Conversation with Meredith Woolnough, Australia

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Meredith Woolnough is an Australian artist working in the coastal region of Newcastle NSW. Her practice engages with the natural environment utilising the skeletal frameworks of flora and fauna as the basis of her own embroidered specimens. Threads are densely stitched into freeform sculptures that are carefully pinned to paper or set in resin preserving them as delicate handmade artifacts. Her work explores themes of the interconnectedness of living things and environmental degradation.

Conversation with the Makers(CWTM) Did you always envision a life as an artist?
Meredith Woolnough(MW) As a child I always wanted to be artist and I feel so lucky that this is my job now. Sometimes it feels to good to be true.
CWTM What was your first experience with making art?
MW Homemade playdough creatures – I remember making lots of snakes and echidnas with toothpick spines. I also remember eating my fair share of playdough … not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

CWTM Do you have a dedicated studio?
MW Yes. I recently moved into a fabulous studio in the Newcastle Community Arts Centre. Prior to this I was working from home but I have found that I need to ‘go to work’ to avoid the household distractions and to be most productive. The studio is a great big light filled room and I love coming in to work everyday. Being an arts centre I am surrounded by other artists and creative minds so it’s a really nice community to be a part of.

CWTM Can you describe a typical day?
MW I will get to the studio early in the morning, flick on the radio and get stuck into the work for the day. On any given day I could be doing a combination of drawing new designs, embroidering, casting resin, mounting and photographing work or doing the (seemingly endless) admin stuff like checking emails and updating social media. The majority of my time is spent on the actual embroidery as that’s quite labour intensive but there is never a lack of work at the studio. I try to do standard 9 to 5 workdays, but when I have a deadline looming I pretty much live in the studio.

CWTM Would you consider your art making to be more about the process than the outcome?
MW A little bit of both. I enjoy the process of making (I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t) but the final outcome is always in my mind and I am striving towards a particular goal with each piece.

CWTM Do you agree that a small element of uncertainty about the finished look is what makes the process of creating so enticing?
MW Absolutely. That’s the best part. I usually have a pretty clear idea how something will turn out but its always an exciting moment when you are about to dissolve a piece and it springs to life. Sometimes things don’t work out but that’s OK – you learn the most from your mistakes.
CWTM Any indispensable tools or equipment?
MW A sewing machine and a good pair of scissors.

CWTM Do your pieces start with a planned course of action or are they more spontaneous?
MW For the most part my work is planned; I need to have the piece mapped out to know where to start (and finish) sewing. But happy accidents generally happen along the way that enrich the piece or take it in a new direction – I love it when that happens.
CWTM How do you know when to “stop” – when do you consider a piece actually finished?
MW When it’s framed – it’s finished.

CWTM Your greatest source of inspiration is….
MW The natural world
CWTM Favourite quote?
MW The Earth without art is just ‘Eh’.
CWTM When do you do your best creative thinking?
MW On a long drive or walk.

CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love to see people’s reaction to the work and how they engage with a piece. It’s very satisfying.
CWTM Best advice you’ve ever received?
MW Always be nice to people.
CWTM Worst advice you’ve ever received?
MW Get a real job.

CWTM Best part of your day?
MW Coming home after a long day at the studio to a very cuddly cat.
CWTM Who would be 6 people that you would invite to dinner?
MW People who would be happy to help me wash up at the end!

CWTM What inspires your creativity?
MW Nature, Travel and seeing the art of others.
CWTM What are you excited about right now in the world of textile art?
MW I am excited about the way Textile art is always changing and challenging its place in the art world. It’s a very exciting movement to be a part of.
CWTM You’d be lost without…
MW a good cup of tea

CWTM What would you do with a few extra hours each day?
MW I would love to say I would go for a walk in nature or take up painting – but in all honesty I would probably sleep, I feel like I never get enough. Isn’t that boring.
CWTM Your favourite luxury in life?
MW Bubble baths
CWTM Has the advancement of computers and technology impacted your work?
MW I think computers and technology has made my work more accessible and helped to promote the work. With the internet and social media it’s now so easy for people all over the world to see and engage with your work. It’s fantastic!

CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?
MW I love the satisfaction that comes from knowing that you have created something truly beautiful and that you are proud of. That’s a fabulous feeling.
CWTM Is it important for us to be recognized by the art world and if so, how can we help affect that change?
MW Wow, that’s a big question, I assume by ‘us’ you are talking about textile artists. I believe that if we (textile artists) take ourselves seriously, produce good work, and act professionally we will be recognised. Textile artists are doing exciting things and the world should know about it!

CWTM What is next for you?
MW At the moment I am currently studying Natural history Illustration at Uni and I imagine that what I learn from my studies will make it’s way into my work eventually. Right now it’s just keeping me very busy drawing bugs, botany and body bits – but I love it.

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