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a chinwag with textile artist raquel ormella

Hoarding generally isn’t considered a good thing – but without holding onto a whole bunch of thread over the years, Raquel Ormella’s latest art show simply wouldn’t exist. Bringing together a mass of old materials, I Hope You Get This (now showing at Shepparton Art Gallery) has a poignant meaning, relating to memory; it’s also pretty nice to squiz at. Scroll down to read our chinwag with Raquel and find out more about the Canberra-based artist’s life and artworks.

Snap by Andy Mullens

Where were you born and where do you live now? I was born on Darrawal country in Cronulla Sutherland. I grew on Darrug Country around Penrith, and I now live on Nunnagwal and Nambri land in Canberra.

How did you get started with your medium? I work across lots of different media: zines; installation; video; textile works. I started sewing when I was a small child, hand-sewing at around six, then machine from teenager. It was important to know how to sew so that you could mend and make your own clothes. I took that up as part of my working methods when I was at art school in the ’90s.

Please describe the space where you do most of your creation – whether it’s your art studio or kitchen bench! For a very long time I worked wherever – kitchen table, lounge room floor. I still have work that I do on public transport. But I’ve been really lucky the last three years to have great studios. I had a studio residency at Artspace Sydney recently. Their studios are really huge – it was amazing! And now I have a studio at ANCA in Canberra. ANCA is an artist non-profit organization that runs two studios complexes and a gallery in North Canberra. It’s great working in a place with lots of different makers – fashion, painters, glass artists.

Snap by Andy Mullens

Is there a running theme to the work you create, or do you just make whatever comes to mind? I have been making art for about 20 years. Now there’s a strong focus across my practice on nationalism and national identity, human interactions with birds and the environment, and feminist textile practice.

Tell us a bit about the works appearing in your exhibition I Hope You Get This. One of the new works is using up all of the embroidery thread I have from leftover and unfinished projects from when I was six years old, the threads I bought at art school and those I bought after a bad break-up. The work is hand-stitched small embroideries with open-ended text about memories and colour.

How has your style changed over time? I don’t think about ‘style’, more about approach. Each work might require a slightly different approach – where will it be seen? Gallery? Public space? Will the audience expect to see themselves reflected in the work? Am a talking to an audience who knows the background of the topic I am talking about? How much time do I have? These conditions affect my approach and what I will make.

What do you wish you knew about being an artist before you got started? That it would be hard, but that art would give me a lot of pleasure in the studio making, and that this making would be sustaining beyond what I could imagine, so I had nothing to fear or worry about – just to keep going.

What’s the coolest art tip you’ve ever received? So many tips, but the most important has been that you have to be your own rigorous critic. Shake it up, keeping asking yourself questions.

What budding artists do you love? I teach at the School of Art & Design ANU, so I get to see lots of emerging artists. People whose work I am excited about at the moment are Dean Cross, Cat Mueller, Jacob Potter, Ruby Hoppen and Mahal Hill.

What do you enjoy doing when not creating art? Birdwatching, walking in the bush, making quilts and reading – I can’t wait till my hands don’t have to be so busy and I can hold a book again.

Where can we see more of your work? My show I Hope You Get This opens in Shepparton in late May – if you’re in Melbourne that’s the closest place to see my work, so jump on a train! The show is touring regional centres with NETS Victoria, so you’ll be about to see it in many regional centres: Horsham, Launceston, Canberra, Penrith and Noosa. I’m also on Instagram @raquelormella.

Pop over this way to find out more about Raquel’s I Hope You Get This show at Shepparton Art Museum; entry is free.

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