Retrospective of felt in Australia: Polly Stirling

Retrospective of felt in Australia: Polly Stirling

Artistic innovation on show.

Trail-blazing textile artist Polly Stirling traces the history of some extraordinary creativity and innovation in Australian felt-making in a new show opening at Newcastle’s Timeless Textiles Gallery in October.

Polly is a Nimbin-based artist who discovered felt-making 25 years ago and has been at the forefront of its growth and development as an artform in Australia. Her show, A Retrospective of Felt in Australia, displays works that demonstrate the explosion of techniques, forms and inventions that characterise her collaborative practice over the years.

“I don’t know what it is about felt – it’s such a mystery,” Polly muses. “A pile of wool transforms to become a fabric with no tools but soap.”

Coming from a sewing and weaving background, Polly found felt-making expanded her creative possibilities.

“In the 1990s, there was a terrific sense of freedom to invent both techniques and felted products,” she said. “We were uninhibited by tradition because hand-made felt was just emerging.”

‘Wild Turkey Feltmakers’ was the umbrella under which Polly and her friends experimented in her studio with the exciting potential of a new material. It was a fruitful time as the friends experiments yielded innovations in their chosen artform.

“We had an exceptional few years together – especially Sachiko Kotaka, Sylvia Watts and me – pooling ideas and talents. We played with wool fibre, seeing what it would and wouldn’t do and nuno felt was born during this time.” Nuno is a sheer, drapeable and lightweight woven fabric, perfect for the subtropical environment in which it was born. Polly and Sachiko named their new type of felt nuno, which means cloth in Japanese.

Polly has attempted to group the garments in her retrospective into different techniques – those made from yardage for those who like to sew, others laid out in a seamless shape by using a resist or pieces made using felt ties and without sewing at all.

“Felt’s metamorphosis provides seamless shape-making techniques for special garments, costumes, hats, accessories or even vessels – from small to very large,” she said. “What a wondrous capacity, transforming fluffy fibres into sturdy, unique forms.”

A Retrospective of Felt in Australia shows in Newcastle between 12 October 2016 and 6 November.  Opening night is 13 October 6-8pm.


12 Oct 2016 - 06 Nov 2016


All Day