Helen Smith Volunteer Tapestry Guide

My signature Zoneone Arts question – what are the most important design elements?

A number of design elements come together to make a real work of art. To name just some which are important to me – colour, harmony and balance.

Can you tell us about the value you have had from being a volunteer guide at both the NGV and ATW?

When I began as a Voluntary Guide at the N.G.V. in 1969 the Director, Eric Westbrook, told us he saw the Guides as a link between the collection and the public. With this in mind it has been a great pleasure to welcome people to the Gallery and show them some of the treasures in the wonderful collection in the N.G.V. This is equally true in guiding at the Australian Tapestry Workshop, that is, introducing visitors to the art of tapestry, especially the contemporary Australian tapestries woven here in Melbourne.

Tell us what we as the audience should do to help a guide make a tour extra special?

The audience can help to make a good tour by showing real interest and enthusiasm. This may be by asking questions and/or sharing views and ideas about works seen on the tour.

Can you explain the process that the ATW goes through to make a tapestry?

Making a tapestry:

This begins with receiving a commission and having a detailed discussion between client, artist and weavers. A firm quotation giving cost and completion date is supplied, and once the quotation is accepted, the weaving begins.

For further insight, one can access greater detail re the process of making a tapestry by going to the A.T.W. website and following the links. Or go straight to www.austapestry.com.au/faqs/the-process

What does success mean to you?

Success to me is when people say “I must come to the Gallery more often” (the N.G.V.), or at the A.T.W. “I’ll never look at a tapestry the same way again.”

What is your favourite tapestry and why?

Robert Ingpen AO, ‘Games Children Play’, Royal Childrens Hospital, 2009

It is hard to pick one favourite tapestry, as the A.T.W. has created so many wonderful ones (over 400) in collaboration with so many marvellous artists. However, I can say a particular favourite is ‘The games children play’ designed by Robert Ingpen AO, and made to hang in the new Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. It is such a cheerful, lively picture, full of colour, movement and energy.

Can you recommend books that you have helped you understand Australian Art so well?

There are a great many good books on Australian art and artists. To name just four, they are ‘Australian Painting’ by Bernard Smith, and ‘Dreamings, the Art of Aboriginal Australia’ edited by Peter Sutton, ‘Artist’s Tapestries’ by Sue Walker, and ‘Contemporary Australian Tapestries’, a publication of the Australian Tapestry Workshop, are last two are invaluable in learning about the work of the A.T.W.

Website: www.austapestry.com.au