Go bush at the national centre

I’m spending a couple of weeks in Canberra with the ceramics department at the Canberra School of Art. The region has quite its fair share of craft capital.

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Beth Hatton ‘transient as a tree’ 2008, cedar tripod, acacia tree root
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Beth Hatton Introducing species scotch thistle, yorkshire fog, redanther wallaby grass, allocasuarina seeks, linen thread

The redoubtable CraftACT maintains its standard of beautiful exhibitions resonant with narrative. Baseline: Remnant Grassland of Weereewa/Lake George includes new works by fibre artist Beth Hatton and painter Christine James. Beth Hatton continues her style of work creating objects out of stitched grass. This resonates strongly with the work of West Australian artists such as Nalda Searles, Joyce Winsley and Kate Campbell-Pope. Beth’s new work exaggerates the loose ends of her objects and dramatises the transformation from grass to form. It’s complemented by the landscapes of James and a most engaging animation by Caroline Huf. It was orchestrated by a forum out at Lake George where a group of around 70 huddled in a tent to hear stories from farmers taking responsibility for their land.

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Gail Nichols with opening speaker Janet Deboos at Studio Altenburg gallery in Braidwood

It seems Canberrans have a soft spot for Braidwood, which is the favourite stopover on the way to the coast at Bateman’s Bay. As a heritage town, it has a very strong craft feel. There are three quilting shops and another shop devoted to Alpacca crafts. Their major cultural event of the year is the ‘airing of the quilts’, when these local masterpieces are hung out along the main street.

Gail Nichols is an established ceramicist whose work does well in Melbourne and Sydney. The soda vapour firings leave an orange tinge the resonates with the rocky soils in the area. The exhibition was very popular with locals. The works were subject of great attention and sales were good.

Braidwood sits in the electorate of Eden-Monero, the bellwether seat that determines the balance of power in its neighbouring town Canberra. There’s something charming about national government residing in a place with such a sophisticated bush culture.

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