I visited her school to deliver an over-sized rug hooking stretcher frame for them to learn on.  At that time Sue showed me footprints the students had already made and I gave me this one to take back to our group as an example.

For a base they had used a soft flyscreen material and had rolled and folded single-use plastic bags stitching them into place. Hooking through this material was not “user friendly” so we reverted to our usual Hessian backing.

This is an interesting project for our rug hooking group since we already work with recycled material and as of 2018 single-use plastic bags will be banned from supermarkets in Western Australia.  Completing the initial survey was also timely and created much discussion as we had all viewed the ABC’s TV program on the excessive amount of waste generated by the use of cheap clothing.

We’re looking forward to presenting our finished footprints to Sue’s School.












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