By Lydia Fegan
This is a story about one of our founding members. Although mainly women there were one or two men as well, but mostly they were the support cohort behind this group of amazing, hard-working, creative women who saw the need for a hand papermaking art hub in suburban Sydney in the early ‘90’s. This was going to be not only a studio where they could practice their art, but also a place which could introduce the community to the joy and creative potential of handmade paper as a craft in itself, and also as a medium which could enhance their other art practices. And so Primrose Park Paper Arts was born, in a repurposed sewerage station in the middle of Primrose Park, in Neutral Bay, Sydney, converted and renovated by North Sydney Council and offered (for a small rental) as a studio for a number of community art and craft groups.
This story is about Ruth Faerber.
I choose to introduce you to her because Ruth is about to have an exhibition at Mosman Art Gallery starting in December and you might like to see what she has been doing. Secondly I have chosen her because she is a remarkable artist, who is still practicing her art in her 90’s. She has the incredible skill and will-power to adapt to, and embrace, new technologies in the service of her art.
Ruth Faerber was born in Sydney, Australia, and established her reputation in the 1960’s as a printmaker, being the first woman to hold a one-woman exhibition of lithographs in Sydney.
In the 80’s she began to explore the medium of handmade paper to create bas-relief forms. At Australia’s first hand-papermaking mill, run by the Tasmanian School of Art, she brought a new dimension to work in the hand paper arts with the incorporation of relief and collage into the primary process of papermaking. Recognition of her use of sculptural and casting techniques in handmade paper has led to numerous invitations to participate in exhibitions and lectures within Australia and all over the world, and her works are in many collections internationally.
It was at the first conference on handmade paper at the Tasmanian School of Art in 1989 that she met a group of women from Sydney who were keen on starting something in Sydney and Ruth became part of this group.
This was the start of the adventure, which is still continuing after 26 years. The membership of the group has changed, but the enthusiasm and dedication to the art of papermaking by hand goes on, thanks to another group of women, no less creative and hard-working.
Note: A Google search on Ruth’s name brings up many entries including Banziger Hulme Fine Art Experts which has an excellent write-up on Ruth, describing her as a printmaker, paperworker, art critic and digital artist.
The Art Gallery of NSW showcases nine of her works held in their permanent collection.
Article by Lydia Fegan (edited and updated by Claire B)
Photos by Claire Brach, from catalogues/publications provided by Lydia Fegan