Tales of textile meaning & making

Yolanda Zarins

Yolanda Zarins

Regular walks among the towering ferns, ghostly gums and lush moss of the Tasmanian forest have inspired Yolanda Zarins' first hand printed series since graduating from Textile Design at RMIT.

Fern fronds and paint marks stretch across hand dyed cloth in shades of moody blue and grey. Titled 'Frond' and 'Pozo', Yolanda hand prints these designs differently each time, creating a series of one-off arrangements that share her experience.

Armed with many types of work she had completed at university, Yolanda reached out to her home town of Hobart, explaining "I did a market early this year. It was the first time I went out by myself and shared my work with the public. The work was digitally printed and every single person that came up to me asked if it was hand printed. I didn’t really have a good story. Even though I think digital printing is amazing, and I really like that you can show the detail of a brush mark when it is digitally translated onto fabric, I started to think that I wanted to make something that I can have a story behind - something that is really attached to me,” said Yolanda.

She explained that the fern that gave her the inspiration for Frond had come from nearby. “You don’t have to go very far from Hobart to find somewhere beautiful, so I spent a lot of time drawing and tinkering around. Every so often some things just stick,” she said.

Pozo grew over a long period of time, by regularly drawing and observing ferns, seed pods and native flowers.  After a while, certain elements of the plants simplified into motifs, which then formed into this simple geometric design.

Standing out from a cupboard full of prints, drawings and designs Yolanda had been working on, she set about printing the two designs. She began the 'One of A Kind' series by mixing her own dyes and print pastes, seeking colours that hummed. She cut panels of fabric into one by two metre lengths, which she then dyed, cut into irregular shapes, printed and finally sewed them into cushions.

Of this process, Yolanda explained “I wanted to make something that I could screen print free hand. The fern pattern does repeat, but I also wanted something that I could layer and create areas of interest – to build it up as I wanted to and see it come to life as I was printing it.”

“I’m not a perfectionist and probably won’t ever be able to do a perfect repeat. I also don’t have the resources to set up repeat printing, or a big print studio, so mine is more of an intuitive process. I just want to make something until it looks right.”

While there is an inherent freedom in this process that obviously suits Yolanda, she also favours the approach because it feels good, saying “I don’t want to be hunched over a printing table for hours doing something that is not interesting to me, because it takes hours! I wanted to do something that is beautiful and has a story, but it is also has to be enjoyable - it has to be fun.”

A genuine and pleasing completion of this creative process has taken time, as it does for many art and design graduates. With no clear accredited pathway, creative careers are mostly self directed, requiring stamina, perseverance and a good dose of entrepreneurial skill.

Yolanda finished what she describes as a “commercially geared” degree surrounded by the support of friends, peers and Melbourne’s creative community, including being part ofFull Drop Co, whom she completed a residency with at Harvest Textiles in 2013.

Despite these wonderfully close and creative ties, the call to home was strong. After eight years away, the lure of family and place made a decision to move back to Hobart a natural one.

"When I was leaving, people were quite shocked. I suppose because there is still this (very untrue) assumption that you can't be a creative person and also live in Tasmania. Aside from family and friends, and the fact that Hobart is my home, I felt like I needed the space for myself in a creative way. Melbourne is such a thriving and creative city, except it is easy to get caught up in what the collective is doing and creative comparisons. Maybe I will live there again one day, but at this point I wanted to turn away a little bit and be left alone to sort out what I wanted to do, not compare and really think about what was important to me", said Yolanda.

"I left home when I was 18 and moved to Melbourne – I am now 26 and Hobart has completely changed in my eyes.  I feel more than ever that Tasmanian artists and designers love highlighting the fact that they live on an isolated island south of the Australian mainland, instead of disassociating, or moving to a bigger city. We’ve got something special here, and I am really appreciative of that. It feels awesome to be a part of such a unique community and geography," she said.

Part of this uniqueness is the nature Yolanda so lovingly explores. When asked about the distinct colour palette in this series, she immediately references it to her surrounding landscape, describing Hobart as “somewhat gothic with a sort of moodiness". She references the mountains that curve around the city, with its deep blues, greys and blacks, "I think a lot of art and design here is completed in that direction, so maybe it is rubbing off on me.”

Many of the same colours can be found in large oil paintings by her father, a landscape artist. Exposure to his impressions of the local landscape now enable her to identify local colours as an artistic common thread. Always allowed unfettered access to his paints and tools during her childhood, the two recently reflected on this palette as she shared her new work.

“He came over the other week and we were looking at some of my new work . I had put a lot of dusty pink into my work as well as the blue. We were talking about how Dad's art work doesn’t really have that feminine sensibility to it. Maybe, growing up around him, my take on the Australian bush and landscape and plant life is coming through in a more feminine and soft way,” said Yolanda.

It is exciting to watch Yolanda find her voice. She has such an incredible way with the geometrics of her design. Now linked to the place she loves, it is a pleasure to watch her voice emerging.

Images by Yolanda Zarins



Shilo Engelbrecht

Shilo Engelbrecht