Meet the Artist - Helen Fraser


Passionate about textiles, I study vintage and contemporary textiles along with the traditions and culture in which the maker lives, to more deeply understand the work.  By looking very closely at embroideries, weavings, knitting, quilting, dyed fabric, tassels and passementerie I build up a knowledge of the specific marks and patterns within a particular type of textile so that it can inform my art practice.  By really looking at the textile and then creating a drawing, I hope to ‘feel’ the essence of it, especially when I develop a series of works that builds upon an idea.

I love the idea that textiles are a metaphor for the human condition. As a psychologist and artist, I often use motifs like knots, frayed threads, fabric fragments, warp and weft, lace knitting and stitching in my work.  I believe we are all imperfect and flawed and our psyche is pushing us towards greater consciousness throughout our life cycle.  Therefore, the tactile and primal elements of cloth and stitch appeal to my love of psychology, dreams and working with the unconscious to uncover infantile experiences and longings. I like to think that my art helps the viewer accept themselves and others more deeply by seeing how I share my own imperfections, challenges and learnings through these artworks.

craftivism museum democracy canberra chain stitch workshop

Over the last few years I have developed a strong interest in social art and collaboration.  My recent art practice has been strongly influenced by my involvement with the United Declaration of Human Rights Quilt Project where I was one of 131 artists from 45 countries that contributed to four quilts that are currently being exhibited in Canberra before heading on a world tour.  Research for this has inspired an ongoing project about Australia’s hidden slave history and frontier wars. This project has already led to many rewarding experiences and connections including Yumi Olgeta:Crafting a More Inclusive Democracy craftivism workshop recently held at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra.  This workshop has resulted in the launch of an international craftivism project that will culminate in a quilt to be donated to MoAD to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Australian South Sea Islanders gaining commonwealth recognition as a distinct cultural group in 2019.  My research is also informing new works and exhibitions.

Over the last year I have started to offer commission drawings of vintage and/or loved textiles such as heirloom quilts, favourite embroideries or stitched pieces and this process is very rewarding.  Many of my collectors send photos of my work framed in their homes, which is deeply gratifying and enjoyable.  It is really wonderful to see that my art is making a difference.  It is a real dream come true! 

Thank you to all of my wonderful followers and collectors; you make this art making journey matter in a deeply personal way.