The Australian Tapestry Workshop
The Australian Tapestry Workshop enjoys an international reputation as a leader in contemporary tapestry. Established in 1976, it is the only workshop of its kind in Australia and one of only a handful in the world for the production of hand-woven tapestries. Artists worldwide are discovering how this traditional medium can be used in completely new ways, and the Workshop is in the vanguard of this revival.
Using the same techniques employed in Europe since the 15th century, the ATW’s skilled weavers work with artists from Australia and overseas to produce tapestries that are known for their vibrancy, technical accomplishment and inventive interpretation.
Since its inception, the Workshop’s philosophy has been to employ weavers trained as artists to enable close collaboration with the artists whose work they are interpreting. Many notable Australian and international artists have collaborated with the Workshop’s weavers over the years including Arthur Boyd, Jon Cattapan, John Olsen, Jorn Utzon, David Noonan and Sally Smart.
To date, the Workshop has created more than 400 tapestries ranging from palm-size to monumental. They are woven using the finest Australian wool, which is dyed onsite forming a unique palette of 370 colours. These works hang in significant public and private collections around the world. The ATW is one of Australia’s largest producers of public art, and every year, millions of people see an ATW tapestry!
An observation deck allows visitors to watch the tapestries being made on the four large looms on the main floor. One of their recent creations was John Young’s “The Navigator” (2.3 x3.02m.) for the National Library of Australia. The weavers work in teams across large tapestries. From the deck you are able to watching one of the weavers mixing strands from half a dozen colours to create exactly the right blend of colour.
The observation deck also allows the visitor to observe the yarn dyed in the small colour laboratory safely from behind glass. The workshop produces a 366 standard colour range of wools for sale at their shop and also dye their own wool specifically for certain projects.
The Australian Tapestry Workshop was formerly the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. It is located in the same 19th century building in South Melbourne that once held a knitting mill. The large work floor has become the tapestry workshop. Lace ironwork pillars support a saw tooth roof over the main floor.