Coast to Coast Exhibition

1_2_ausralian_rugmakers_guild_exhibition_sourroundsIt was heartening to see how members of this national Guild, although small in number, overcame vast distances to bring together rug works from around the country, at a time when many organizations are moving toward digital exhibitions because of the cost of shipping and insuring creative works.    1_2_arg_woolshed_gallery_strathnairn_arts_cropped

The Exhibition is open until the 25th September

Thursday to Sunday from 10:00am – 4.00pm 

in the Woolshed Gallery at the Strathnairn Arts Assn.  90 Stockdill Rd. Holt, ACT

1_arg_vase_by_maggie_whyte_native_flower_from_her_gardenRugs and items created using rugmaking techniques are on display. For the Opening, Members came from, WA, SA, VIC, QLD, & NSW – South Coast & Braidwood, and spent the weekend sharing their knowledge of techniques and tools.

Below, Gail Nichols and Maggie Hickey from NSW studying two of Gail’s works, her inspiration for this piece was her photo of a discarded piece of rusted  and twisted corrugated iron, the material used long ago for the walls and roof of the old woolshed building, which is part of the original Strathnairn Homestead, now an Arts Association village.




This wall-hanging hooked by Gail Nichols was also inspired by a photograph, she’d taken of leaf litter on the edge of a lake.

Guild President, Judith Stephens(SA) and Janet Tayler-Henry(ACT) demonstrated toothbrush rugmaking. As well as mats, baskets and bowls (displayed), can also be made using this technique. Old doona covers and sheets are a good source of material as they provide large straight pieces of colourful fabric.


Bobby George, from Victoria, really enjoyed the company during the weekend as she is usually a solitary rughooker,  does not belong to a rugmaking group and learned to hook from books and online videos.  Bobby was so enthused after the weekend in Strathnairn she went home and contacted the organizer of a local Stitch Festival and has arranged for space to demonstrate rugging in next year’s festival, hoping to promote enough interest to get a small group going. Bobby impressed us with her colour planning.


Andrea Honey from country Victoria is also a solitary rug hooker and has her own take on this craft.  She works without the benefit of a frame and prefers a freeform style, with no corners to worry about. Plus she liked to embellish her work with cut-outs and the addition of buttons and stitch.


Techniques were not the only thing being discussed during the weekend – Gail Nichols, from NSW, whose large wall hangings are on exhibit, demonstrated the adjustable stand made for her large stretcher frame. This stand has many benefits – once attached, the frame can be used tilted or flat allowing the work area to be adjusted to various seating heights or even a standing position. The frame support was made in Ulladulla, NSW, if anyone is interested in purchasing one of these stands, email for contact details. 

Also of interest was Gail’s storage solution for her materials – now that’s an organized colour palette.



Judi Tompkins (QLD) seen examining and discussing  the functionality and design of Jo Franco’s rug created to go beneath a special coffee table; the freeform design and holes accommodate table legs, creating stability as the textural rug has an uneven surface.


Dawn Hollins from Bermagui on the south coast of NSW showed one of the seven panels created by the Bermagui U3A Rughooking Group, these panels are destined to hang in the Surf Lifesaving Clubhouse.  The designs drawn by a local artist to represent scenes from around this coastal area, were transferred to the backing from the full sized paintings.  This was a huge undertaking as the rugmakers in this group are all novices.  Right now they are working out how to hang such large pieces – the installation will be complete and presentation made to the Surf Club in early December 2016.


 Large works seem to be popular with Australian rugmakers –  Jenney Anderson from South Australia has completed a hall runner designed by Judith Stephens (SA) Jenny was so pleased with this rug  when she saw it in place – she has started on one for another hallway in her house.


Going from large rugs to small :    Entries for the “Coast to Coast Challenge” were on display – the winning entry chosen by Nancy Tingey was by Marion Nefiodovas of South Australia.



This group of small pieces hooked by Yvonne from the Wanneroo Rugmakers Group in WA began as place mats and finished up being hung as a collage.

