Interview with Australian Textile Artist Caroline Sharkey

This is an exclusive collaboration between Rural Room Media Stringer Helen Carpenter and Australian Textile Artist Caroline Sharkey.

Photographs: Supplied and Used with Permission of Caroline Sharkey

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Here at Rural Room we love anything and everything creative so naturally we love textile artists! We were very fortunate to be treated to an intimate interview with Australian Textile artist Caroline Sharkey. Caroline recently sat down with Helen Carpenter, to discuss her journey in textiles and her latest collaboration with her daughter in law Mel, “The Digital Cloth”, a new e-magazine showcasing the best of textiles and textile artists from across Australia and around the world.

From traditional patchwork and quilting to artistic creative art quilts, Caroline’s journey with textiles has been one of challenging creative outcomes. Caroline’s art quilts capture stories of Australian Culture, history and the environment through multimedia textiles, stitching and various techniques.

H: Caroline can you please tell us a little bit about yourself.
C: I’ve been a creator all my life and a practicing artist in business for 25 years.  I’ve had some amazing opportunities and they’ve taken me to many places. I exhibit and sell my artwork, I travel and teach in Australia and abroad, and I now run my own Textile Art based events. My husband and family support me unconditionally, and I also have a small circle of friends that I’m so lucky to have working with me as my team. They are my confidents and have my back when I’m at work.

H: How did you start on your textile journey, why fabric and thread, why not paper and paint?
C: Because I grew up around sewers! Both my grandmothers had sewing machines and my grandma Kennedy taught me to create from an early age. From age six I could crochet and stitch patches together by hand. As I got older Mum let me use her Singer sewing machine she got for her 21st birthday so I could make dolls clothes and bits and pieces. I was creating with fabric and thread from as far as I can remember. I also did do folk art, painting, pottery and played in other mediums but fabric and thread were always there. Colour, texture and pattern really drive my creative passion and fabric, fibre and threads really fulfill me. I paint and collage as well but sewing down a surface is my first passion, it allows me to depict the themes I love in landscape, fauna and the sea.

H: What made you move from traditional quilting to art quilts?

C: Honestly, I was never any good at traditional patchwork and quilting. After doing a four-year fashion certificate I just wanted to be creative my way, without following rules, subsequently none of my points lined up and blocks didn’t look very good! So I moved on very quickly to free form sewing and back to my freedom of creating. I’ve watched the Textile Quilting Art movement become more accepted here and I’m very excited where that is going, we follow overseas trends a lot so acceptance finally filtered through thankfully! 

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H: What’s your favorite technique and how did you discover it?
C: I adore making fabric surfaces that are unique! I love taking fabric colours, textures and patterns and turning them into something really dynamicc. I started playing with products like water soluble fabrics and stabilizers that helped me achieve outcomes that I wanted reflected in my work. This is my passion, it’s what drives my business my freedom to create!

H: How do you pick the theme, design your quilts and choose which fabric and threads to use? Is the process an organic process or do you fully plan the design at the outset?
C: I started out just using what I had and creating what I could using what was available.
I began to get more specific and create work that I could sell as I wanted to continue my obsession with sewing in a financially sustainable manner. I started to get invited to state shows to demonstrate and exhibit and I also started the Art/Craft person in residence at Ayers Rock Resort at Uluru, which I did for 17 years. I now host Textile Art Retreats at Ayers Rock Resort every two years and love taking these tours to showcase sewing in this amazing, inspirational place.

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Caroline’s latest project is a collaboration with her daughter-in-law Mel. The project is an e-magazine, “The Digital Cloth”. The first issue will published on the first of June  and is available here .

H: What made you decide to publish an e-magazine highlighting textiles and art quilts?

C: I’ve been watching influencers in other industries and wanted to do something in my business that gives me an opportunity to do more online, as I want to coordinate online workshops and interviews with industry leaders. I wanted to bring it all under one roof so to speak. This exciting venture also give me the opportunity to collaborate with the very talented Mel and to share the stories of my peers and share what’s going on. It’s a lot of fun and let’s me connect with people from all over the world.  Mel designs the e-magazine and I’m the collector and connector for most of the content. It’s a great collaboration as we go through the process of bringing different styles and experiences together and we’re anchored in the common love of sharing our passion for art textiles and business.

H: What areas of textiles will The Digital Cloth e-magazine focus on?
C: Anything that crosses over from textiles to interiors to art, including what artists are playing with or experimenting with in their practices. I’m open to highlighting a diverse range of creators that are connected by a shared love of textiles. I even feature a collaboration with my son, Luke Sharkey a chef and contributor for The Art of Food regular section included in each edition. We hope to cross over into other industries as much as we can to enhance the relevance and appeal of our magazine.

H: How often will you publish The Digital Cloth?

C: At the moment we’re testing the waters with our launch on the first of June. We’ve got two more editions planned so we’re hoping it’s received well. I don’t want to lock people into a subscription membership at this point as I want people to genuinely want to invest in every issue when we start. I want the magazine to stand on its own merit and I think it’s incredibly important to work as hard as we can to make each issue appealing and the best we can. Mel and I are up for the challenge! We’re really excited about it and its future!

You can follow Caroline’s and Mel journey with their new e-magazine, The Digital Cloth, by subscribing to textileretreats.com.au.  

Caroline also has a range of quilts and workshops available here.

Caroline is also on Facebook  and Instagram

Find The Digital Cloth on Instagram and Mel on Instragram

Caroline has made available to our readers a free online workshop, please see below!

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