Season Two – Sara Lindsay

Image credit: Longin Sarnecki

Sara Lindsay

Season 2 – Episode 8


Instagram handle: @slindsay.daytoday
Instagram handle @slindsay.skirts

Australian Tapestry Workshop
Book: The Textile Reader by Jessica Hemmings
Exhibition: Sense and Sensibility: Women Artists and Minimalism in the Nineties
Book: Baroque Memories by Paul Carter
Book: Beyond Craft: The Art Fabric by Mildred Constantine, Jack Lenor Larsen
Book: The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit


Nick Breedon 0:00
Hi, I’m Nick Breedon,

Kiera Brew Kurec 0:01
and I’m Kiera Brew Kurec

Nick Breedon 0:03
and you’re listening to Pro Prac a podcast where we explore the professional practice of artists and hear their stories.

Today we have with us in the studio Sara Lindsay. Sara Lindsay is a Melbourne based artist, curator and educator. Sara work is a weaver at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, now the Australian Tapestry Workshop from its foundation in 1976 until 1990, when she moved to Tasmania to teach at the Tasmanian School of Art. From 1995 to 1998 Sara was employed as a curator at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery whilst making significant developments in her studio practice and managing several freelance curatorial projects. Returning to Melbourne in 2000, she undertook a Master of Fine Arts at RMIT and from 2007 to 2013, was employed as production manager at the ATW. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in solo and group exhibitions. Sara has won numerous awards, including an Australia Council Fellowships in 1995, and her tapestries are represented in many major public collections across Australia. Since 2013, she has mentored a group of refugee women from Myanmar. This work has led to her involvement with an organization in Lisbon, which provides textile skills development and social support to elderly people. Thanks so much for joining us in the studio today, Sara.

Sara Lindsay 1:25
I’m really happy to be here. And to contribute to this program. I’ll just begin by telling you a bit about my childhood. I grew up in Oxford in England, I was born in Oxford in the UK. My parents were both medical, a doctor and a nurse. And but they were both really good with their hands. So my dad was very much a cup, a carpenter and had you know, his men’s shed. And my mom was very much someone of that generation who sewed all our clothes, knitted all our clothes, painted the walls. Every year, she’d make new loose covers for the winter in the summer. Amazing, really. And I had start had I still have two brothers, and neither involved in the arts, but they’ve always been very supportive of me. And at school, I loved languages. That’s what I was good at and geography. So I did French, German Latin. And I think I was really always interested in other places and other people, which is very much fed into my life ever since. And I was also taught by my mother to sew and from quite an early age, I was sewing my own clothes, and I even have a tiny little sort of handkerchief sort of cloth container that I made when I was about four I think, and I’ve still got that in the cutest fabric you wouldn’t believe. So that was just a big part of existence. And you know, it’s quite a long time ago, we didn’t have all the shops and things that we have now. And I had a very happy childhood, we spent a lot of time outside. We spent a lot of holidays walking in the Lake District that’s when my dad came from, and he was a doctor and the surgery was in the house. So we had a really nice summer and Easter holidays just to get out of the house. I’m sure my parents had their issues. But for me, it was a happy childhood. I feel very lucky to be able to say that. But a huge change happened in 1966 because they decided to migrate to Australia. And even though that was massive, and I was becoming much more independent in Oxford is really interesting city to grow up in. I was wearing my black you know (Laughter) oil skin beatnik jacked just maybe puffed on a bit of weed or something. So it was a huge wrench to leave. But on the other hand, it was a huge adventure. It is a huge adventure and was early enough to travel by boat. And we were 10 pound Poms although I discovered for my brother the other day he was he was 16 so he paid 10 pounds but my myself and my younger brother were free. So we came out on a boat and stopped at all these you know the fascinating places along the way and ended up in rural Victoria, which is a bit of a shock.

Nick Breedon 4:43
We’re abouts?

