Julie Paterson Talk – Clothbound – 23rd July 2015
Julie Paterson Talk – Clothbound – 23rd July 2015

I wrote a book last year. I don’t know – has anyone got it,
has anyone read it? Excellent. It’s called ClothBound
because it’s bound in fabric that my printer printed. This book, ClothBound,
took me 20 years to write. I think it’s because
all the stories inside it, it’s the stories that fill the book
from cover to cover. They start from 1995
right through to this year, really. The stories are really important. I think because I’ve had the business
for as long as I’ve had – I’ve had a shop for so long – I’m used to talking to people
about the designs. It’s all about the storytelling
of the images and the patterns. They’re not just ordinary patterns, they’re patterns that mean something
to me. They’re motifs for my life. This book is the nuts and bolts of that, and the nuts and bolts of the processes
that I go to. I suppose it’s the insides of me
as an artist. I’m really lucky, actually, I think,
to have a book like this. I don’t know if there’s that many
artists that get that opportunity – to have their life’s work in one book. I’m really honoured and privileged
to be in this position, to be able to have a book
and to be able to talk to you about it and to go through it
over and over again. It’s about the process. It’s about
letting people in on that process. That’s why, essentially,
I wrote the book. I wanted people to be involved in
the process. I wanted people to get as much enjoyment
as I do out of making things. In my shop, for so long, people would
come through the door and go, ‘I really love what you do.
I’m really not very creative at all.’ And I’d be going,
‘Yes, you are. You are creative. Everyone’s born creative.’ I think why I wrote that book was
to encourage people to do that. Before I wrote the book,
I wrote the Imperfect Manifesto with my partner,
who is on her way here, in traffic. There she is! (Applause) Perfect timing. The Imperfect Manifesto, we wrote this together about four years
before I wrote the book. I’ll read the manifesto out. ‘Everyone is born creative, and every day is an opportunity
to perform a new creative act. When it’s hard to paint the clouds,
we draw the mountains. Making things makes us feel good.
We learn to do something by doing it. When we’re brave, our life expands.
Risk is what transforms us. Imperfection is our ally. We like to slow down
and do one thing at a time. We take pleasure in ordinary,
everyday details. Being mindful helps. Simplicity takes time. We don’t mind if we’re not too flash,
and we care about being authentic. Living a modest life makes us happy. We’d rather ride a bike than take a car.
We’d rather read a book than watch TV. We like to travel light. It’s good to work with others.
It’s good to listen. Sometimes we name our chickens
before they hatch. Many things can be solved with
a strong cup of tea and a long walk, and when you get right down to it,
the essential thing is to do what you do
with your whole heart.’ So we wrote that… We’d just bought
this little house up in the mountains. It was a Sunday afternoon,
and it was spring. We had a glass of wine,
and we were feeling expansive, so we sat down and wrote those words with a big sheet of paper
and some coloured pencils, just trying to capture the feeling
of having this little house. It was a moment in time which… I didn’t think much,
when we wrote that manifesto, about the impacts of what that might be
for the future. But this manifesto has really become
a guiding set of principles to live my life by. At the time when we first wrote it, maybe I was living 50%
of this experience, but now, I have to say, with all the changes that have happened
in the last couple of years, I honestly say that I’m 95% there
with this way of living. I think it’s so simple
and resonates with so many people. I’m really proud of writing it with you,
Amanda. It means a lot to me
and a lot to other people. That house, I’d lived in twice. This is the studio,
this is the place where we wrote it. I’d already lived in that house once
before, and I’ll get back to that later. This whole idea of this circular theme
happening in my life, revisiting a place or a situation, seems
to be a really common thing for me. I don’t know if it’s common to
everybody, but it seems to happen a lot. The manifesto, which started off
on this scrappy bit of paper, I started printing it on tea towels. As a parting gesture in my old shop, we wrote it on the windows and steadfastly refused to clean it off
when the council asked me to do so. (Laughter) Every time I got up on the ladder
to try and do it, offered to do it,
somebody would come by in the street and go, ‘We love that!
