A recently opened exhibition at NERAM – A Stitch in Time – pays homage to local artist Judy Wilford’s immense skill, creativity and exquisite technique of expressing the natural world in fabric and thread.
While the memorial exhibition features small scale works, the sheer detail and depth of field achieved through Judy’s expert application in layering complex and subtle variations in colour and texture, commands the viewers’ attention as they explore what feels like vast and expansive landscapes.
Referring to nature in its many varied aspects from the wide scale landscape to the intimate habitats of small birds and the minute patterns and textures of nature, Judy worked in a realistic and impressionistic manner in the creation of hand embroidered artworks.
“I was lucky enough to work with Judy to curate her 2017 exhibition at NERAM,” said NERAM director Rachael Parsons. “The process involved several visits to Judy and Chris’ home with much in depth discussion, always accompanied by a glass of white wine.
“Judy’s work is exquisite, reflective of both her commitment to technical and stylistic experimentation and to her lifelong love of the natural world.”
Each of Judy’s works asks for slow and considered viewing, to enjoy the detail of individually rendered flowers in a field of yellow or pink or to see the subtle shift in tones of long grasses.
Judy’s daughter Meg said her mum’s passion for nature and the arts were reflected in many aspects of her life and her work.
“She loved order and was a perfectionist,” said Meg. “In her studio space, all her materials are on rolls or neatly stacked in cabinets and in cupboards. On opening, they reveal an Aladdin’s cave of papers, fabrics, threads and fine glass beads. On her work bench, pens, pencils and brushes are in containers and jars. Walls covered with inspirational finds and keepsakes from fellow artists. Books and journals carefully collated in the overflowing pigeonhole bookcase. A collector’s treasure trove.”
Judy worked with the media of fabric and thread and the many varied techniques of hand embroidery. Her unique embroideries drew on years of personal study and practice in design, drawing, painting, printmaking, clay and object making. However, it is the flexibility and the technical variety inherent in textiles, in particular hand embroidery, that fascinated her.
Judy’s works are held in diplomatic, corporate and private collections in Australia and internationally. Her involvement in the early Australian Craft Shows with her husband Chris, opened doors to representation by galleries Australia wide and as far as New York. She exhibited regularly at Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, at regional galleries including NERAM and in many joint and traveling exhibitions. Judy was particularly passionate about miniatures and was awarded the 2013 National Australian Society of Miniature Arts Award for mixed media. She was also awarded the Yvonne Perring Award for the best use of traditional techniques in 2012.
Judy was a highly regarded tutor throughout Australia and New Zealand. At Textile Forums and at the McGregor Schools (USQ) tutoring her developed techniques revolving around birds and their habitats, the wider landscape and its narrative. She loved to teach and to pass on her knowledge of embroidery and the stitched line to others.
An avid writer, Judy has written articles for various magazines and books over the years. The two highlights were the publication of ‘Embroidered Landscapes’ by Sally Milner Publishing in 2015. Then after many delays and holdups the publication and release of ‘Birds and Their Habitats’ by Search Press in November 2022 was completed.
A Stitch in Time: Judy Wilford Retrospective will be on at NERAM until February 4, 2024.
Image: Judy’s daughters Meg and Naomi with some of the treasures collected over their mother’s life which make up part of the collection in the exhibition A Stitch In Time. (supplied)