More on Sturt weaving: The end of an era

October 16, 2014

I have had many responses to my blog posting of a week ago. The news has touched many.  I have asked permission of Margaret who contacted me privately if I could share her letter. It provides such a snapshot of weaving at Sturt in the late 1980’s- early 1990’s under the guidance of Elizabeth Nagel. Thank you Margaret for agreeing to share your experiences.

Dear Kay,

My name is Margaret Stone and I am an ‘old ‘ Sturt weaver. I just read your blog post about the changes for 2015 and like you and the regular weavers I am shocked and saddened to see such a special place undervalued and supposedly in need of updating.

In 1988 I called the Sturt weaving studio and asked Elizabeth if she would teach my children to weave. She said if they could count to 50 they could come.

For the next 10 years we made our way to the weaving workshop starting with Annie and Christopher (aged 8 and 6) with the 2 youngest tagging along to play in the garden and with Lucy, the youngest, calling Elizabeth ‘grandma’ as the only people she knew with white hair were Grandmas!

Annie and Chris continued to weave for most of the next 10 years, Rob did some weaving but it was not his thing (he much preferred playing to the glorious gardens with his friends), Lucy started when she could count to 50 and continued to weave throughout those years as well.

We brought our home schooling friends along and for several years about 4 sometimes 5 families learned to weave under Elizabeth’s measured, patient approach. The most trouble she had was with the Mum’s who were often banished to the garden as we talked too much while knitting or quilting or helping our children warp looms!

It was not just the weaving our children learnt but the history of a person who grew up in Germany throughout the 2nd WW and had so many stories to tell, the extra skills like braiding, knitting, gardening and much more.

Chris was the last to weave a piece at Sturt. When he arrived at age 6 he walked in to the back room and saw the enormous floor loom and his goal then was to weave on it. At age 16 or 17 he was big enough to finally use it and wove a huge fleece floor rug. Elizabeth tells the story of another much younger school boy who had come to classes at that time and who was being teased at school as weaving was considered ‘sissy’. Elizabeth took him into the back room where Chris was banging away on the huge loom making an impressive racket and the little boy was awestruck.

Each of my children value their time spent with Elizabeth and have taken into their adult lives the ability to appreciate handmade items, to continue to see the value the discipline and hard work of making from scratch and 10 years on from their time at Sturt remember it and Elizabeth with much affection. I continued to attend classes at Sturt off and on over the past 10 years and continue to spin and knit and (weave a little) at home.

Sturt, as Winifred West intended it to be, was a place of respite from the world where we could lose ourselves in creative tasks each week and go back out into the world refreshed and satisfied that our creative urges had been met and encouraged. The simplicity of the building, the beautiful gardens and the generosity of the people we shared the space with over the years has made our live richer and more meaningful.

I am so glad I found your blog post before it was too late,

Sincerely,

Margaret Stone

 


Sturt: the end of an era

October 8, 2014

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The building housing Sturt weaving and café.

Here is some background first.

Sturt was established in 1941 in Mittagong, NSW by Winifred West. It is a centre of excellence for contemporary crafts and is privately owned by Winifred West Schools. It has 4 studios, weaving being the oldest. The others are wood, ceramics and jewellery. All studios run term classes and short courses. The wood school has a year- long accredited certificate course. Sturt also hosts winter and summer schools. There is also a gallery, cafe, all set in historic gardens. For those who have followed my blog, you will have often seen snapshots of the garden. Sturt is regarded as one of the major attractions of the Southern Highlands and has won several tourism awards. For more details go to the web site: http://www.sturt.nsw.edu.au

Today Julie Gillick, Head of Frensham and the Winifred West Schools announced the following:

Re: Sturt 2015 and beyond

Following an exhaustive review lasting over 18 months, Sturt is poised to embark upon some exciting new directions for the future. Building on what we do really well and recognizing that some things needs to change: we will close the Café at the end of the current term and will be suspending the operations of the weaving studio for 2015 in order to create new flexible workshop spaces and to embrace new technology opportunities to provide enhanced design and fabrication opportunities for all. Sturt Summer and Winter School, short courses, and the shop and gallery will continue as normal with an added coffee component that we hope to be able to announce details about very soon.