Don’t take it off.’ So I’d get back down off the ladder
and put the ladder away. I don’t know who
ended up taking it off there. I think it maybe just got washed off
with the rain. I’m not sure. The manifesto is in the book,
it’s dotted throughout the book. It’s in the front cover. A significant sentence is
at the front of each chapter. There’s eight chapters in the book, and each chapter is based on
a significant collection of designs. I’ve done more than eight collections, but I had to choose
the most important eight. It charts the history of my career,
really, starting in 1995. I thought I’d use that as the template
now and go through what it was like to be me
when I was little. I’m going to have a glass of water. That’s me.
I think I was about 10 then, 11. I always knew I was going to be
a designer of some sort. I really wanted to be an artist, but Margaret Thatcher said you couldn’t
be an artist when I was growing up. She said you had to get a job.
Being an artist wasn’t a job. So I thought,
‘I’ll be a textile designer.’ No, I didn’t.
I thought, ‘I’ll be a designer.’ I didn’t know what a textile designer
was. But I was quite good at drawing,
so I thought, ‘I’ll do design.’ When I went to art school, I had a crush
on my teacher, Erin Wilcox. She had lovely brown arms
and blonde hair. I just loved sitting there, watching her and listening to her
talking about art history. She told me she was a textile designer, so I thought,
‘Alright, I’ll be one of them.’ (Laughter) She was a really good teacher. She encouraged me to study hard
and apply myself and not to rest on my laurels. That particular phrase,
she used in a school report once. I was really pissed off with that.
Rest on my laurels? I’m not complacent or lazy.
Never, not once. Now, even 40 years later,
I still work like I did in the art room. I work hard,
and I’ve got a lot to thank her for. This is me at 17.
I left home and went to college. Everyone in the UK back then
left home really early, not like they do over here. I went to Stoke-on-Trent,
which at the time, was the most unglamorous college
to go to. But that was alright, because I was
there to work, not to do anything else. That’s me in
the first year of art college, looking like something out of
A Flock Of Seagulls, in Stoke-on-Trent, in my living room,
working. And there I am again.
This is the second year at art college. The course I did, it was called
Multidisciplinary Design. It had a bit of glass-blowing, a bit of
ceramics, a bit of all sorts of stuff. That’s me there. We’d decided to build
an outdoor glass kiln in the winter in the Midlands in the UK. We had to chop all those tiny,
little bits of wood up – it was a wood-fired kiln, to get the temperature up
to 1,000 degrees Centigrade to be able to melt the glass. I’m just there, making a little
slump mould for some of the glass we were about to melt overnight. It was an overnight project. The local paper came in
and took a photo of us. I look really miserable, ’cause
you always did in the ’80s, I think. You had to look miserable. This was where we lived. This was
my very first design from college. Those are the terraced houses that
we lived in when we were students. I still think it looks like that now,
actually. That’s my dad’s favourite design
I’ve ever done, by the way. Then in my second year,
there was a national competition, and I got short-listed. I had to go to London,
which was a big deal. I had to go to London
and be interviewed. It was the early ’80s. I wore a little
miniskirt made out of that fabric. This is the design for the competition
that I was short-listed in. I had my Doc Martens boots on,
my black tights, my black little skivvy
and my peroxide-blonde bob. I went on the train down to London
and got interviewed by Mary Quant. I didn’t really know who she was
at the time. From under her fringe, she said to me, ‘So, do you know who invented
the miniskirt?’ and I said, ‘No, not really.’ She looked disappointed,
and I didn’t win the prize. (Laughter) So I graduated, and went to London
and got a job as a textile designer, working in Brixton for a company called
Anna French Fabrics. This is the kind of thing we had to do –
these watercolour florals. My mum’s got this on her wall now. I nicked it in the time I was there. It was a great education. Each design had about 25 colours in it. Each half-toned watercolour effect
that you can see there had to be repeated
every time you did a new colour. It was painstakingly laborious,
but really, really good training for getting your colours sorted out. And I got really good at
watercolour roses, I have to say. One of the things in that job,
to break up the tedium of having to paint flowers