Wanneroo_Rugmakers_West_Aust_Yvonne's_hooked_ collage

Hooked bags are also on exhibit – however this one hooked by Anne Schafer (VIC) using wool purchased from Tascot in Tasmania, was only there for the weekend as Anne uses it when travelling.  Anne is standing in front of two rugs hooked by Robin Inkpen of Western Australia – the one on the right sold on the first day.


Bec Andersen from Queensland,  has two large rugs on Exhibit, one already with a red dot “sold” sticker on it. Both these hooked pieces were designed by  Bec and created by her with an electric “tufting gun” and wool yarn which she hand-dyes with natural dyes.

Bec is very involved with community projects, her most recent, during an Artist in Residency program, was teaching 11 year old children in their last year at primary school to rug hook (11 and Beyond.) Bec also gives rug making classes and makes rugs on commission.





Talks and Demonstrations

by accomplished and well known textile artists were fascinating and much appreciated by the audience of rug hookers who were interested to hear how these women discovered their passion for their fibre art and approached creativity in their field, overcoming the problems of fitting their creative work into their daily life of family and careers. 

 4_christine_white_wow_entry_cash_cowChristine White and her award-wining wearable art entries. 

With a dynamic and humorous approach Christine, whose qualifications are in fashion and design, told of being a “sewer” and coming from a background of manufacturing clothing. How she and her friend Bonnie Begg, an art photographer, worked together their different personalities creating a ying/yang approach to come up with a “meaning” for the amazing costumes they made from things recycled.

Also, how they discovered and learned techniques to create the dramatic effects. 

Most  of the audience was aware of “WOW” in New Zealand (World of Wearableart – the wearable art competition which has been drawing entrants from around the globe for over 20 years) but didn’t know they were in the presence of someone who had placed several times in this prestigious competition and who has had garments in the museum in New Zealand and currently in a world-wide traveling exhibitions.  Christine also presented a garment entered in a WearableArt competition in NSW Australia and spoke of other wearable art contests within Australia – Mandurah’s Stretch Festival in WA, and contests in Tasmania. 

Christine’s green WOW entry titled “Cash Cow” is well placed in front of a large rug depicting a cow central in a farmyard scene, which was hooked by Helen Mennie from New South Wales.

5_4_lynne_johnson_knitted_rugs     Lynne Johnson described her passion for knitting, and how she learned to knit from family members. There is a real history of knitters in Lynne’s family which she is in the process of documenting. Lynne now teaches knitting at workshops around Australia.  While her intricate sculptural work can be seen on her blog Lynne showed a selection of her amazing colourful rugs and wraps, reminiscent of the works of Kaffe Fassett. 

Lynne also spoke of her work involved with groups knitting for community projects and her love for combining the “pieces” others who only like to knit, give up on.  To Lynne there is a mathematical challenge in composition and design to complete these projects.  Some of Lynne’s wool wraps grew from knowledge passed on by Miriam Miller, well known for her rug making, and who is also an avid spinner and knitter.     

6_warming_stoveInclement weather on Saturday was not a problem, a fire in the pot-bellied stove in the Woolshed kept visitors warm and cosy.  

The day came to a close with a Guild Meeting, the first order of business being the installation of the Managing Committee, followed by a discussion on the direction  members would like to see the Guild take, which by unanimous decision was, to further the craft of rughooking in Australia by demonstrations and exhibitions rather than to judge members work following the Guild’s mission statement :

“The Australian Rugmakers Guild is a national organisation of creative people who come together in friendship to share ideas; and to explore different techniques of the art of rugmaking using a variety of fibres.”

Also discussed was the subject of “paid advertising” in Guild newsletters and blogs. It was agreed to continue with the current position – no commercial advertising. However information brought to the Editor’s attention by members about hard to find supplies, will continue to be shown on the Swap & Sell page of the Guild website and discussed in more detail in the newsletter which is emailed to members as a benefit of membership.   

Following the meeting, the group adjourned with guests, partners and spouses to long tables set up in the Juice Kitchen Café in the Homestead where Ankur and his staff provided a delicious 3-course meal, the food was excellent and the conversation lively.

 The sun came out on Sunday – it was a lovely day for a drive in the country, and the Woolshed was a buzz with visitors.




