Our New Challenge

Collaboration Inspiring Growth

Collaboration Inspiring Growth

During 2022, Lindsay Hussey, a textile artist, and Penny Sharples, an oil and cold wax artist, collaborated on a major artwork, Ensemble. They created it for the Creativity Cluster exhibition Melbourne: Our Creative Heart, which was funded by a grant from the City of Melbourne. A significant aim of the grant was to give group members the opportunity to work across disciplines and produce collaborative work.

In the following blog, Lindsay and Penny discuss their decision to continue this creative collaboration.

Ensemble – Our first collaboration in 2022

Building on a foundation of personal and creative trust

The two of us found that the 2022 collaboration was creatively satisfying. Working together, we each inspired the other to elevate our work, to make better work than we might have alone.

The support of collaborating with another like-minded artist resulted in personal and creative growth. We also found the challenge of combining our media creatively stimulating.

We decided to continue the collaboration with a new, more personal project, building on the durable base we had created. Because we see our collaboration as part of our long-term development as artists, we agreed that we did not want to rush this new project. Consequently, we will let the process drive the timeline to produce this body of work.

What we bring to the collaboration

We each bring technical expertise in our respective mediums. More importantly, however, we bring support: trust in each other’s intentions and a desire to grow artistically.

We bring this shared desire to develop our artistic ability and a commitment to work equally and together. We provide positive critique of each other’s work, knowing it is offered with only supportive intentions.

For 2023 we made a commitment to fortnightly meetings for concept development of a joint body of work. These meetings included sharing our experimentation, learnings, and research.

We spent time developing visual representations using a range of mediums and techniques arising from our agreed concepts and ideas. We have incorporated hands-on experimental work with different techniques and materials that have the potential to be included in our exhibition.

About the artist – Penny Sharples

Penny Sharples shows her oil and cold wax techniques

I am a Melbourne-based, non-objective abstract artist working in oil and cold wax, acrylic and mixed media. While preparing for retirement from my 50 years of professional work, I reflected on what I required to sustain me in the next phase of life.

Throughout my life I balanced out the strong intellectual requirement of my profession with a range of creative pursuits including jewellery design and fabrication, landscape design and, in my early years, interior design and Raku pottery. These were interspersed with dabbling in painting and drawing.

As retirement loomed, a series of serendipitous events led me to an online art course by American artist Nicholas Wilton, which in turn opened a variety of pathways. The one I chose led me to studying oil and cold wax painting with Rebecca Crowell at the Ballinglen Art Foundation in County Mayo, Ireland.

My works are infused with emotions and musing in response to my inner world of dreams, as well as explorations of Greek mythology. They also embody the textures, shapes and colours of varied landscapes.

As an avid traveller, I love to walk the land and experience diverse cultures at a very visceral level. These experiences provide a rich palette of inspiration that permeates my work. My other passions include my Japanese inspired garden, studying philosophy and mentoring young people. 

About the artist – Lindsay Hussey

Lindsay Hussey with some of her textile works

My art medium is textiles — fabric and thread — with which I create contemporary, abstract works. My art practice is grounded in my extensive embroidery training.

Through courses run by the Embroiderers’ Guild Victoria (EGV), I developed a high level of mastery in Crewel embroidery, a 16th century technique using fine woollen yarns.

In 2004 I completed a 9-month course, Art for the Stitch, at the EGV. This course gave me the design skills necessary to create my own designs. It also introduced me to the stimulating world of contemporary textile art and led to the work I create today.

Wanting to take my practice further, I have expanded my knowledge with art theory and creative development education. Initially, I took a wide range of textile-related courses, including fabric dyeing, printing, and anything to expand my repertoire of skills.

I then realised that while my technical abilities are strong, to improve my work I needed to improve my basic artistic ability. I met Penny at about this time, and she recommended the online art course run by the artist Nicholas Wilton.

A strong influence on my current work was a course with American textile and mixed media artist, Clarissa Callasen, who was brought to Australia by Fibre Arts. Clarissa opened me up to working beyond the flat plane, escaping the rectangle and incorporating mixed media.

In my recent and current abstract works, I am continually developing form as well as content, often working in what I like to term 2-1/2D (not 2D but not quite 3D). I still love hand embroidery, and adapting my repertoire of traditional embroidery stitches to give contemporary expression is a key feature of my workMy inspiration comes from many sources, many of which stem from examining my personal experiences. For example, I heard a particular piece of music by chance and immediately thought “I want my art to look like that sounds”. A year living in Barcelona was also incredibly inspirational. Then sometimes, I just start with the fabric and thread and let the materials guide me.

On-going commitment to the creative process

A feature of our 2022 collaboration was combining our individual medium (i.e., using oil and cold wax with textiles). We are exploring how we can push this further and create something new for both of us.

In addition, these meetings provide an opportunity for peer-to-peer coaching. Furthermore, we research and visit galleries to identify those that may be suitable to exhibit our future work.

Between meetings we work independently on how we might visually represent the ideas and concepts we have developed jointly. These are shared and discussed when we next meet, building on the previous work.

Sample – Exploring feelings of disconnection
Sample – Exploring feelings of disconnection

Deep Dive – long weekend of creative exploration

In February 2023 we took ourselves down the coast for a long weekend to provide time and space for a deep dive into what we wanted to achieve.

We started with lengthy discussions, sharing our personal histories and background, using mind-maps to record our thoughts and ideas on butchers’ paper.

This work was interwoven with walks and sharing dreams to re-charge our creative juices. Discussions and explorations have continued at our fortnightly meetings.

Mind-map early discussion – what ‘home’ means to us.
Mind-map – Trying to make connections when feeling untethered.

The story unfolding

From inception we wanted this project to be personal to our own lives We found that, throughout our lives, we had both experienced periods where life dramatically changed, resulting in feelings of being adrift, untethered, disconnected, of being outsiders. It is these feelings we are exploring.

Our collaboration and the resulting art works will particularly explore two sources of disconnection we have both experienced.

As the daughters of fathers whose work required regular relocation, we both experienced being dislocated from the place and life we were living. Leaving that life, often abruptly. Finding ourselves in a new place/life without any connection with where we had just left. While experiencing loss – loss of friends, of the familiar – there was not time for grief as we had to immediately adjust to a new, often quite different, place/life.

The second source of disconnection happened when an event significantly changed our expected life trajectory. Plans on which we were certain our future life would be based were no longer possible. Our life unravelling, becoming untethered from life as we had been living it. The struggle through the unknown to discover possibilities to reconnect, to belong again, for our life to become grounded once again.

Sample – Barriers to connection = disconnection
Sample – Barriers to connection = disconnection

The challenge of working internationally

2024 will provide additional challenges and opportunities as we are both planning to spend time based overseas. This will provide a wealth of inspiration as we reconnect with our respective established international arts communities and explore new creative opportunities. The challenge will be staying connected and progressing the production of a body of work.

Sample – Barriers to connection = feelings of disconnection

Our long-term aims

We are aiming to:

  • create a substantial body of work with an emphasis on enhancing our technical skills through the interplay of our different mediums;
  • experiment with our own mediums and each other’s;
  • push boundaries of our creative thinking, and use of materials to a higher standard;
  • engage in research and deep conversations with each other and our international cohort of artists to enhance our art practice; and
  • mount a joint solo exhibition of 2D and 3D art pieces incorporating textiles, paintings, and mixed medium works.

Keep a look out for our next post mid-2024 when we provide an update of our progress.

Sample – exploring serendipity in life.
Sample – Becoming untethered, adrift, then reconnecting