By Carol Hopkins
While most people in the Alexandra area would know Carolyn Weeks from her role in coordinating the Murrindindi Beanie and Fibre Festival, many may not be aware that she is an incredibly versatile artist with skills in painting, drawing, basket making, mosaics and sculpting (using both wire and fibreglass mesh).
This impressive range of artistic skills holds her in good stead for her extensive work in the community. Carolyn has been involved in creating mosaic murals and wire sculptures for schools, making puppets and lanterns for a local festival, teaching painting, drawing, mosaics and basket making at community houses, and running art programs for children. Helping people tap into their creativity is something Carolyn loves.
“Art is fun. Everyone can be creative, and creativity enables us to truly express ourselves,” she says.
She particularly enjoys her work as artist-in-residence in rural and metropolitan schools where she sees children becoming inspired and excited by art projects.
“I love that sense of discovery that kids have,” she says.
Her passion for involving the community in creative activities led Carolyn to initiate and facilitate the Murrindindi Beanie and Fibre Festival, based in Alexandra. This annual festival invites people to let their imagination run riot and knit, crochet, weave, sew or construct a beanie, or other item of clothing, in keeping with the year’s theme. In 2022, the theme was “Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies”.
“I felt I needed to create a festival that was accessible to the general population,” Carolyn explains. “I really wanted the average person to get involved and get creative”.
Now in its ninth year, the festival has been an outstanding success, attracting hundreds of imaginative entries, in five categories, each year. Carolyn credits her small, hard-working and passionate committee with much of this success. Next year, the festival will be held in the fourth weekend in May, a change from its usual late July date.
As part of Carolyn’s drive to help others be creative, she runs courses on request for groups of four or more people on a range of art topics such as basket making, wire work, drawing and painting. All you have to do is contact Carolyn, and if you have the topic and the people, and Carolyn has a time slot, you will be underway.
When not involved in community projects or working part-time in sales and administration, Carolyn somehow finds time to pursue her own artistic interests. At the moment, her focus is on structural painting. This is a process where she spreads a plaster mixture over canvas, allows it to dry, and then carves it to create a flowing image. Currently, she is only working in white but may add colour to these paintings in the future.
Carolyn also paints with oils and acrylics, producing large, colourful works in styles that she describes as abstract-expressionist or abstract-realism. Pen and ink drawings, sometimes with a watercolour wash, are also in her repertoire, and lately she has produced some stunning illustrations of the quaint cottages she observed on a recent trip to Germany.
Carolyn admits that she can’t sit still creating one thing for too long and she has to have “lots of different things going on all the time”.
After a stint of painting, Carolyn might turn her attention to working with wire, particularly rusty wire, making baskets and sculptures. The process of transforming one object into something completely different inspires Carolyn.
“I love it when I find a piece of rusty wire and almost immediately I am able to see what form that piece of wire is going to become,” she says.
As well as wire, Carolyn also uses natural materials such as flax leaves, grasses and canes, often collected from her own garden, to make baskets. Recycled materials such as bread bags and old clothes are also pressed into service on ocassion. For one basket, Carolyn used some of her children’s clothing that she had kept for sentimental reasons.
She explains, “I had some of my kids’ favourite T-shirts and pyjamas that I just couldn’t part with and so I cut them into strips, platted them and then sewed them into a lovely basket. It was a really nice way of keeping those memories and making something useful.”
In a more recent innovation, Carolyn has been using fibreglass webbing to create both baskets and sculptures. She applies stiffening agents to the flexible mesh, moulds it into shape and then, if needed, adds a coat of paint. Wherever possible, whether with fibreglass, wire or paint, Carolyn likes to work “big”, although she admits that large creations can be very time-consuming.
From time to time, Carolyn might turn to another of her interests – making jewellery from old crockery. And while she used to make her own mosaic products, such as house numbers and plaques, she now prefers to only be involved with larger, community projects in this medium.
Carolyn’s astonishing artistic ability should not come as any surprise because she grew up in a very creative household. Her mother, Patricia Weeks, is an accomplished artist and her father, Allan Weeks, is a professional photographer as well as a dairy farmer. Growing up on the family farm at Acheron, Carolyn says she was surrounded by creativity.
“It was part of the everyday. It was just there, in the house. Mum was painting, mum was drawing”.
Even though Carolyn now lives in Melbourne with her partner, Cliff Gersitz, the farm and the surrounding district are still very much part of her life. She and Cliff enjoy coming back to the farm almost every weekend to see her family, be immersed in the beautiful countryside and go for horse rides. Eventually the pair hope to move permanently to the Acheron area. Cliff is a professional photographer specialising in nighttime photography, and he uses the lack of light pollution in the country around Acheron to his artistic advantage. Cliff is particularly skilled at creating special effects with light tubes and Carolyn often collaborates with him on these projects.
In talking about her work Carolyn admits that her head is always buzzing with ideas, and she has “so many ideas it’s insane”. But, unlike many people, Carolyn puts her ideas into practice.
“I want to make things happen. I don’t sit back and wait for other people to do things,” she says.
Her amazingly prodigious and diverse artwork, as well as her community involvement, are testament to that.
If you would like to see more of Carolyn’s art you can visit her website www.weeksy.au, check out her Instagram page @caz.weeks.art or contact her by email firstname.lastname@example.org. She also has artworks for sale at her online shop Sculpturedartgallery at www.etsy.com.