Sara Lindsay 4:45
Maffra and then we move to a bit closer to the city. We went to Berwickeand it was quite extraordinary really my mum and dad just bought this house. They liked this little town. And they’d gone into the chemists and said, Did they need a doctor? And they said, Yeah, we’re desperate for one, they bought this little house and they put up the sort of brass plate and turn the granny flat into which had been the garage into a surgery. And she she helped him for a while. And then you know, 35 years later, was sold as a, you know, going practice. And Dad just loved being in Australia. He really loved the breadth of medicine he could practice so many anesthetics and delivered 20 million babies and he was a good old fashioned GP a really nice, man. Really nice, man. So anyway, that’s I finished, finished school and got into Monash to do languages. And at that point, all I wanted to do was actually to go back to England, and it was in the air. You know, young people were going on the boat back to England and then doing the hippie trail to India or what ever. So I went with one of my oldest friends or my best friend from school, and she was the artist, you know, she did art at school, and she drew and so we went for two years, back to Europe. And we did the hippie trail down to Morocco, and which is an Ibiza, which is very different to what it is now. And we went to loads of galleries and we lived really simply and then we’d go back to England and do really mundane jobs or I would do sort of nannying for my cousin, things like that. But we had a great time. But after a couple of years, I just was missing my family. And I thought no, I actually do really want to study. But I didn’t want to go back to Monash and do languages. And I’d met these really interesting German women in Ibiza, who are making this amazing clothes from sort of recycled Victorian underwear. It sounds a bit sort of bizarre, but they were quite a bit Picnic at Hanging Rock ish, really, but sort of a bit more edgy than that. And I thought, Oh, I wouldn’t mind doing something like that, you know, like that. I was never interested in fashion as in the catwalk or all of that. So anyway, I came back to Melbourne and I got into RMIT not quite sure how but I did to do fashion design. And I think they thought Oh, you can sew and because I certainly couldn’t draw or I had no I had no folio of drawing. Anyway, I got in there. And I did my three years there. And it wasn’t so easy. The first two years, I felt that it was incredibly conservative and restrictive and designing you know, uniforms to the bank or the races. And I was there in my kind of hippie Kensington clothes my Moroccan Jalaba and I just But anyway, in my third year, I had a really, really amazing lecturer called Leonard Leg. And he was a really intelligent man really interested in art. He’d grown up in Neil, he’d gone to Paris, just after the war to train, under couture, he was there when the German occupation was there and he tells this amazing story of how the women started to wear their hair really high, and their shoes really high. And the big shoulder pads to overcome this sense that they were being taken over by the Germans is this amazing interview somewhere, which I often think I must get hold that. So it was a really fascinating man. And he loved my slightly wacky approach to things. So in my third year, I spent the whole time throwing paint at fabric on the washing line and then making them into strange concoctions and crocheting nd spinning yarn. It was the 70s sort of back of it really. And I just loved drawing. I just had a couple of really amazing teachers at RMIT. And I loved life drawing. And I love then translating that into fashion illustration. And there were a few people that I followed that I thought their illustration work was quite extraordinary and quite loose and very beautiful. So I ended up doing quite well, very well I topped the class I did you know I did well, and I loved it. And but I didn’t want to go into the sort of rag trade. So my closest friends did and they did the Flinders Lane thing. So I did the classic thing or I’ll do a teaching degree, give myself a bit of breathing time. And that year was actually fantastic because again, it was in the 70s. And you could write basically write your own program and it was at Melbourne State College just for one year and I taught two days a week at a Community School. And I brought kids home to my garden to do Batik dye. I mean, you would never be able to do that sort of thing now. But it was terrific. And then I did a whole lot of electives, very practical electives, and I didnt learn anything about how you form a lesson plan or anything. But I did painting and sculpture and ceramics and drama. And so it was a really great year. But more importantly, I enrolled at the Melbourne College of Textiles one day a week and I was allowed to have that accepted into my degree, and learnt how to weave. And I had this amazing teacher who was Latvian master weaver, Lillia Dukes. And it was the first sort of sense that I had, that actually, that’s a profession, it’s not a hobby. It’s a profession. It’s a revered profession. And she’s this incredibly skilled woman that was really respected in her culture. So that kind of lodged itself in my brain. And the other thing that happened that was really critical at that time was that I attended for three years in a row, this, the South Australian craft Association, or the craft Society of South Australia, ran the sort of craft camps in out of Adelaide, it’s called this Tatachilla place, which is a Lutheran camp, I think. And they, like all those sort of camps, you know, they, they brought in a selection of lecturers from often International, and local. And one of my teachers, my illustration teacher at RMIT, the first time said, I’m going to teach at one of these camps, I think you’d really like it, I’ll pay your fees, you come along and be my assistant. And as soon as I got there, she said, You know, you’re fine. Just, I’m fine. You just go off and you know, explore. So that was huge. And the first one I went to was actually run by Sue Walker, who ended up being the director of the Tapestry Workshop, the Australia Tapestry Workshop, and it was off loom weaving. And I spent the whole week camping and unraveling bits of rope and Hessian and making, you know, these sculptural things. But I loved it. I loved the rawness of it. And then I think another year I did batik, and I met these incredible artists, Tina Curran, Paul Adolphus, who had just come back to Australia after living in Japan and Indonesia. So meeting them was huge in relation to Japan, because I was already starting to think oh I’d like to go there. And my brother brother had studied Japanese. And the library at the State College was full of extraordinary books on Kimono and was really interested in the idea of the Kimono as clothing, but a ceremonial clothing as art, not fashion it was timeless, and also that there are all these processes involved in making different kinds. So stenciled, woven, hand painted, and incredibly revered objects. So that was really interesting. And then the third year, I did tapestry weaving with a woman called Belinda Ramsen. And she was actually from New Zealand, I think originally was a painter. And she had been to Edinburgh and not sure I think she studied at the Art School there may be very briefly but she certainly ended up working at the Dovecot or the Edinburgh tapestry company. And I just took to tapestry weaving. It’s sort of encompass drawing, painting, sculpture, text, textiles, and materiality, and it’s suited my personality and that sort of slowly building things up in that rhythmical way. So that was huge. And then the following year, I got a job teaching, just general art at university high school, and I sort of kind of managed, you know, I was very quiet. But by the middle of the year, the Tapestry Workshop was set up, and maybe by even by about April, they called for people to take part in a training selection workshop. And so I was accepted into that and over four weekends