Tag Archives: Royal Canberra Show

Matched Set: Canberra Quilts

The city of Canberra is made beautiful by more than the exteriors of buildings, the sparkling surfaces of lakes and its open landscapes.  Canberra is also home to a very special kind of beauty, not normally visible anywhere but inside the homes of some of the best craftspeople in the city – the richly coloured and intricate artworks of our quilters.

Two fixed points in my calendar are the autumn Royal Canberra Show and the winter Canberra Craft and Quilt Fair. I love these two events for many reasons, but best of all, I love that for a few days the quilt art festooning the walls of quilt-crafters’ homes all around Canberra come out into exhibition halls for us to see.

In this ‘matched set’ I offer photographs of some of the quilts from that touched my sense of beauty, whimsy, and yes, even touched my heart. Perhaps you will feel the magic too.


Lyn Steele, “A Dream Garden,” Wall Quilts, Non-Professional 80 x 127 cm
2007 Canberra Quilters Exhibition, entry #37

I love the luscious colours and textures in Steele’s idealised garden scene.  I can imagine myself taking tea on the patio to the left while contemplating the peacocks in the foreground and the reflective waters.


Margo Hardie, “Floriade” (detail)
2006 Bernina Best of Show and Best Use of Colour

Margo Hardie describes her quilt as “Made in Baltimore style from my own patterns, sketched from many photos and pictures of vintage quilts and museum exhibits.”




Daphne Mahon, “Le Stelle” 60 x 60 cm
2007 Canberra Quilters Exhibit – Wall quilt Non-professional, entry #53

This geometrical pattern coupled with the rich organic patterns of the featured cloth squares and subtle embroidered border are in perfect and beautiful balance. It was entered in a non-professional category, but it looks pretty professional to me!



Carolyn Greig, Naïve Patchwork, Royal Canberra Show
2007 1st in Class (Class 938 #1172)

Carolyn Greig’s lovely hand-stiched quilt appears on the surface to be whimsical, but beneath the whimsy the quilt is a moving tribute to a loved one, figured as an angel.


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Carole Medley, “Japanese Dreaming”258 x 201 cm
2007 Canberra Quilters Exhibit – Bed quilt, non-professional, entry #17



Susan Wood,  2013 Royal Canberra Show
(Class 666 #962)

The shading Wood creates with the tiny pieces of differing hued fabrics creates such a wonderful sense of movement and balance!



Janette James,  Naïve Patchwork, Royal Canberra Show
2007 2nd in Class (Class 938 #1207)

This teddy bear couple are just gorgeous!


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Margaret Davies, “Girls Night Out on a Hot August Night”
Challenge Quilts 70 x 50 cm, 2007 Canberra Quilters Exhibition, Entry #153

By now you might be getting the impression that I gravitate towards the quilts that feature images and vignettes.  You’re not wrong!  This quilt features an elegant woman with an impeccable sense of fashion.  Genius!



Margaret Ferrett, “Interpretation of Animals in the Wild”
2nd Prize, 2012 Royal Canberra Show, Class 800, #1082

Sulfur-crested cockatoos in a quilt – what’s not to love? I particularly like the way Ferrett created a sense of abundance for this small flock of happy parrots by making the tree leaves look almost like an endless supply of seeds.



Pat Parker, “Autumn Transitions” 108 x 137 cm
Canberra Quilters Exhibition, Wall Quilts Non-Professional, #57

And last, but definitely not least, an abstract representation of autumn. Doesn’t Parker’s fabric choices create a sense of the last splashes of summer colour becoming enveloped in a blanket of fallen leaves? Very apropos at the moment here as we drift into the start of autumn.




All of the quilt photographs by Sabrina Caldwell.  Photos have been cropped to show detail, and resized for web use.  No other changes have been applied.
Maker and quilt information from exhibit cards.
Vector graphic of sewing needle by Pixabay free art.

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And now for something completely different…

By now you all know how passionate I am about photo credibility and preserving the meaning and real world references of our photographs. And don’t worry, you’ll be hearing much more from me on this topic.  However, did you know that I also love photoART? Perhaps you spotted my painted zebra in my post Great Expectations and Communicating Photographically.[1]  Perhaps not. In any case, here’s my next photoART offering, a collage entitled Odd Juxtaposition I: Greener Pastures.

Odd Juxtaposition I - greener pastures

Odd Juxtaposition I – greener pastures

 “But what does it all mean?” you ask. Aha, that is a good question, indeed, a great question. I found in studying twentieth century art as part of my PhD that “what does it mean” is the best question of all. My Odd Juxtapositions series is a visual exploration of the dichotomy between the world as it is, and ‘eye candy’ or the fanciful notions expressed in many ‘enhanced’ photographs.

In Odd Juxtaposition I: Greener Pastures, a woman and a Hereford bull stand ankle deep in a field of flowers. The woman is glowing with an idealised beauty.  The bull is in his youthful prime, pristinely clean with a fluffy coat and even a pompom of a tail. Their gaze looks out of the picture at you, almost inviting you to join them. The lush field in which they stand is bejewelled with blossoms of mauve and lavender hues.  All is set against a tranquil sky. It is a vision evocative of the beauty and fecundity of nature.

But this vision also seems quite wrong. On inspection, the woman turns out to be a mannequin. The bull is handsome and powerful, but he is scaled down to the size of a large dog. The field of flowers and the clouds in the sky are out of proportion and without strong anchoring elements in the landscape, the scene seems to have a lighter-than-air quality about it, only mitigated by the solidity and mass we know bulls to have despite this one’s diminutive stature. This is no scene out of the world as we know it.

visionThis image was made by splicing cutout elements of three different photographs into a fourth photograph. The bull was taken from one of the many photographs I snapped  at the Royal Canberra Show for an ad campaign. The mannequin was taken at Floriade, where each year floral artists dress mannequins in designer wear fashioned from plant materials. The sky was photographed in Canberra on a lovely day of striated clouds. And the flower field of pansies, tulips and irises was from my seemingly endless collection of photographs of Floriade displays.

The vibrant colours are just as I took them, I didn’t retouch any of the photographs, merely cut them up and spliced them together. This demonstrates the notion I mentioned in Photoreality, what a concept [2], which is that I believe that the most authentic of photographs are usually just a little contrived, and the most manipulated still contain a modicum of reality.

Odd Juxtaposition I: Greener Pastures is a fiction but it also alludes to universal truths about the human experience (appreciation of beauty, the bounty of nature, fantastic visions), and it is a fiction composed of parts of non-fictional photographs. In their new positions, however, we don’t know what to make of the them.  They have lost their original contexts and scales and come together to form a new vision.  But like many examples of photographic ‘eye candy’ in circulation, it is a vision of beauty and colour that pops from the screen and fills the eye, yet is curiously empty of significance. Like sugar, it is sweet and tasty but bereft of substance.

But we love our sugar, don’t we?


[1] Sabrina Caldwell, Great Expectations and Communicating Photographically:
[2] Sabrina Caldwell, Photoreality, what a concept:
The words “And now for something completely different” were a catchphrase of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, BBC 1969-1974



Posted by on April 12, 2014 in photoART


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