During a year identified by most for its turmoil, textile artist Karen Richards spent several hours in her studio carefully collecting, cutting and spinning old denim clothing and converting it into stunning floor rugs to raise funds for suicide prevention programmes.
The Warrnambool designer, who won the city’s portrait award for an embroidered artwork this year, says she thought carefully about how to use her talents to turn cloth into functional and aesthetic products that would otherwise be led to landfill.
Her ingenuity went into overdrive when Richards ended up with several heavy bags full of denim clothing that had been donated to Lifeline but was unacceptable to be sold in the op store.
“At one point, because my studio was all full of jeans, I said I wasn’t sure if I should work from home,” she said. “For me, there was no room.”
She meticulously placed and stitched strips of varying shades of blue together on her
loom over the next few months, and produced the items to be sold by Lifeline.
The rugs vary in size and have a hall runner that is 4 metres tall.After finding out that some clothing that were donated were not in decent enough shape to be resold and were being disposed of, Richards contacted Lifeline. She said, “I have worried about the environmental effects of my own desire to make things.” I wondered, ‘Ok, am I just making
more things the world really doesn’t need?’
If I buy new materials to do so, does that eventually impact the production of cotton and the use of water? “It made me start thinking about whether there was a way I could satisfy my urge to make stuff, but use the creative abilities that I would have to repurpose items that were practically waste.”
Jason Doherty, Lifeline’s general manager for Geelong and south-west Victoria, said that since the pandemic, demand had grown by around 30 per cent across the country, reflecting the national trend. In order to cope meet the increased demand, he said that more volunteers had put their hands up to be involved with the phone crisis support programme.
The efforts of Karen Richards were described by Mr Doherty as “amazing”. “It represents the spirit of our region ‘s culture that we love to see, especially during these turbulent times,” he said. “We’re still grateful for gifts, so in this situation, it’s so perfect for Karen
to take anything we haven’t been able to use and make anything out of it.”
Richards hoped that once coronavirus-related restrictions were wound back she could set up a craft group to get other people involved in the project.
Richards said she was surprised by the level of interest when photos of the rugs were shared online. “I thought they would just go into the shop and people would either buy them or not buy them,” she said. “If there is interest and people are keen on them then I am certainly eager to make some more.”