CONVERSATION WITH THE MAKER(CWTM) Did you always envision a life as an artist?
SALLY EVERETT (SE) No, but I was greatly encouraged and influenced by my mother from an early
age to develop my skills and creativity. She was a lady, whose elegance and
yet simple style and manner always inspired me. And, she had a wonderful
sense of humour, so mistakes and wrong materials and colours were always a
source of fun and learning. Her guidance from the time I could knit, sew, or
embroider, helped me create my own wardrobe; always encouraging me to
experiment with style and colour. Of course as a girl, my figure was slender
and tall.and this helped me wear my pieces advantageously.
CONVERSATION WITH THE MAKER(CWTM) Did you always envision a life as an artist?
CWTM What was your first experience with making art?
SE Art, as being such as judged by others well… my first recollection stems
back thirty or so years ago when I won third prize in a Field Day
competition in New Zealand for my first set of three Peruvian Tapestries I
produced by embroidery based on ancient Spanish prints. The wonderful
feeling of acknowledgement for designing and producing my very first true
work of art was simply magical.
CWTM Do you have a dedicated studio?
SE Yes, but it’s called our house; this I share with my hubby Rob and our 4
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Happily, it is a large old renovated country
house (built 1895 and transported up the hill in two pieces) and I have
taken over completely one of the bedrooms as my workshop and studio. This
large room can accommodate my looms, sewing machines, overlocker, spinning
wheels, along with mountains of fabric, wool, and other bits and pieces of
detritus associated with textile art. I have been known to drape my work
over settees and chairs about the house so that I can review them whilst
walking past. And for the more tactile pieces, I am learning the rules about
sharing Rob’s workshop, and safety – but the rules are a bit rigid for me,
as I am a hands-on person, and don’t always remember my safety glasses.oops!
CWTM Can you describe a typical day?
SE I read, read, and read in bed for an hour (plus.) in the mornings for
inspiration. My taste is eclectic ranging from the works of the great
fashion designers to ancient textile production, to printmaking, colours,
artists, etc. Then it’s back to earth as it’s feeding time! No more dreaming
unfortunately, as some of our ‘Cavies’ are oldies and require medication and
special diets. Next, the day gets underway properly as I begin planning
dinner; a check of our veggie patch, fridge and freezer, to be sure what I
in my mind for our tummies can be realised, and then it’s back to my
Currently this passion is being expressed through the design and production
of copper brooches that I am creating to enhance my textile pieces with leaf
imprints and those of weaving. I am also making beautiful leather clutch
bags. The desire to produce these came about because of my need for
something small to tuck under my arm to contain my keys, credit cards, and
lippie when attending functions.
But back to textiles; I have also been making the most exquisite feminine
silk wraps, in a variety of unique designs, which I match with my brooches.
Whatever the day holds, Rob and I usually catch up for a cappuccino about
11.30. Weather permitting; we then soak up the views from our deck across
the La Trobe valley as far as Jindivick and the Dividing Range from Pakenham
to Baw Baw. We are fortunate enough to own a smallholding property in West
Gippsland on which our house sits, and enjoy it immensely.
Throughout the day, I always take time out regularly to check emails.
Luckily, I find it very easy now, being semi retired, to switch from the
sensibilities of the day back to being creative.
In summary, what I love about most days is the freedom to change a current
piece of work spontaneously when something happens as it does most days, to
fire my imagination; like a storm, a tree in blossom, finding a bird’s nest,
etc., to cause me to change the direction I have been taking.
CWTM Would you consider your art making to be more about the process than the
SE Both are critical. I find each stage very exciting. Somebody once said that
art was 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration. The early design phase for me
is inspiration; working out the best method of producing, and doing it
properly, is pure perspiration! Should I weave the piece, or felt it, a leaf
imprint added perhaps, or simply dye it with camellias from our garden. To
get the process as near perfect as possible requires a practice and
patience. I have learnt to love my production hiccups as they happen along
the way realising that they are a means to increase my knowledge and skill.
