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Meredith Woolnough. An Australian artist who makes delicate tridimensional embroidery. In her work, Nature gently explodes into subtle shapes that you just want to admire forever.
She works with a special technique: she uses a sewing machine to embroider a type of fabric that dissolves in water. Once the embroidery is finished, she then soaks it in water and what remains is the final piece of work. A creative process that has a poetic quality to it.
Meredith has generously granted us an exclusive interview. For me, it was a true pleasure to be able to satisfy my curiousity and I thank her infinitely for the opportunity. So, I will leave you to Meredith and her work. Her work and the pictures of her masterpieces are going to say more than I ever could.
DHG: you have a degree in fine arts. How do your university studies connect to the path that you have taken?
MEREDITH: through my university studies I was first introduced to textiles as an art form and it was during my honours year that I developed my embroidery technique. Although I have been constantly developing and refining my way of working over the last decade those early years gave me the opportunity to play and experiment and develop my own way of working with embroidery.
D: your works have a stirring beauty to them. And there is a very deep connection with the sea and forests. Why do you choose Nature as a source of inspiration?
M: I am probably at my happiest when I am in and around nature. I love to go for long bushwalks in the national parks around my local area and I scuba dive to explore our blue backyard whenever I can. Needless to say there is endless inspiration to be found in nature to spark an idea for an artwork and I’m lucky that I don’t have to look very far to be inspired.
D: sweetness and strength. Two extremes that coexist in harmony in your work. A perfect match, in fact. What’s your secret?
M: haha – I don’t think I have a secret. I just create the work that I love and I’m lucky that so many others seem to be interested in what I do.
D: can you explain from a purely technical point of view how you make your 3D embroidery?
M: I see my work as a type of drawing, simply done on a sewing machine rather than with the more traditional pen and paper. I use the most basic settings on the sewing machine so that I can move my work freely under the needle, building up my drawn design. I work on a water-soluble fabric so that once my drawing is complete I can remove the base fabric and leave only the three-dimensional stitched drawing behind.
D: you often gather your works inside frames that remind one of the kind of display cases that are used for botanical specimens. Why did you make this artistic choice?
M: when I first started doing these stitched drawings I found that I was creating these beautiful delicate forms but I struggled to present them in a way that displayed this delicacy. If I mounted them flat onto a piece of paper they lost a bit of their magic because they were no longer three-dimensional. Through lots of trial and error I eventually developed a simple way to display the piece inspired by insect specimen collections – so basically pinning the pieces so that they sit off the backing paper. This allows the three dimensional nature of the pieces to be fully displayed and the works casts delicate shadows as a result. By presenting the work in this way, pinned behind glass like specimens, it seems to make the work more precious somehow, a bit more special.
D: according to some philosophers, Beauty and Education go hand in hand. To educate about life’s beauty through the art you dedicate your life to -- is that one of your goals?
M: yes, I think it is. I hope that people when people view my work it will encourage them to want to explore our natural world for themselves a little more. I hope that my work makes people want to look closer at things, to discover the beauty in nature for themselves.
D: you were born and you live in Australia. How deeply have your roots influenced your Art?
M: I am lucky to have so many different environments on my doorstep here. Australia is a huge country and I haven’t seen as much of it as I would like but the unique plant life and the amazing coral reefs that surround Australia have been hugely influential in my work.
D: did you have -- or do you still have -- a role model that you utterly adore? And if you do, did you ever meet him or her?
M: oh... that’s a tough question. I don’t think I have a role model that I adore that much.
D: apart from your work, what are you very passionate about?
M: I am quite passionate about environmental conservation, in particular the plight of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland Australia. We live in an amazing world full of natural treasures and I believe that they should be protected at all costs.
D: what’s a place you would like to visit at all costs?
M: that’s another tricky one, there are so many places that I want to visit, probably too many to pick just one. I would love to keep exploring the world’s coral reefs; there is just so much beauty and wonder to discover just below the surface of the oceans. I would happily spend my life traveling and exploring the many and varied reefs and spectacular dive sites of the world.
If you like this article, you might also be interested in the Lisa Klakulak interview