Super excited to welcome a brilliant young Aussie artist/botanist to our humble blog today. Edith Rewa Barrett lives in a natural world where textile design, illustration, silk scarves and art prints are her daily jam. Edith is a stirred by all things botanical and Australian, so it’s no coincidence that she lives in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales – where there’s an plethora of breathtaking nature to keep this observant artists mind buzzing…
THE T+ Q&A #03 / Edith Rewa’s Natural World
1. Field Trip is magic, it’s just so stunning! Loving this sweet video creation too… Please talk to us a little bit about the process behind this bewitching collection.
Throughout last year (in between normal work life!) I spent time on a series of trips around Alice Springs (The Olive Pink Reserve was a favourite), Kings Canyon, Adelaide Botanic Gardens, and Western Australia – mostly the mid wildflower belt and Pilbara. Camping in Bush Heritage and private Wildflower reserves was a chance to appreciate precious envelopes of preserved flora in a state pockmarked with large-scale mining and agricultural projects. I was learning hugely on these trips and the drawings/markmakings and patterns of Field Trip evolved as a direct result. I wanted to query the common misconception that the Australian desert is bare and uninhabitable, to showcase the absolute flamboyance in which wattles, eremophilas and cassia dot themselves across the landscape. I was itching to respond to the abundance of naturally occurring colours, patterns and forms in so much of Australia’s arid flora.
So much of the country supports ephemeral life forms. I tried to be more attentive to the transient nature of the flora in particular, building a sense of movement into my work. In Alice there was a rare hailstorm event that completely stripped many perky stems of flowers and in WA I was lucky enough to experience one of the best wildflower seasons in many years due to well-timed rain earlier in the year. I realised just how precious it was to see a trail of Sturt peas in a dried up creek bed in Cape Range, or the almost heart shaped, glaucous foliage of a Eucalyptus orbifolia scattered on the brown earth in a post-storm pattern. These plants survive on the weather’s whim, developing extraordinary coping methods to living in a harsh environment. I felt lucky to be able to capture a little snippet of them on my page and share them with you all in a little silk scarf museum.
The landscape tones of arid Australia encouraged me to explore a more colourful, yet earthily grounded palette. The nature of travelling and drawing forced a lot more instinctual markmaking which is somewhat a relief after spending long amounts of time completing detailed pen studies. I really enjoyed the playfulness of using paints and textas to capture this in a few of my designs (Olive Pink, Wattle Seeds and Sand Goanna) and think these more aptly convey my joy at meeting these plants in their natural landscapes.
2. How has your work developed since you began, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
My interest in native plant species seems to increase a little more each year. I think more than before I am trying to showcase a plant that might not necessarily have the usual spotlight, or perhaps to highlight an interesting feature of the plant or be true in some way to the landscape it inhabits. This desire to learn, explore and then share plantscapes that are unfamiliar to me is one that I feel will continue to feed and evolve my work.
3. Describe your aesthetic in three words.
Contemporary Australian flora.
4. What inspires you? Is there any day that your mind goes totally blank?
Oh, I wish! I mostly have the problem of hoping for the occasional blank mind, it always seems to be buzzing around about something! I am inspired endlessly by landscape and things growing amongst it, plants and people and new spaces.
5. What are your influences and how has your upbringing influenced your work?
I grew up in rural Victoria around a lot of native plants and we were lucky enough to travel a fair bit which has definitely given me the get up and appreciation to explore and travel with my own work as an adult. A big influence for me has always been traditional natural history etchings and the physical places I am inhabiting. This started in earnest when I studied in Estonia, a country that is mostly forest! Followed by moving to NSW post University and living amongst sandstone flora country. Trips to Arid flora regions of Australia and to visit my parents in Tasmania since then have also been a great influence on my work.
6. What defines good design?
A lot of things and sometimes not much at all! I like it when a design can just grab and hold my attention straight away.
7. Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?
Pinkey Square – A collaboration between a trio of dear friends. We screen printed metres of repeating fabric telling a story of an imaginative Australiana wonderland, sewn up into a Tee-Pee. We explored how we as textile designers can develop a positive living relationship between textiles and community – meaningful projects, worked on together, always hold a fond place with me. Check it out here!
8. What has been the biggest challenge so far in your career?
Having the confidence to leave a full time job for a freelance lifestyle and then the mental gumption to be your own boss every day of the week.
9. What environment do you like to work in?
I enjoy being outside whilst doing initial sketches, and looser ink paintings, sprawled near what I am drawing, and tucked away in a private nook. There is a beautiful clifftop shelf behind where I live in Blackheath, which is prolific with heath top flora, scribbly gums, and one of my favourite views out onto Kanimbla Valley. For the end process of working on a project, I prefer a more controlled environment – in my studio where I can pin things to my wall and have drawings on the go for a longer time.
10. What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
Copic Black pens, a technical pencil and a good scanner!
11. Favourite quote or personal mantra you live by?
‘Stay with your dream, and learn to play’ – John Olsen.
12. Who are your artistic heroes?
Margaret Flockton, Margaret Stones, Marianne North, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, John Wolsely , William Morris, Ngarra, John Olsen, Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee…!
13. What’s your ideal Sunday look like?
Pancakes and a bushwalk!
14. What are you working on at the moment?
I have just finished up a batch of client illustration work that has been paper/publishing based instead of textiles which has been a nice change of scene! I am about to head up to Kakadu for a few weeks holiday and look forward filling my eyes with unfamiliar plant life and waterhole swims before starting work on a piece for a group show in Melbourne called ‘Bloomin’ Beauty’.
15. Working with you has been an absolute pleasure! What do you look for when selecting a digital printer?
For me the proximity of T+ being in Sydney is great. I really value being able to come into your studio and be able to discuss colours/base fabrics and problem solve in person. It is equally as important for me to know that the printing and hemming production is done as locally as possible to cut out carbon miles and ensure that my scarves are being produced in a safe and ethical environment. And of course the quality! My illustrations are often quite fine and these details can easily be lost or blown out on a bad quality print – At T+ the crispness of printing and trueness to my original design is always spot on.
16. Do you have any last words of advice for new artists out there?
My good friend Claire Mcardle always says ‘You need to live to make art’ and I couldn’t agree more. If you are feeling a little creatively stumped, plan something exciting and worry about the rest later!