Marjorie Coleman has spent much of her life stitching and weaving beautiful things.
For decades the Western Australian master quilt maker and doyenne of thread has laced and woven, stitched and dyed exquisite designs and motifs into all manner of fabric, and at 91-years-young it remains a powerful passion.
“I regard myself as a stitcher of ideas,” says Marjorie. “To work on an idea in whatever medium is fulfilling and even exciting; there is no space for boredom or unhappiness.
“I fancy that the stitch stands as something like the alphabet: not existing in its own right unless and until it serves the greater purpose of conveying something beyond itself.”
These sage thoughts are currently scribbled in pencil on the walls of the TAFE Shopfront Gallery on Beaufort Street, Northbridge, where Marjorie’s works are currently being exhibited.
Called Following the Thread, Let the Cloth Speak – A Decade of Artworks by Marjorie Coleman, it is a remarkable collection of pieces that express Marjorie’s thoughts and feelings through delightfully creative needlework, nuanced designs, imagery, textures, hues and colours.
What is most impressive is the range of styles and differing concepts that the artist draws on to express herself. No work is the same, yet all have her singular technique and are immediately recognisable.
Marjorie has long been one of Australia’s most respected fabric artists.
As far back as the 1970s, she was already known nationally for groundbreaking contemporary quilting, her works often featuring strong Australian identity through themes involving native flora and fauna and other iconic imagery.
Wendy Lugg, a close friend, and quilting and stitching colleague, says Marjorie is nothing if not versatile and always experimenting with innovative uses of fabric and thread.
“After many decades of arts practice, Marjorie is still finding new means to give voice to her ideas,” she says.
“But latterly her interest has turned from the quilt medium to the predominant use of stitch, sometimes a line, sometimes as blocks of colour, but always following her personal narrative.
“Yet what remains constant is Marjorie’s intention to reflect her life as a contemporary Australian, living in this place at this time,” says Wendy.
Marjorie says art should convey who and what we are, and our deep feelings about the world around us.
“It seems to me to be quite important that what we make reflects ourselves,” she explains.
“Whether we stitch or whether we hammer seems to be not as important as the fact that we are giving shape to our sensibilities, colour to our insights.”
While the exhibition covers diverse subject matter, one section of it is called The Search for the Tree of Life and features some of the most skilfully intricate and nuanced pieces in the show.
There are 10 pieces in the series that explore different situations in the universal quest for understanding of the Tree of Life, quite beautiful in its gentle persuasion and artistic radiance.
“I stitch ideas and experiences, not so much visual expressions for their own sake, and I give the game away in the titles,” she says.
“I am lost when I view untitled pieces: it is as though the maker wants to test the viewer and does not wish to communicate.”
Marjorie says her art has been fundamentally important throughout her life, giving her an interest and a place to turn for creative expression, peace, solace and sanctuary.
“When we are bored or desperate or overjoyed or curious, we have a special activity into which we can channel energy, with which we can express our deepest hurts and losses, our greatest joys and loves.
“We can, in a special sense, make our words flesh. We, who can make, are the lucky ones.”
Marjorie’s delightful exhibition runs until Saturday, 10 August.
Shopfront Gallery, North Metropolitan TAFE
149 Beaufort Street, Northbridge WA.
For more information visit her website at: www.marjoriecoleman.com