My textile practice revolves around free flowing design and bright, vibrant colours. This approach is dispersed into different areas including silk painting, dying fabrics, machine embroidery and felting. I’m very happy when I can combine all these techniques in one piece. My silk paintings are usually abstract designs and I use them in wearable pieces in which I also incorporate machine embroidery and felting. Using these techniques I also make two dimensional pictures and wall hangings. Lately I am making felt sculptures and felt bowls and vases.
I always call myself a textile artist as I’m passionate about promoting the concept of textile art. I think it’s incredibly important to help make textile art a major force in the art world and expose it to all facets of the arts.
My cousin James, who I grew up with on a merino sheep property “Clairmour”, says “You're just like your mother Claire” as she would stay up all night finishing outfits for us. My mother taught my sister and I, dressmaking, knitting, creating our own Christmas decorations, instilling in us the creative process. I grew up with barby dolls and made whole wardrobes of dresses, including wedding dresses, which incidentally I went on to make later in life. There was always a creative happening at “Clairmour.”
Textile art seems to resound in me. Being around art I’m always collecting pieces of textile art, paintings, sculpture and these pieces influence my work. I feel that it’s important to be surrounded by art as I respond strongly to my visual environment. Touch and smell are important components to me as well.
My imagery is based on the landscape. I have a strong sense of colour and design and react to what feels right in my work. I’m lucky to travel overseas every 18 months for exhibitions, workshops and visiting our children, in UK and Europe. I take a visual diary with me to record ideas, drawings, notes and diagrams. I always take my work to show and keep creating while travelling, be it felting or stitching. I often demonstrate my felt techniques and this is a great teaching learning curve.
In the late 80’s while working full time, nursing in the Operating theatres, at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, I studied Fashion Design at East Sydney and TAFE colleges. I created “Denise Lithgow Designs” which included designing wedding garments and accessories, co-ordinating and designing personalised wardrobes for clients and developing new fashion ideas. I’ve continued to do courses particularly at the Grafton Artsfest including silk painting with Colleen Weste and machine embroidery with Ken Smith and have been encouraged to participate in Orange Forum in 2011.
In 2002 my husband was teaching at Camp Creative in Katoomba and I went along and did the Carol Wilkes course. This proved to be my biggest influence yet. She instilled a love of machine embroidery and completely changed my focus. When visiting the “Taking Flight” exhibition at Palm House, about 5 years ago I met Kirry Toose and other members. I signed up immediately to ATASDA and have never looked back. I have continued to do many workshops with ATASDA, including Jenny Hopper’s workshop which introduced me to felting. I met Bronwyn Hunter at this workshop and she continued my love of this medium as did my workshop with Leah Jones. I’m sure that being brought up on a sheep property influenced me also, especially the smell and texture of wool!
Through ATASDA I’ve done stitching with, Carolyn Sullivan, Celia Player and Jean Collyer. I have studied dying with Lynne Britton and Cath Wilkinson which I use regularly. I was very inspired by Adrienne Sloane’s knitting workshop and was lucky to host her in our home on her visit from Boston and hear about her inspirational world class exhibitions. I try to limit workshops to my area of interest so that I don’t go off on too many tangents.
I love visiting the Marrickville recycled depot and often come home with many interesting materials to incorporate into my works. I won the Brisbane Textile Art award in 2009 for the knitted recycled “Bliss Dress” which was made from recycled medical pieces. Now I’m collecting photographic ribbons which I intend to knit.
I like to have a range of different works which keep me entertained. My machine embroidery involves 2 dimensional pictures, quite often in abstract form with representational imagery. Often I make brooches and bags adding found objects, using the same techniques as the pictures. I love creating felt jackets as displayed in the recent Brisbane Textile Art exhibition in the coat “Il Cappotto Grande Fragmentato“ which was felted using recycled jumpers and machine embroidery and the “Tall Alice” piece which called upon my wedding dress making experiences. For the recent Palm House exhibition I developed felted bowls and vases which were very new for me.
I throw myself into exhibitions, the latest being “Totem”, the Fibre and Fabric Association exhibition at Perc Tucker Gallery, Townsville, where I had this idea to do a 2 metre totem based on a tree branch which I felted. I exhibit regularly and sell my work in places such as the Royal Easter Show, Glebe Art exhibition, local and interstate galleries and our Palm House. Through these exhibitions I have received commissions for my work. I have a regular stall at the Eveleigh Artisan’s market this year which has taught me to engage with the public and increase my selling skills .This also means I’m always working to a deadline, with many late nights as I’m still working in nursing. My policy is to always have the next project on the table so that when I get home from work I can go to my studio, which is part of our warehouse home, and work for 10 minutes (which always turns into at least 30minutes). This means I’ve done something and not just thought about it. Once it’s on the table it doesn’t come off until it’s finished. That way I have to complete one project while images are whizzing around in my mind.
My workspace includes an area downstairs where I do my wet felting, a huge table for my silk painting and my rocket steamer, for setting the silk, lives along side.
As an artist one of the hardest processes is swapping from the creative side to the promotional side. I need to create and to remember the advertising, the emails and the promotion of exhibitions before I’ve finished the pieces to be exhibited.
In the future I would like to find time to teach workshops as well as continuing to exhibit my work and building up to a solo show.
I look forward to many more educational workshops through ATASDA and can highly recommend them to all.
Red Felted Jacket and Scarf
Exhibited at Palm House exhibition
Il Cappotto Grande Fragmento
Jacket exhibited at the Brisbane Textile Art Festival in the recycled section
A felted jacket using recycled jumpers and felt
Exhibited in the Glebe Art Prize, machine embroidery on crinkled paper
Wall hanging, machine embroidery, won 1st prize at the Royal Easter show 2011
Red Felted Jacket
Exhibited at the Royal Easter show 2011
The Ring Masters Cape
Created for the Brisbane Art awards