This is a written version of a short video that I made as part of the Voice of Video project run by the Great Alpine Gallery. You can see my video, and those of other artists, on the gallery website here.
This is not a direct transcript, but it’s based off the ‘script’ I used when recording the video, and I’ll include some still images of what was in the video.
In weaving, you describe the density of the threads in the cloth as DPI – dents per inch. What does dents mean? Its the spacing of these bars in the reed here, this holds the threads the right distance apart. It’s like a big comb, and on a comb you have ‘teeth’ and that’s what ‘dents’ means – like dental.
In Classical Architecture too you get these decorative elements like upside down crenulations, called dentils – it’s the same thing, it’s referring to teeth.
I studied Architecture and Building Design, and as well as the history of it, what I loved was the problem solving aspect of design.
And when I was working as a designer, I discovered the other great thing was that you (often, not always) have this actual physical thing that is built, a tangible real thing that happened, you were part of it, it’s very exhilarating.
I took up weaving as a creative pursuit outside of work, something that didn’t have deadlines, didn’t have so much pressure and didn’t need cost plans and 6 levels of management approvals and get built at the other end of the country where I couldn’t go see it…
When I’m weaving something with my own hands it’s in my hands, I can see it and touch it and get that tangible experience at any point in the process.
And, of course, the principles of the design process are the same across mediums. As are the elements – line, pattern, colour, texture.
I get that same challenge and satisfaction of problem solving when I design cloth – test and design and test and design, then weave off a project.
Sometimes it takes a few projects for an idea to work its way out, it has to percolate a while… and the cloth can always give you a few surprises, so you’re always learning new things, and that spawns new ideas.
In that way all my projects connect to each other.
When I decided to make a business of this, I wanted a name with a connection to place and to my family.
My great-grandmother grew up at a place called Wattle Circle (on the Great Alpine Road), and so I thought using Wattle would be a good connection. And, with Hand-Weaving the initials are H & W, I love a good bit of alliteration, so I landed on Happy Wattle Hand Weaving.
I realised later, I hadn’t even meant to do it, but wattle is also an Architectural term – wattle and daub construction. The ‘wattle’ is a mesh or frame of upright posts with flexible horizontal timbers woven through them and then the mud or render is daubed on to make a solid wall – it’s literally a piece of weaving, that is also a building!
And that’s actually where the name for Wattle trees in English comes from, because they were used in wattle and daub construction.
Like a lot of people who learn a new craft, I started off making a lot of gifts, for friends and family and so on… shawls or scarves or baby blankets.
This is my Gran and the cowl I made for her 90th birthday present.
And I still find those types of things so rewarding to make because there’s a beauty in everyday items, handmade items… I think sometimes we miss that a bit, in our modern lives, with so many mass-produced items we don’t necessarily have a connection to why we have that particular item.
This plate was an engagement present from my Gran. She told me she wanted to give me something beautiful that was still an everyday object, so that every time we used it we’d be reminded of her and of her good wishes for our future.
I actually have several beautiful, everyday items that Gran gave to me – for example this woven blanket, which was made locally at the Jolly Jumbuk. It’s beautiful, and Gran was right – every time I use them I think of her and of her love.
And, I just think that’s … a wonderful connection.