over an eight week period, we would go for the weekend and learn from Belinda. And then during those two weeks, we had to go home and make a tapestry based on what we learned, and at the end of that period, I was offered a job at that at the Tapestry workshop. So that was just massive for me. And I felt like I’d landed in heaven. And five of us started, you know, as smart young women who didn’t have the weight of history on us. A coupple had done a bit of tapestry before. But really, we were employed on the basis of our visual art skills and drawing skills. And then sort of facility to pick up the medium. And I had no problem, it just came to me really, really, really easily. And I liked drawing so that that worked out Okay. So I stayed at the workshop for actually 14 years. And 12 of those years, I was a weaver. And, you know, progressed from being kind of just a waiver to the senior waiver. But in some ways to talk about being a waiver in those hierarchical terms, is exactly what it wasn’t about, really, when I reflect back, I was going to talk about this sort of later, really, but when I reflect back, on my experience of being a weaver at the tapestry workshop, there were two aspects, really. And one of them was absolutely about the collaboration with the other weavers. I mean, in some ways, the collaboration with the artist. Sometimes I think collaboration is a good word. And sometimes I don’t think it’s quite right, because you’re certainly interpreting. But the sharing that you then have with your fellow weavers is quite a different experience and incred to me, and incredibly important one that’s fed through into other things that I’ve done. And then of course, the different artists that I did actually work with, and I was writing down a bit of a list here. And I thought, possibly the three really important to me were Guy Stewart was the first person I worked with. And again, he had had, he spent his childhood in Japan and his drawing was, is extraordinary, and just a lovely man. And he was really terrific to work with. And then another really, really important person and I wove a whole tapestry, based on design of hers almost exclusively with a tiny bit of help was Helen Wardsley. So that was pretty extraordinary to have contact with her individually for over a year, and learn about her practice and just have the kind of the power of that personality and someone who knows so much about and has experienced so much in the art world. And then I’ve put Leslie Dumbrell because again, she was early on. And, you know, I really want to emphasize that women that have had a huge influence on me, although men have to but I think shes was very important. So I love that. And I think I was very good at my job because I did immerse myself in the practice of those artists. So the downside of that is that I found it very difficult to work out quite what my practice might be. And if indeed I did have a practice, and if indeed, I had anything to say. So I did make work. And I did make drawings. And I decided to take blocks of time off to do that. Because to think of that or to get off the sofa, once you got home from a really intense day of working at the Tapestry workshop. And one of my great bains in life is people saying to me, oh, you must be so patient. Oh, it must be so meditative (Laughter). And it’s, it’s just none of those things. It’s really, really concentrated really, really intense and physically demanding work. And often at the end of the day, and a huge responsibility because people are paying 1000s of dollars for this work and then working, you know, sitting as you two , they’re so close to somebody all day. So yes, I used to pretty much hit the couch once I got home . But you know, I was determined to keep drawing and and I did a lot of sort of exploration with materials. And one of the really important things that happened was that in 1981, I received a travel grant and an Australia Council sort of education grant to go to Japan to study at a school there. And one day a man had walked We were told that this man who ran a school in Kyoto would be visiting, but at the weekend, and would anybody like to stay back to show him around, and of course, my hand went up within two seconds. And so I met him. And again, it’s just incredible man. And he said, come to my school, we can just develop a special study program for you. So I did that for three months. And I studied, I wanted to study something traditional as a way of immersing myself into the culture. So I started Kasuri weaving, which is a resist dyeing process, which in Indonesia is Ikat. And we probably know it better in Australia as Ikat but or a resist dying, and of course, as everything in Japan is, can be incredibly simple or incredibly complicated. So that was just the most extraordinary and life changing experience to go to Japan. And, and it was no emails, no mobile phones. So quite a huge cultural change. And my language was basic. But I just felt that I had landed in the right place for me, and my makeup and my interests. And it did really change my way of looking at things in some ways that cliched way of looking at things, I started to simplify things down, I felt like I could see things more clearly. And that really helped, actually, in my work at the tapestry workshop, because often one of the big things is you’re presented with these quite complex designs. And you have to, you have to pull out what’s important. So you can’t weave everything and you shouldn’t weave everything. So you have to have a really analytical and critical eye to A. understand the drawing really importantly, the structural drawing and then decide what information is important to keep, and what can be left out. Because so much of the texture and kind of almost mark making its presence is there in the wave already. Because it’s quite ribby and so yeah, so that was really huge. And I just really loved it. So that Yeah, that was huge. And all the way through the Tapestry workshop I taught. So if they were trainees, it was my job. So I always I’ve always loved teaching. And I’ve always loved exchanging information. And, you know, my Mum was one of those people that always was cutting things out of the newspaper and sending them to me just it’s always been an important part of our existence, which is why I love Instagram. It’s It feels like that a bit to me now. And so, in the best possible sense, and I know social media is fraught, but the best possible sense. It’s absolutely about sharing which I love. Then I had a daughter. She was born in 1987. I had a year off and during that time, I actually did do a weaving commission. And then I had to go back to work so Onani went into crèche pretty early on. So that’s just how it is. She was a pretty easy baby. And a very, very wanted child. She’s quite hard to come by. So has been one of the greatest joys of my life still is. And in 1991 or maybe 1990, I went to visit my brother who was living in Hobart, and I knew someone who was working at the art school. And I thought, oh, I’ll just go and say hello. And I went into this amazing building, and went into this amazing, sort of weaving department wasn’t textiles. It was absolutely a weaving department. And it started off in Hobart, there’d been an organization called, I think, Secheron house that had been set up by some weavers. And they had received various fundings over time, and they bought all these incredible looms, and then it would go, maybe it gone to TAFE. And then it was finally accepted into the art school. So a year later, a job came up and they wanted someone to expand the weaving but still, in a sense, keep to weaving. But because of my experience working with tapestry, and that sort of former’s the role of tapestry within fine art or certainly I hate those distinctions, but as an image making process rather than a cloth making process. So anyway, I jumped off the high and it was a first job I’d ever really seen advertised where I thought oh, You know, this looks good. This could be interesting. So I did jump off the high diving board and went down with Onani to Hobaart.

