Meet the Makers: Barbara van Gool and Kathleen Mason
Updated: Jul 10
It's a general rule of thumb that anyone with a creative side is going to be forever searching for ways to satisfy it. I mean, you'd be hard pressed to find a weaver that didn't also have a bunch of other artistic talents up their sleeve, whether it be painting, clay work, botanical dying, etcetera. Barbara van Gool and Kathleen Mason are no exception to this rule.
Both artists discovered basketry after years nurturing creative talents in a myriad of wonderful ways. We were lucky enough to speak to both ladies about their creative passions, and how they came to discover the incredible world of fibre arts.
MEET BARBARA VAN GOOL
I was born in New Zealand but have lived in Australia for the past 40-years. Initially I lived in Sydney and Melbourne but am now happily settled in Perth, Western Australia.
I have always been interested in art and craft. My earliest memories are of drawing and painting, making things. My world is, and always has been, visually driven. I think it is vitally important that all creative skills are passed on to the younger generation – or any one for that matter, anyone of any age who has the curiosity and desire to learn.
When you relax, learn to play and try all possibilities, the creative process often brings forth pieces that surprise even yourself.
When I was working as an education assistant, I taught art to young students. I learned so much from this experience. First and foremost I learnt that minds that are open to possibilities and happy to play while creating, bring forth beautiful works.
Creativity, to me, is the ability to express how you feel in response to the world around you, your thoughts, what you see or hear. When you relax, learn to play and try all possibilities, the creative process often brings forth pieces that surprise even yourself.
When I retired, I decided to take up painting again and I did a few works that were structured and representational. I found this rather stressful because in order for the work to be ‘successful' it had to look realistic. Around this time, I was drawn towards abstract works but found it hard to to make these works come alive. I kept asking myself, 'how do I make works like this?'.
I have gone on to explore abstract work in painting, collage and printmaking. I am finding my own creative voice and it is exciting and amazing.
Coincidentally, at the same time I learnt how to use a gel plate to make prints. Oh, such a shift in my thinking! And a shift in the works I produced. This was the gateway for me accepting that I am not always going to be completely in control of the results of my creative work. It was scary, but so much fun!
I have gone on to explore abstract work in painting, collage and printmaking. I am finding my own creative voice and it is exciting and amazing. However, some days I find I am exhausted from drawing on intuition and emotions or overcoming creative challenges (mostly to my thinking) as well as long hours of standing (and cleaning up).
This is where the courses with Craft School Oz come to my rescue. I now know that once I start with raffia and coiling, I will be relaxed and calmed, in body and mind, in no time at all. I find it calming that the stitching is predictable, and that symmetry provides balance – another side to my nature I’ve discovered.
The creative scene in WA for people of my age (some 70-years young) is generally not for me. I am looking for artistic and creative challenges. It took some time but I have found, and now belong to, a general art group that meets once a week as well as a printmakers group that meets fortnightly. Both groups offer friendship, and encouragement. They also expose me to new techniques and ideas.
I would like to say a big thank you to Craft School Oz. Working with raffia encourages mindfulness and a gentle relaxation – with the added bonus of wonderful, gorgeous, useful, creative pieces at the end of it. I am so glad I found you online – offering tuition, inspiration and the time-honored tradition of passing on skills. Thank you!
MEET KATHLEEN MASON
I’m an artist and graphic designer based in Como, south of Sydney. I’ve lived here for 20-years in a small townhouse next door to an old butcher’s shop. My studio is in my garage which is part of the townhouse. As a child I loved craft including knitting, crochet, sewing, embroidery, drawing, painting. I was compelled to work on anything that took time and used my hands, eyes and imagination.
Being creative is a way of life for me. I experiment with different materials, from soft natural fibres to harsher human-made materials.
Even as a child I felt the need to slow down and forget my worries by being creative. For most of my adult life I’ve been pursuing all kinds of creative endeavors including designing, sewing, knitting and crocheting my own clothing, hand sewing old fashioned teddy bears, graphic design, and videos alongside the more traditional arts such as painting, drawing, sculpture, and all types of mixed media.
Lately I’ve been attending various group studios where I work on 3D items created in the round such as terracotta pots thrown on a wheel, woven baskets, and hand washed, combed and spun wool. There’s a wonderful community of craft and art people who have become the most delightful friends.
At this stage, I’m continuing to make baskets and am hoping to start work on a Masters Degree in Sculpture at the National Art School next year.
Being creative is a way of life for me. I experiment with different materials, from soft natural fibres to harsher human-made materials. I feel that science, art and craft overlap and can result in some amazing new things in the world.
At this stage, I’m continuing to make baskets and am hoping to start work on a Masters Degree in Sculpture at the National Art School next year. Looking at the warm diverse group of soft bowls, bottles and baskets around me, gives me confidence that I can create anything.
Kathleen completed both our online raffia basket courses, How to Make a Raffia Basket 1&2
To see more of Kathleen's work, visit: