Textile Designer at OAT Studio
Find Sarah here
Trade showroom at Cloth + Paper Studio, Canberra – COMING SOON
I have been surrounded by beautiful textiles for over 10 years working in the wholesale fabric industry following my Art History studies at University. It was around six years ago my husband and I relocated from Melbourne to Canberra and I found my place in textiles at Cloth + Paper Studio – an agency for fabrics, wallpaper and soft furnishings. With a passion for the artistic process, Australian made and small footprint boutique textiles, our collections have a strong focus on small batch printing, local and artist run suppliers. Being surrounded by fabrics for so long and this exposure to Australian artists creating incredible textiles, combined with my love for architectural photography, as I started to paint again these three mediums naturally came together.
Modernist and Brutalist architecture has been a love of mine for as long as I can remember. This passion for the built environment runs throughout my artistic works; with my early photography studies, around 15 years ago focusing on architecture of New Zealand; dissecting the shapes of building facades and creating new architectural compositions with the fractured images. We are so lucky to be surrounded with the most incredible modernist Architecture in the ACT, I knew It was the perfect place to bring my love of painting, textiles and modernist design and colour together to create again.
My journey really began as a child – it was quite clear early on that I was interested in a creative path; drawing and painting every chance I got. My school studies focused pretty much on just this, somehow, I managed get out of any maths and sciences in my last years of schooling. I went on to study Art History at University and following this travelled and worked for a few years which led me to Melbourne. It was there that I found my first position in the textile industry and have never looked back as far as career goes.
Although I never stopped taking photos after Uni, over this period as I was travelling, working and starting a family I didn’t pause enough to create and I really started painting again for myself around 2 years ago.
I lived in Sydney until I was 12 when we moved to Dunedin, New Zealand. I relocated to Brisbane after Uni for a couple of years and onto Melbourne where I met my husband. We came to Canberra in 2013 for my husband’s career and now call this beautiful city home.
Since moving here I have been overwhelmed by the art and design community and how supportive it is. Canberra is also such a beautiful lifestyle for families. So, after moving for my husband’s job we now choose to stay; for the kids, the lifestyle and for such a fabulous community for small + local business. It so important to love what you do and together with this city, the people, textiles and creating again I am very much at home here now, making what I do not feel like work at all.
It’s often more of a few hours wherever I can rather than days. I create between full time work and two little ones (Sadie, 4 + Fergus, 2) so I when I find the perfect time to grab a couple of hours it becomes ‘me time’; I love it, I relax and enjoy. I also have the incredible support of my husband which really helps with me having more time to paint and take photos. He helps me excite the kids with the idea of ‘exploring’ and turning my art process into a fun weekend activity; we go for drives to take photos of architecture, then music on, often set up with my daughter Sadie, we paint. It is usually in the evenings, after the kids have gone to bed that I work on the digital side of things, losing myself in design for hours.
My process starts with the photography of architecture – focusing on the light, shapes, line and shadow. From here I use acrylic paints to find patterns and compositions to put to paper. I create digital copies of these and form new patterns and repeats from the shapes. The colour comes to me throughout the painting and design process, I am drawn to muted tones, a natural palette and love the organic look and feel of linen. I go through phases of my favourite colours, so I use colours that I am drawn to in that moment taking inspiration from the 50’s to the 70’s, making sure to select tones that don’t take away from the beauty of the natural base cloths. Sourcing fabric is part of the fun of creating textiles, I have so many different fabrics around me every day, but it was not hard to settle on selecting natural fibres for my designs. I love linen, it’s beautiful crushed aesthetic, gentle handle and raw texture create a soft and relaxed textile collection.
I create from home. Recently, we have created a studio space which has been fantastic, but I also love to work outside, this is great as I can create while the kids play in the garden or paint with me on the porch.
My balance is in never allowing it to feel like work. My down time is when I’m taking photos, painting or designing so this feels like balance. I try not to push myself if I’m not feeling it or just don’t have time. It’s all about enjoying doing it slowly.
Modernist design, colour and architecture are my central inspiration. I am also constantly inspired by other artists, furniture designers, ceramicists and textile designers; we have so many incredible creative people in Australia and to see what they are doing with, shape, pattern and colour is always inspiring. I am drawn to the balance of colour and shape in modern artworks and find huge inspiration from the light and shadow that the camera seems to capture which you don’t always see in person and why I love using photography as a starting point for my composition inspiration.
I love to find second hand book shops and markets and rummage for hours – this is something my husband and I do together, for me of course these consist mostly of Art, Photography and History books. This is also a great one for the kids, they sit and look at books, never leaving without their handful’s and now our home is exploding with baskets of picture books too.
If creative block hits I always stop, take time out from it and keep going with all the other things that are life with children and when I feel like creating again, I find a time and give it another shot. My favourite composition concepts have always been created relatively quickly so I’m a big believer in letting it happen naturally when it flows and not to force it.
In Canberra the architecture, the creative community and the slower lifestyle really inspire me.
I would love to get more involved with the creative community and link with other Canberra creatives and friends who inspire me and I’ve learnt from along the way. I have so many plans of workshop weekends with friends in Melbourne and here in Canberra and I need to make time to do these. To also keep learning and exploring different mediums, I love photography and painting and use these as a starting point for my process for textile design but I would love to explore these further to produce a body of work in each. Ceramics is also something I would love to learn how to make, and to work on some sculptural pieces from my architectural paintings. OAT Studio has been such a relaxed and enjoyable creative journey so far and I want to continue in this way, letting the business grow naturally and enjoy the process; having a space to stop and enjoy creating whenever I can.
Canberra is home. We love the community and lifestyle and have no plans on leaving at this stage.