over and over again, was, I could go on little trips
in London to the V&A. This project that we’re doing here is
all about the V&A. I got to go into the bowels
of the Italian section and the 16th-century columns. I had to, for one whole week,
draw those ornate marble columns just to get that sense of chiaroscuro,
as they call it, as my art teacher called it, anyway. So that was my first job. It was good, but, you know,
I was fresh out of college, and I wanted to go and see the world,
I think. Margaret Thatcher would have told me to
stay, but you know how much I love her. So I came to Australia. The UK then was cold and miserable. There was about eight of us, I think. It was 1989, and the bicentenary images
of Australia had been flooding the TV for far too long. We were all jealous. We all wanted to
come on an adventure, bit of a holiday. So eight of us came over together
and did the kombi thing, going round Australia,
just for a year, of course. It was a spontaneous thing. I had about £200 in my pocket,
a portfolio of designs to sell and a kombivan
to drive around Australia in. But of course,
I fell in love with the place. I fell in love with the space
and the scale and the distance. Everything about it was just different,
so different to the UK. I felt invigorated. I arrived on Valentine’s Day 1989, and that was the day
I fell in love with the country. It’s true, I’m not talking rubbish. In the first few years, I earned
my living as a freelance designer, unfortunately, doing things like this,
which was really boring and unexciting. It’s a very generic,
kind of universal style of design. That’s what I trained in doing,
that kind of thing. The first designs I sold were to people
like Sheridan and Charles Parsons and Bracken. They kept commissioning me
and my friend Penny, who I went to college with –
we’d set the business up originally – they were asking us to do these designs
more and more. We got really quite good at it
and we were earning some decent money. They were personalityless designs,
I’d say. They would commission us, and they’d
take complete copyright over the design and they’d get it sent offshore
to get printed and bring it back into Australia. That was the market. I was thinking,
this is all good to start with. It’s great when you’re
running your own little business and you start earning an income,
but after awhile, the novelty wore off and it became a bit dull. I was still entranced with
the difference of this country, this Australian country. I was overwhelmed by it,
and I wanted to be creative. I wanted to be responding to
what I was seeing rather than just re-creating
British versions of designs. So one day I thought,
‘I’m just going to start painting,’ ’cause I hadn’t painted before at all. I just sat in my living room. I happened
to have a little banksia flower there, and I just started painting what I saw. That was the beginning of me
getting into the Australian bush, translating the Australian bush. From then on, from that point on,
I drew everything that I saw, and I used the drawing
as a filter for my experience. Before that…
I’m not explaining myself very well. Before that, I was overwhelmed with
what I was seeing – the colour and the light – everything
was so different from the UK. I was sort of stuck with knowing how
to translate that. All I did, I realised, was –
just start from where you’re sitting and work out from there,
and that’s what I did. My struggle was,
I never really saw myself as an artist. She did a bloody good job,
that Maggie Thatcher. I never saw myself as an artist,
I saw myself as a designer. I didn’t see that those two things
sat together. It took me a long time to allow myself to have both of those identities
within me, I guess. These drawings, which I now do –
I can’t stop myself, they just pour out of me now… This is my living room at home, with
the rising damp on the floor there – they still are,
they’re a means to an end. They’re a filter. They’re ways of capturing things
on the periphery, just little moments in time,
abstracted thoughts. They’re a means to an end,
and at the time, when I was doing them, I didn’t realise what the end was. I just knew that I was
tapping into something really good. Then one day, Penny –
that’s my friend Penny, from the UK – we had our freelance business going on, and she suggested that we should
put a print table into our warehouse in Marlborough Street, just start experimenting in mark-making
in the fabric. Up until that point, we’d just done
everything on paper – pre-computers. This is ages ago – pre-computers. It was the idea
of re-creating an experience of what it was like at college. I thought this was a really good idea.
This was late 1995. I thought, ‘Let’s go for it.
