Braidwood artisans exhibit at bragSTUDIOmarkets

PLAYING WITH FIRE: Lampwork is like zen for glassmaker Kerry Mitchell.
PLAYING WITH FIRE: Lampwork is like zen for glassmaker Kerry Mitchell.

Some of the region's talented artisans exhibited and sold their creations at the Braidwood Regional Arts Group's quarterly Studio Market on Saturday.

"Braidwood has become a hub for people who wanted to find somewhere in a beautiful setting to pursue their art," BRAG president Maggie Hickey said.

Saturday's craftswomen included painters, jewellers, quilters, glassmakers, embroiderers, potters, and weavers. They rent a space for the day where they sell their work, Maggie explained.

Maggie's own craft is rug making; on retirement, she studied visual arts in Adelaide. She specialised in glassmaking, but more recently has worked with textiles.


Kerry Mitchell finds lampwork glassmaking very zen. "My husband calls me Zoom-zoom, because I only have two speeds: flat out and flat out," she said. "This slows me down; it makes me stop; I just have to concentrate. It's almost like meditation for me."

Wearing sodium flare glasses, Kerry melts glass over her torch, winds it onto her steel mandrel, and decorates the bead with fine threads of heated glass. "It's like drawing with a stick of warm honey or toffee, so you make a lot of mistakes! I have an oopsie jar," she admits.

Kerry, a former teacher, has worked with glass for 18 years. "I saw my first piece of Australian made lampwork, and I fell in love; it was just so beautiful, and a cut above anything you could bring in from China or India."

A torch delivered this week will let Kerry sculpt Australian landscape scenes with native animals in glass.

Nearby, Lois McKenzie sells her sewn garden mushrooms and free form machine embroidery. Jeweller Lynette Black works in gems and stones. Most of the time, she works in gold and platinum, but in silver for the markets, because it sells more easily.

Sheelagh Noonan strings Burmese baroque pearls onto silk, sterling silver, or gold, and mixes them with vintage coral old garnet, or lapis variations.

A retired librarian, Sheelagh volunteered in Myanmar reorganising a village library. There, she became friendly with a collective of women revitalising the country's pearl industry, and bought some of the pearls they were selling on the fisherman's line. Australian friends liked the pearls, so Sheelagh returned to Burma several times to bring back pearls.

"And so now we have this arrangement," Sheelagh said. "I think it's a win-win. We're helping women in Burma, and also providing designs that people like here in Australia."

Sheelagh also exhibits at her shop, trading as Noonan's Pearls & Gems.

Jenni (Jenwren Creations) makes eco-friendly bags using jute and fabric, while Pippa Hall-Johnston crochets from recycled yarns. Weaver Julie Baker loves textured work: trees, dragons, and discs. "Something took my inspiration, I thought I can do that, went home, and worked it out for myself," Julie said.

Cathy Hutton from Goulburn sells vintage button jewellery made from recycled buttons: an Australiana range with native animals and flora, and a Sixties look with a psychedelic daisy à la Twiggy. For every necklace sold, Cathy donates $5 to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital: "a tribute to our wildlife which is under threat".

Merilyn Rice is an artist in oils, acrylics, watercolor, mixed media and pastels. "It's all I've ever done: art teaching and my art practice," she said. She arrived in Braidwood 14 months ago to be near her daughter, picture framer Bec Hamilton. Merilyn, a National Art School graduate, teaches two classes a week, including ongoing classes on a Thursday.

Kate Carruthers and her husband have their potting studio in their back garden, handthrowing their wares on the wheel. They plan to open the studios to the public once a season; they also sell at markets.

Kate has been a potter for 25 years. The couple lived in her native Scotland, then moved to Braidwood a decade ago when her Wollongong-born husband tired of the rain. Travelling around NSW looking for somewhere to settle, they were attracted to Braidwood's arty vibe.

The Braidwood Regional Arts Group has 130 members; next month, they expected to hold their annual Members' Exhibition, but this has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

BRAG will also hold its first textiles exhibition in the winter months, while the whole community can contribute to Art on Fire, a response to last year's fires.