Friday, October 24, 2008

Old woollies 4

I have a jacket that was made for me by my old friend, Erika Semler. It must have been made around 1978 or so - there are photographs of me wearing it in 1980.

Erika 3

Erika wove the fabric for the jacket - a rich combination of reds and purples. She also spun and dyed some of the yarns used within it, and designed and sewed the jacket.

Erika 2

It's a simple shape that I love. Depending on my size and the fashion of the time, I've worn it clasped together with a brooch, or freely hanging. I think it was my first venture into asymmetry, as each of the front sides is differently coloured - one more purple; the other reddish. It's been much loved, and the lining is now tattered and needs replacing.

Erika 1

I value the jacket greatly.

Erika Semler is an important figure in weaving in Australia, and crafting more generally. She trained as a Master Weaver in Germany and, as Erika Gretschel, emigrated to Australia to establish the professional weaving workshop at the Sturt Workshop in Mittagong in 1951. For most of her life Erika has taught weaving to generations of Australian weavers - most Australian weavers would have been influenced by Erika either directly, or through their teachers. Some of her work is held by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. She has done much to be treasured.

Erika has the kind of pragmatic attitude to her craft that I imagine Elizabeth Zimmermann has. Nothing is impossible. She believes that craft, art and music are not for the select few, but within everybody's capabilities and vital for their full development. She cared for and valued the environment long before 'green' issues were broadly accepted, and experimented with using dyes derived from Australian plants to reflect nature in her work. She is an avid and adventurous traveller and has collected textiles from many corners of the world.

Now well into her 80s she is still active - attending exhibitions and concerts, caring for her house and garden in the Blue Mountains, turning out for bushfire prevention training, and continuing to extend her endless hospitality.

There is a beautiful photograph of Erika on page 12 of this photo essay


M-H said...

Thanks for that. I want to learn to weave when I retire, as I think it will open up many more ways to use yarn to create clothing.

Anonymous said...

How beautiful! It looks almost like a living creature

Probably Jane said...

Thank you for introducing me to such a remarkable person. It's wonderful to think that the work of our hands connects us all to this creative woman.