You know that old saying ‘you can’t see for looking.’  Well, sometimes all it takes is a fresh set of eyes.

I work best alone so I can clarify the processes I know work for me – and that means just one set of eyes.

Fine, great.  But sometimes, just sometimes – and it is rare – someone comes along who pinpoints a problem you know is there, but you just can’t seem to get on top of.

That was my experience recently and I’m so excited because this one meeting opens up a whole new scope for the work I do.

Last year one of my pieces was selected to be a part of the inaugural Australian Textile Art Awards and for the cover of the December 2020 issue of the  Australian Textile Fibre Forum magazine.  Fantastic.

That was reassuring because it was the second piece I created in that style – the first was sitting in no-man’s-land because it just didn’t work – and I was worried.  This work is time-consuming to produce, from concept to design through to stitching it out and finishing it neatly around all the cut edges.

So I wasn’t confident submitting the work, above, to the Australian Textile Art Awards.  It’s sister-piece, the one which preceded it was laying across a heater, staring at me disconcertingly every time I walked into my workroom.  What to do?  What to do?


And here’s the problem.  I knew it didn’t work, but for the life of me, I just couldn’t find a solution. I’m the kind of person whose motto is usually ‘more is better.’  But not in this case.

Looking at the work above now, it’s clearly evident the central design was competing with the outer frame.  Obvious now – but I couldn’t see it – I was just too close.

Then along comes a friend, who’s a beautiful person – gentle, creative, imaginative, elegant – and who knows a thing or two about sewing, machines and design.  In less than a minute, I hear words that stop me in my tracks, that make me take a step backwards, then gets me so excited I just can’t wait to start reworking it.  Those few words have given me the possibility of fixing a mistake and opening a whole new body of work.

Now while that’s exciting, what’s actually happened here is much more precious – almost beyond words.  It’s like gold – and it’s rare.  I can honestly say, there are only two people who interact with me on this level.  Up until recently, there was only one.

These are the type of friends who have the ability to make you think and see things differently but don’t demand you do.  They understand the work that goes into what you do, so the suggestions they make resound and resonate with common sense and possibility.  These friends are like gold.

What’s so special?  It’s that possibility.  The possibility of solving a problem of re-creating a piece of work that already had possibility but had lost its way, and the possibility of taking this idea even further and creating a new series of work around just that possibility.

So what was my friend’s suggestion?  It was simplicity itself.  Cut the central area away and insert a mirror.

Et voilà – and there you go.  Thank you, Kerrie Hay, from Bernina Australia.  See Kerrie’s video here.

cathy jack coupland