This is not the Quilt & Craft Spectacular newsletter – that will be out next week, fingers crossed, full of info on our traders and with the entry forms and details on how to enter your quilts. But while I’m getting that finalised, I thought you might be interested in what’s happening with the Gympie Rotary “Ancient Crafts, Rare Trades” Expo that runs alongside the quilt show….
I know we’re all busy people, but please take a moment to read about these three artisans. They are newly added in to the list of heritage trades and craftspeople demonstrating at the Gympie Rotary “Ancient Crafts, Rare Trades” Expo, held in conjunction with the Quilt & Craft Spectacular…. I can’t wait to see them in action – glorious glass beads by glassworker Michele Bevis of emubeads.com, Shona’s amazing woven corn dolly creations and an ark-full of little whittled animals by John Gerritsen…. along with over 40 artisans of more than 30 unique heritage trades/ crafts, shows, vintage displays, craft beer and great camaraderie.
And there’s more in the pipeline, I’ll let you know when they’re confirmed!
All of these artisans will be demonstrating/ exhibiting all day, both event days October 30 & 31 – many will have their wares for sale, you can purchase handcrafted wares straight from the maker:
Lampworking is a form of making glass beads that dates back to the 5th century BC. In those times, beadmakers used the flame of an oil lamp to melt their glass and then created shapes by blowing and shaping the molten glass with tools and hand movements.
When Michele Bevis discovered lampworking about sixteen years ago, she was mesmerised, captivated by the glowing, viscous glass. She knew she had found what she’d been searching for – a method of creating her own glass beads for her bespoke jewellery designs.
“I learnt to make glass beads on a simple butane torch. My first few hours ‘at the flame’ produced 7 beads…. I was hooked, had ultimate control, or so I thought” she comments. One thing led to another …. her first 47 glass beads were to be the beginnings of emubeads designs. She soon upgraded to a lamp work torch, replaced the vermiculite bath with a kiln to anneal the beads increased in size.
Working in the flame, the process is slow and involves layering heated glass, shaping, mixing glass with metal and powder inclusions in the forging of each individual emubead. The intricate details of the coloured glass, it’s tiny bubbles, the combinations of metal threads and foils, the recent inclusion her hand-forged silver components – all speak of Michele’s exquisite artistry.
Michele will be running a workshop at the event: students will learn jewellery making skills while recycling, re-threading their loved necklaces and bracelets that are too short, too broken, too outdated, into a contemporary new piece. For more details on this workshop, visit www.quiltandcraft.org/workshops/ or email email@example.com to reserve your spot!
Wheat Plaiter, Corn Dolly Maker
Corn Dolly making is an ancient craft going back thousands of years. In pagan times, it was thought that a “Spirit of Fertility” lived in, and protected, the cornfields. It was believed that, as the field was being cut, the spirit would retreat into the last-standing ears. The reapers would carefully save these, and would plait them into a shape – a Corn Dolly – in which the spirit would take refuge. They would take the Corn Dolly, with its’ spirit, home for the winter and keep it protected from the weather, birds and pests.
In the spring, the Corn Dolly would be taken into the freshly cultivated fields, and ceremoniously broken open to release the “Spirit of Fertility” into the newly sown grain, ensuring the success of the next year’s harvest.
Today, the Corn Dolly is made for decoration, a symbol of peace and prosperity – and a reminder of the skill of the craftsmen of old and the curious beliefs and traditions of our ancestors.
SHONA – WHEAT PLAITER, CORN DOLLY MAKER
Walking into Shona’s house is like walking into a gallery. Beautiful handpieced, appliqued quilts adorn every bed, embroidered pillows and cushions are scattered on hand-covered lounges, handmade pieces of all sorts speak – shout – of her creativity.
On her back deck, a table is covered with corn dollies of every size, shape and configuration – and colour, with some incorporating a glorious black wheat from Egypt. While we chat, she plaits some wheat, making a perfect spiralling lantern-style corn dolly.
Shona taught herself this art in the 70s, when she and her husband, Jim, owned a wheat farm in the “Golden Triangle”, northern NSW. A prolific craftswoman, she couldn’t resist the urge to learn to plait wheat – with all that stock at her back door! With only a library book to assist, she persisted and succeeded in learning this age-old craft. “It was like learning a foreign language! It took a few months… now, when I look back at my first proud creations, I can see that I still had a way to go.”
“You start with cutting off the nodes, then removing the “flags”. Then, every strand needs to be graded, thin to thick, to make sure you are using consistent sizes. I grade all my wheat into different boxes – then, I can just go for it, knowing that the sizes are all the same. There’s a few techniques – checkerboard, twining – but they are basically variations on folding the wheat, one strand over the other.”
A dynamic and prolific craftswoman, Shona is a patchworker (all handwork), embroiderer, milliner, wheat plaiter, gardener, is in demand as a tutor, exhibitor and demonstrator, has made repeated guest appearances at Bribane’s Chelsea Flower Shows, and has featured on a Channel 10 documentary… to name but a few of her achievements.
John Gerritsen was a man of the land. His long career as an exploration driller followed by many years as a park ranger, has taken him throughout the Gulf country, all over the outback, to the national parks around Kosciuszko, NSW and northern Queensland. His vast knowledge of our lands and land management, it’s timbers and environment has resulted in the writing and publishing of four books, and many lecturing and tutoring engagements.
No matter where he went, John was never without his penknife is his pocket… in a quiet moment, to pick up a piece of wood and start whittling was as natural as breathing.
In 1984, somewhere west of the Darling Downs, he decided it was time for a change – he turned to carving and whittling as a career.
Over the next 30-odd years of working with wood, John notched up an incredible record – he spent 25 years producing handcarved spoons and spatulas, 10 years of this included carving around 1500 life-size dogs and the same number of cats… no less than 4500 life-size birds…. plus 400 carved boats… ; won the Mary Durant Bushcraft Competition with his handcrafted bush chairs – yup, he’s been busy. That’s passion!
As we talk, his weathered hands gently cradle a delicately carved horse. On the table in front of us is the “Aussie Ark”, loaded with his horses, cows, pigs, birds, kangaroos, emus, platypuses, pelicans… there’s even bats hanging on the Ark’s clothes line.
He claims to be a minimalist, his modest collection of carving knives and sharpening stone all fit in a wooden box no bigger than a pencil case. This can’t be said about his shed, however, a quirky collection of fishing ropes and buoys, driftwood, lures, ribs of long-abandoned boats, weathered timber, even the odd skeleton – a puffer fish, a pelican an emu – accrued from expeditions to beaches, mangroves and the like…. “and I’ve had a cleanout” he says with a smile.
John delights in finding a piece of driftwood or dry camphor laurel and working with it’s natural form to create animals and birds. “I’m a 3-dimensional thinker” he explains, “it’s all about the attitude, expression and body language.”
Master woodcarvers and woodturners, spoonsmiths, a whittler, scrollsawer, pygropher and more
Guitarmakers, sensory harpmakers, harps and bespoke instrument makers
Blacksmiths – with portable forge, silversmiths and a tinsmith
Weaving with wools, wheat, reeds and weeds, raw and dyed fibres; spinning; lacemaking; tatting
Glassworkers – lamp worker and mosaic artists, master papermaker and bookbinder, leatherworker, a gilder and a ceramicist – raku, smoke and sagger fired pots
and bushcraft tradesmen – a shinglesplitter and demos with the shaving horse, crosscut saw and draw knife in the Australian Bushcraft Show