Curiosity, a little luck and a whole lot of creativity ultimately propelled HARRIET GOODALL into the world of weaving and basketry. Today this nature lover is an acclaimed Australian sculptor and fibre artist who has been commissioned by clients all around the world. Those who have known ‘Hat’ from a young age will agree that she was destined to live a very creative and wholesome life. Here, Harriet opens up about her journey so far, design process and what truly makes her happy.
You grew up in Young and were schooled in Sydney. What happened thereafter and how did you move to the Southern Highlands?
I dived into my Communications degree straight out of school then worked for years in Sydney, London and Edinburgh in media, production and events for companies like Channel 4, MTV, Metropolis Recording Studios, The Edinburgh International Festival and finally The Sydney Olympics Ceremonies Production team so I got a great grounding in fast-paced business communications.
I met my now husband in late 2000 and we lived right on Bronte Beach in Sydney for two years where I retrained as an English language teacher for adults. After that, we travelled on a shoestring to some of the most remote places in the world collecting textiles along the way and when we returned home we started a small fair-trade business working with indigenous women in the Andes and Argentina selling their naturally dyed textiles all over Australia. We wanted to live out of town on a farm and the Southern Highlands is an easy day trip for meetings and markets in Sydney, Canberra and Wollongong. Also, my family are all within an hour.
How did you start out in weaving/basketry?
When I stopped working to have our first child, I was hungry for something creative to keep me busy and I went along to a free-form weaving class at Sturt Craft Centre in Mittagong – I just never stopped and it organically grew into a business with the support of some very good friends and a little well-timed magazine editorial.
Your creations are fascinating. Could you please describe your design process?
The process is the same if I am making a commission for a commercial or residential client or an interior designer – the design is collaborative. Usually, they approach me as they like work I have made in the past so we use that as a springboard to come up with something new. I ask the client to send me shots of the space or plans as a reference and talk with them about what they have envisaged.
I have an array of weaving techniques I can refer to and I use the basic design elements of material, line, shape, colour, dimension, transparency and texture to create a design which we agree on before I quote. If I am making a sculpture it is a little bit less pinned-down but I still work with reference images, dimensions and texture etc Every time I make something I embed myself deeper into the process and learn more about my materials.
What do you do/where do you go when you feel uninspired?
I’m busy and there’s so much I want to do still so I am nearly always feeling inspired. Art galleries and museums are an absolute treat and if I stumble on an inspiring exhibition there is no better buzz – particularly when travelling. I also go to nature for recharge and refocus. A lot of my materials need to be harvested so I have a good excuse to get out there.
How do you start your day?
Truthfully today I started with 40 minutes of laptop yoga in the garden under the tulip tree, near my beehives (yogaglo.com). It was so, so good – until the dogs came and jumped on me. It is my intention to be a little more ritualistic about that but in reality, we have family morning household chaos of lost socks and feeding poddy calves and finishing homework until I drop the kids off at school and I enjoy a reset when I get a coffee at Highlands Merchant across the road from my studio. Then I head in and turn on the heater and get going by 9am with whatever project I am working on. Every day is different.
What has been the biggest highlight in business?
Being paid to travel to remote communities and teach at stunning retreats: I have been invited to outback QLD, Katharine in the Northern Territory, The Great Barrier Reef, New Zealand, Bali, Poland, the USA three times. Next year I will teach at textile retreats at Bambu Indah – John Hardy’s amazing bamboo retreat in Bali and an eco-lodge in northern Vietnam. We will be weaving with minority tribes in both places.
Who would your dream collaboration be with?
Indigenous weavers all over the world. I have a special interest in working collaboratively with traditional artisans to contemporise their crafts and bring them to a wider audience.
Business success is…
sustainability: putting enough food on the table for my children and leaving them a world that is no worse than the one I have lived in. Also not having to go and get a ‘real job’. Ha!
If you were not a sculptor and fibre artist, what would you be doing?
Enjoying a salary! Unless I was farming alongside my husband.
Art galleries and museums are an absolute treat and if I stumble on an inspiring exhibition there is no better buzz – particularly when travelling. I also go to nature for recharge and refocus.
How would you describe the style/vibe of the Southern Highlands?
Green, creative, multi-layered and a little bit fancy.
What is your favourite thing about the Southern Highlands?
The rainforest escarpment – we can see the ocean from our farm and swim in a waterfall 5 mins from the house. The sense of community is strong and the schools are very special.
Besides your creative friends at Green Bridge Studios (Natalie Miller Design and Rabbit Trap Timber), which local designers/creatives do you admire and why?
There’s a clothing designer Zoe Georgiou who has a store at The Mill in Bowral with classic shirts, dresses and jumpers and she makes everything herself – literally – she even sews the jeans – it’s very possible the woman never sleeps!
What is your top style tip?
Be kind to yourself.
Where is on the top of your travel bucket list?
The Venice Biennale (but a weekend in Hobart at MONA might be the next best thing.)
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“Harriet Goodall – dream weaver” by Annette Cohen