creating beautiful journals and books

Exhibition opens at Strathnairn in Canberra

I have been in Canberra for the past few days and was lucky to spend time at Strathnairn while I was there.

Strathnairn is a 1920s homestead set on 9.5 hectares on the outskirts of Canberra, looking out to the Brindabellas (where I lost my true love when I was almost 30 years old). The house and property have been graciously converted into an arts centre with galleries, cafe, shop, a foundry and artists’ studios. Particularly appealing to me is the wool shed, built in 1936, which is the home to all the equipment a paper maker could dream of, including a Hollander beater.

Strathnairn is now run as a not for profit arts association, funded by the ACT Government and is a fantastic community resource.

I was there to open INTERLEAF, an exhibition which features masterfully beautiful works on paper by Sharon Armstead and exquisitely fine ceramic vessels by Vicki Passlow. See

The exhibition occupies the two light and airy galleries at the converted homestead and even though Sharon and Vicki are friends and colleagues, I think the presentation and the standard of their work is superb.

Sharon and Vicki are two women I greatly admire as artists with integrity who are dedicated to, and remain unwaveringly true to, their art.

Sharon Armstead's eco print concertina book

Sharon Armstead’s eco print concertina book

I have known Sharon for over twenty years and we were friends at first sight. I have watched her grow and bloom.  I have also been intrigued and impressed by her fantastic knowledge and ability as an artist and her capacity to find original and creative solutions in her life and in her art.

Her husband, Gavin Playfair, a talented painter and artist himself, built Sharon’s studio in the rambling garden of their creative hideaway and I have spent many happy hours and days there with Sharon – making paper, marbling paper, printing on paper and experimenting with techniques and ideas.

To get to Sharon’s studio, you have to skirt the lily/frog pond where the red bellied black snakes live and, inside the studio, a family of sugar gliders occupies the rafters. Sharon’s artists’ statement says her work is inspired by the natural environment, but really!

If I walk out of my front door and turn left, I will eventually end up at Vicki’s two-storey Victorian farmhouse on the north east edge of Milton. I might find Vicki, as I have done more than once, striding through long grass in her front paddock, thoughtfully scratching her head, in search of her son David’s pet bearded dragon, Runner.

Vicki Passlow's ceramic vessels at Strathnairn
Vicki Passlow’s ceramic vessels at Strathnairn

I first met Vicki about four years ago when she and her friend Jann joined a journal workshop I was running at Ulladulla Library. Initially, I knew Vicki as an academic and writer (and a good one at that) and we got to know each other as members of the dynamic group, The Writing Hoods – led by poet and publisher Chris Mansell – that met weekly over two years and has published three collections of work so far .

Only in the past year, since Vicki has set up her studio and kiln at home, (Runner, the bearded dragon, graciously consented to share the sun room and its million dollar views) have I realised the skill, talent and vision Vicki embodies as a ceramicist,  I am just beginning to appreciate her extraordinary metamorphosis from scientist to artist.

Wall in the Strathnairn woolshed built in 1936 and now set up as a papermaking studio

Detail of a wall in the Strathnairn wool shed, built in 1936 and now set up as a papermaking studio.

I do urge you to visit the Interleaf exhibition at Strathnairn if you can. It runs until Sunday 17th February. Opening hours are 10am until 4.30pm Friday to Sunday. If you can’t visit in person, check out


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This entry was posted on February 4, 2013 by in Art, Bookmaking, Journals, My Workshops, Print making.

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