Inside Prue Noonan’s Textile Workroom
Although Prue Noonan thinks creatively in different areas in her home, all her textile works are created in her customised workroom. We visit her at home in Sydney to explore this productive space.
By Erica Spinks
Prue Noonan often has multiple textile pieces in progress, so she benefits from having a transformed bedroom that she uses as a workroom. “The room did have a bed but it just got in the way so, one day I put the bed in the hallway and announced that the room had another purpose,” she says. That bed eventually ended up stored in the garage, a sign that it wasn’t needed in the house after all!
Add a twist to the traditional Spool Block quilt with this quilt pattern from Jemima Flendt
Two north-facing windows flood Prue’s studio with natural light, and her workroom facilitates many happy hours of creativity. “I find my kitchen and my workroom are the most relaxing rooms in the house,” she adds.
Prue credits her mother for introducing her to the world of textiles and the development of her passion. “My mother was a beautiful hand and machine sewer and knitter. She used a basic Singer sewing machine but what she produced on that machine was incredible,” Prue recalls. This included clothing for her family as well as tiny clothing for dolls. After Prue showed interest in emulating her mother’s skills, instruction was forthcoming.
During her school years, Prue learnt a range of sewing and art skills through formal lessons. “One of my clearest memories was making pyjamas in pink voile,” she says. “They were all hand-sewn and had French seams down each side, a slip-stitched hem and a collar with decorative running stitch wide enough to thread a pink satin ribbon to tie over the shoulders.” Prue wore these for many years and they may have inspired her later lingerie collections, which she sold through markets at various venues in Sydney. “This was fun, but no money-earner,” she reveals.
Katrina Hadjimichael’s Jelly Friends quilt will help you use up your precut fabrics in no time.
It wasn’t until another 15 years had passed that Prue again pursued her love of textiles. “By then I had a lot more time and freedom to do so,” she says. “I took a beginners’ class in quilting at a local patchwork shop and I was hooked.” She recalls that her first visit to the Sydney Quilt Show opened her eyes to the extensive world of working with fabric. “I had no idea that there were so many creative aspects to the use of textiles,” she says. “It was then that I quickly moved from quilting to textile art.”
Using textiles to express her ideas was the perfect medium for Prue. “I have always loved drawing and design so using textiles was just what I was looking for,” she explains. For the past 11 years, this form of expression has provided Prue with an outlet to combine her love of design with sewing.
She always has many projects in progress. “Some pieces are well developed and some are just play pieces that may, one day, take shape and be finished,” she says. This process is a necessary part of developing her ideas and exploring how she can express her designs in the textile format.
Challenges also stimulate Prue’s creativity and she observes that working to a deadline is a good motivator. She has entered the QuiltNSW suitcase challenges for several years and has taken part in bimonthly challenges organised by members of Textiles Across the Tasman (TAT), a group of textile artists from Australia and New Zealand. “I’m still discovering my particular style and presently enjoy playing with different textile media and techniques,” she says. “The sky is the limit as far as what I will try. This is what I love about textile art — there are no boundaries. All techniques and styles are valid and have their place.”
For her entry in the A Matter of Time exhibition, Prue incorporated appliqué, pencil colouring and machine quilting techniques on commercial batik and cotton fabrics to create SpaceTime. By playing with watercolour pencils, she created three-dimensional squares and placed them on a black background to enhance the illusion of depth and allow them to ‘pop’ off the background. SpaceTime was selected to travel in this exhibition.
Create a quilt with different precut fabrics!
Prue confides that finding time to develop her textile work is challenging. She works with her partner in his business and shares care for her elderly parents. When combined with tending her home and spending time with her six grandchildren, Prue finds most of her creative thinking is done while she is in the garden or cooking. “Ideas often come to me in the early morning hours. I can wake with creative ideas bouncing around or, if there is some difficulty with a piece of work, I find myself thinking of a solution or varying ways of solving the problem. Sometime I see the solution with amazing clarity,” she says. “I have, for many years, wanted to make a particular piece. Until now, I didn’t feel I had the skills or knowledge to attempt the work but now I’m ready to start. Watch this space!”
However, putting in the hours on projects is essential to completing textile pieces. “Actual hours spent working on projects come in bursts,” she says. It varies — Prue may spend a whole Saturday or Sunday working on a piece or sometimes she makes time in the early morning before work or in the evening after work. “If I have a project in progress, I will be thinking about the piece constantly. I guess I’m not the only one this happens to.”
Prue’s workroom allows her to give free reign to take her textile designs in any direction she chooses. Although she enjoys her existing workroom with its bush views, Prue often dreams of working in a purpose-built studio. Ideally, it would be larger than her existing space, with room for a stand-alone work table and a whiteboard to record her ideas. She’d also like it to have “… a huge creative wall to hang materials and bits and bobs that may or may not be used for a project and, of course, hang work in progress.” This would serve as an inspiration wall with plenty of space for her ongoing creative endeavours.
Prue may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Erica Spinks’ website creativedabbling.blogspot.com.au