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Sunday, 21 August 2016

We did it!

'Background Noise', First Site Gallery.

It’s hard to believe that opening night has been and gone. The last few months have been a whirlwind since finding out our application was successful … for a show six weeks earlier than we were hoping for! So much work has gone into every piece, but the results were beyond anything I think any of us were expecting. It all looks so amazing in the space – thanks to Lou, our fellow artist and curator, and the guys at First Site Gallery who helped us hang and then lit it all perfectly.

And opening night was a huge success, the gallery was packed and it went off without a hitch – we were all exhausted, but on such a high and I think it’s taken me most of the week to come down from it.

So, to finally show you my finished piece…
Tara Glastonbury, 'What's your time worth?', 2016. Shot cotton fabric, pieced, embroidered,
hand and machine quilted, 65 cm H x 150 cm W (Picture by Sarah Lay Photography).
“The background noise to my last few years has been figuring out how to make a living from my passion. ‘What’s your time worth?’ is based on the background pattern of a $50 note and is a meditation on surviving as an artist in Australia where the median income for those working on their practice full time is $22,500 per year*. In the textile arts there is then often a perceived layer of illegitimacy, as the work is written off as ‘just craft’ or disparaged as a hobby, particularly as it’s largely undertaken by women, who often undervalue it themselves as a secondary source of income, thereby making it that much harder for makers as a whole.

As a comparison, the estimated hours spent on this piece in my day job would have earned me approximately $15,000.”

This show has been such a learning curve – both as a group, and in my personal practice. We’ll be having a debrief in the next little while but I thought I’d take the time here to document some of the things I’d do differently next time.

First off, I’m not usually one for making tests and samples or studies – partly because once I’ve done something, I don’t really feel the need to do it again, but I also don’t like the waste of making samples. Well, that’s all going to change from here on. I did make a few little tests for this work, but I really wish I’d made more. Rather than looking at them as tests or waste, I’m going to see them as studies and small works in their own right. I think it would have saved me enormous amounts of time, especially at the pointy end, and there are certainly things I would have done differently if I’d been able to see them in advance.
Ana Petidis, 'Lost in Transmission', 2016. Dyed cotton/linen, salvaged copper and electromagnetic tape,
600 cm H x 70 cm W.

Second, I’m going to think a lot more about my thread. Machine quilting is my least favourite part, and something I’d normally get someone else to do in a non-art quilt, so I just didn’t think about the thread until it was time to quilt. That really didn’t leave me a lot of room for exploring options, ordering online, swapping to a different weight or changing my mind!
Sarah Williams, 'Rose Tinted Glasses', 2016. Linen, wool, cotton, nialin. 8 pieces at 41 cm H x 14 cm W.
(Picture by Sarah Lay Photography).
And this brings me to the last thing… Maybe it’s time to get another machine. I’ve really got the most basic of the basic. It doesn’t have a wide mouth for quilting, no option to regulate stitches, no extra bit I can add on to make a quilt rest. If I’m going to keep stitching like this, then maybe it’s time to update the tools? There’s nothing wrong with my existing machine and I’ll certainly hang onto it for sewing clothes, but it would have definitely stopped the nightmares of a machine breakdown!
Rose Kulak, 'Rust Never Sleeps Project', 2016. Back to front 'Mossy Stepping Stones', 'Street Party Pavement' and 'Clay Brick Path', hand woven.
In the grand scheme of things though – these are minor, as were things to do with the exhibition as a whole. I do know that I would never have had the courage, tenacity or resilience to see it through without these awesome women by my side – Lou, Ana, Rose, Jem, Sarah, Lisa, Korina and Morgana – I'm so proud of us!

I’ll be showing you some more of the photos I took throughout the week on Instragram, but if you’re in Melbourne and you get a chance, the exhibition is still on from Tues to Fri this week at First Site Gallery, Storey Hall Basement. Opening hours are 11am–5pm and Ana is doing an artist’s talk on Friday at 1pm.

*Madeleine Dore, ’How artists really make money’, ArtsHub (http://performing.artshub.com.au/news-article/career-advice/performing-arts/madeleine-dore/how-artists-really-make-money-250320)

Average income for full time employment in Australia from May 2015 – May 2016 was $78,832 (ABS)


  1. Every piece looks so beautiful. Wish I could see them all.

    1. Between here an Insta, I'm hoping to get them all at least up digitally for those who can't be there!