Black Hibiscus Design
Varia Cartledge

Beautiful Flower Island
Sinamay, fabric, hand-painted silk
Fine millinery

Media: Fiber + Textiles

41 Gibbens Street

MAP # 47

Trolleys Sat+Sun | Directions (Google)

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Artist Statement

Adrift in rough seas in waves you’re not sure how to navigate, you see an eerie spot of calm. Sunlight breaks through the clouds to reveal a small island set apart from the tempest. You steer your way to its gentle waters, a shallow bay welcoming you. Past a pink sand beach, the island itself is covered in foliage and flowers, brash and beautiful in reds and pinks and purples. Something about this place immediately sets you at ease. Were you at sea? Was there a storm? Looking out from the shore you see only the blue, gentle waves. You could stay here a while, rest among the somnolent buzzing of many pollinators and the heavy scent of jasmine that lures you down to a slow drowse. Welcome to Beautiful Flower Island. This year’s collection of hats and fascinators is an escapist floral fantasy featuring hand dyed and painted silks crafted into lush tropical blooms.

Come and visit my home studio and see this year's collection and many other pieces of my work. Visitors are welcome to try hats on and experience the transformative power of an excess of silk flowers.

Artist's Bio:
Varia’s work draws on an impressionistic sensibility in the manipulation of textiles, using fabrics treated with intuitive, gestural surface design to create precise, almost pedantic finished forms.

Varia’s roots are in Launceston, Tasmania. A small city on a remote island, Launceston prides itself on being a cultural center of excellence. Varia had an early interest in textiles and fashion, flourishing in printmaking classes and exploring self-expression through fashion. She learned fine hand-sewing from her grandmother. At age sixteen she started making cocktail hats for her own personal collection.

After attending university in Perth and spending a year in Sydney, Varia moved to the United States in 1999. In 2000 she settled in Somerville. Once settled, Varia found herself looking for her medium. She took evening classes in Chinese watercolor painting and silversmithing, and explored painting in acrylics. In the mid-2000s Varia taught herself to knit and crochet and began designing her own knit pieces. She was soon drawn back to the world of millinery, teaching herself the essential skills of shaping hats from sinamay and buckram. She has made a collection of art hats each year since 2013. Varia is a part-time student at the School of Fashion Design. In 2017 Varia took a workshop with artist Maor Zabar, learning his technique for sculpting silk, which she has incorporated into her later work.