I am a Textile Artist and passionate advocate of sustainable living based in Melbourne. I specialise in free machine embroidery, hand stitching and mending exploring my surroundings and interpreting what I see through the medium of embroidery.
My practice engages with the natural environment recreating the images and shapes in my embroidered works in both 2 and 3D form. My previous career as an environmental program leader has enabled me to bridge the gap between nature and art, and has encouraged me to create works to reconnect people with the environment. As an environmental advocate, my current work looks at slowing down and portraying my concerns around social issues including the environment, climate change and the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia. I find textiles to be a perfect medium for expressing my thoughts using both hand and machine stitching.
Working with found materials I find the joy is the unexpected uses that can be found for them. Loving this unpredictability and enjoying the inventiveness necessary to transform them. The materials not only highlight a need to address the amount of waste we produce, but also contributes to the story. In creating each item, I work with upholstery samples, dressmaking offcuts and/or clothing, usually linen or silk, which have been discarded, things with a history that might otherwise end up in landfill. Wherever possible, additional materials are 100 percent natural, produced sustainably and sourced locally. My work takes waste from landfill and creates individual pieces of art.
In creating my sculptural Textile Kintsugi pieces I use the principles of Kintsugi, a Japanese repair method, as a process to recreate discarded ceramics. Using reclaimed textiles, many hand-dyed, to wrap broken pieces and reassemble them with stitch, enhancing the breaks. As with Kintsugi I aim to celebrate the imperfections, recreating the ceramic to become more interesting for its irregularities giving the object a new lease of life that becomes more refined thanks to its ‘scars’.
I have been making, altering and mending my clothes since a teenager. I love to personalise my wardrobe through embellishment and visible mending. We all know that fast fashion is not sustainable so we need to love the clothes we already own and work harder to make them last. By mending our clothes we create a bond with them ensuring we wear them longer. I am happy to accept commissions to mend your favourites. Feel free to get in touch with me to discuss your individual piece.
I enjoy teaching various forms of mending and embroidery. It is a core part of my practice along with my work promoting and facilitating community arts projects and sustainable practices. I hold workshops in Melbourne and sometimes further afield. See my workshops page for the latest dates and locations.
I regularly work with Councils, Libraries and Corporate entities holding workshops.
In 2019 I founded Naarm Textile CollectiveI am the founder of the Naarm Textile Collective, a collective for Melbourne artists using textiles in their practice. I curated the group exhibition Stitching Change in 2020/2021 which was presented online and at FortyFiveDownstairs. In 2023 I am curating on our next exhibition Uncommon Threads.
In 2017 I facilitated the Moreland Quilt – a community engagement project to create a quilt representing City of Moreland resident’s cultural diversity, whilst recording the history of participants. To see the project go to the Moreland Quilt page.
I have been featured in Textile Fibre Forum, The Age, Art Hole, Fibre Arts and Machine Embroidery & Textile Art magazines. I was a finalist in International Art Textiles Biennale 2023, the Australian Textile Art Award and Toorak Sculpture Prize 2022 and the John Villiers Art Prize 2021, an invited artist to Curtain Springs residency in 2019 along with exhibiting in group and solo exhibitions.
I am a member of the Society of Embroidered Work (S.E.W.), Craft Victoria, Women’s Art Register, Victorian Embroiderers Guild and MAVA. I am the founder of the Naarm Textile Collective, a collective for Melbourne artists using textiles in their practice. I also curate Creatives and Makers a resource designed to promote, support and inform creatives living and/or working in Melbourne, Australia.
I am happy to accept commissions for my work. Feel free to get in touch. All items are handmade in Melbourne using sustainable methods, ethically sourced materials and designed to be kind to the earth.
Or if you are looking for handmade greeting cards, browse my collection at Puddleduck Cards.
To hear more about my work:
- Watch the artist talk from the International Art Textiles Biennale
- Watch my Fibre Arts Take Two interview
- Listen to my interview on Radio National’s Life Matters – Zero-waste fashion: how to upcycle your wardrobe
- and others on kaizntree.com/podcast and
- Arts Muster’s podcast series
- MAVA Blog post – Naarm Textile Collective
- Fibre Arts Take Two – Tamara Russell: Embroidering for Change
- Textile Fibre Forum #145 March 2022
- The Age – What to do when you’re stuck in a COVID-19 testing queue
- Art Hole Magazine: 6
- Authora Australis – Issue 2 ‘RED’
- Fibre Arts – E-Zine Vol.4
- Machine Embroidery & Textile Art – Vol 13 No 2
- Textile Beat – A meditative process –Tamara Russell
Why do I use upcycled, reclaimed or recycled fabric ?
I have been creating clothing and other textile pieces for over 40 years. Generally using reclaimed or recycled fabrics as I was taught by my mother to sew and create using what was at hand wherever possible.
I am passionate about ensuring that my lifestyle is as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. For over 20 years I worked for Government in the UK and Australia in the sustainability field. I worked in areas creating capacity building and educational programs to assist business and households lower their energy, water, waste and transport footprints. I continue to enjoy sharing my knowledge, skills and ideas with people through my workshops and practice.
The majority of my products are made incorporating upcycled or reclaimed materials. Wherever possible additional production materials are 100 percent natural, produced sustainably and sourced locally. Every year tons and tons of perfectly good fabric ends up in landfill. A huge amount of precious water and energy goes into growing and manufacturing fabric – so lets make sure we get the most out of it before it ends up in landfill!
Each time you purchase an item made from recycled fabric, rather than buying one made from new fabric, you reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save water, reduce pollution, decrease land clearing, and keep fabric out of landfill. So by ‘closing the loop’ through purchasing products made partially or wholly from reclaimed materials, we can ensure that the market for these materials remains strong and recycling schemes flourish.
Watch this video to see where some of your discarded clothes go – ‘This is the final resting place for your cast off clothing’
A simple cotton bag made from new fabric generates greenhouse gas emissions from the energy needed to grow and fertilise the cotton crop, to turn the raw product into fibre, the fibre into fabric. All this energy is saved when buying something made from recycled fabric.
Likewise by buying items made from recycled fabric rather than new you save considerable amounts of water. For example one cotton T-shirt requires 2000 -10000 litres of water to produce. For that cotton t-shirt, water is used during the agricultural and industrial stages of production: in farming the cotton, diluting the pesticides, diluting the fabric manufacturing waste products, bleaching and dying the fabric. Buying a product made from recycled fabric therefore saves 1000’s of litres of water.
Reduces negative social and environmental impacts
Buying products made from recycled fabric also reduces other negative social and environmental impacts. Manufacturing of fabric impacts negatively on people and the planet via toxic pollution (Every new cotton t-shirt requires about 1.5kg of pesticide and fertiliser chemicals to produce), dangerous working conditions for labourers, and loss of natural biodiversity as land is cleared and used to grow crops for fibre.