Emma Shepherd of Sundance Studio became captivated by the art of weaving when studying textile design.
‘The tactility and colours of the yarn was incredibly inspiring,’ says Emma. ‘I loved the methodical and mathematical nature of it, the limitations, but the expansive possibilities.’
Despite ‘never really considering [herself] to be an artist,’ Emma’s work has been exhibited in solo shows at Brunswick Street Gallery and Lon Retreat, and taken her as far as Blönduós, Iceland on an artist residency.
Working from her family’s farm in Flinders, Victoria, Emma weaves almost every day creating both decorative pieces of art and functional wares such as clothing, bags, coasters, cushions and room dividers.
‘There is a beautiful rhythm to weaving cloth for function — to the motion and connection with the loom as one sees cloth emerge,’ Emma says.
‘Making art is often more laboured, more mentally draining, more frustrating, and slow, but worth it as the final piece emerges and is really special.
‘I love aspects of both, I couldn’t have one without the other.’
‘Process is everything’ to the intricate works Emma creates, starting with dressing the loom, which typically takes two days.
‘The ritual of dressing the loom becomes a meditative process — part of the work that is planned — allowing the body to move but the mind to rest.’
Each work then takes between a few hours and several days to methodically and manually weave.
‘A lot of time is spent sampling and assessing, so while pieces may look simple, a lot of time and thought has gone into them,’ Emma says.
‘It can be hard to imagine the final result with the confluence of warp, weft, and structure used, so every piece is a surprise.’
These materials are often embedded with sentimental meaning, such as a recent piece featuring hair from Emma’s horse, ramie fishnet yarn collected while travelling Japan, gifted mohair, and 1920s linen from Lithuania.
Community is also an important element of Emma’s practice. She regularly works with her grandpa Peter to realise pieces (such as the large scale checked hems and valance for the recently restored Malachi Theatre in Oberon, NSW), and finds joy in trading with other artists.
‘To be part of the creative community down here is incredibly heartwarming and motivating.’
Emma is currently working on a series of coats in collaboration with textile designer Antonia Papasergio, as well as lighting, to be released in the near future.
She says, ‘I feel really lucky to be able to follow where my interests take me at the moment, to not be locked into one mode of working, or producing the same sorts of things.’