An interview with Fibre Artist and Weaver – Bev Bills


How often do you get to your loom?
I seem to snatch times, a few rows woven here and there. I have a few looms set up, or try to, depending where I am in my studio what one I weave on. I now have a small one in the kitchen. Great for when on the phone, waiting for something to cook in the microwave, or watching/listening to the news. A few rows here and there builds up and puts me in the right frame to think. Something about connecting or dis-connecting… Great way to start the day.

Sometimes I think I would love to weave all day, but probably works best snatching where I can, and is also better for the body and not being in one position for too long.

When do ideas come?
Anytime. Could be in the bus, or out with my grandson. Most times I sit down and brain storm, for ideas on a particular theme I may want to work on, then think about what medium I could use etc. I always carry my camera on me, and images can come up when you least expect it. I tend to see the texture, the pattern, not the whole of something so much.

Which part do you never get tired of?
Weaving, just really enjoy the throwing of the shuttle, as long as the yarn is a textured one or lots of colours.

Which part do you get a bit tired of?
Not having time to weave, to do the work I really want to do. I get caught up in administration with the Royal SA Society of Arts, and I want to do my art work. And I don’t get tired of warping up my loom, as that is another project.

Do you ever finish a piece and are really unhappy with it?…what do you do?
Quite often, and it sits and sits and sits. Sometimes something works out, but we all have failures from time to time. It doesn’t wash up right or not long enough.
Such as a print you can always cut it up, stitch over it and take it on a creative journey. But there are always the items that will continue to sit, then one day you may pull it out and think yay just what I want???

Do you participate in lots of exhibitions?… you like the challenge of them?
I like the challenge, and yes I do exhibit in lots of exhibitions, e.g. Gallery M, RSASA, Wild Fibres group. I like to give myself the challenge to do some new work and also to think about the title or theme. There are so many areas to art, to fibre, and to how you can transform, create and meld the mediums in together. A creative mind is a happy one, or is it frustration. Try not to think too much, just get in and do it.

When did you start weaving?…how did it happen?..was it love at first sight?
About 38 years ago, and still enjoying it. I was doing a lot of dressmaking, and loved the idea of the possibility of making my own fabric, the colours, the patterns, and the more I discovered the more I wanted to learn. This led to courses, a degree and I am still learning, still playing with fibres in the warp and weft. Don’t do the dressmaking so much these days, but the fabric can be cut and styled into garments.

What about commissions?
No so much, but will think about doing any if they come along. I really like the materials to dictate what they want to be woven into. It is great to receive funds for the work though, but this seems to cut back on the freedom of the making. I really only like to create one offs as well. Have undertaken commissions though, for private collectors and for the St John Vianney Church at Burnside, a large woven tapestry for the altar. Hope they still have it. Was a while ago. Also have a piece in the Ceremonial Courtroom 4 in the Sir Samuel Way Building of the Royal Coat of Arms. One of about 27 pieces created, seven were tapestries, others embroideries. Have also been involved in community tapestries, e.g. the Barbara Hanrahan Text Tapestries.

Do you listen to music when you work?…what sort?
The Radio, as background noise, 102.3 or Nova or just turn on the TV for the digital music.

What about you as a Weaver and a Person?
One of the things I really enjoy is teaching Weaving, passing on the traditional skills of interlacing threads into fabric, the intricacies of how patterns can magically appear with the different treadling. How colours transpose, using the yarns as your paint palette. Weaving can be simple yet totalling amazing and as complicated as you want it to be, with multi shaft patterns. I like weaving to be relaxing, at least for me, to be able to pick up the shuttle and weave without thinking too much. I need that time out from other things to help put my life into perspective.

It is great to see so much more textiles out there in exhibitions. Something I had been pushing for years and it is out there with thanks to all the other textile artists and especially that was what Tarts was all about in the beginning. There are other groups of textile artists and to be encouraged.

For quite a few years I have been involved with the Handspinners & Weavers Guild as President (3 times), Secretary and other roles, but most of my time these days is with the Royal SA Society of Arts, as Director. I held the position of President for 5 years and I still find the pull towards the overall arts. It is great meeting with other artists, working with them and encouraging them to show their works and celebrate with them in their achievements. This position takes in all the fundamentals of staging exhibitions for members and keeping the RSASA out there being as an exciting organisation to be involved in. Very full filling and totally tiring times, and this is when I need to the throw the shuttle every now and then to fulfil my needs. My time to disconnect my mind.

Now with an ageing mother in her 90’s and two young grandchildren my time is pulled in other directions, other commitments to find time for. Children grow and relations grow older and need more care. There is also the need to get the priorities right and I am working on that. I often think of how special it is to be able to create, to make things, to take an idea on a journey, and hope others will enjoy the end product. Makes it all worth the while. Happy creating.

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