DRAB winter colours in Hamilton have given way to a vibrant collection of artwork as the city gears up for its annual celebration of wool.
Bright life-size sheep have formed a flock at the art gallery, parking meters and trees lining the main street have been yarn-bombed and shop displays depict the characters in the children’s book Where is the Green Sheep?
“It looks amazing,” artist Jacinta Wareham said yesterday. “I’ve got a whole lot of happy people here saying that Hamilton looks so vibrant and colourful.”
The community arts project is part of the inaugural Woolly Wool Fest being held in the lead-up to Sheepvention from August 3 to 5.
Ms Wareham devised the event with author Naomi Turner, combining art and children’s literature to inspire Hamilton and its surrounding communities.
Eight small towns were charged with the task of creating a different coloured sheep for display during the week.
Using techniques and materials including felt, pom poms, latch-hook, curls, stitches, spinning, crocheting, weaving, knitting, plaiting and tufting, they took up the challenge.
The amazing result is thanks to the combined efforts of more than 300 people from schools, community groups, pubs, shops, senior citizen’s centres, families, kindergartens and health centres.
People are now being invited to vote for their favourite creation and the winner will be announced on the final day at Sheepvention.
Gray Street was also yarn-bombed during the weekend, with a team of knitters and crocheters installing works on 96 parking meters and about 30 trees.
Meet the sheep
As described by the Woolly Wool Fest
Cavendish Sheep - Caverino
Team coordinator: Karen Watt
Caverino spent time at the Bridge Café in Cavendish once every two weeks while members of the community came in to try their hand at latch-hooking his lush green coat.
Karen Watt, as president of the Hamilton Wool and Craft Guild, was a seasoned wool-crafter, but latch-hook was a new learning experience for her.
She started with the wool. Some was donated by local families, some of it unravelled from half-knitted jumpers, some made from the Bagabo wool that was processed at the old Hamilton Big Wool Bales.
Next came the colour. To get the right mix of colours, both the commercially spun and hand-spun wool were dyed in selected shades of green.
A pattern was then created with a paisley motif, and cut it into sections.
She then cut latch-hook canvas into matching sections, and cut the wool to length so that it would be ready to be bundled into kits for people to take home.
As it happened, Karen was not the only one new to latch-hook, and Day One was devoted to a basic beginners lesson in the technique.
Cavendish children were also invited to contribute, with the school running a competition to name him and the kinder kids painting his face and legs.
Dunkeld Sheep - Mrs Bee-Bee
Team coordinator: Cee Blackwell
The town welcome signs may have indicated that Dunkeld was the Home of the Blue Sheep, but sightings of Mrs Bee-Bee were as rare and uncorroborated as that of the famed Grampians black panther.
But all the while, Mrs Bee-Bee was quietly preparing for her big moment on the Woolly West Fest stage, while a band of dedicated and highly proficient wool-artisans put it into practice every Mrs Bee-Bee’s wool was dyed in about five or six different batches resulting in many subtle tones of blue.
Cee’s team also felted, spun, crocheted, weaved, knitted, and plaited to their hearts content. The children from Dunkeld Consolidated Primary School were invited to make pom poms to contribute to ‘the do’ and a very fine job they did.
Fortunately Mrs Bee-Bee had a number of more gregarious relatives, with Uncle Bee-Bee and Mr Bee-Bee becoming prominent fixtures in the town.
Others in Dunkeld have been inspired to create their own woolly masterpieces, with some eateries even providing needles and wool to keep patrons creative and busy.
Her name is short for Mrs Baaa-Berry – a grand woolly blueberry, surrounded by her beloved garden of flowers.
Penshurst Sheep - Rouse
Team coordinator: Stella Boots
Penshurst publican and mum to school-aged children, Stella Boots came to the project through her passion for children’s literacy.
Possibly the most egalitarian of the projects, Stella had the winning combination of pub + pom poms.
Pom poms were chosen as an easy and portable form, and one that anyone could learn to do and contribute to. A variety of different sizes of pom pom with varying shades red were employed to give Rouse texture and ‘fuff’.
Despite a number of contributors having not been near a pom pom since childhood, techniques were quickly adopted and perfected – including a very impressive 16-strand system.
Rouse remained shedded at the Penshurst Pub, with a few productive day trips to the Penshurst Primary School and St Joseph’s Primary School, Penshurst Kinder for Grandparents Day, Kolor Lodge, and even for a bit of clickety-click 66 at the local Bingo.
Stella encouraged all pub patrons to try their hand at a pom pom, and thus managed the seriously commendable feat of having blokes at the bar drinking beer and winding red wool around cardboard discs.
Many school families also got to work while dining at the pub.
Rouse is a one-of-a-kind Red Suffolk, which gives him his signature black face. This one was knitted by ‘Granny Annie’ using a giant sock technique.
