I've been interested in creating folk art based on the local wildlife here in South-East Queensland as a way of uniting our imaginative lives to our environment. The native peoples of Australia have this as a matter of course but we European imports are very slow in maturing a sense of place.
I've been following the work of Rachel Arthur for a few years now and we have had many a long talk about representing what is close to our hearts often in the very things we might over look. One of Rachel's latest still life paintings "Past and Present" depicts the lamington, and Australian cake, on an old wooden table. Rather than being a nostalgia painting rather there is a sense of tender love for our cultural threads.
Rachel and I both live in the same area around Sandgate, Brisbane. It is full of the noise of bird life, fruit bats and possum games on the iron roof tops at night. Her birds have always charmed me and as we talked about things we got to thinking about doing something together.
Rachel came around to my house with some simple pencil illustrations and an old brown port full of her fabrics. One of Rachel's techniques is to paint on cloth wrapped canvas to utilize the pattern and textures of the fabrics, especially the fabrics she has collected from her travels to India. As soon as I saw her illustrations I knew they would be perfect for transformation into toys; they just had that look about them :)
With the exhibition deadline looming, I selected three of the seven to make up, with the rest to follow in time. You can see my pattern preparation in my Flikr stream. The fabrics chosen for the toys ended up being a combination of my own and some of Rachel's. This is a special set for that reason as subsequent sets will be entirely from my own stash.
Today I send them away to Rachel and then onto Sydney for the Furry Friend's exhibition in Surry Hills. I hope to work on the rest of the series early 2007.