We have a yarn with The Seed Stitch Collective

The Seed Stitch Collective comprises seven Sydney based textile practitioners exploring concepts through making. Grab a cuppa and read our yarn with these talented textile artists. The Seed Stitchers are Soraya Abidin, Sky Carter, Alana Clifton, Suzanne Davey, Gillian Lavery, Niki McDonald and Emma Peters. 

Can you tell us a little about how and why the collective came to be?

Soraya: The Seed Stitch Collective formed after Sydney based Textile artists participated in the Inaugural Seed Stitch Contemporary Textile Award exhibition, held in March 2016. The idea for the development of SSCTA was to provide an opportunity for textile artists to get their work out of the lounge room and studios, and into the public arena. Inspiration for this exhibition was born out of frustration, I didn’t have access to a current network of artists in the community and galleries. Textile artists can often be solitary artists, who spend many hours delving deeply into the alluring world of this media. It can be isolating and I think textiles is often best understood by textile artists.

I’ve always admired events like Wangaratta Contemporary Textiles Award, for its open approach to showing work by artists at any stage of their career. Observing a surge in the trend of craft in Sydney, I took this as an opportunity to create an open exhibition opportunity for Sydney based textile artists to submit work and show in the first SSCTA show, alongside likeminded artist. The show received enormous enthusiasm from both the artists and audience, sparking a vigorous conversation about the need for such an exhibition in Sydney.

Following on from this event, seven artists were invited to form the Seed Stitch Collective and participate in annual group shows. The award show brought together a range of wonderfully diverse artists, the unity through this exhibition was immediate and the formation of the collective was a natural response. To date, SSC have held two thematic exhibitions, ‘Light’ at Barometer Textiles gallery 2016, opened by Dr Belinda von Mengersen and recent 2017 show ‘Wonderment’ at Gaffa gallery.

Sky: I was really fortunate to fall into the lap of founder Soraya Abidin and be taken into her fold. Soraya recognised a really important gap in the grant and support art environment for women who were not able to start their practice seriously until later in life.

Preeminent fibre artist Sheila Hicks describes textiles as our universal language. She has this beautiful line, 'If you're beginning with thread, you're halfway home.' Can you tell us about how you communicate through your practice? And if your practice has lead you to a higher form of community, or culture through your Collective or otherwise?

Niki: Fibre is an ancient universal visual language that calls to all in a new and innovative way.

Sky: My practice has been a conduit for connection with people and community in a creative and meaningful way, both as part of Seed Stitch and also through teaching and sharing my craft through workshops. There is something primal and deep about using fibre and textiles to create with and I feel people can have very emotional responses to what we create.

Emma: I’ve been lucky to have small collectives all through my life that support my making. While at University I established a maker group where we had market stalls every weekend through summer - the hilarity and joy was palpable. The camaraderie and support found within a group of people with common values is incredibly powerful, and I was lucky to realise this at a young age. Seed Stitch is where I find my tribe, people who speak my language, but also challenge me to do my best work. There’s nothing like community!

Have you noticed any emerging themes or trends in the textile movement in Sydney?

Niki: Textile art and crafts are in the spotlight and will continue to be illuminated as people need something real to point to at the end of the day to reinforce their humanness. Hours spent on a screen at work and home are just not soothing the soul. Anxiety and depression is at an all-time high and people are in danger of being frazzled and disconnected. The process of making, problem solving, evaluating and extending creativity brings people back to their ancestral roots. fibre is primal, clean and expressive which allows the artist to push content, concept and techniques to new innovative and engaging places.

Suzanne: Textiles and contemporary art is going off right now! Every major exhibition and institution in Sydney and globally is showcasing artists working with textiles. From the Venice Biennale to the recent the National 2017, White Rabbit Gallery, AGNSW Passion and Procession textiles feature prominently as an expressive medium for contemporary artists.

Sky: This new world of image sharing has helped in the growth of fibre arts  gain momentum and it is very exciting to be part of this global movement. I look at a lot of images of weaving and I seek out those that are trying to break new ground and not play it safe when creating their art. Although I am not a craftivist I do love this movement within the fibre art and textile community and with our current global climate this trend seems to be only getting bigger.

Your recent exhibition 'Wonderment' at Gaffa Gallery was 'a celebration of wonderment as an antidote to contemporary anxieties'. Can you elaborate more on this theme and the benefits you seek in art-making and craft?

Niki: As artists, we are able to delve into the depths of our creative world and seek remedy in the surprise encounters of creative acts. The moments found within art-making is where this respite is found. It slows us down, it occupies our mind and hands, and we are joyfully enthralled by the possibility of creation. We hoped that the audience found the spirit of this theme, the collective and the creative output to be a powerful reminder that hope, generosity and connection is alive and well.  

Sky: We all need to remember that life is about finding moments of joy, pleasure and contentment, this is what I tried to provide to the viewer.

Where do you go in Sydney for some inspiration, or to get your craft fix? 

Niki: I find my inspiration in our urban environment, I’m attracted to alley ways and city side streets. I love the walls layered with tagging, graffiti and bill posters that are an inch thick with decaying advertisements. The patina of the paint work mixed with the energy of city life works its mystery on me and I feel compelled to capture it and make it permanent in wool. The city lights, smoggy sunsets and neon signs reflect on passerby’s faces, it’s a visual feast. The internet and social media platform have opened up a world of inspiration to me, I always feel privileged to be invited into another artist's journey, gallery and process. Today textile art is applauded and supported by so many like-minded people globally and that inspires me to push myself to be the best that I can be.

Sky: I have to remind myself to get out of the studio and see the world. If I don't have any ‘grand’ travel plans my go to places are Asian supermarkets to enjoy some packaging porn. A walk through the Tempe wetlands that are at the end of my street and a drive somewhere to clear my head and allow space for inspiration to penetrate!

Emma: Switching off and noticing the small details in our environment - light, cracks in the pavement, the view from the train window. I try to surround myself with like-minded makers and recently went on an amazing craft retreat where we all spoke the same language and mutually encouraged each other in our making practices. There are some great hubs in Sydney for textile people - The Happenstore, Skein Sisters, Makerspace and Co. I also find renewed inspiration through the act of teaching at Art & Design, UNSW & UTS.

What’s up next for The Seed Stitch Collective?

Sky: We are excited about continuing to develop, grow and formalise the collective to help promote and raise the profile of Fibre and Textile art.

Soraya: 2018 will be an exciting developmental year for the collective. The group are currently discussing plans to run the 2nd 
SSCTA ‘Call Out’ exhibition. A show like this is an enormous task, made easier with all the different skills the members of the collective bring to the organisation of the event. One of the exciting outcomes of an event like this is the people you meet. The collective is open to growth. We are very keen to establish opportunities for new members to join and exhibit in our annual group shows. In the follow on 2018 show, SSC will be working together with a deeper collaborative focus. The collective artists all work with such different processes, we have embroidery, beading, quilting and applique, weaving, tapestry, sculptural, felting and caustic dyeing and subversive knitting. Our next move is to unify these processes through collaboration. Perhaps to merge the unexpected and present a body of work that challenges our current approach in practicing craft.

Glenn Barkley ceramics. Photo by Leeroy T

See The Seed Stitchers, an exhibition by The Seed Stitch Collective during Sydney Craft Week.
TAP Gallery, 259 Riley Street, Surry Hills 
Sunday 8 October – Monday 16 October

Interview: Kylie Walsh

Images: Courtesy The Seed Stitch Collective