Paxtons Creative Space and The Upstairs Gallery is a combined gallery and workshop space along the banks of the Pioneer River in Mackay, started around the idea of a grass roots gallery with an open door policy, and at the moment can be found bedecked in yarn – I visited while it was still being assembled and had the amazing chance to see it all come together.
I talk to founder and local artist Margaret Burgess as she is sitting on the ground in Paxtons, putting the finishing touches on their project, alongside other artists and volunteers, who are organising the work as a cohesive whole.
The warehouse I visited less than 36 hours ago barely resembles its former self – either inside or out. Where yesterday pre-stitched blankets and squares were laid out across almost the entire floor, now the colour has been moved to embrace the outside in waves of colour and patterns, while leaving the inside looking almost a little empty in comparison. This appearance is only until the next project, which surely isn’t far off! Today there is life drawing classes, then come Saturday, there will be the Ecofest: the perfect time for the building to be decked out in colours.
Margaret says a project of this scale, which was just under 6 months in the making – with 90 people producing the blankets and squares to cover 200sqm made from 2000 balls of yarn – can be planned down to the smallest detail, but you never know what will happen till the day it goes up. She informs me that the main inspiration was to draw attention to the gallery and its activities, and it certainly achieves it.
Recently they’ve held workshops with visiting artists: Sachiko Kotaka teaching felting methods, and milliner Waltraud Reiner, who studied under Rose Cory, and have also worked with Philip Somerville (who was milliner to Princess Diana) to teach millinery techniques. Earlier this year for Australia Daym Paxtons held a Creative Mackay Expo which hosted over 1,500 visitors. Everything is aimed at helping artists promote themselves and the arts in the region and gain skills as they go.
Paxtons hopes that the yarn will remain up on the building for about two weeks, dependent on the weather, and will be taken down to be donated as blankets to the local women’s shelter, ensuring that this installation is a gift that keeps giving.