Careers in Art: Sally Darlison

Term: 3 Year: 2004

Textile Artist

Sally is a working artist who also teaches and shares her love for textiles. "The techniques I use range from dyeing fabric to free machine embroidery. I am very interested in the concept of complex cloth, where many layers are added to the cloth to produce the effect that I want. These techniques could include: dyeing, printing, painting and stitching. I also make felt and use paper in my work. I employ collage techniques and then stitch these to create line. Some of my work is also on display on a website"

Q: How long have you been in the textile field and how did you get there?
I have been interested in textiles since I was a child. I did a lot of sewing and knitting during my teens. My first commission was a Macramé Wall Hanging in High School. I took up silk painting and made many silk scarves. I found that I wanted to explore textiles in a more experimental way. I did a workshop in colour and design with Sharon Muir at The Meat Market Craft Centre; this opened my eyes to the wider world of textiles as I was introduced to the magazine Textile Fibre Forum.

Q: What schooling qualified you for the position?
I did a Diploma of Studio Stitch at Box Hill TAFE, but a lot of my education has been through Textile Fibre Forums doing one-week workshops once or twice a year. I have done 9 Forums.

Q: Do you feel that your choice of schooling was an appropriate route for your career path?
I didn’t do Art from Year 10 as I did not paint or draw. Textiles was not considered as Art; it was seen as a craft, so it was not an option. My interest in drawing came much later. Textiles as art has become much more credible in the last 15—20 years.

Q: What is a day in the life of Sally the Artist/ Lecturer?
Every day is totally different as I have work in three different places as well as studying. I wake early and walk to keep fit. I start the week by going to my Drawing class. The next day I am at home, I try to do my art work as well as being a parent and home manager. The next three days are spent teaching art. I teach primary art one day, I teach primary teacher trainees about the importance of the arts on another and I teach textile art at TAFE on the third day. In between I fit in my own art. This is often done at night. I have commissions to work on, exhibitions I am working towards as well as pieces I am creating from the drawing class I go to. I also need to spend time on the computer either checking or sending emails, or doing the associated paperwork for each of the jobs I do.

Q: What’s your best or most successful piece of work to date?
Possibly a 3D piece of a bridge that was also a book made from fabric, called the Book of Knowledge. It is about how books bridge the gap between the known and unknown. It is all textiles with no words; it is really more complex – colour, pattern and design within that piece starting at one side and going to the other.

Q: What inspires a textile artist?
Textile artists are inspired by many different things – what they see, the landscape, etc. For me, I am inspired by the world around me and how I respond to that. I also use my art to express some of my ideas about the complexity of human nature.

Q: What are some of the negative aspects of your job?
Time, or lack of it, is the main negative aspect of all my work. I would love to spend longer blocks of time on my own art which is why I love the luxury of going to Fibre Forums.

Q: What do you aim to achieve within your industry?
I think in all my work, to help people understand the importance of creativity and acknowledge creativity as something we all have. As a teacher, to give people the opportunity to gain confidence in their ability to create. As an artist, it is to express my view of the world in a different way and to become the best I can be at that; to extend my skills in search for original ways of expression.

Q: If you were speaking to a secondary school student who was showing interest in following in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?
I would advise them to make themselves aware of the many different forms that Textile Art takes, as it is very broad. It is a very exciting form of art because it has so many options.
I would advise them to read Fibre Forum magazines and other Fibre Art magazines. To go to Fibre Forums, to look at exhibitions and become more aware of what it is they are interested in particularly.

To look at all the different courses, as they each have a different slant, from screen-printing through to tapestry-weaving, through to embroidery.
Spend time finding a mentor because you can learn so much from someone working in that area; how they work and how they develop as artists as well.