It’s funny how you can live in a city for so long, keep in touch with the nooks and crannies of its artistic vibrations, and still discover fascinating stories that have been living on your doorstep for decades without your knowledge.

The Australian Tapestry Workshop is around the corner from my house in an unsuspecting building on an unremarkable street in South Melbourne, and yet the work that goes on inside it is some of the most specialised in the world. The tapestry makers that conduct that work are among the most internationally recognised of their craft.

As part of ‘Weaving Futures’ – a new project made possible by dual funding from Creative Victoria and the Playking Foundation – these weavers collaborated with four local artists to recreate their works as tapestries.

A photographic self-portrait of Atong Atem in theatrical blue makeup was woven by Pamela Joyce; Troy Emery’s ‘big kangaroo urn’ was recreated by Emma Sulzer in vivid Australiana colours; Eugenia Lim’s colourful digital collage of a 9,500 year old spruce tree in different forms was realised by Tim Gresham; and Hayley Millar Baker’s melancholic black-and-white portrait was fabricated by Amy Cornall. All four artists acknowledge the new dimension their artwork took on through the collaboration process, and the final transformation on the loom.

‘I often make digital works that overwhelmingly stay digital,’ says Atong. ‘It was refreshing to see my work begin to slowly reveal itself in this labour intensive form. It meant I saw the portrait in a thousand new ways.’

The tapestries will be exhibited as part of a new exhibition ‘Artist + Weaver: New contemporary tapestries’ at the Australian Tapestry Workshop from Tuesday, 1 June 2021 – COVID-19 restrictions permitting. Learn more about the Australian Tapestry Workshop here.

These tapestries have been generously supported by Creative Victoria and the Playking Foundation.

Weaving Futures tapestries designed by Troy Emery and Eugenia Lim, woven by Emma Sulzer and Tim Gresham. Photo – Marie-Luise Skibbe.

‘Self Portrait in July (4)’ 2021 by Atong Atem, woven by Pamela Joyce with wool and cotton. Photo – Marie-Luise Skibbe.

Atong Atem and Pamela Joyce with the ‘Self Portrait in July (4)’ tapestry at the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Photo – Marie-Luise Skibbe.

Weaving at work at the Australian Tapestry Workshop! Weaving Futures tapestries designed by Troy Emery, Eugenia Lim, Hayley Millar Baker and Atong Atem, woven by Emma Sulzer, Tim Gresham, Amy Cornall and Pamela Joyce (pictured). Photo – Marie-Luise Skibbe.

On the loom: ‘I screamed aloud (I Will Survive)’ tapestry designed by Hayley Millar Baker and woven by Amy Cornall. Photo – Marie-Luise Skibbe.

Amy Cornall and Hayley Millar Baker with the ‘I screamed aloud (I Will Survive)’ tapestry at the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Photo – Marie-Luise Skibbe.

On the loom: ‘big kangaroo urn’, 2021, designed by Troy Emery, woven by Emma Sulzer. Photo – Marie-Luise Skibbe.

‘big kangaroo urn’ 2021 by Troy Emery woven by Emma Sulzer with wool and cotton. Photo – Marie-Luise Skibbe.

‘Future Fossils (Old Tjikko)’ 2021 by Eugenia Lim woven by Tim Gresham from wool and cotton. Photo – Marie-Luise Skibbe.

Eugenia Lim and Tim Gresham with the ‘Future Fossils (Old Tjikko)’ tapestry at the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Photo – Marie-Luise Skibbe.

Left to right: Troy Emery, Emma Sulzer, Eugenia Lim, Tim Gresham, Amy Cornall, Hayley Millar Baker, Antonia Syme AM, Carrillo Gantner AC, Atong Atem and Pamela Joyce at the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Photo – Marie-Luise Skibbe.

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