July 2016 feature artist Melissa Hume

This month at Nimbin Artists Gallery we are focussing on the work of Melissa Hume, fabric maker, dress designer and creator of beautiful garments. Melissa has been designing and making clothes in some capacity for most of her working life. After her initial training in New Zealand, she moved to Adelaide where she opened a shop doing dress making and made-to-measure garments for special occasions. The prosperous eighties brought her lots of customers, permitting her to indulge in her love of high quality fabrics and fine, natural textiles. Melissa always dyed a lot of the fabrics she made clothes from, drawing her inspiration from nature.

Fifteen years ago she learned to make felt, and the ability to create her own fabrics opened up a whole new field of possibilities – she was able to indulge in a new range of materials and textures, from silk to cotton and all the different qualities of wool. Creating felt led Melissa to the discovery of Nuno, a relatively recent felting technique developed by a NSW felt artist, Polly Stirling, about 1992. Nuno (the Japanese word for cloth) involves felting a loosely fibrous material, often unspun wool, onto a lighter, sheer material such as silk. This opens up a panoply of textures and effects, with variations possible in the weight of the finished fabric and the suppleness, as well as a great range of colour, texture and design elements.

Melissa is motivated by her passionate desire to make beautiful, unique garments which clients can take delight in wearing. She is aware that when people wear clothing that they love, an intimate form of self-expression is facilitated. When you see the garments Melissa has produced, there is what I would call a sense of esthetic flush – a warm internal response to the colours, at once intense and subtly contrasted, and the textures that simply invite you to touch and feel. She feels strongly that the joy of wearing such lovely garments should be within reach of ordinary people, not just the super-rich, so her creations are priced accordingly.

When questioned about the philosophical background to her work, Melissa refers to the Arts and Crafts Movement, which started in Britain about 1850 and, eventually spreading to Europe, the US and Japan, ran till about 1910. It was as much a social movement as an artistic one, concerned with the dignity of the individual, as opposed to the ‘servile labour’ that was imposed on the masses of factory workers, as the reach of the Industrial Revolution engulfed society. Searching the internet, I learn from Wikipedia, that the golden rule of the movement’s leading artist, William Morris, was: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” This could be seen as encapsulating Melissa’s approach – beauty and functionality should be combined, and this quality of object should be available to a broad public and incorporated into everyday life.

Call in to Nimbin Artists Gallery from the 4th right through July, to see and admire Melissa’s work. And ladies, you might just find the shawl or jacket which will add gorgeous colour to your life and keep you warm through winter.

Peter Warne for Nimbin Artists Gallery.

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