Art Quilts Down Under

15 Jun 2010

At about this time last year, I was setting out for a month-long trip to New Zealand and Australia. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with this region, full of friendly people, beautiful sites, and delicious kangaroo meat. But I was also impressed by the vibrant textile art culture that exists there. If only I could take a quick five-day trip to visit this year’s Craft & Quilt Fair in Sydney, Australia, which starts today (June 16th) and ends on June 20th. Instead, I did the next best thing and chatted with Judy Newman, one of the organisers of the event.   

Like many quilt shows, the Craft & Quilt Fair looks like a huge event! What is the planning process like?

We start planning the Craft & Quilt Fair at least one year out—exhibitors rebook, we sign up guest artists who will be featured, and the annual Sydney Quilt Show runs in conjunction with the Craft & Quilt Fair so we work with the Quilters Guild too.

The Fair has everything from exhibits to workshops, lectures, and shopping. What are some of the highlights of this year’s event?

Sharyn Hall is our guest artist this year who will be demonstrating surface design and mixed-media techniques. Sharyn will show people how to do shibori, batik, and a number of other dyeing processes —it’s all about getting color and pattern onto fabric. People love seeing craft in action and in this area of the exhibition hall, they can stop for a few seconds or a few hours and watch and learn. It’s captivating.

There is also a felting studio where people can wander in and and try felting for themselves. It’s an enchanting process and very people-friendly as there are no machines or special tools involved and each piece turns out a little differently. Everyone can make felt.

Another feature area that has a lot of interest at present is Fashion ReFashion where people can come in and see how to give new life to their old clothes.

Our displays of student fashion and homewares are attracting a lot of attention this year as well. High school students will be coming to see the display of student work and to get ideas.

What aspects of this show are usually the most popular?

The gorgeous displays are a real attraction. Our event covers all the textile arts like knitting, crochet, embroidery, paper craft, and jewelry making ,as well as quilting which is a major focus due to the fact that we run in conjunction with the annual show of the NSW (New South Wales) Quilters Guild.

The Sydney Quilt Show is always a great drawcard and the interactive features are popular too. Plus we have workshops running all day so it is possible to spend several days at this event and still not do everything!

Are most attendees involved in the quilting business, or are they consumers/artists?

This is a consumer event, but we have the full range of visitors attend: novices who would like to get started in craft; students who are looking for ideas and information; passionate crafters who look forward to this annual feast of inspiration; and of course, people who are involved in the business of craft.

This Exhibition Centre is at Darling Harbour, which is a beautiful area. But Sydney is a long trek for many quilters. Do you get a lot of international visitors to the show?

Travelling to Sydney is well worth the effort! We have many visitors from around Australia, New Zealand, and nearby Asian countries. We also have a number of visitors from the USA and UK each year, and usually a few exhibitors too. Japan is also represented in our visitors.

This is a great trip as Darling Harbour is the centre of our beautiful harbour city. There are hotels, restaurants, and great shopping in the central business district, all within walking distance from the Exhibition Centre …. But to be honest, most people spend all day at the fair!

Quilting is very popular in both Australia and New Zealand. You must have very good turnouts at these shows.

Quilting has a huge following in Australasia – and we have some fantastic quilters. Just think: Gloria Loughman, Pam Holland, Kim McLean, Jenny Bowker… We have amazing talent and the quilters guilds are well organized and very strong. There are state groups, regional groups, and a national council that meets each year too.

Consequently, with quilting so strong, this event has huge interest—our Sydney Fair attracts around 45,000 visitors and this is massive for our small population. We also have Craft & Quilt Fairs around the country and in New Zealand, so no matter when people plan to visit Australia, there is usually an event on once a month somewhere.

We also have our second annual Textile Art Festival in Brisbane on June 25-27, and the displays at that event will be amazing—in particular, the creative knitting, the Recycled Textiles, and the Alice in Wonderland costumes.

Images (from top to bottom)

  • A view of the 2008 Sydney Quilt Show, which runs in conjunction with the Craft & Quilt Fair.
  • “Garden of Delights,” by Sharon Hall, guest artist at this year’s Fair.
  • Visitors can learn to make felted boots in the felting studio.
  • “A Different View,” by Kay Haerland who will have a display of her pictorial quilts at the Fair.


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