It’s the kind of view that wastes hours. Your eyes skim the treetops and trace an uninterrupted expanse of the Derwent River. In summer, you can sit and watch the Sydney to Hobart yachts battle it out on the home stretch, whilst the winter weather fronts will mesmerise you as they creep in and threaten the city beyond. With hardly a sign of civilisation in sight, it’s the ultimate inspiration for local textile artist Maryann Collidge.
“We’ve been here for almost 30 years now,” explains Maryann, gazing out towards the spectacular panorama she enjoys daily. “The house has evolved over that time too and we’ve built on gradually as the family has grown. You do tend to take it for granted sometimes, but then all of a sudden you’ll notice the most stunning light pouring through the clouds onto the river below and it reminds you just how special it is. I don’t think we could ever move.”
A born and bred Tasmanian with a love of the coast, Maryann recalls long summers at the family’s beach house making clay pots and collecting shells. “We had a little shack down at Dodges Ferry and I used to make things out of the ochre that’s found there. I’d also create characters out of the shells…little things that young girls do to while away the time after a day’s beach fossicking.”
“My grandmother also taught me to knit and crochet,” she continues. “All my grandparents were practical and resourceful. They carved their living with their hands and made the most of the land. I had an apple orchard on one side of the family and a dairy farm on the other. I guess I’m a product of that history and I feel a connection to that same lifestyle.”
Maryann left school as soon as she could, found herself a job, and saved to travel. Backpacking throughout Europe, she lived and worked in various countries for nearly three years whilst learning a whole range of skills for both work and fun. “I am a self-confessed jack of all trades and master of none,” says Maryann laughing.
After returning to Hobart and subsequently marrying and having her two children, Maryann’s creative outlets were reigned in as life with a busy young family took over. “I just dabbled while the kids were young, as most of my energy was diverted to them. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. But I’ve done all sorts of adult ed courses over the years…pottery, ceramics, mosaics, carvings…you name it. I enjoyed them all, but nothing really captured my heart.”
Maryann’s eyes light up as she recalls how her initial interest in weaving was sparked. “A work colleague got me into Instagram a few years back and shortly after I came across a very talented weaver based in New York. I started following her and remember feeling very excited when she announced she was coming to Australia, and most importantly for me…to Hobart.”
Booking into that first class, her fate was all but sealed. “I was taken with it straight away,” smiles Maryann. “It was like a spark had ignited. I did the morning class and then stayed for the afternoon class as well, all the while validating that inside my head. I was just so excited. I loved the outlet it provided and how there was no set pattern to follow. You could create your own style and do it at your own pace.”
The story continues, “After that initial class, I played around for a while to find my own style. I guess because I go to the beach a lot and am always collecting driftwood and shells, it was probably inevitable that they came into play and became a feature of my weaving.”
Maryann’s beautiful textural pieces each tell their own story. Her art captures the very essence of wild Tasmania with calming tones echoing the temperaments of the local environment. A coastal vibe is clear in many, with moody blues, dulcet greys, foamy creams and ochre browns encapsulating everchanging coastal hues. Patterns in the wools often echo the shape of the shoreline or gentle rolling waves, and the addition of local shells, twine and driftwood create an earthy, bohemian vibe.
Other works celebrate the green tones of the surrounding eucalypt forests and the autumn shades of the local rocky bushland. The selection of colours is divine and the combination of textures make for artworks that one can gaze at for hours. Tasmanian wools and Australian cottons are clear features, albeit in all manner of intriguing forms.
Whilst now known for her stunning textural wall hangings, wall scarves and cushions, Maryann remains completely humble in terms of her talent. “I’ve always made things for other people – they’ve received them whether we’ve wanted them or not,” she laughs quietly. “But now to be making things that people actually want to buy is quite amazing.”
