Saturday, 30 November 2019

People in place: Stitchers in Wagga Wagga

At the end of November 2007 I visited Melbourne in the state of Victoria to attend a Jane Austen conference. In the southern capital I stayed in the Parkville Motel, near the centre of town.

The conference was on at Latrobe University over a few days including 28 November, and when it was over I drove north, heading home to Sydney and stopping off in Wagga Wagga, in the state of New South Wales. This was on 2 December. I met with Faye Grant and Pat Dixon, two women who know a person I worked with at the time at my job at another university. All of these women embroider. The following photo shows a Wagga Wagga street. It was a year of drought.

The reason I decided to post this now is because the weather in rural Australia is, again, tending to be dry, and has been so since 2016. In 2007, it was the Millennial drought and familiar problems existed: low water flows in rivers, a tough time for farmers, and towns struggling to supply their residents with clean water. Faye captured this dynamic in a work she made (see below).

The following image shows her piece enlarged so you can see the detail. The piece represents a shot taken from the TV news. In the segment, a politician was shown visiting the bush and kicking the dirt in a place where once water had rested or flowed; it might have been a riverbed or the bottom of a dam.

With her friend Pat, Faye is shown in the photo above displaying another item, on which there is a section of work with the following written in a kind of indelible marker: ‘Journeys – Big sky country’ “… is a compilation of images from two journeys my husband and I made in our tiny camper van to the Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia in the dry season of 2004 and 2005. This is a land of ancient worn and colourful ranges, vast plains and a feeling of timelessness. The everchanging colours of the rocks – the trees and grasses – the colour of the ocean with its massive tides – the vibrant wildflowers – the brilliant blue of the vast sky & the stars at night, will stay with us as precious memories.”

It was signed by Pat in 2006. I think it looks a bit like a bookcase with its individual sections marked out with darker material sewn on to create borders or frames containing a range of things created with thread and cloth.

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