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Anne Garvey

‘from out of the blue studio gallery’ is very happy to be hosting the solo exhibition – With A “Flour-ish”. This is a collection of vintage flour sacks that Anne has worked the magic of her sewing machine on, using thread painting techniques.

In preparation for the exhibition I asked Anne a series of questions to probe a little more deeply into her artistic career as a maker across multiple fibre disciplines. So here they are and here also are her answers. :

What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium?

Learning to knit, embroider and sew as a child were initially for practical purposes. It enabled me to make things for myself.  Now, I realize that it’s the many techniques  that can reflect colour, texture, shape and form, line etc.  that I love so much. I love the creative process, and how fibre, thread and fabric can be used in endless combinations.

How was your imagination captured?

I find myself drawn to discarded materials and the unlimited possibilities to reuse them. My first foray, was as a young teenager, cutting up my grandmother’s old dresses and making appalling clothes, that I wore unashamedly! Later on collecting old linens, that are great for embellishment and assemblage, became a mainstay. A collection of old holey shearers singlets became little black dresses, embellished dramatically, had a wonderful affect on my creativity.

These flour bags ( for the exhibition “With A Flour-ish”) were a result as a challenge from Viv Davy, at from out of the blue studio and gallery, who issued a challenge to a few people to make something of a flour-bag a couple of year ago. This set me off on a curiosity hunt for the diversely patterned old bags and the identifying mill labels.  My childhood clothes had bodices and linings made from flour bags so I had a personal connection to them

What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

I was brought up frugally, with a big emphasis on not wasting anything ( my mother was a child of the depression). Therefore I have always reused and remade stuff. One of my high school art teachers gave me opportunities to print on fabric which made quite an impression on me, even if the results were pretty average. The single most influential person on my creativity, was probably my life long teaching friend Ruth, who taught me to spin, in the late 70’s, which set me on a path of discovering weaving, natural dyeing, and the combinations of all of these. This was the time of really registering and appreciating fibre, yarn and fabric.

What was your route to becoming an artist?

I often made decorative textile pieces, alongside the practical stuff, but it wasn’t til I did costume designing and making for a friend, Julia Reynolds, who is a film maker, for a fantasy film. It was Julia who encouraged me to consider what I did as “Art”! Up until then everyone called in craft, which of cause some was.

Tell us about your process from conception to creation

My usual practice begins with an item, a fibre or fabric. The first question is always” What can I do with that?” Often I will see something random, and think, I can do something with that.  In the case of the flour bags it was wanting to celebrate the graphic designs on the flour bags, each one highlighting the mill of origin and the place they were from. I like that each mill had quite complex designs, screen printed, usually quite simply onto one side of the bags.

Tell us about the chosen techniques and how you use them.

This current body of work involves mostly “thread painting”, which is stitching with the sewing machine with feed dogs down and a darning foot attached.. This is freeform stitching, or drawing with the machine. It takes quite a while to learn to control the speed of the needle and where you want it to go.

What currently inspires you?

I love graphics of old embroidery, the labels,  print and pattern that appear in unexpected places, like buildings, old books, bottles, drain covers, wallpapers, old linen and clothes, also leaves and the infinite patterns in nature. With the flour bags it has been fascinating to work with some beautiful designs that were trademark identifications for everyday items. Who knew flour-bags could be so cool?

Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particular find memories and why?

I once made a fabric collage that included a fabric stamp, some music score printed in calico, and lots of hand stitching. My teaching mentor I mentioned before loved it, so I called it “Ruth’s Music” and gave it to her. When she passed away, I was delighted that her artist son in law chose to keep it. 

How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolvingnin the future?

I have used a lot of hand stitching and embellishing in a lot of my work. My current work is entirely using the sewing machine. I am sure I will use combinations of both in the future, and a return to weaving is likely. I have recently been exploring eco-dyeing on paper and fabric, and I can see it has a lot of possibilities for me. Sustainability is high on my list, so , as the ” war effort” said ” make do and mend will continue to drive me as well.

What advice would you give an aspiring artist?

Don’t be afraid to follow your passions and be brave about thinking individually. Do what makes you happy!

Bio for Anne Garvey

Anne is the tutor for our current workshop courses using up-cycling and repurposing of textiles that can no longer satisfactorily perform their original task.

See the workshop pages in the drop down menu for the details about these learning sessions with a master stitcher.

I have been working with textiles all my life, learning to knit in the winter of my 7th year, and later, in my teens, teaching myself to sew on my Mum’s “Baby Singer”, using my Grandmother’s voluminous dresses and creating what can only be described as absolutely appalling creations to wear!!

I am interested in all textile methods and often combine techniques to make art pieces. Spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, patchwork, quilting, embroidery, crochet, recycling, costume design for film, fabric and yarn dying and painting are just some of the things I enjoy and that sustain my creativity.

Teaching since I was 20, I have also taught adult workshops in a range of techniques – something I plan to do more of in the future.

Here is Anne’s background statement about her work in ‘The Flour Sack Challenge’ – part of ‘Made Over – Preserving & Reinterpreting:

Childhood Memories

My childhood tartan skirts had bodices made from flour bags. My brothers’ dungarees, shorts and long pants were lined with flour bags. If the top of the flour bag chain stitching was pulled correctly it would unravel and open in one pull, the flour could then be put straight into the flour bin under the bench!

Our clothes were made from cast-off clothes from my grandmother, and the boys’ from our grandfather’s clothes. Matching hand knitted jumpers were common.

This project has been nostalgic and is the beginning of a series using the flour bags still in Mum’s linen cupboard up until a short while ago. 

Free form quilting, pleats and tucks to anchor the family tartan strips and a piece of tweed as well. Quilted lines ground the piece to the backing which is then highlighted with more hand stitching to its own backing. (McNab motto: ‘Let Fear Be Absent”)

The tartan skirt and pants that have contributed to Anne’s work – Childhood Memories. Anne at 4 years 2 months, Her brother at 1 year 9 months.
Anne Garvey – Waitara
close-up of Childhood Memories

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