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Deborah O'Toole


With a background in performing arts, I have always been drawn to the glam and sparkle of theatrical costumes and haute couture. My late Nan’s stash of luxe vintage clothes, fabrics and haberdashery has been a long standing source of inspiration to me and even today, I am routinely distracted in vintage shops and homeware stores by especially luxurious or tactile fabrics. I’m a self-confessed hoarder of clothes which simply can’t be thrown away because “the fabric is so lovely” and, I have had plans to create artwork from some of those pieces since I was a teenager.

While studying a Diploma of Art, Studio Textiles and Design at RMIT, I re-discovered my passion for creating textile art using re-cycled fabric and began to develop some of the ideas I use today. In my more recent work I use fabrics which I have coloured using natural dyes. This involves wrapping fabric into bundles along with leaves, flowers and other organic material, often incorporating a rusty metal object. The bundles are then simmered in a plant based dye-bath and allowed to develop for as long as I can handle the suspense! This technique creates random and interesting earthy colours and patterns which work particularly beautifully against the lustre of silks.

I employ a range of traditional craft techniques such as quilting, embroidery, beading and crochet, manipulating them to a more contemporary aesthetic. I love working freely, allowing the design to develop organically.

I embrace frayed edges, exposed batting, loose threads and random sprinklings of bling!

I imagine the finished piece to be akin to a princess who arrives home from the ball after a big night of fun and dancing; still wearing her silk gown and jewels, but disheveled and a little frayed around the edges!

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