While there is no doubting Tara Badcock's skill with embroidery, it is perhaps her wit that sets her apart from her peers. She has applied it to cushions and bags, as well as tea cosies. While the Tasmanian textile artist grew up on a farm, she lived for some time in Paris, and has returned regularly over the years. Tara's connection with that country is in evidence through her work too.
How did you come to be making tea cosies? I grew up in a family environment where a pot of tea was always (and still is), on the go or about to be made. Growing up on a farm in Australia has, I think, the inevitable side-effect of instilling one with a very strong tea drinking habit. My favourite childhood memories of tea are when I helped in the shearing shed and the shearers would stop for billy tea my mother or grandmother would bring it out; and also the times we would visit Great Aunts in their old cottages, circa 1880, with a tea tray laid out with doilies and a tea cosy. After I finished university in Hobart, Tasmania, I joined a gang of fellow textile artists who were known as The Embroidery Gang. We would meet once a week and sit together with pots of tea and stitch our own projects and share news and information about textile cultures and plan exhibitions and workshops. It was a real turning point for me in terms of being with like-minded artists. The first tea cosy I made was in about 1996 and was an experiment in learning how to embroider. I started making tea cosies seriously when I was living in Paris two years ago. I found that while I was working on my textile artworks commissions for private clients, I would drink tea throughout the day as a comforting reminder of my home culture as much as for refreshment. I wanted to take the tea cosy out of the dusty kitchen cupboard and away from the fate of the op shop and give it a new lease of life.
What's been the highlight so far?Living and working in Paris for a few years with the opportunity to return on a regular basis. I've met so many wonderful people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds there. Also, seeing Giotto's paintings in Santa Croce in Florence three years ago was a very emotional and impressive experience ... I couldn't speak for two hours afterwards!
What inspires you? I seem to find inspiration wherever I am. I do find certain places and people particularly inspiring and I tend to seek the extraordinary within the "ordinary". I feel so fortunate to be a part of a greater Australian contemporary art and craft community where investigation and experimentation are actively embraced and challenged. The Australian art scene is so rich and exciting and to a large extent, uninhibited. Closer to home I find my parents very inspiring. They are both creative and my mother trained in painting and printmaking before finding her passion in freehand machine embroidery, while my father is a self-taught fine furniture designer-maker. My elder sister also works with textiles and my two younger sisters are a musician and a writer, so I've grown up in an art, craft and design environment. If I had to nail it down to five really inspiring things/people/places then it would be (current as of today!): 1) writer, Virginia Woolf. 2) fashion designer, John Galliano. 3) French textile artist & fashion designer, Manon Gignoux (http://www.manon-gignoux.com/), whose textile installations and clothes are sublime and sculptural. 4) the French capital, Paris. 5) friends, Peter Cooper and Karen Hall of Wychwood Nursery (http://www.wychwoodtasmania.com/), who have a wonderful knack for creating garden magic and usually have time for a cup of tea!
What's been your best decision? To follow my dreams and make the best of what life throws at me.
What would you do differently next time? I wouldn't be the person I am today if I hadn't made all the mistakes I've made and stuck with my own decisions even when I knew they were probably not the best decisions I could have made.
10 years ago, did you think you'd be where you are now? Definitely not. I am constantly surprised at where I find myself and what I'm doing. I always knew that I was only really interested in art at school and I must have always been looking for ways to be an artist and make it work as a lifelong career, though when I was younger I used to get very stressed about how to be an artist and that people had certain expectations of me that did not sit well with what I wanted for myself. It's amazing how many artists and creative people work in cafes! I did that for years, until I couldn't stand it anymore ... it was certainly the perfect environment in which to provoke me into action and honour my arts calling.
What's next? I'm going back to France in March 2008 to work on a couple of exhibitions and to follow up on some collaborations with artist friends I've made over the past six years. The fabulous thing about being in Europe, and especially being somewhere like Paris is that it's a central meeting place for people, especially creative people. I'm planning the next phase of The Teacosy* Revolution as a globally touring exhibition and working on a website, www.teacosyrevolution.info, which should be ready in February/March as well as fine-tuning the text and design for The Teacosy* Revolution Manifesto publication. In the meantime I try to update my blog, teacosyrevolutiontara.blogspot.com weekly with information and images.
photos courtesy of tara badcock and alan moyle