The first meeting of Writing Teachers Illawarra was an afternoon affair as Wollongong Art Gallery opens at 12 noon on Saturdays. We gathered outside and once the doors opened, we were free to wander the many floors and exhibits. Boisterous sounds and scenes beckoned from the main gallery featuring ‘The Making of Midnight Oil’, yet the quiet vistas of ‘In the Wild’ were most compelling.
This time, we spontaneously chose an artwork from the same exhibition. I recognised many pieces from the gallery’s collection that were displayed as part of the Just Imagine creative writing competition, and was drawn to the freestanding Xanthorrhoea jacket/whiteboy blazer/schoolboy blazer/kartu kultu jacket by West Australian artist Nalda Searles.
As a seamstress myself, I am always interested in the construction methods of textiles. This jacket is made from xanthorrhoea leaves, felt and thread. I marvelled at the apparent uniformity, yet reflected on the discord: no two leaves or stitches could ever be the same. I found myself listing words that might capture the binary oppositions of this garment:
When I wear this jacket, I feel
invincible, diminished, enclosed, tightened, camouflaged, protected, safe, empowered, lonely, separated, isolated, thin, invisible, contained, unassuming.
After gathering notes and ideas, we walked to Lee & Me, a nearby cafe and took up space around the communal table. We shared our ideas about writing, and words inspired by our chosen artwork. This time, I abandoned my plan to begin with
as our stimulus. Instead, we spent time free writing under the title ‘In the Wild’ as this exhibition had captured each of us in a different way – two of us had chosen the same artwork but with divergent ideas.
My character vignette began
Into the wild stepped a man in a splendid jacket. Striding forward, invincible and resplendent, he looked straight ahead – a sentinel silently gathering eyes and attracting attention simply from his presence. Calm, measured, unassuming.
*featured image from The Illawarra Mercury