By Penelope Green
March 7, 2016, 6 p.m. Newcastle Herald
FOR years, Anne Kempton was a career woman and mother who nurtured her love of textiles in fleeting moments.
A senior manager in public health and social justice for state governments, her only artistic outlet was teaching felting in primary schools.
Until 2009, when she accompanied Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo on a pilgrimage to the remote Himalayan cave where the teacher and buddhist spent 12 years alone.
“During the trip I thought about what I really wanted to do, and that was to open a fibre art gallery,” says Mrs Kempton, whose first memory of fibre is as a child, sitting at the knee of her mother and grandmother as they sewed or darned.
Back home she did extensive research of the viability of her dream before opening Timeless Textiles - which she says is the only dedicated fibre art gallery in the country – in Islington in 2011. [In 2014 it moved to Hunter Street, beside the Lock-Up.]
“It did feel like jumping off a cliff but I was fearless, not reckless,” she recalls.
Appreciation of fibre art – ‘fibre’ being anything that is flexible, from barbed wire that is woven to reeds that are knitted – is growing through social media, exhibitions and word of mouth.
Fans travel from afar to see Timeless Textiles’ high-end monthly exhibitions by local, national and international artists. At present, Hunter-based Japanese fibre artist Rieteka Geursen’s whimsical and delicate portraits, using Japanese Tengoshi paper, fabric and thread on Chinese scroll paper, grace the walls.
Beyond exhibitions, the gallery runs regular workshops, some free of charge, in pursuits including feltmaking and machine embroidery, and has a gallery shop with artist works on sale.
“All of these things give people the opportunity to be around fibre art and to play with it and the underlying philosophy of what I’m doing is that I think we can find ourselves through creativity,” says Mrs Kempton.
“It is a pun but we stitch ourselves together again, particularly as women, because we lose our 20-year-old selves through child-raising and running families, it gives us less opportunity to play.”
In December, Mrs Kempton will curate Holding, an exhibition featuring 25 Australian and global textile artists at the Newcastle Art Gallery, an event that’s all about extending the audience of fibre art.
“I’ve been open for five years and the fact international artists show here is testament that there is a growing appreciation of fibre art,” she says.
Textiles art touches people in different ways.
“It connects with both men and women, it speaks to something, sometimes sentimentality, sometimes nostalgia.”