Tarrington Sheep - Tar Ranga Rambouillet
Team coordinator: Jacinta Wareham
The award for fastest creation must surely go to ladies of the Tarrington Senior Citizens, who click-clacked their way through Tar Ranga Rambouillet in just one week.
Tar Ranga is a case study in knitting perfection – beautiful workmanship, and not a dropped stitch in sight.
Team member Margot Roth was nick-named ‘Mathematical Margot’ after a day spent planning, graphing and calculating the work.
Some attention also needs to be given to his very clever and equally well-thought-out name offered by members of the Tarrington Senior Citizens over lunch at their monthly meeting:
Tar = shorthand forTarrington
Ranga = a popular culture reference to the colour of his coat.
Rambouillet = French strain of merino originally brought in to the Western District as a herd improver.
Byaduk/Branxholme Sheep - Sir Manx Loaghtan
Team coordinator: Heather Armstrong
Manx Loaghtan is a breed of brown sheep originally from the Isle of Man, but in Branxholme he is the stud about town.
Heather Armstrong is a textile artist in her own right, and her iconic tea cosies are renowned in the south-west.
Heather’s starting point was to card brown fleece.
She then took it to the local school and showed the students how to turn it into the felt that would form Sir Manx’s skin.
Community members from across Byaduk and Branxholme then knitted and crocheted all his superb embellishments. The local school bus driver pitched in with a set of horns for Sir Manx and he was all ready for his knighting.
Branxholme’s Stalkers Bend General Store was used as a meeting place and Sir Manx became quite a royal talking point among all who called in.
Coleraine Sheep Miss Baa-bara Hamilton
Team coordinator: Maisie Mitchell
Coleraine’s Miss Baa-bara is surely the cheekiest member of the flock, and was brought to life by the most senior of our team leaders – octaganerian Maisie Mitchell.
Around 1kg of fleece was dyed various shades of pink using Landscapes dye. The fleece was then painstakingly pulled, tufted, and knotted to a 6 foot tall loom in the style of a traditional Egyptian knot rug. And here’s where Miss Baa-bara’s reputation for cheekiness began, because the loom, which could not be moved once set up, was in the middle of Maisie’s kitchen for the duration of Maisie was ably assisted by a couple of friends from the Hamilton Wool and Craft Guild who met every week.
Having worn out her welcome in the kitchen, Miss Baa-bara then decided she wouldn’t mind a bit of skin art, so the ladies then set to work hand-weaving commercially spun wool into the image of Hamilton’s Nucleus sculpture on to her sides.
A top not of curls, a full set of fishnet stockings and heels later, and she was finally ready for her introduction to Western District society.
Balmoral Sheep - Eweina
Team coordinator: Claire Ryan
Woolly West Fest Lead Artist Jacinta Wareham had an extensive network of contacts through the Hamilton Wool and Craft Guild, but when looking for assitance in Balmoral she went straight to Claire Ryan of Chameleon Arts.
Claire in turn enlisted the help of the Balmoral Bush Nursing Centre and this became Eweina’s new home while the Planned Activity Group clients got her all ready to join her flock.
While this was going on, the Silcock Family of The Mountain Dam put up $100 in prize money for a competition to name her, with a total of 116 entries received. Mrs Anne Patterson came up with the rather winsome suggestion of ‘Eweina’.
Eweina’s coat is another fine example of knitting perfection, with over 20 different stitches used, and a felted ‘take-away’ of Patterson’s Curse (should she feel a little peckish). She also features an embroidered ear tag, Knitting Nancy lip, beautiful little crocheted tail done in crocodile stitch, and an embroidered nose.
Eweina had the furtherest to travel from home, but, snuggled down with a selection of Mem Fox books in the back of the Hamilton Mobile Library, she was as happy as... a sheep in Patterson’s Curse.
Glenthompson Sheep - Glenny & Glen
Team coordinator: Sally Beggs
While watching her sons play tennis, Lead Artist Jacinta Wareham started talking with another mum and wondered out loud who she might find to help out in Glenthompson. That mum was Sally Beggs and she has been instrumental in the whole town taking Glenny to their hearts.
Every week Sally set Glenny up in the foyer of the Glenthompson Hall ready for work, where she could easily be seen by passers-by. Sally baked for the crafters, she dropped wool off at roadside delivery boxes, and she encouraged those who thought they weren’t creative to get involved.
Regular travellers along the Glenelg Highway soon began to notice mysterious yellow collars around the trees, and signs referring to a ‘yellow sheep’.
Glenny is a beautifully sunny combination of knitting and crochet. In addition to the work of locals, she also features pieces contributed by clients of Mulleraterong.
Glenny is a stud ewe and is joined to produce fine stud lambs. She is milked daily to produce Grampians Pure Sheep Dairy cheese and yoghurt. In her lifetime she will produce many litres of milk and up to ten lambs.