When Harriet Goodall casts her eye over the countryside, she sees things most of us don’t even notice. To Harriet, discarded fence posts, coils of bent and twisted wire and sheets of rusting corrugated iron are materials to be collected and turned into magnificent pieces of art. “I’ve been making things since I was a little girl,” she says. “I grew up in the country in Young and my dad was a farmer, so I spent a lot of time tinkering in his workshop. I was always collecting sticks, leaves, rocks and feathers and putting them away to do something with later. I think growing up in the bush forces you to use your imagination.”
A backpacking trip with her husband, Mat, collecting beautifully woven fabrics along the way and spending time with traditional weavers in Peru, inspired Harriet to learn to weave herself. Her first serious commission was for a set of three nest-like woven basket lights. “I was having babies [her youngest, Clementine, has just turned six], so it was all connected with the stage of life I was at,” Harriet explains. “I was nesting – and making nests!”
“Every basket that’s ever been woven has been made by hand. There’s no machine that can weave a basket” ~ Harriet Goodall
While weaving forms the backbone of Harriet’s body of work, her creative energies are diverse. Her travels left a deep connection – and respect – for handmade crafts and the artisans who produce them. She has ongoing relationships with female weavers in Peru, whose woollen hats, gloves and socks she sells in Australia. “Mat and I went back to Peru to see the benefits of the fair trade project we were involved with,” she says. “The difference from when we were first there was incredible. Young girls who previously had to leave the village to work elsewhere were now able to stay with their families.”
Harriet shares her space in Moss Vale, Green Bridge Studios, with textile artist Natalie Miller of Natalie Miller Design and Justine Taylor of furniture makers Rabbit Trap Timber. Recently, she was invited by the Djilpin Arts collective in Katherine, Northern Territory, to run workshops with their traditional weavers, advising and collaborating on design and giving the women a better understanding of contemporary markets.
At heart, though, Harriet is still the girl who loves to collect fruit-tree prunings, the wonderful, dangling flower heads of palm trees, seagrass and anything else she comes across. The only real difference is that she now has the skills to turn nature’s discards and cast-offs into collectable homewares and art. “I love what I do,” says Harriet, “and I love helping people tap into a creativity they didn’t even know was there. All of us have weavers in our past; someone who sat around a fire making a basket. I love seeing people reconnect with that.”
Harriet’s tips for hanging woven lights:
1. Hang in uneven numbers: one above a dining table, three above a kitchen island or three in a cluster.
2. If you want shadow cast through a woven lampshade don’t use a pearlescent bulb: it has to be clear glass.
3. Try to keep the colours and tones of the weaving consistent with the other finishes in the room.