Carol Divall an accomplished local Felter gave a morning demonstration explaining there are many ways to felt and showing a particular technique she likes to use – a surprize to some of us because while it involved “wet felting”, it was done in a controlled way without a lot of drips and mess.  Carol  said she was introduced to felting at college in the early ’80s but it wasn’t until ’88 when she did a workshop with Joan Fisher that she was hooked on teaching & working with felt and has since been invited to teach in many parts of Australia. Carol also taught ‘Creative Weaving’ certificate & Associate Dip of creative Arts at TAFE at Goulburn & Yass and from 1989 to 2000 with 4 other Artists/craft women ran ‘Fibre Design’, a gallery and studio promoting Fibre arts.  Her last comment to me says it all …..   My loom sits unused, Feltmaking took over!


Official Opening

Nancy Tingey, an accredited Textile artist in the UK and Australia whose career spans over forty years in the arts, as curator and teacher and who exhibits her works in several mediums, officially opened the Exhibition Sunday afternoon after an introduction by Maggie Whyte, Convenor.


 Nancy told of her introduction to rag rugs as a child in Lancashire, seeing a rug created by the family of her friend whose mother was a dressmaker, they utilized scraps of material left over from her work. Nancy came from a family who like most middle class families, felt recycling was “beneath” them so she didn’t see another rag rug until in her late 20s when as a curator in Kendal she helped hang an exhibition of historic prize animal portraits owned by wealthy farmers. Also in the exhibition were rag rugs made by poor families depicting their treasured animals. 

 Years later at a craft show in Milton, NSW, where rag rugs where on display Nancy bought a hand-spun purple shawl (which she was wearing at the Opening) from Miriam Miller and attended one of Miriam’s Friday rugging sessions.  After this, on a trip back to England Nancy made her own rag rug working in an English group similar to Miriam’s – according to Nancy, traversing the hessian with her hook became a metaphor for Crossing Continents, as she was using her art work to look at issues related to living in two cultures.  

 Nancy said she found making her one and only rag rug an intensely satisfying experience and has generously allowed the following to be taken from her opening speech at the Strahtnairn Exhibition

 “As some of you who are spinners will know, if you can set up a symbiotic relationship with your materials and tools, a kind of slow dance develops. This creates an energetic flow which infuses the work.  I see many expressive designs here demonstrating liveliness of design which is the natural outcome of that interaction.

 And there is the fascination of working with materials which have history, a continuous thread which seems to me to be at the heart of the rag rug tradition, evoking memories.  Your Australian Guild, in recognising this as a strength, is embracing the importance of recycling and sustainability. You are right up there with the latest trends. It is your time.

 Take risks, have faith in our own interpretations.  There are several works here which break new ground and will surprise many visitors with their innovative ideas to keep the art alive, delighting yourselves and others.

 I therefore take great pleasure in declaring this heart warming exhibition open.  Nancy Tingey 2016”

 Thank you Nancy for your kind words and allowing them to be passed on here. The quillie brooch, made by Maggie Whyte was given to Nancy as a small token of our thanks for her support – who knew it would match Nancy’s outfit so well.


 Throughout the weekend a local group of Rugmakers and Felters ; Jenny Harber, Liegh Toop, Janet Tayler-Henry, Robin Asman, Jo Mahon and Kerry Mobbs provided coffee & tea, warming soup for lunch both days and nibbles and drinks during the afternoon opening.  This group has set up a roster to have members present while the Exhibition is open Thursday through Sunday from 10:00am to 4:00pm.   Good job ladies!   Thanks from all of us who attended. 

Maggie Whyte pictured below chatting with Kerry, Gail and Maggie Hickey, is to be credited for organizing such an interesting weekend and bringing to us a group of talented textile artists.


  Thanks also goes to Judith Stephens, Guild President and Malcolm Edward-Cole for their help with setting up of the Exhibition.

There are many rugs on exhibit which      1_act_strathnairn_neighbours_kangaroos-cropped

have not been shown in this blog –

watch for more reports.

 Jo  Franco, Editor, Membership Chair




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