Let’s try and create something new.’ It was at that point we got that
print table in our warehouse space. That was the point at which Cloth began. We allowed ourselves six months
in the studio. We were playing with colour and shape, and paring the elements down
to their essence. We were trying to get the influence
of the Australian landscape without being really overt about it –
the texture and scale. It’s obvious now, I think, but I don’t
think it was that obvious at the time, but it was just pure experimentation,
having a knees-up, having a good time. We did lots of hand-dyeing and shibori. This is batik
and discharge printing onto velvet. We just explored the whole thing
without any expectation or thinking that we were going to do
anything with it. We just wanted to play around. We didn’t even have the name of the
business at that stage, I don’t think. We realised that no-one else was really
doing this at the time. We had Ken Done, with his Opera House
and his Harbour prints. We had Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson. They were doing good things
with koalas on jumpers. At the other end of the spectrum,
we had the Indigenous painters translating the landscape
in an amazing way. But at the time, there were no designers
working in an abstract way to get the Australian landscape,
as far as I could tell, anyway, onto textiles and into people’s homes. So we saw an opportunity. This is another dyed example
of ‘what if’. That was my mentality at the time – what if you put masking tape
on a bit of fabric? What if you dropped dye
on the top of it? Does the masking tape stop the dye
seeping in underneath? And that’s what happens –
it sort of separates. I didn’t know it would do that. That’s one of my favourite bits
of fabric. It’s a hemp wrap. I’ve still got it. It was very experimental. But we saw an opportunity
to push it further. What we did was, we wrote
a business plan and went to the bank. We asked the Westpac bank for $10,000,
and they said yes. That’s the only business plan
I’ve ever written in my life. I’ve still got it, framed. The result of that commitment – going to the bank and writing a
business plan is a bit of a commitment – the first collection we produced was
Seeds. This looks like
a hand-dyed piece of fabric, but it was a screen-printed translation
of it. We were just…
All this hand-dyed shibori, I thought it was going to be very
difficult to run a business out of that, to make affordable fabric. I knew that the best way to do that would be to start
translating these ideas into screen-printed fabric so that
somebody else could print it for us. I never wanted to be
a production printer. I never wanted to do all the printing
myself. It’s always – get the idea, get it out to somebody else
to do the hard work for me, then get onto the next idea. That was my very pragmatic approach
to business. We… So by creating a product like this… This, for some reason,
hasn’t got the label on the top. I don’t know what happened there. We came up with a name, and we were
taking control of our brand, really. We had total control
over the production. No-one else was taking copyright off us. This was very empowering at the time. Still is empowering.
It’s a good thing to do. We found a local printer called Scott. He originally used to be involved with
Signature Prints – you know, Florence Broadhurst
and all that stuff. Scott, in the early days, before the Florence Broadhurst stuff was
being printed, was part-owner of that company. He started printing for us in Sydney. Then he decided to leave that company
and move to Wagga. He’s been printing for me ever since. No-one else has printed
any of my fabric. Scott, yeah, I’ve seen his kids grow up. He’s been with me for 20 years,
in his 25-metre shed in Wagga. I think we’ve given him 80% of his work
over those 20 years, and it’s all done by him in that shed,
by hand. He’s printing my manifestoes there. This is Scott and his process. I guess we all know
what screen printing is like. We all did a bit of it at school. It’s very manual, like this. Then he takes the screen out
to the sunshine and dries it up. There he is – old Scott.
Grumpy, old Scott and his huge shed. I still can’t believe that he’s done all
of my work pretty much on his own in that space. All very manual. The next collection, in ’97,
was called Raw Cloth. This was a much more considered
collection than the first range. The first range, Seed,
was all about just getting it out there, putting them all together in a book,
and that’s the collection. This collection was a little bit more –
we created a brief for ourselves, trying to pare back the essence
of what we were doing on the table, using paper-cut stencils. Everything was very manual
and easy to work with and accessible. We wanted to consider
the whole collection this time, working with each other. The previous collection was
a little bit too eclectic for me. I think I’ve written in the book, this second collection is like I imagine
being in a band – your first album, you just do it, then the second album, you’re like,
‘Oh, God, what if it doesn’t work?’ There’s a lot more consideration
in the second collection. This defined us a lot more
than the first range. We were in a warehouse
in Marlborough Street, and we were starting
to get quite a bit of press. This was our very first piece
in the Herald. This is us lying on the print table
with Agnes Moorehead. She used to come to work with me
all the time, and she was very photogenic. We were getting all this press suddenly
and developing a customer base. Originally,
we thought we’d be just for trade and architects and interior designers. I was getting an inkling that, actually, the general public would be really
interested in what we were doing, because we were making an Australian
product for Australians. The irony is not lost on me that
I’m English, doing all this, but maybe it’s hard to see what’s
in your own backyard sometimes. Anyway, we were doing it for trade,
then we realised that a lot of people were getting really
interested in what we were doing. And I was getting this idea that
I wanted a shop. I wanted my own little shop,
but Penny didn’t. Penny didn’t want a shop, she wanted
to keep it as a trade situation. Within 18 months that
this photograph was taken, Penny decided to leave. She went to the Southern Highlands
and grew vegetables and milked cows, and was very successful at
creating a little organic farm for herself and her family. She got lots of woofers coming over
and doing that whole thing. But I decided that what I needed to do
was to open a shop. What I had to do first was
take on the debt and pay the bills, ’cause we were
quite heavily in debt at that stage. That’s when I took on my first
book-keeper, which is a good thing, because I’m not very good at
paying bills. Once I got that business,
the first thing I did was go and find myself a little shop. That shop was in Clovelly. I live in Coogee,
and I live in the mountains as well, but I’ve got a little place in Coogee.
I’ve had it for 20 years. One of the key things I wanted to do was
to walk to work along the coastline with the dog,
and have a swim in the mornings before I opened the shop up. That was one of my dreams. That’s another English thing. If you’re in Australia, you might as
well really push the boat out to live the dream, and I did. I think we had that shop for about
five years. I absolutely loved it. That was the day we opened. The first thing I did when I took the
business over was to open that shop, and the second thing I did,
I became a workaholic. I just went crazy with the work. I was just experimenting on that table. The print table was in the shop front
itself. All the fabric stock was
around the edges. The shop, honestly,
was no bigger than this bit here. It was all squeezing in,
trying to do the work. Often, the print paste would end up on
the stock of the fabric, but that was OK,
’cause it was all one-off pieces. I thought originally that the shop would
open one day a week, and I would be able to be in there
five or six days, producing the work, but as soon as I started doing that
and the door was shut, I’d be getting these notes
passed under the door and these greasy nose marks on
the windows – ‘Why aren’t you open, what are you doing?’ So in the end, it ended up being that
I was open six days a week. I would be squeezing all
the production work in around that, the prototype work in around the edges. People really responded ever so well
to that shop. In my mind,
it was like taking a kid to a farm where you can see the cows being milked. I recognised that it was a useful thing
for people to actually see the process. I know that’s done a lot now,
and it makes a lot of sense, especially when you’re a small business
with no marketing budget. The best thing to do is
to be standing there, demonstrating and doing it in front of people. Always the best way to go. The other key thing here is that
I started really revelling in being able to use the landscape, bringing the images of the scale
of the landscape into my designs. This is the next crucial stage in getting the collection
to where it is now. Stuffed Olives – this was a huge scale. I was playing around with the idea of
a 3-metre repeat. This piece of fabric was
about 3 metres long. It’s on my sofa now.
It’s been there for ten years. The thing about screen-printing by hand
is, the printer can do anything I want,
really. He’ll grumble and moan about it,
but he can do anything I want. Things like rotating the screens
or running out of ink or missing sections of the print
as you’re printing, he could do that. He didn’t like doing it, ’cause it meant
I might not like what he produced. But as long as I promised him that
I’d accept whatever he made, he was prepared to experiment. It took him a long time to really
feel comfortable with that. This was when I was really starting
to experiment with the idea of the free repeat and the placement. Gradually, all of that playful work eventually started honing down
into a collection. This is the early samples of a design
called Two Up which is about aerial perspectives
of the waterhole. This time, as well, I was really
looking at the Australian landscape and trying to be as literal as I could. Whereas before, it was really subtle, now I’m starting to really
push the point. That’s a design… The previous one is all… Can you see the difference?