Kiera Brew Kurec 25:09
How long were you teaching there?

Sara Lindsay 25:11
Yeah, so I was teaching there for, sadly, a relatively short time. So I thought, well, this is the rest of my life. And I was planning my sabbatical (Laughter). But in fact, it was only a contract job. And it was two and a half years because it was sort of half a year by the time they decided to employ me. And towards the end of the second year, they decided to close the department. So it’s the beginning of the really big cuts in education. And they already had a textile department in Launceston, which was more surface design orientated. So there was a bartering thing. So Hobart kept printmaking, thank God, because it’s such an amazing department. And physically, that’s the space is just unbelievable. I just saw it a couple of weeks ago, and Launceston kept textiles, so but so it was very sad for Hobart and very sad for the art school, but things just kind of kept moving for me. And I’ll actually never forget, Pat Brassington saying to me, when things started to fall apart, and that was falling apart, the relationship completely fell apart. She just looked at me straight in the eye and said, you’ll be alright. I’ve never forgotten that. I was and somehow the best years kind of came. And I mean, one of the best things that happened was I got a Australia Council fellowship. So I then had a couple of years where and I also got a job at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery as a curator, because they got special funding for when there was a still an Australia Council, visual arts board and crafts board. So there was this special funding for contemporary craft. So organizations were applying for funding for contemporary crafts, or either to put on exhibitions or to add to collections. So the Tasmanian Art Gallery got that. And they decided to split it into three and having someone who oversaw the the whole thing three days a week, and was responsible for some discipline, someone textiles, someone design, and the other one was glass and ceramics I think. So I was offered the big job and declined it because I’ve got the fellowship. So I just took on the textiles and someone else got the big job, and they actually did a much better job than I would ever have done. So that was fantastic. So I had this sort of foray into you know, proper Museum and Art Gallery and work with a collection and put on a big show called The Meaning of Dress. And I looked at structure, the idea of structure of identity and was able to use incredible waistcoats and petticoats and crinolines and things like that, and sort of strange hats from the collection. And then I brought in some contemporary artists as well. And we had no money for catalogs. So I did a catalog on my little laser printer that I bought through my Australian Council funding and was the beginning of that sort of push into digital technology. So that was also part of my submission that I’d started making photocopies of all these samples that I was waving and then manipulating the photocopies. And I started doing it with the computer. So that was a pretty interesting period really was amazing period. And I certainly developed it, you know, once I got to Hobart, and I experienced life in art school, my work just took off. And I found out that I knew I had something to say. And I talked about it. And then I got a residency in basato in Italy and Ononie and I went off to Europe for six months came back via Japan and it was just and I did a lot of freelance curatorial work for the Salamanca Art Center, all sort of conceptual textile base. People think it’s just happened that in fact, we were teaching all sorts of theory at schools in the early 90s. It’s really thank goodness having a real impact. Yeah. So it was a really exciting time for me. And but it did come to a point where I thought I was just giving, giving, giving and wasn’t quite getting enough intellectual stimulation back from that very small community. So I enrolled in a Master’s at RMIT part time, or not part time as a distance student, but part time also, with a painting supervisor and a printmaking supervisor, Leslie ….. was my main supervisor, she’s just fantastic. And then a year later or six months later moved back to Melbourne, partly because of family reasons. And partly because the Tapestry Workshop offered me a job to project manage a big series of Tapestries. And that actually fell apart because I was so adamant that I would continue with my masters. And also my mother was extremely unwell psychologically, I needed my, the Master’s was absolutely my space, I was a single mother. So a lot going on. In the end, someone else took on the job, and I stayed for year as education Officer, resource manager or something. And then at the end of that, that job finished and I had just kind of scrape around for work and did office work, and you know what we all do, whatever. And then I got a job. But I completed my M.A. And I taught at Monash for a little while, same thing, though, the department being wound up. And then I was offered a job back at the Tapestry Workshop as a production manager, and by the director name was Suzy Shears and she was terrific, and really kind of recognized all the experience I’d had, particularly when I’d been in Tasmania, and I stayed there till 2007 till 2012. But along the way, I started making work. So for many, for about 15 years, I made work that was really to do with the migrant condition. And it was very much prompted by going to what would have been described then, and maybe still is the most English estates. And I was 40 when I went My mother was 40 when she came to Australia. And you know, there was a lot of discussion then about the migrant and need to see a diaspora I mean, it’s so different now and I there’s no way I could make that kind of work now, if the whole refugee issues, it seemed like I was in such a privileged state, but at the time, it was what was being discussed and talked about. And there was a lot written about it and a lot of solid writing. And I use black and white gingham so people know me as this sort of the gingham lady (Laughter). It came out of originally doing a sort of rag tapestry. Using up this, you know like a quilt using up scraps from the rag bag. And and I responded most to the gingham because the contrast of the black and white created this shimmering effect. I really love that sort of way it activated the surface like a reduced version of it. Is this a white noise. And then I just started collecting bolts and bolts and bolts gingham in all different sizes. It was quite hard to get so big part of my practice is the search. So it’s been going on, it’s been cinnamon sticks, it’s been rubber bands or whatever. I love that sort of tension of the search. So yes, I made a huge amount of work. And it was very well received and shown a lot and overseas and bought by a lot of the big galleries. So it was pretty amazing time actually, I’d say it was a 15 to 20 year period. And I was in my small way, you know a little bit of a big fish in a little a little sea. And there were a whole lot of us which again I can refer to later. Women, I have to say in similar situations with young families working in and out of art schools, developing a lot of theory. Two people, Diana Wood Conroy and Kay Laurence writing a lot and they both still do. Particularly Kay who’s remained a very good friend of mine and a huge supporter. So it was so very dynamic and interesting time. We were in a lot of shows together and we from all over Australia, Kay lives in Adelaide, Diana lives in was Wollongong then think people from Canberra from Sydney. And then there would be all these events that we, I mean, happens to people all the time, but it wasn’t particularly intense time for me, then, and a lot of those people are still practicing, but not all of them. And I think, you know, some of them particularly have done amazing things and in institutions kept, kept textile courses alive, not I mean, they’re going now, but for a long time, because of their personalities and their, I sadly didn’t have quite that amount of clout. I did my due. And I guess, after the gingham work, I stopped that when I was doing my Masters because I thought, well, it’s becoming a bit habitual, probably need to start thinking about something else. And my master’s work was called Positioning the Stripe. So I looked at the role of stripe both sort of formally and informally in a range, you know, in the history of art and medieval practice and sculpture and Jean Davis paintings where you actually forced, you know, walk along the length of the painting to actually see it was too big to just take in and, and I my last body of work was very much influenced by his his work. And then, so I’m still doing stripes.

