Stitching and Beyond Inc.

exploring textile boundaries

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Member Feature: Karen Stack

The above image shows a section of Karen’s ‘Kingston Beach’ wall hanging created for the ‘The amazing world of insects in our neighbourhood ‘ exhibition, held 5 to 8 Nov 2021 Kingborough Hub. Find out more about Karen’s textile practice below.

When and why did you join Stitching and Beyond?

I joined Stitching and Beyond in 2019.

What is your background to becoming a textile and fibre artist?

I have always sewn since I was little, starting with embroidery kits given to me as a child by my grandmother, making clothes for my dolls, learning to use a treadle sewing machine at about 10 years old and then making clothes for myself and other people in the family. We didn’t have much money and making something was better than all the hand me downs I was given.

I have always enjoyed knitting, crocheting and sewing, doing cross stitching and other embroidery in my spare-time.  They were my way of relaxing from my work as a scientist and researcher.

While my children were at primary school, I was involved with the school P&F and became involved each year with making things for the school fairs. Here I met some very talented ladies who have inspired and encouraged me and introduced me to lots of new techniques to explore.

Tell us about your work including your inspiration, techniques, materials and what you are currently working on.

In 2014 I joined three other very creative friends (Deb Vogel, Helen Creese and Mardi Hargreaves) to form Funktionart, a cooperative with a passion to recycle and repurpose old and unwanted material into creative and useful pieces. This is when I started making bags from scraps and old clothes for presents for friends and various market stalls. In 2017 I joined Peppercorn Artist Gallery in Richmond as a member artist and continue to make bags from old clothes and material to sell in the Gallery. I enjoy the creativity in taking material and piecing it together and incorporating embroidery, sashiko stitching, free motion quilting, old buttons and yarn as well as old shoelaces and lace to create a unique piece of fabric art that someone can wear and use.

My inspiration often comes from the textures, patterns and colours of the fabric I work with. I love Japanese fabric and prints and my most favourite place to explore is Wafu Works at Kingston Beach and the scraps bin.

Since retiring from my university research and teaching positions in 2019, I have more time to spend on my hobbies. In 2020 I joined a friend, Bronilyn Smith, who is passionate about insects, to put on an exhibition, ‘The fascinating world of insects’, at Macquarie Point in which I displayed several wall hangings I created. In 2021 we held another exhibition, ‘The amazing world of insects in our neighbourhood’, at the Kingborough Hub and I again made more pieces. During this time many of my bags have also incorporated butterflies or dragonflies.

I am passionate about protecting our environment, reducing waste including the amount of material sent to landfill. We live in a beautiful state and are so very lucky with what we have but we have a duty to care for it and protect it for future generations.

Where do you create your work?

I create my work in a room that used to be my sons’ bedroom. My four sons have all grown up and three of them have now left home and so I took the opportunity to create a space for myself instead of using the kitchen table and pulling the sewing machine out and putting it all away each time we needed the table. It is so nice to have a space where I can just leave it set up and come and go as I please. It does get messy, but it is creative mess.

Has membership of Stitching and Beyond had an influence on your practice?  How?

Stitching and Beyond has been wonderful in helping to inspire me and also gain new skills. Through the various workshops I have learnt new techniques that I am now using in creating my pieces. It is wonderful going to the monthly meetings and seeing and hearing what others are doing. Everyone is so encouraging. The Out of Hand exhibitions provide an excellent incentive to get on and create something that can be entered as well as a fantastic opportunity to display works with others. It is always a wonderful exhibition, so inspiring and so diverse.   

Karen in front of her “Beetles” wall hanging at the ‘The amazing world of insects in our neighbourhood ‘ exhibition, held 5 to 8 Nov 2021 Kingborough Hub
 Bags and wall hangings at Channel History Museum exhibition, December 2021.
Section of ‘Kingston Beach’ wall hanging created for the ‘The amazing world of insects in our neighbourhood ‘ exhibition, held 5 to 8 Nov 2021 Kingborough Hub.