But when inspiration is realised through process, Sitting back and admiring
a piece, is pure wow! An even greater one comes when a customer buys that
piece because he or she loves it.
CWTM Do you agree that a small element of uncertainty about the finished look is what makes the process of creating so enticing?
SE There is nothing certain about my work. From concept to finishing, each
piece is so very different being totally hand-made and from natural
materials. Fabrics talk to me; I should be called Sally Potter of the fabric
world. Beatrice Potter talked to her animals, so fibres talk to me. Colours
have a mind of their own, materials change in nature, and they tell me which
direction they want to go in for a while until they lead me in another
direction. I have an idea, an inspiration, I mull around, visualising it but
when it is finished and I am satisfied with it, many changes have occurred
along the way towards its realisation. I find this exciting and fascinating.
CWTM Any indispensable tools or equipment?
SE I like simple methods and tools to help me realise my creations. For
example, I am in awe at the simple looms used in many overseas countries –
sticks pegged into the ground, a stone holding the warp firm. I am not a
technical person, and if I cannot work out a way to do something, I tend to
do it my way. This does not always work however, but I do learn from the
exercise and I have a hubby and friends who are willing to share their
expertise, so by a sometimes circuitous route, I have mastered the
complexities of chemistry, welding, and of course spinning and weaving. But
I simply could not be without my industrial sewing machine, my Babylock
overlocker, my weaving looms, and of course my retailers who always give me
CWTM Do your pieces start with a planned course of action or are they more
SE Planned in the sense that I have an idea in my mind, or maybe two or three,
or more for a piece. I get inspiration from the nature around me, certainly.
I use leaves from the trees on our smallholding, the feel and colour of the
fleece from our three Alpacas, the roses from our garden or the petals and
fragrance from our native Frangipani tree. But from then on the production
process is dictated by the nature of the piece. If it is to be woven, dyed,
heated, knitted or sewn, then process rules to a degree. I am stimulated by
colours. I am very visual. So if during the processing I feel an enhancement can be made by varying the process’s parameters in some way, then I try it. And for me that is spontaneity, it comes to me from all of these things.
CWTM How do you know when to “stop” – when do you consider a piece actually finished?
SE When it has wow. I work my pieces to perfection, the underside or inside
has to be as beautiful as the outside. Perfection to me means that when I
done my very, very best to produce a piece and it shows then it will be an
item of quality to my customer. It will be of timeless design, and yet will
last as a piece of wearable art. If you ask a French lady what is the most
important piece in her wardrobe, she will say her accessories. And this is
what I love making; something that enhances my customer’s existing wardrobe
for years to come.
CWTM Your greatest source of inspiration is..
SE The Art Deco/Art Nouveau periods. They were flamboyant in style and
manner. Ladies flirted, dressed feminine; they were inspired by nature.
They had fun.
. The Impressionist Era for the softness of their colours.
. Fashion Designers such as Alexander McQueen, Paul Smith, Chanel, Karl
Lagerfeld, Versace, Christian Dior.
. The beauty of the Australian Countryside in its entire vivid colour.
CWTM Favourite quote?
SE Yesterday was history
Tomorrow is a mystery
Today is the present
Thats’s why they call it the gift.
CWTM When do you do your best creative thinking?
SE All day, every day, but especially so at night when I wake up and can’t get
back to sleep.
CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?
SE I am in total control of the whole process – from design, colour, purchase
of materials, making up, finishing, embellishing to completion, then
submitting my work to a gallery and’/or customer. Then ultimately when I
get a sale. I am fortunate that many clients are repeat customers, which
makes me think I must be doing something right?
CWTM Best advice you’ve ever received?
SE Keep going.
CWTM Worst advice you’ve ever received?
SE There is enough negativity in our lives, so I try to only be positive,
though we all have cobwebs don’t we.
CWTM Best part of your day?