Nick Breedon 36:33
Wearing stripes (Laughter)

Sara Lindsay 36:34
And I just won a little award for a little stripe drawing, line drawing. So I often laugh and say, I just do stripes and circles. And then I put this some highfalutin language with it, give it some additional. But I guess another really big thing happened was, I was approached by this is in about 2003. I think, Suzie Attiwill, who was works at RMIT, and has done a lot of really terrific curatorial work. And she was commissioned or contracted to be a curator for the Tamworth was a biannual, then textile biennial, it’s triennial now. And she developed the idea of putting together a show that talked about time was called a Matter of Time. And I didn’t have any existing work, the idea was to make new work. And by this time, I was spending a lot of time with my Mum. And she grew up in Sri Lanka, she was a colonial child, her father was a tea planter. She had a really, really acute depression had been almost successful in suicide attempts. And she came to my house regularly when she wasn’t in hospital. And the thing she liked talking about the most, and I’m actually quite happy to talk about this. I think it’s important mental health issues. And I don’t think I’m revealing too much. She, as many people do, particularly to as they get older, like talking about her childhood and she had a very happy young childhood in Sri Lanka. And we grew up with stories about it and then sadly, her father died very young at 40. And from a massive heart attack, right in the monks, the tea bushes andshe had already started to be sent back to, you know, this brutal thing of being sent to boarding school and a very young, so she was already in boarding school. So I never went back to Sri Lanka after that, but again, was just always the so many anecdotes in my family and amongst my siblings about stories Mum had told about growing up in Sri Lanka. So we talked a lot about that. And so when Susie asked me to make a work about time, I decided to make a work about Mum. And I made a work that was that 30 to 40 centimeters high by about four and a half five metres wide, long. And so it was essentially a time timeline. And I made this sort of block it was called cinnamon and roses. So the cinnamon was clearly Sri Lanka. And there’s roses. She is a classic English woman with the Rose garden pruned to the nth degree. And so I had to collect the cinnamon sticks and find the right ones that wouldn’t disintegrate when you pierce them to sew them in to position I collected piles and piles of rose petals from the Botanical Gardens from my walks and made this sort of kind of construction. And then I wove you to understand this Nick I wove it sort of on its vertically. So it’s a long thin strip that you could wind around and then you turn it around and you hang it sideways. And I used I use muslin. So I saw that as the material of the tropics. And very had a lot of photos of my grandmother in the tropics wearing these fine muslin dresses, striped. And I end up making a whole lot of drawings based on those. And I dyed the muslin with tea. So that was a stronger dye. So when she was still in Sri Lanka and just faded as a she get got older and be just about the passing of time and about sort of ephemerality. And I marked the births, marriages and deaths within our family with different sort of graphic elements. And the deaths were definitely marked by these turmeric, dyed stripes. So it was really just the death of her father and the death of my father then, and they’re faded with time because it’s not a stable dye. So I think it was sort of also when we were starting to be really interested in the idea of the sort of social aspects of making art and engagement with that aspect. A sort of high art pinnacle of whatever I am speaking very well about that. You know what I mean that so it was a real interest in that piece. And I’d never been to Sri Lanka and even though we came backwards and forwards to England three, three times on boats, we never stopped to Colombo even though my partner did when he came back from England, he was a child. So in 2005, I got some Australia Council funding to go to Sri Lanka. And also it, go to the V&A museum and study the South Asian textile collection. And then we went to Sri Lanka, probably with my daughter for maybe 10 days, and it felt like we were there for six weeks, it was just one of those trips where the most amazing things happened. You just fell from one connection to another to another experience, and was just extraordinary. And what was even was most extraordinary really was going to my grandfather’s grave. And just, I was talking to my cousin because she had the same experiences, buckets, and buckets and buckets and buckets of tears coming out of me because suddenly I understood my Mum. I understood my Dad really well, he was a Scott, we went to Scotland every year. But it was something about my Mum, I never quite understood, because in a sense, there was something slightly superior, but incredibly down to earth at the same time, and I never quite really got it. And then suddenly I got the colonial life. And so it was pretty extraordinary. And then I came back and I had this huge studio, in exchange for working in a friend’s shop a couple of days a week at the studio above the shop. And I made masses and masses of drawings and masses of collages and masses of samples. So I didn’t want to make any big finished work. I mean, tapestry you know how long it takes. And that just led into just fed me for many years, in some ways sort of still does. But I went from working, becoming working very much about ideas around my family to becoming more and more interested in a slightly more objective view of trade. So I made a whole lot of work that I call cargo, and I made a big drawing called trade was trade, What was it called China, Tea, Cinnamon, Ticking. So I started talking more about those elements in the work and it became less biographical. But I did make a big work and other big work called Cargo which I wove, I blue and white plate that had been my grandmother’s and she would have bought that as part of the Asian trade route when she was setting up a home in Sri Lanka. And then my Mum had it. And then I had it and it’s quite broken. So it was also sort of act of reperation re wave it and kind of pull that family particularly the female line, kind of solidify it together. And I place that in a whole lot of objects. So it was a big installation. That took up quite a lot of space, but that was the main object in amongst cinnamon sticks and little woven tapestries. That’s the last really major work probably than I made

Kiera Brew Kurec 45:06
So you’ve already touched on a few challenges that you have had to overcome to continue your practice. But just wondering if you could just elaborate a little bit further on those challenges.

