WAFTA Story

Western Australian Fibre and Textile Association (WAFTA)

From its beginnings in 1995 to the present day, the Western Australian Fibre and Textile Association has evolved as a dynamic organisation catering to the interests of textile and fibre enthusiasts.

With a growing interest in fibre and textiles in Western Australia, the period from the 1970’s to the 1990’s saw the establishment of various craft related interest groups. The Craft Council of Western Australia was formed in 197? bringing together people from various craft disciplines such as ceramics, jewellery and textiles, but with the growth of the craft industry in WA, by the mid 1990’s the Craft Council of WA was no longer able to service the broader needs of medium specific groups.

It was felt that there was a need for a not for profit organisation that brought together people from a variety of backgrounds with a common interest in fibre and textiles.

A general meeting was held at the Crafts Council of WA on June 21, 1995 to establish a statewide not for profit association for fibre and textiles. People attending included textile practitioners, representatives of educational institutions, textile artists, members of textile and fibre interest groups with a particular focus (e.g. embroiderers, quilters, felt makers, paper makers, machine embroiderers), textile suppliers, and gallery owners.

At this meeting an Interim Committee was appointed to formulate a draft constitution. The association was to be a neutral ground and focal point for the diverse nature of textile practice within WA, for the common interests and the sharing of positive experiences that would be of benefit to those participating, including those in regional areas.

The draft constitution was discussed as well as questions relating to the purpose and direction of the association, at the second general meeting held in September 1995. Following this meeting the Interim Committee released the mission statement:

To further the practice of fibre and textiles in Western Australia through increasing network opportunities and professional representation both nationally and internationally.

WAFTA was established on the premise that the organisation must embrace all levels of practice, and acknowledge the significant role that each individual and specialised groups have in building and supporting fibre and textile practice in Western Australia.

Objectives of the association were formulated and became part of the constitution. These are:

  • to increase the understanding and appreciation of fibre and textiles through education, exhibitions, and national and international exchange
  • to encourage and provide a means for free exchange of ideas and information between those concerned with textiles at all levels in Western Australia, nationally and internationally
  • to encourage the highest standards of design and craftsmanship in the fibre and textile arts
  • to facilitate and encourage the transition from student to practitioner within the fibre and textile field
  • to encourage balanced and critical evaluation of and writing about fibre and textiles

At a meeting in November 1995 the revised version of the constitution was accepted, and the decision was made to proceed with the process of incorporation. In March 1996, the Interim Committee stepped down and a new committee of nine members was appointed according to the constitution.

These early meetings were held at the Craft Council of WA but this venue was too small to accommodate the increasing number of members. Membership grew to 140 in 1996.

Initially five bi-monthly meetings were programmed each year, held on the second Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm, with venues alternating between the Embroiderer’s Guild premises in Alfred Cove and Alexander Park Craft House in Menora, (rotating north and south of the city). WAFTA Committee meetings were held in the alternate months.

The WAFTA program featured stimulating guest speakers and provided a welcome opportunity for members to meet and share ideas. Also, at each meeting a couple of members presented a five minute cameo of their textile practice, enabling more people to get to know their fellow members. From the beginning, end of year wind-ups often took the form of a fundraising activity, initially auctions of hand made items donated by members.

A number of studio visits were programmed each year, enabling members to view the range of working practices of other textile and fibre practitioners and be inspired by their passion and production.

Successive leaders have shared their enthusiasm and vision for the future of WAFTA. Activities and events have included organised excursions to studios, galleries and regional areas, member activity and project days, WAFTA Open Days, traders and suppliers days.

The format for meetings has changed little since the beginning of WAFTA.

Meeting times, frequency and venues have varied over the years. For a while meetings were held at the King Street Arts Centre in Perth then moved to Alexander Park Craft House as a permanent home. A couple of meetings have been held in conjunction with daytime excursions, to allow a different cross-section of members to attend. Sunday afternoon meetings alternated with Wednesday evening meetings for a while, but eventually Tuesday evening became the fixed meeting time.

Over the years national and international visitors to Perth have been engaged by WAFTA to conduct workshops and give presentations. The expertise of WAFTA members is also drawn on for workshops, widening the experience of WA practitioners.

From the outset, regular newsletters have kept members informed of forth-coming events and articles of interest. Initially these were paper copies but now they are sent electronically and enable the transmission of coloured images, and web links of interest for further research. In keeping with the electronic age, a WAFTA online discussion group was established for members to communicate.

Over the past years WAFTA has seen a significant increase in member participation in the activities of the organisation. The current membership includes art educators, professional textile artists with formal art training, recent textile graduates, as well as practitioners who have developed their skills and expertise over many years of working with fibre and textiles. The passion, enthusiasm, and talent of the current members reflect the growing interest in, and appreciation of textiles and fibre in the community.

WAFTA now meets formally on a monthly basis, on the third Tuesday of each month at 7pm at Alexander Park Craft House in Menora. As well, an informal daytime meeting (introduced in 2010) is held on the first Friday of each month from 10am – 4pm at Craft House where members can share their expertise and schedule time for doing their own work.

Since 2008 WAFTA has recorded a number of significant achievements. A library of textile and art related books and periodicals was established to provide a resource for members.

In 2008 the WAFTA website wafta.com.au went online providing a window to the world of WAFTA with listings of forthcoming events, both within the organisation and further afield.

WAFTA members have been a feature at the Craft and Quilt Fair at the Perth Convention Centre.

The annual WA Craft Show at Claremont Showgrounds has provided another opportunity to display the work of members and to encourage more people to become involved with WAFTA.

Exhibitions have been an essential part of the promotion of the work of WAFTA members, commencing with ‘FIRST OFF’ at Craftwest Gallery, Perth in 1997. Artworks were selected for exhibition by an independent panel, from entries submitted by members.

A number of exhibitions have been held since then.  2015 Memory and Commemoration at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre, and 2013 Mysterium at Gallery Central in Perth provided a creative stimulation for WAFTA members to develop their work. These exhibitions showed the wide-ranging practice of the current membership and in part have been toured regionally to Lake Grace and Busselton (in 2016) and Geraldton respectively. In 2011 ‘inTension’ was held at The Moores Building Contemporary Art Gallery Fremantle as was ‘Naturally’ in 2009, and in 2010 the ‘Silk Sail’ Exhibition was held at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre. WAFTA continues to take metropolitan exhibitions on tour to regional galleries.

WAFTA is a progressive group with passion, enthusiasm, and talent that reflects the growing interest in, artist self-development in, and appreciation of textiles and fibre in the community today.

[Information for this essay was obtained from WAFTA newsletters and minutes of meetings from 1995 to 2016.]