“Instagram is a medium that has really helped with my confidence,” she continues. “I’m not one of those people that needs to show everyone what I’m doing. I’m more introverted than a lot of people, but the online feedback has really helped me to validate my work.” Grinning, Maryann says, “I remember my first ever online sale. It happened to occur on my birthday and I thought it was just the best present I could ever have received.”
Sending her work across Australia, and across the world, Maryann marvels, “People contact me and ask for commissions. I am still amazed by that. I have wall hangings that I’ve sent off to the most remote places and I find that really interesting.” She continues, “It’s a privilege to create for others, and I send pictures during my process as I always worry about the buyer. They have sent me a deposit and have trusted in me that I will deliver, so I want to ensure they are happy with my work.”
Working under the name Fossil Cove Weaving was an easy decision. With her own verandah perched high above this special little cove on the banks of the Derwent, Maryann often wanders down the bush track at the end of her property and through to the hidden gem that awaits below. “Fossil Cove is flanked by a rock archway on one side and a fascinating fossil filled platform on the other. It’s great to explore at low tide.”
It’s a location that’s clearly a key source of inspiration for this talented local artist. “I work a lot right here overlooking this view, but also from our shack on the Tasman Peninsula too,” explains Maryann. “I love being by the coast and beachcombing is absolute heaven for me. The journey between home and the shack usually involves a couple of hours wandering the shores. Marion Bay is another favourite spot of mine. You never know what you might find there.”
Speaking of the creative process, Maryann says, “Sometimes I make things that I’m not overly excited about. But to me it’s not a waste of time as I think of it as part of the learning process. If they don’t sell, I can just pull them apart and reuse the materials to create something else. I have baskets and baskets of wool in storage and just really enjoy the whole creative process itself.”
“Sometimes the ideas in my head aren’t in alignment with my practical capabilities,” she laughs. “I find the process is different for every piece too. Sometimes I start, stop and then ponder a bit. Sometimes I have a really clear idea about what I want to achieve, other times it tends to evolve as I go. It just depends…there’s not really a right or wrong way to go about it. Sometimes I sketch a design and then follow it, other times I can go in a completely different direction. A sketch can provide a framework, but ultimately it’s not often where I end up.”
“If you make things and are true to yourself, I think you’ll find others that will also love your style. I think you really have to create from the heart.”
Maryann’s creations come to life on a number of different sized looms. “I also weave them upside down, which means I am weaving the top of the finished weave first,” she explains. “I just find it gives me more scope as to how the design can evolve and how I can finish them off, and I think it’s also a reflection of how my brain works,” she smiles.
Maryann mentions a newfound interest in spinning. “Right now, I’m really thinking about the materials that I want to use. I try and use Tasmanian wool wherever I can and recently I’ve started to learn to spin. A friend has a few sheep and gave me some fleeces. I spent days washing them and just playing and learning.” She motions to a spinning wheel tucked in the corner, “I’ve got a second hand spinning wheel and am learning on that. Recently, I gave that same friend a scarf I’d made and it was pretty amazing to think that between the two of us we had reared the sheep, sheared it, spun the wool and knitted a garment…we had the whole process covered.”
“What I hope to do now is use up all the scraps from my weaving and spin it to make more yarn. I love the character that this creates and it means I can operate with no wastage. Slow craft is enjoying a massive boom at the moment and that’s pretty exciting. I’m also finding that weaving creeps into my travel plans. It tends to take me to places that I wouldn’t otherwise have gone, as I’m now seeking out local wool.”
“Platforms like Instagram and Etsy have changed the game for people with craft ideas and some have made it into a really big business,” says Maryann. “But my view is that I just want to enjoy the process. I find it therapeutic…and for me it’s not about mass production, it’s just about the process itself. When life throws you curve balls I find solace in my craft and, interestingly enough, in the meditative process of my spinning wheel in particular. I think a lot of other creatives probably find the same thing as well.”
“One day I’d like to try some clothing, perhaps a vest or jacket. Things are just evolving really and I am on this journey at my own pace. It will be interesting to see where weaving takes me.”