Sara Lindsay 45:18
I think I’m just thinking through because I’ve been thinking a bit about this over the weekend, that probably there were, there are two major challenges. And they’ve been quite different. And one was certainly going and working at the Art School in Hobart, because I’d been through a fashion design degree. So there’s no really conceptual basis to that. And it was, you know, good. And it was, I’m glad to have done it. And then at the Tapestry Workshop It was very, it’s a production workshop was very much about making an even though I’ve always read a lot and being interested in ideas, I hadn’t actually experienced that art school and theory environment and Hobart was the first school I think, to introduce a master’s program. So when I first got there, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the talking (Laughter). And so I’m quite was quite silent, but thoughtful. So that was, it was actually huge. And I mean, to have left my partner behind and to take a small child, and not exactly on a whim, but it was, it was quite a leave my family behind. But it actually turned out to be the best possible thing. But it was I find it pretty tough to begin with and thought, you know, what on earth have I done? You know, and can I do this? And can I be the person I need to be to actually do this job. But I learned quite fast, really. And I read a lot. And I went to a lot of I went to all the major crit sessions and lectures and things. I thought, No, no, this is just a particular way of talking and, and thinking and I can, I can do this, you know, I’m not super intelligent, but I’m okay. And I do understand this, and I do understand what it’s about. And not only that, I found it really interesting. And I think it really shifted something in my brain. And the whole idea of have I got anything to say what should I be making? Suddenly, the whole thing just fell into place. And I thought, well, actually, I can make work about this. I can reference this, I can think about this so and so was talking about this. And it certainly just was terrific. And I met a whole lot of artists in Hobart that suddenly, you know, they again became my next tribe. And I felt that I could discuss things with them on the same level. And we were very supportive of each other, both male and female artists. And it was terrific.

Kiera Brew Kurec 48:10
You mentioned this earlier about the coming home from the tapestry workshop and the fatigue that is involved. And just and I remember the first time that I walked into the tapestry workshop and was just amazed at how physically taxing that job is and the process of weaving. I’m just wondering if you could share anything about overcoming the the physical challenges that are associated.

Sara Lindsay 48:41
This is a really interesting one, because in many ways, I haven’t an overcomer. And for many years, I was absolutely fine. And when I was doing my masters, and a few other stressful things that were happening my life I was doing a sort of Yoga, Tai chi three times a week, and I was strong, and I was weaving this big series for my Masters. And then that was about 2003 and then around about 2005 my back just started to give give away. And I think it was a mixture of lifting too much that Tapestry workshops are not necessarily particularly weaving, having a garden plot and lifting you know too many bags of soil and also my mother lifting her a lot. And I have got quite pronounced scoliosis which had never, I never be particularly even aware of accept when I was dressmaking. I thought oh, that flip hips a bit flat and that one’s much more rounded. And it is got quite problematic and I went to see a neurosurgeon and and He really said, you know stop Weaving, stop gardening, all those things that I love, walk, walk, walk. And I then went and had a big overseas trip. And that was all fine. And I actually somehow the pain did lessen. And I walked a lot and tried not to carry things. I was away for about three months in New York and Lisbon and came back feeling pretty good. And then with a relatively short time, doing household stuff, my back got really bad again. And I actually had complete and sort of wasn’t a mental breakdown, but a sort of anxiety. breakdown really suffered from really, really acute anxiety. And I was, you know, I was sort of, really I spent about six weeks where I was either lying down on the sofa, or walking for this projected amount of time he told me to do three times a day, or walking up and down my corridor, I’ve got a long Victorian just what little house but a long corridor walking just completely anxietyed out. For anyone who knows, whos been through that, you know what that’s about. So that was absolutely terrifying was also terrifying, because we’ve got a huge history of mental illness in my family. And with my Mum, I’d always thought, when’s it going to happen to me? Anyway itdid. My daughter was incredibly supportive, my brother was incredibly supportive. And I went to, you know, a psychologist. I saw an acupuncturist and amazing osteopath, who I still see. And my back really isn’t any better in fact it’s probably worse. But I’m mentally pretty strong, very strong, actually. So I worked through that. But it meant that I could never go back to weaving big things again. And in fact, probably for three or four years, I thought maybe it’s over. Maybe I don’t, I’m not going to be an artist anymore. But I kept, you know, once you I mean, so talking to Gosia this morning. You know, she’s sort of adamant that it’s you either are or you aren’t. It is how you exist in the world? It is how you think and you can’t switch it off.

Kiera Brew Kurec 52:37

Sara Lindsay 52:38
And so I was finding it pretty hard to switch off, except I was going to more and more exhibitions, because I walk in. So you get out what do you do you need to walk? So what do you do to make walking work for you, you go to exhibition or something. And then I started a photographic project, which I still do. It’s about being mobile, and walking and seeing things and observing them. So that was, you know, and it became more what, not what you can’t do what you what you can do. And I started mentoring, this group of amazing refugee women from Myanmar. So that seven years I’ve been working with them now. And so this will come into some other the next question I think.

Nick Breedon 53:25
Yeah. so given that you’ve had such a journey, like, what does a What does a successful practice mean to you?