I have been here at Sturt for nearly 2 years as artist in residence in charge of the studio. Before that I have had two 3 month residencies in 2009 and 2012. I appreciate the creative spirit of Sturt, the interaction between studios, other craftspeople, artists in residence and staff. I have enjoyed their company, the energy, the working towards a common goal, that of creative endeavour. I have enjoyed my time working in the studio, researching, developing concepts and ideas, refining technique, producing. I have also enjoyed teaching students who have also become friends. From a professional point of view, watching, guiding and encouraging the learning of skill and technical knowledge is a wonderful experience. I have had many students pass through the studio maybe for just one term, some for several or in many cases they have been on this journey with me since 2009. They have appeared in my blog. You may also have watched their progress. I am proud to have been a part of their life at Sturt. While I have not been involved in the teaching of the weekly tapestry class, I have also enjoyed their company and watched their progress. I am also proud of the improvements I have had in the organisation and running of the studio. There are new looms which have enabled greater productivity and flexibility and diversity in learning outcomes. Many of you will have been reading of my journey here. It has been amazing, stimulating and very satisfying.

It was with deep regret that I was informed of this impending decision. There are so few places where weaving can be learnt in a fully practical experience. Sturt has had a long and proud history of delivering quality weaving classes. My students are devastated on several fronts. Firstly there is the knowledge that weaving as they know it will soon be coming to an end. There will be no more weekly classes. There will be no more sharing of their achievements in producing an end product, the stimulation of discussion, the groans of something done not quite right, the laughter of shared experiences under the current format. There is also the impact of the loss of meeting place. This is where they have met each week, sharing their highs and lows of life in general. No matter what their backgrounds, all have met and enjoyed each other’s company. This is a special place. They also recognise their place in the greater community.

It is recognised that the looms will be mothballed for a year while the decision is made as to the future direction of Sturt. At least the door to the future has not totally been shut.

It is exciting that Sturt potentially will be taking on “new age technologies”, disappointing though it is at the hopefully temporary loss of weaving. Maybe in a year’s time, a way will become clear to have it re-instated in some format. It is my earnest desire that this be so. Hopefully weaving will also still remain a part of the winter and summer schools.

I certainly wish Sturt well for its future. This is a remarkable place. It has touched both mine and many others lives.

In the meantime, I have one term left here- just 9 weeks. I wonder what they will bring. There is nothing surer that we will have fun exploring technique, weaving, producing and achieving. We will definitely be enjoying each other’s company. I have some plans for group challenges and activities as well as students working on individual projects. Watch this space and see what we do. We are going to make the most of it.


September 2014

October 4, 2014

It was the end of term at Sturt. Some projects were finished, others will carry over into next term.

 

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She finished another piece of weaving in the Saori style. She found the development of pattern by the clasped weft technique very interesting. After the holidays she’ll complete the garment.

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Maggie finished another warp using shirt fabric combined with other yarns. The smaller warp has resist threads woven in and will be dyed in indigo. It has been a very interesting exercise as each warp while using the common theme of using old shirts as yarn have been decidedly different. Maggie explains technique to Isobel and Tuesday.

The highlight of the month for many was an indigo bath. It is quite magical watching fabric turn from green to blue as the indigo dyed fabric is removed from the bath and is exposed to the air.

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Dyeing and undoing in progress.

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Maggie’s dyed warp shown above.

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Isobel dyed wood and leather.

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Two ladies from pottery wondered what we were doing and also dunked some fabrics.

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The woodies came. As part of their course they had been exploring various colouring effects. They took the opportunity to see what happens on various woods.

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Then they were fascinated by the process and also dyed some fabric which was on hand. And then some shoelaces.

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And some hair.

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It certainly was fun and a great way to involve community.

At the end of term, I got to go home for a week or so. On the way I spent a couple of days at Bornhoffen, a camp in the Gold Coast hinterland teaching crackle to the Gold Coast Spinners and Weavers. It was delightful surroundings with great views across the mountain. They are a very active group with a wide range of skill abilities.  We really didn’t have a great deal of time to take in the scenery. It’s a great facility and staying at a camp where food is provided sure does allow for focus on the workshop. Many samples were completed.

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Back to Sturt and in just two weeks the garden had changed, It was much greener but exquisitely beautiful with other trees flowering. The drift of petals coming down is something to be enjoyed.

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In October I am involved in two exhibitions.

Firstly, there’s Exposition.This exhibition has already been featured on my blog. It was first shown at Warwick. This time it will be at the Redland’s Museum. The exhibition is on till the end of October. If you are in the South East of Queensland, please come.

Exposition Redlands (464 x 600)

Then just two weeks later is my solo at Framed. I am nearly ready. Again if you are in Darwin, please come and view the exhibition. Framed have done a wonderful invitation. Thanks go to the Graphics designer and other staff involved. For those who have never been to Framed, it is a very beautiful gallery. I am delighted to be exhibiting there.

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Invite 2 (283 x 600)