This month we headed to Northern NSW, to chat to the fabulous Kerrie Bowls. Amongst many things, Kerrie is a basket maker, hand-dyer, and painter (just to name a few of her skills). She also runs Cowper Art Gallery near Grafton, NSW. Phew!
Tell us a bit about yourself - and a bit about your gallery.
I have a degree in Visual Arts Education and have taught in NSW secondary schools, community organisations, and NSW TAFE. I also have degrees in Psychology and have worked in that field for the past 17 years, however, I’ve always considered myself a teacher at heart.
I opened Cowper Art Gallery and Studio in November 2015 and in 2016 started running a workshop every second month in our Studio space. I met Ruth from Craft School Oz in July that year (she was our first visiting teacher). I remember it was a huge weekend with over 40 people attending. Since that year our Studio teaching program has built up to what it is today - we run workshops most weekends, hold weekly classes throughout the year, and take art tours to various places.
I’m not very good at sitting still and doing nothing so I have a big tub of raffia that stays at my Mum’s place and I make baskets whilst we talk
How did you get into basket making?
I got into basket making when Ruth taught for us at the gallery in 2016. Since then each time Ruth has taught in our studio I’ve picked up more skills and techniques. I love hosting Ruth’s workshops! I’ve had a go at everything Ruth has offered to our students.
My mother lives next door to me and each evening I visit her and we sit and talk about the day, our family, and everything else whilst enjoying a glass of wine together. I’m not very good at sitting still and doing nothing so I have a big tub of raffia that stays at my Mum’s place and I make baskets whilst we talk. It’s a lovely way to unwind at the end of the day and I get lots of baskets made.
What materials do you like to use?
I like to use raffia, fabrics, and recycled materials. However, I mostly use raffia that I buy natural and dye myself – there’s no accurate science to this as I just throw various dyes into the tub and see what comes out!
What inspires you to get creative?
A very long list of things: colour, textures, new art materials, old papers and fabrics, teaching others to explore their creativity, exploring new places, and so much more!
However, I mostly use raffia that I buy natural and dye myself – there’s no accurate science to this as I just throw various dyes into the tub and see what comes out!
Are you creative with other art forms and mediums?
I majored in Printmaking when I was at Art School so it’s in my bones. I come from a long line of females who all practiced some kind of textile or fabric related activity, so I’ve done lots with textiles over the years. Growing up it was expected that you would sew, crochet, knit, do 'fancy work' (hand embroidery), and so on. I’m very lucky that those skills have been passed down to me.
Earlier in the year, I found it quite difficult to be able to settle enough to be creative. I couldn't complete anything.
I also work with collage a lot, have always taken photos, I make books, and more recently have begun developing my skills as a painter - something I have never called myself but it’s starting to sit nicely now.
What’s been your experience with crafting in isolation?
Earlier in the year, I found it quite difficult to be able to settle enough to be creative. I couldn't complete anything. I flitted from one thing to the next and couldn’t seem to focus for long any project I started. I made myself a few accordion books and each day tried to take one out into the garden and spend 10 minutes or so drawing – that was about the extent of my attention span before I drifted off to another job. The baskets however continued each day at the usual time over a glass of wine or beer!
Visit Cowper Gallery: http://cowperartgallery.com