Sara Lindsay 53:34
Lets see I mean, it’s so interesting, because I think that notion of success has really changed. And I think, you know, early on, you know, struggling through the workshop thinking, am I am I really an artist? Have I really got something to say? And then finding Yes, I have and being then included in all these exhibitions, that became the big thing of, you know, wow, yes, they’ve selected me for this exhibition in Japan. Hey, wow, hey, I’ve won that prize in Japan. Yes, I’m going to work going to Frankfurt that became the sort of driving force. I mean, we’re still very much just make getting keep staying in the studio, making work and luckily being picked up. But that was my idea of success, not the money. I mean, I was always very realistic about the money. You know, people don’t buy tapestries. And I had a couple of years where I sold big collections. To Tasmanian Museum Art Gallery, I sold a huge collection to National Gallery in Australia, huge collection. So they were big years. They were I mean they were great. And But yeah, I always knew I had to do other jobs to survive, but that’s okay. It was fine. You know, I was just I was it really interesting life. But I would say that particularly with this back injury. I’ve had to totally rethink all of that. And I think we’re all rethinking all of that, aren’t we? I mean, I feel very aware that that whole notion of the big gallery and is so bound up in money and contacts, and I’ve never felt comfortable in that kind of world and was very associated with it in many ways with the Tapestry Workshop because you kind of have to be that’s realistic, people have got to pay and they want big artists, and that’s fine. But I think I’ve always been interested in something much more on the ground, and kind of quirky people, interesting people into real individuals and it has been sometimes not to my … hasnt been quite so good (Laughter). I was talking about that to Gosia again this morning, we’ve both been very attracted to unusual people, sometimes you get bitten, but that’s still it. So I think that now that whole idea of working alongside other people, and even though I’m the sort of main mentor to the, the Karen, I mean, they make the work, but I feel we’re a team and Onani is involved in that sort of team of people that make things happen and go out into the world. And that’s really good. And I, when I went last year to have been few times to Portugal, and last year, I started working in Lisbon very loosely, it wasn’t a formal arrangement. With an organization I came across which I won’t even try and say it in Portuguese, but loosely translated, it says Granny Went Back to Work. And it’s an organization that was established by a young industrial designer / product, graphic designer, and she was really brought up by her grandmother, who’s incredibly outgoing, generous woman. And so she set up this organization with a young man who’s a psychologist, and to provide a working meeting space for elderly people, all under the umbrella of, of textiles. And I just came across it in this sort of street opposite my favorite coffee shop. And it was so dynamic and so inclusive, and so wild, so joyous and, and I started going there three or four afternoons a week and taught some weaving and, and I learned a bit from them. And I just and it followed on so well from working with the Karen so I’m interested in and also with all the older artists, particularly women’s artists and their role and how they seen and certainly this Lisbon organization is old this the new young it’s on all there T shirts and tattooed on Susannas arm and that allowed me to, because it’s so warm and embracing I’ve never received so many cuddles and kisses to then go back to my tiny little sort of studio and do my kind of cerebral, very controlled, gentle work. And I’m actually going back there both Japan in a few weeks for two months. And then back to Lisbon. I hope I’ll be doing more work with them. So to keep that, you know, though, I don’t I think that’s what I’ve always needed. I’m quite, I’m not as quiet as I used to be. But I like people and I like that sort of social meeting of people. But I need that really quiet time I mean, reflective of so many of us, isn’t it? And then very quiet. Kind of gentle time to recharge. Yeah, yeah. And hopefully I’ll make work but you know, just tiny little tapestries and little drawings.

Nick Breedon 59:08
So what is a typical week in the life?

Sara Lindsay 59:11
Well nothing so typical anymore. I mean, there would have been typical weeks where you know, I went to work. I don’t have to go to work any more thank goodness. I’m very feel very, very lucky to be in that position. Look at a typical week is broken up by meetings with a few critical people like Gosia Wlodarczak, Cheryl Thornton, from the Tapestry workshop, we meet every every week and sought out the world for a couple of hours. Walking is a huge, huge part for me. Going to Cinematique on Wednesday night is a huge part for me. And then I think probably now instead of allways just making big bodies of work. So whether it was an exhibition for them to go to or not, I always just was making work. So if you had, you know, paid work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays studio was absolutely Monday, Tuesday, Saturday, and often Sunday, but that’s really not my life. Now, I tend to be more project orientated. So for instance, I had two months, I did a residency with Gosia Wlodarczak at the Tapestry Workshop. So I went there three days a week. And that was fantastic. And I’m still working on finishing, we both finished working on finishing that off. So we meet regularly to do that. And then I was in a show at Craft Victoria. And I decided I wanted to make a new work because they were showing older work. So I decided I needed to make a new work to go with that. So you know, I did that. And then Kate Derum Award that’s just on at the Tapestry Workshops at the moment, I was just, I’d always organized that before, I’ve been on the selection panel. And I just decided that I was going to finish off this little tapestry that has been on the loom forever. And I did and then I realized just how much it links to these drawings that I want to do more of. So that’s, I think, very much taking me into the next thing where I will be away for almost six months. And I hope that’s something reasonably substantial, albeit tiny will come out of that.

Kiera Brew Kurec 1:01:39
Sara I’m wondering if you could share some of your more influential resources that have helped you in your practice or that you have come across.

Sara Lindsay 1:01:49
I, again, was thinking about that. And of course, the people are incredibly important. And we will all have a list of people. But in terms of one person, I think just to be helpful for people listening to this podcast, I think, is anything that Kay Lawrence has done or written, particularly for people interested in, in ideas around textiles. And another person is Jessica Hemmings and she is, I think is quite complicated she might have been born in America, I think. But she has worked in Ireland and the UK. And I think she’s now in Sweden, or Denmark. And she has written a lot about it. So she’s an academic. She’s not a practicing artists and textiles. She wrote a book not so long ago, or maybe five years ago, called a textile reader. And there’s a chapter I am referred to in that chapter. But I think just anything she does is worth following up on because I think she’s a really interesting thinker. And you know, does actually end up working in all these extraordinary art schools or organizations where she’s there as absolutely as a what I would call, a thinker so those two, and then I bought a book with me here, which had a huge, huge impact on the way I saw my practice and gave me permission. I think we all need by Helen Wardsly, he talks a lot about being given permission, and this book, catalog, and it’s called Sense and Sensibility, women artists and minimalism in the 90s. And it was a show that was at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. And it was curated by a woman called Lynn Zelevansky. And it’s just a fantastic essay in there that just gave me permission. I don’t know how I that I need to say much more than that. Really, I think, just advise you. I think you might put a picture up.

Kiera Brew Kurec 1:04:05
Yeah, I’ll definitely put a picture or link on our instagram (website)

Sara Lindsay 1:04:07
Mind you I haven’t read it for a long time. But it certainly was very important. Another book that was really important to me and gave me a lot of titles. And again, this was in the early 90s was a book by Paul Carter. And I used to read a lot of work that had been written by Paul Carter, who went on to do a lot of curatorial work. Academic English actually born in 1951, the same as me. I don’t know if he still lives in Melbourne, I’m not sure. But he wrote a book. Well, he used to write he wrote specifically, again about the the migrant condition of the English so that on one side, you were very privileged, but on the other side, it’s still a huge displacement to come from another country to another country. So again, that kind of gave me a bit of permission to to feel that it was alright to talk about that. But again, that was in the 90s, I probably wouldn’t do it now. And he wrote a book called Baroque Memories. And the main character was nostalgia. And it was sort of in lecture down on the heel of Italy. And I took titles of my work. One was the Roundedness of Return. So that idea that you can never go back to the same actual same spot that you started from. And I made a huge series with that title. And then there was another title called Lightness of Attachment. And that came from a phrase where he said, the lightness of attachment is an excellent cure for displacement. So again, that idea that if you’re a migrant, do you hanker after the past? Or do you cut it off completely, in a way to be able to survive in your new environment and country? So I found all of his writing at that time, this is in the early 90s really, really interesting and really relevant to my practice. And then and then I’ve got two more written here. Another really important book, which I don’t know how easy it is to get, but now it’s it’s definitely out of print was a book that came out in I think it was 1974, called Beyond Craft the Art Fabric. And it was sort of like, it had a page of the artists in their background, and then a page of their work. And it was people like Magdalena Abakanowicz, Lenore Tawney who’s had a huge influence on my practice, and I met her in New York. One of the most magical moments of my life. It will take a whole nother podcast. Sheila Hicks, who interestingly has a huge presence now. I don’t think I was ever quite as interested in her her work. But I think it’s it’s very interesting work and I thinking about it today that I was interested in Weavers work doing big experiment. like huge, extraordinary stuff. And a Colombian artist called Olga De Amaral And they had work of Lenore Tawney’s and Olga De Amaral in the Tate Modern last year, and they had a big any Anni Albers. So anything that Anni Albers has written is interesting, in its way, it’s often quite technical. And then you’ve probably be reading this woman for years, but I just discovered her totally independently. In Lisbon, they’ve got a travel bookshop, and it’s half full with a Lonely Planet. And then it’s got another lovely section. That’s just books that incorporate aspects of travel. So I got Italo Calvino, and I got Graham Greene, the Orient Express. And I got the Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby. And that, to me, is the most extraordinary book I’ve read for a long time. And it’s so full of textile, references and metaphors. And when I was doing the residency with Gosia, I was taking it in every day and reading passages to her as we wove I thought, I think, and I’ve read more of her since but that particular book was overwhelming, really. But I had all sorts of things I had talked about her mother who had alzheimer’s so very personal stuff, as well as that sort of whole the way textiles has been referenced so much or used as metaphor. You know, tapestry was always the tapestry of life was always there. But more and more you read so many things, that advertising and, you know, the weave of this.

Kiera Brew Kurec 1:09:23

Sara Lindsay 1:09:24
it’s so interesting the way it’s has permeated the world. I mean, certainly the art aspects of the Yeah, so they, they’re the ones that I’ve written down anyway. And then as I said before, I love I do love Instagram. Yeah, I get a lot from it.

Kiera Brew Kurec 1:09:45
Do you mind sharing your Instagram handle?

Sara Lindsay 1:09:48
it’s completely fine. So that’s some @slindsay.daytoday And I actually have another one it is @slindsay.skirts It the photographic project that I’ve been doing now for a long time. And it’s called the Presence Of Women. And gradually, people are writing about it. And I’m putting it up, and maybe I’ll make some books or who knows. It’s a work in progress. But it’s very much about the presence of about a lot of things. Yeah, the first thing that I see is the textile and I see the sort of location, and then it’s very much about the mood. So someone’s written loves the movement. So I was written about the idea of this step. When I’m interested in the waiting ones, there’s still ones the blurry one.

Nick Breedon 1:10:43
So if you if you’re going to give some advice to somebody who was, you know, just starting out in their career, or just embarking on their artistic journey now. What advice would you give them?

Sara Lindsay 1:10:56
I think this is a difficult one. But I think there are a few few things. And fundamentally, I’d say go with your gut feeling. Don’t be swayed too much by other people, of course, invite, comment and share ideas. But often, it’s quite hard early on, when you think I’m not very confident, but often we just do have gut feelings about whether things are working or whether they relate to our interests. I would also say that there are lots of art worlds, so and more and more, there are lots of art worlds. And that whole idea of the sort of triangular pinnacle, at the top is is right for some people, but actually it’s not right for most people. And as hard it’s really hard. And so I think, think laterally, don’t be afraid of taking lateral steps. Because you never know what you find around the corner. And just remain very open. And read, read, read read. I don’t read nearly enough. Now. Look, look, look. And and not just about art. But try and remain as open as possible and don’t get too weighed down by other people’s opinions.

Kiera Brew Kurec 1:12:23
That’s great advice.

Nick Breedon 1:12:25
That’s a beautiful note to end on I think Thanks so much for joining us in the studio.

Sara Lindsay 1:12:31
Thank you. It’s been a great pleasure. And I hope that it makes sense.

Kiera Brew Kurec 1:12:37
It was wonderful to hear so thank you.

Sara Lindsay 1:12:40
Thank you both very much.

Nick Breedon 1:12:42
This episode is recorded on the sovereign Land of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land the Wurundjeri people and pay respects to elder’s past, present and emerging.

Kiera Brew Kurec 1:12:53
Thanks for listening to Pro Prac. You can listen to other episodes and subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can stay up to date with what we’re up to on Instagram at @propracpodcast, or send us an email at