That’s my prototypes, me messing around on my table, then that is the clean and lovely
version of my printer’s production piece. During this time – this is 2002, 2003 – during this time, I got the opportunity
to go to Alice Springs to work with some Indigenous artists. I was in quite a tricky spot personally. I had the new shop running,
I had one staff member, I had all these overheads
and this debt still round my neck, and I was recently single
in my love life as well. The world felt big and scary. I got this opportunity
to go to Alice Springs, and I was a bit nervous about it,
but I went. I went there, and thought, ‘I think this
is going to be quite a good experience.’ Being out in the centre of Australia,
in that huge land and meeting all those artists that
were just so constant and grounded and low-key,
they really helped me find my feet and feel comfortable in my skin. This picture here is of a moment where
I was in Utopia with some of the women, sitting around the outskirts
of this boys’ initiation ceremony that we couldn’t see,
but we could experience the edges of it and the heat and the dust and the smell
and the noise, and I started writing. This is the first time that
I started using text, not in my design process but
in the gathering of the information. Up until now, I was just doing sketches
and drawings. Now I was starting to use words, recognising the importance and the power
of abstracted words. From then on, I’ve always, from this
point on, used words and images together in my textiles. This has become so embedded
in my practice. I’ve just got mountains of sketchbooks
like this. I draw and write wherever I go. If I’m walking out the door
without my sketchbook these days, I feel like I’ve not got my underwear
on, it’s that integral in my process. This was last year up in Hill End,
doing some drawings out there, looking very intensely on the horizon. Then one day…
I hadn’t thought of the Blue Mountains. Then one day, I met this lovely woman
called Bec in Clovelly, hanging around. She’d bought a little house
up in the mountains, the little house we’d mentioned before. This is Govetts Leap Lookout.
This is at the end of the street. I went up and visited her
in her little house, and got blown away by the sheer impact
that that view has got. This moment started my next love affair,
with the mountains. Bec had this house
before Amanda and I had this house. I might be confusing you,
but it’ll make sense in a minute. Bec built me a shed, because I spent all
my time in the spare bedroom, drawing, so she thought she’d better kick me out
of the room, and she built me a shed. I was just in heaven. I was in that shed
pretty much for three years, on and off, up and down the highway,
to and from my shop. Running the business down in the city,
going up there whenever I could. In those days, I didn’t have a mobile
phone and I didn’t have internet access, so it was very convenient. I didn’t
have to talk to anyone for days on end. I think about it now, I can’t imagine. That’s what it represents for me,
I guess. The first collection I designed here
was called In The Shed, funnily enough. It’s all about the rhythm of travelling
up and down the mountains – the roadworks, the aerial views
of housing developments. Spotcheck came from that time. That’s the key design
in that collection. This one particularly is about
housing developments on a hillside. It’s a long story. I won’t go into that
now. You can read it in the book. Spotcheck and Boardwalk, probably the hardest working designs
I’ve ever produced, these two designs. So hard work.
They’re on the front of the book. Probably my most significant designs
out of all, I guess. The second collection I did
up in the mountains then was when I started getting involved with
the native plants. This is the wattle and the banksia
and the kangaroo-paw. All of these designs
came from sitting in the garden and drawing what I could see. It took me a while to feel comfortable
with translating native flora, because they’re all such
strong-looking plants. In the UK, everything’s all, you know,
daffodils and tulips. It’s easy to translate them
as a watercolour. But here, watercolours just
didn’t cut it, I don’t think. It took me a while to realise that
what I should be doing is like Margaret Preston did –
get out linocuts. The physical act
of cutting into that lino just felt like it represented the
strength of the native plants perfectly. I hit a jackpot, I think, when
I got those lino-printing tools out. The lino prints
then turned into mini-screens. That’s my studio with my mini-screens
banked up in the corners. A lot of those images you see there
originally started off as lino prints. Of course,
I was working hard in this studio, and poor old Bec didn’t get a look in. That’s right – I saw more of the shed
than I saw of her, and she’d had enough,
then the relationship ended. This is all about my personal life.
Sorry. But it’s true. So it was a sad day.
I had to pack up and leave that studio. I didn’t know whether I’d be back.
