Sharon P.

Bio

I was born into a family that encouraged creativity and making, in Melbourne, Australia. Someone was always making something. I began embroidering at a very early age. Two cousins called in at home while traveling home from Mexico to Perth. One had totally embroidered jeans. This began my life long love for the medium. I stitched my way through my undergraduate degree in interior design and was encouraged to exhibit an embroidery for my final portfolio.

However, it was not until I moved to Canberra in 1985, that I began to take my work seriously. First with working on a large embroidery project for the new Parliament House that was being built. Then enrolling in a Master of Visual Art degree.

I practiced solidly for ten years, working part-time in various jobs to support my practice. My work was collected by a number of cultural institutions. My key solo exhibition was 100 Red Shoes at Object Galleries in Sydney in 1999. This show travelled for two years.

I took a detour as I needed intellectual stimulation, by enrolling in a graduate certificate of art history and curatorship. I continued studying and completed a PhD. While working as an academic, to keep in touch with making, I became Chair of CraftACT: Craft and Design Centre in 2009. This in turn led to me returning to exhibiting my work in 2011 and 2014 in solo exhibitions at Narek Galleries, NSW. In 2016 I am concentrating on my arts practice as my main focus.

Content

My work has tended to examine the body, both figuratively and metaphorically. In the beginning I explored the female figure in the domestic space. Taking a feminist view, I used hand embroidery to underline the notion of unpaid labour of women in the domestic sphere. I embroidered pot holders, aprons and teatowels.

I continued in this vein by working with topographic maps of Canberra, to examine the lack of consideration of women at home with children in a car dependent city. I made life-sized female wire figures, as well as constructing bras on which I embroidered text.

The next major work was 100 Red Shoes, which examined the fairy tale of the young girl who put them on and could not stop dancing. This body of work established me as an artist.

My first major foray into machine embroidered lace was to be included in the LoveLace Powerhouse Museum International Lace Award in 2011. With this style of work, in 2014, my solo exhibition Habitus documented in what I call black ‘Spanish’ lace, walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The lace indicated the fragility of culture, the culture of the Spanish countryside where it has been drained of young people who migrate to the cities, leaving only the older people. It also explored the mourning of the death of three family members.

Process

I work with both machine and hand embroidery. Each has it own way of enabling the content of my work. My machine embroidery took off when I was given an ArtsACT grant by the local government, to buy a new sewing machine.

Although I began embroidering on water-soluble fabrics in the 1990s, it wasn’t until I was commissioned to produce samples for religious vestments for a new cathedral in Sydney that I began to master the technique.

My ambition was to enter a re-occurring lace exhibition held by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. I had about three years to develop my process, knowing that the work had to incredibly impressive. I began using metal thread embroidery. This work began as quite heavy textiles but over the years I have refined and continued to pare down the threads till it looks like a drawing rather than a textile. I often have failures because I am pushing this technique as far as I can.