As a couple, both Frenchy – a photographer and Gab – a maker (in every sense of the word) are deeply invested in their projects. Well-researched in their crafts, they approach their work with equal parts fervor and curiosity.
We visited the pair in a shared-house in Coledale, N.S.W. As two avid surfers, living with the beaches of the coal coast at their the back door means that when the waves are good, a day is never wasted.
How did the two of you meet?
We met through our mutual friend. I was planning a trip to India at the time, and Steph suggested we all meet to chat about it and brainstorm, as Frenchy had been there a couple of times. That meeting turned into a date. Frenchy still believes it was all a set up.
Gab, there are so many things you do with textiles; knitting, weaving, sewing, dyeing – had you always worked with these crafts, where did you learn them?
I’ve loved anything to do with textiles since I was little. A very special collection of people have been kind enough to share their knowledge of different crafts as I’ve grown up. My mum taught me how to sew and knit when I was little and my older sister Beth got me sewing my own clothes in high school. During university I learnt more about textile crafts, whilst taking courses in my spare time with weavers such as Maryanne Moodie. My fixation with weaving continued, I interned with the incredibly sage and grounded artist and weaver, Harriet Goodall. I was lucky to have met and learned from such clever women, I’ve been quietly chipping away at these skills since then.
Above: peach linen doona cover
Frenchy, can you tell us about growing up in the rainforest of Far North Queensland?
It’s very unique up there and a bit nuts, but it made for a great childhood. The reason we moved up there was for my dad’s work. He was devoted to saving the rainforest and did a lot of great things with his coworkers around that time. He brought home a lot of injured native wildlife that we would look after until they were well enough to go out again.
I spent a lot of time on my own, I would walk a long way solo into the rainforest and see things and wonder how many people had seen them before. I remember a Cassowary walking right past me with its chicks as I hid behind a fallen tree. Giant Ulysses butterflies floating past little waterfalls with Jungle Perch at the bottom. Just perfect.
Frenchy, can you tell us a bit about the series you are working on, and the salt prints process that you’re using to realise it?
Yes so the photographs are a series of really quiet landscapes. Though this time around the print process actually inspired the images. Salt printing is one of the oldest photographic print processes dating back to the 1830’s. Instead of buying the salt required to make the print, I have collected my salt from the water within each photograph. The final prints will be made from the salt water within the image. When I think I have a good shot I collect 3 litres of water from the location and later boil it down (you can imagine why I never declared these containers at customs). So for the last few years i have steered my travels toward interesting landscapes where there is lots of salt water. One of the most surreal places to find a salt lake was in the top of the Himalayas 14,000ft above sea level. It was hard to imagine the salt in my frying pan that day had once been at the bottom of the sea.
All photographs are shot on medium format film and so the process jumps from analogue to digital a number of times throughout the print process. It’s like time travel to be in the dark room, doing the same thing William Fox Talbot was doing in the 1830’s, then walk out with a print and scan it into the latest version of photoshop.
I’m really excited about this project. After 4 years of working on it then getting busy and putting it on the back burner I’m finally getting great results so if everything goes well the exhibition will be ready early next year.
Gab, your work is of a rhythmic nature and is quite laborious, demanding such close attention, what do you do or listen to whilst working on a project?
Weaving is a slow, laborious process so it’s important to establish a rhythm to get into the flow of things, otherwise I would never start or finish a piece. I’ll play a podcast or listen to some music when I’m working to make me feel less alone, ha! I’ve sampled a fair few podcasts over the past years. A lovely thing that happens sometimes when I’m weaving is that I’ll be working, the podcast will end, but I’ll be so fixated on the piece that an hour goes by in complete silence. I’m trying to get to that stage more often – it’s a special feeling.
A lovely thing that happens sometimes when I’m weaving is that I’ll be working, the podcast will end, but I’ll be so fixated on the piece that an hour goes by in complete silence.
Above: peach linen doona cover
What are you both working on at the moment?
[G] I’m always working on a bunch of things at once. The main ones are an Etsy shop for selling secondhand clothes, knitting a jumper for Frenchy and pieces for an upcoming group textile exhibition called Origins which opens July in Melbourne.
[F] Just trying to stay warm this winter while Gab finishes the jumper! And my new website, It’ll be finished in a month.
What is your morning routine?
[F] I’ll get up if i think the surf is good, otherwise I would rather stay in bed for a little bit longer and wait for everything to warm up.
[G] I wake up early, usually feeling really excitable. If I’m down at Frenchy’s I’ll go for a walk along the coast to Coledale and back. I love mornings down on the Coal Coast because you see friendly people, give them a wave, buy a loaf of bread and admire the view of the escarpment on one side and the ocean on the other. Plus, I avoid annoying the still sleeping Frenchy. Then I make a pot of chai on the stovetop using a recipe from my dear friend Elisha, and then I get to work weaving. If the surf is gentle enough, I go for a wave.
I love mornings down on the Coal Coast because you see friendly people, give them a wave, buy a loaf of bread and admire the view of the escarpment on one side and the ocean on the other.
What is your bedtime routine?
[G] Nights aren’t my strong suit. Past 9pm I’m pretty useless, so I usually just have dinner and get some knitting done in bed, watching the latest thing on Netflix or SBS.
[F] I get lots of energy at night but I also love falling asleep. So what usually happens is I’ll fall asleep, then an hour later I wake up again as a sleepwalker and do a whole series of weird things throughout the night. I have stories!
What are you looking forward to this year?
[G] Finally setting up my own label and knitting, using more naturally dyed yarns. Most of all, we’re planning to go to India in a few months! It’s nice how things work out.
[F] Travelling with Gab , salt prints, taking pictures, recording a few daggy songs and surfing.