If you have ever been to the Friday Fibre Group you will most likely have seen the meticulous and creative work of felter, Heather Brimblecombe.
It is always interesting to ask an artist about their first memories of an interest in art and Heather is quite specific; ‘I remember my first art lessons when I was about 5 years old. I have always needed to make things. When my children were small I knitted and sewed a lot, creating one off items for them. Once they became more independent I started exploring other mediums.’
For many years Heather says she has ‘dabbled in other mediums such as painting, simple printing, drawing, weaving, spinning, sewing, embroidery, and recently eco-printing. I am constantly taking photos, sometimes for the pure joy of capturing a scene, other times to capture a starting point for an artwork.’ While her varied genres have been important Heather’s favourite medium these days is felting and the art she is currently producing cannot be described as ‘dabbling’.
Like all her textile work Heather takes a carefully considered, planned and restrained approach using a limited colour palette. She says ‘I am more likely to take away rather than add. Felt work takes planning as it’s difficult to add once you are past a certain point.’
In 2012 she attended the Geelong Fibre Forum which opened up her eyes to a whole new world of textile and mixed media arts. That year she worked with knitting with unusual fibres including needle felting and felting small pieces of knitting. This was when Heather says she was ‘first captivated by the felting process.’
In 2014 she attended a beginners’ workshop with Igora Opala at the Fibre Arts Australia Winter Felting School. ‘It was a wonderful experience, exposing me to the many facets of felt. Since then I have attended workshops with many well known felt makers and artists such as Fiona Duthie, Catherine O’Leary and Pam de Groot. Most have been retreats where I have formed wonderful friendships and connections with other textile artists. I have also completed online courses.’
Perhaps it is because of the materials and very limited equipment felters use many, like Heather, see the natural environment as a strong stimulus for much of their work. In particular a trip across the desert in 2017 has been an inspiration for Heather over the last few years. She has an affinity with the outback since her first visit and as a result she received what she refers to as ‘the most surprising award, the Scissor Award at Red Rock Gallery for my piece “Mapping the Dunes”. This piece celebrated my journey with my twin brother, creating a Guinness World Record for the first solar powered vehicle across the Simpson Desert in 2017.’
Other awards Heather remembers are her first ‘Highly Commended’ for an oil painting when she was in primary school. As a girl guide she won prizes for flower arranging! Since then she has won awards at the Fish Creek Tea Cosy Festival, Geelong Scarf Festival, Bbaa Dot Points Exhibition and the Tyers Art Show.
The range of Heather’s awards and scope of her work indicate attention to detail, consistent ongoing refinement of her skills and a careful process in creating works of art. She comments on her process; ‘I keep small sketch books where I record ideas, including what techniques I might wish to use. When I am ready to start a piece, I collect together the materials I think I might use. Sometimes I need to make elements before I start. I might make further sketches to help me visualise the final piece. I often make samples to ‘audition’ the materials. If the size of the work is important I need to make calculations for the finished size of the work.’ She sees the art of feltmaking and creation as having many facets from unique pieces of clothing, lightweight nuno felting through to sculptural artworks, a range that provides endless possibilities for experimentation.’
Heather’s attention to process is reflected in her view of Art as a subject that ‘responds to, and has its place, in history and our lives. Art permeates all aspects of our life, from household items, garden design, media design, architecture as well as what is collected together in our galleries. I think that often gets ignored.’
These days Heather’s creativity is leaning more towards art pieces rather than practical pieces such as clothing although she thinks unique pieces of clothing are a wonderful way to express your individuality. ‘I would like to see people place more value on clothing as was done in the past as textile waste from the fast fashion industry is a huge problem.’