By Clara Batton Smith
Naarm Textile Collective is an artist-led group in Victoria, founded by Tamara Russell, challenging the perceptions of textile art. Dedicated to supporting textile artists and promoting contemporary work in this medium, the Naarm Textile Collective celebrates the unique journeys taken to achieve creation and celebrates the members’ unique expressions through textile art. The work is as diverse as the group’s members but all centred on a passion for textiles.
The inaugural group show, Stitching Change, was originally scheduled for October 2021 but due to the Covid pandemic was moved online. The members beautifully handled the pivot with a Zoom opening which happily was able to include international attendance. When restrictions were lifted, Stitching Change opened live in person at FortyFiveDownstairs Gallery, Melbourne in February 2022. This particular gallery was the perfect location for an exhibition highlighting textiles as the FortyFiveDownstairs Gallery building historically housed the industrial equipment and cloth bales of the rag trade.
Founder, Tamara Russell, is a phenomenal textile artist, specialising in free machine embroidery, hand stitching, and mending while concentrating on sustainable living. On a personal level, she is also a very kind and welcoming person who goes out of her way to help other artists. Her work is currently on tour with the International Art Textile Biennale. I was able to ask Tamara a few questions about the Naarm Textile Collective and her own practice.
What led you to found the Naarm Textile Collective?
The opportunity to share my passion for textile art and to try to raise its profile by working with other artists to support and share our work along with promoting our work and engaging new audiences.
What is your proudest moment with the collective so far?
I think it was working together through Covid lockdowns to put on a great show in Stitching Change. The show was postponed in 2021 due to a lockdown so we went online and had a great opening through Zoom. Then finally managed to have the in-person show in February 2022 along with an opportunity to create a smaller show at Assembly Point in September 2022 What goals or aspirations do you have for the collective in the future?
More fantastic shows, hopefully, some in-person meet-ups - the sky is the limit!! What attracts you to textiles as a medium in your own work?
I have always stitched, whether it was sewing my own clothes as a teenager, spinning, weaving or embroidering. I enjoy playing with different textiles, collecting bits n bobs and seeing what I can do with them. I just love the variety of techniques out there too many to learn in one lifetime but I am trying. Besides your own exhibitions, what has been your favourite exhibition in recent times?
Some great exhibitions in recent times - I enjoyed Hannah Gartside’s exhibition in Maitland NSW. Amazing what she does with vintage clothes and engines. And the International Textile Art Biennale in Bairnsdale was fantastic. Such diversity in the pieces on display. Another was Josephine Jakobi’s Observatorium at La Trobe Regional Gallery.
Following the success of Stitching Change, the collective plans to build on the increasing interest in contemporary textile art which developed through the Covid lockdowns, with a new exhibition currently being planned for 2023 titled Uncommon Threads. Uncommon Threads will again be a collaborative group exhibition consisting of textile artists from Victoria.
Naarm Textile Collective offers the opportunity for textile artists and interested individuals to join a textile community group on social media that enables artists to show their work, promote exhibitions, collaborate and enjoy the exploration of textile art practices. If you are interested in joining the Naarm Textile Collective, join the Facebook Group - NaarmTextileCollective and follow on - @naarmtextilecollective
If you are part of an art collective we would love you to write a blog for us.