I’d hoped I would be back, but I wasn’t sure that I could be. So I went back to the city,
got a little studio in Randwick and carried on, as you do, this time,
working on a collection called Sunroom. It was all much more bright. I wouldn’t have produced this,
for instance, in the mountains. It’s much more tropical. To get a little change around
in your studio is probably good for the development
of the fabric collection, I guess. I was happy enough down in Sydney,
in Randwick, doing my thing. Then the opportunity
came out of the blue to buy the house up in the mountains
again. When Bec had sold it,
she’d sold it to a guy called Harold. Harold was a photographer who
had a studio near me. Every so often over the course of
the eight years that he owned the house, he’d pop his head in and say how
it was going, and just stay in touch. Then one day, he came in and said that
there was a big storm and all these trees had fallen down,
but the house was OK. I, coincidentally, at that stage, was about to go up for the weekend
with Amanda, my partner now. We’d been together for a little while, and we figured that we wanted
to move up to the mountains. We went up that weekend
and looked at the studio and the house and the trees all fallen down
around the edges. Nothing had been touched, it was all
in perfect condition, to the extent that Harold hadn’t even wiped
any of the doodles off the windows. It was exactly as it was when
I’d left it eight years beforehand. We looked at each other and thought,
‘We need to buy this place,’ so we did, we bought it off Harold. We went back down to the city,
went to the pub, the Norfolk, had a beer and some chips, shook hands
and the place was ours. We moved up there, we bought a dog –
this is Harry. And I started
creating my next collection. This was the point at which
we wrote the manifesto. That full-circle thing
has happened again. The next collection, which is
the last collection in the book, is called Natural, because it was very
natural. It was the obvious thing to do. It was all about the trees. The trees had got us back up
to the mountains again, so I decided to base the collection on
the trees – the twigs of the conifers that were
lying on the floor, the ironbark trees
and the wollemi pines. The ancient wollemi…
That’s the ironbark, sorry. That’s the wollemi. The ancient wollemi
lives in the Blue Mountains. I think the mountains have got
the status that they’ve got because the wollemis are there. It was a chap who lived in Blackheath
who found the wollemi trees. I thought, ‘I need to honour those
trees, I’ll do a design around them.’ But I must say,
the wollemi tree is really quite ugly. (Laughter) So I went in close. I did a little magnifying,
close up to the covering of the pod, and created this design, which is one
of my favourites, I have to say. It’s not as bright as the others. I think it gets a little overlooked
for the brighter colours. But it’s one of my quiet-achieving
favourites, I think. There it is in our friend’s house
in the set-up for the book. This is the full circle, really. It’s the last chapter in the book. During the process of doing this – it
took me eight months to write the book – during the process of this, I turned 50. It gave me a moment to reflect
and review my life. I’d had this business for 20 years. Am I going to carry on doing this
business for another 20 years? It felt really neat.
I could literally close that book and close a chapter of my life. It dawned on me that maybe
I might close the business or shut the doors
or do something different. This cyclical thing was just
hanging around for about a year. I knew it was time for change. I either was prepared to close the doors
or I needed to get some help to let the business carry on to the next
stage, to the next book, perhaps. Maybe that’s what it is – book 2. But I wasn’t wedded to either.
I could close the doors or get someone in
to help me run the business. I wasn’t wedded to either outcome. So I got some advice
out in the marketplace. I approached this company called
Ascraft, who were in my very first business plan
20 years beforehand. I’d mentioned them then. They’re a company I’ve been working with
for along time. I spoke to the Ascraft boys, and they
decided that they would help me take the business on
and free me up to do some designing, ’cause I wasn’t doing enough
designing work. I was bogged down with
the day-to-day running of six staff and a shop and an office. It was all getting
a little bit too hard. This collection,
which isn’t in the book, which is the latest collection
we’ve done, is called Bloom. It’s the result, the offspring
of the Ascraft boys and myself. It’s been 12 months now, and I feel like
the process of writing this book and the turning of 50 and the going back
to the house up in the mountains, all of this cycle and regeneration
has brought me to this place of creating a collection that is the
starting point for the next 20 years. I now can honestly say that I can
see myself at 70, in 20 years’ time, standing on this podium,
talking to you about the next stage. Yeah.
And that’s it, that’s my story to date. The next thing to do, on Saturday, is to be working with these guys
at the library. Also, I’ve got a show on down at Object. There’s so many circles,
I keep forgetting where I am. Object is down on William Street,
which is my old shop. I’ve got a retrospective exhibition down
there at the moment, in my old shop. It’s weird sitting there where it used
to be my place. It’s not mine anymore. But it’s good. It feels very energetic. All of this rambling stuff that
I’ve been talking to you in fear of my computer about to crash
is all down there in its physical glory, along with the fabric off-cuts
and the artworks and all the stuff that you’ve seen
in this presentation. I hesitate to call it a presentation,
but, this talk. So that’s it,
that’s my ramblings finished. I don’t know if that’s been very
enlightening. Is that good? OK. (Applause)

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