SE There are many best parts to my day
– My reading in bed in the mornings
– Throughout the day, creating my pieces, surrounded by our dogs.
– Babies Happy hour which starts at 4pm, when we devote an hour or so
to playing ball with them all.
– Then signing off at night and relaxing in bed, reading yet again.
CWTM Who would be 6 people that you would invite to dinner?
SE Our four Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and of course Hubby, and for a
sixth, that cheeky King Parrot that taps on our bedroom window for his
CWTM What inspires your creativity?
SE Nature, our smallholding, colours, patterns in the sky – this is my second
Fragrances from nature; birds flying overhead with effortless grace and style. Parrots squabbling for their seed; their plumage colours and markings
are exquisite. Oh, and my library books of course.
Just sitting and watching people in the Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne.
Having an honest conversation with a girlfriend who gives a different slant
on an idea for a piece I am mulling around.
CWTM What are you excited about right now in the world of textile art?
SE The copper brooches I am making with an Art Deco influence. The finishes I
am perfecting on their surfaces are exquisite and yet simple, and making
them elegant. The colours I am generating on their surfaces through the
application of heat and natural ingredients are beautiful, and make each one
unique. I am experimenting with them as accessories as a means of enhancing
my weaving and leaf imprint works.
. The Saori method of weaving requires you to express yourself in simple
weaving patterns, textures and colours; I find this method so refreshing
after the strictures of regular weaving.
. The imprints I am obtaining from plants from our farm in West Gippsland.
The finishes they generate change with the seasons, the unpredictability is
both a challenge and an exciter.
. The colours I get from dyeing natural wools, silks and linens with plants.
They are very subtle and blend beautifully with the right fabric.
Experimenting with these variables and getting it right is satisfying,
getting it very right is my ‘wow’ factor!
CWTM You’d be lost without.
SE Hubby! Why? Well because he says what he thinks about a piece I show him,
which isn’t always what I want to hear, and he isn’t always right but at
least it’s honest! So….I file it away carefully, then do my own thing and
continue down my chosen path.
CWTM What would you do with a few extra hours each day?
SE Continue doing what I am doing now.
CWTM Your favourite luxury in life?
SE – A glass or two of champers each night on our deck, on a warm evening
with the ranges slipping into sunset on the horizon.
– Holidays with our dogs, in dog friendly accommodation.
– Having enough money to pay all our bills, with a bit left over.
CWTM Has the advancement of computers and technology impacted your work?
SE Greatly, and I’m still catching up. I can’t believe how I managed in the
past without YouTube, emails, and the search facilities like Wikipedia, etc.
CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?
SE Seeing a simple design come to fruition, and then looking adorable on a
client. Seeing her eyes sparkle and then seeing her hubby get his wallet
CWTM Is it important for us to be recognized by the art world and if so, how can
we help affect that change?
SE It is important, to a degree but not as an end in itself. We are all
influenced by the arts in different ways, which is what makes it so
exciting. The social media and the internet with its browsing capabilities
has helped considerably arouse people’s interest in all manner of things
they would not have previously considering interesting. It has given people
the freedom to explore a given path of interest, be it the arts in all their
forms; I was staggered by the diversity of the artistic expression on a
website on ‘Steampunk’ that my hubby showed me recently.
And, I am fortunate to live in a beautiful part of Gippsland, and I am
continually impressed with local authorities, Councils and interest groups
who assist with demonstrations, exhibitions, support for artists, to say
nothing of the help I get from our local library and its Librarians.
CWTM What is next for you?
SE Many years ago when I changed career paths, I attended a marketing mentor
workshop. It helped me identify the 7 objectives to be successful in my new
career. I re-read this the other day, I am still achieving 6 of those
objectives, so my balance of work and home life is on track. I am still
enjoying working from home, within a warm family environment with our dogs.
Creating exquisite pieces of work, to make my customers look more beautiful.
Sally Everett, Australia
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