NotesNotes from an interview with Grace Cochrane and Judith O'Callaghan 12 March, 1996.
Designed and made by Barbara Abbott (now Davidson) (b.1928, Sydney) while she was a student in Phyllis Shillito's textile design course at East Sydney Technical College between 1946-1949. Barbara Davidson is now a printmaker, specialising in etching, and works in her studio at the Willoughby Arts Centre.
These books would have been started in 1947 because the first year of the course was a general foundation year. Entry was by Leaving Certificate or Intermediate School Certificate, and Barbara had attended Meriden School where one of her teachers was ceramist Vi Eyre. The introductory year included painting, sculpture, commercial art and textile design, and students then decided on a specialisation. Textile design students did weaving, linocuts and silk screen printing as part of the course. They were expected to keep notebooks and submit them with their designs as part of their final submission. These books were part of Barbara Abbott's submission. There was also a large size book which Barbara did not keep. The teaching was through exercises, and they were expected to make the books in their spare time at home. Barbara's Colour book is particularly substantial because she had chicken-pox and prepared her book during that time. Many of the women students were daughters of local commercial artists. At the time Barbara was there the CRTS (Commonwealth Rehabilitation Training Sceme) 'gave the place a boost'. This was a big extra interest to Miss Shillito. [Note from GC: refer Peter Travis, who says that Miss Shillito turned down employment overseas at this time because she felt a responsibility for these students].
'Miss Shillito was very go-ahead; there was not an idle moment. We felt a pressure to achieve. She wanted to make the course practical so we could get jobs, and during the course was always trying to get us jobs around the town. (Barbara did a design for a Jaffa packet; she and Mollie McLean jointly designed and painted a mural on a Swiss theme for a restaurant in Manly; she also designed illustrations in a magazine).
She was very much to do with doing things your own way, and we were all rather frightened of her. She was very positive; she must have known she was a good teacher. She loved discords, and said a full colour scheme is both harmony and discord. She had a plan that you would do certain things, for example we were sent to the Museum and the Library to look for historical references. She was terribly keen on everyone drawing from a wide range of sources; we also did drawing in the open air - we went to the Zoo and to Coogee beach. Thus we kept books on Historical Reference, and one on Aboriginal Reference. She encouraged us to be aware of what was on and go and see it. We would be in different classes or periods of different things during the day; the course was quite structured; disciplined but not stifling. The Colour Reference book contained the theories she taught and the Designs book came from the Colour book and our books on References. She also brought in people from outside to talk, and there were a number of people who assited her, like the young man who helped with the screenprinting (this seemed terribly new).'
When Barbara left, Miss Shillito got her, and three others of her year, jobs working with the occupational therapists at the Concord Hospital (see photo, Christmas 1949, the woman in charge is in the centre; Barbara is second left. Some people from Red Cross Handicrafts, some OTs, and some may have been from the army). Barbara left here to get married in 1951 and taught weaving at the Red Cross. Later she developed her career as a printmaker (see c/v).
Notes re books:
Trout in Forest: derived from a Klee work; a favourite design
Lyre-bird: from a postage stamp design, also a favourite
Violin: from George's violin (later her husband)
Hibiscus: blue fabric; photographic silkscreen and batik. Piece of celluloid, draw in black ink, place on sensitised material in the sun, wash out; would have had several colourways
Gerbera and Hibiscus designs: were from flowers
Bush Orchid: (design of dress; she thinks was a photo). She printed 3 yards, and made the dress later (after 1966; ref $ cost on Vogue pattern)
Made by Barbara Abbott (now Davidson) while a student in Phyllis Shillito's textile design course at East Sydney Technical College (1946-49). The books were bought by her father, and she made them at home, as part of her final submission of work.
While Barbara Abbott (later Davidson) was a student from 1946, the books were not started until after her 1946 foundation year. She started the textile design course in 1947 and would have started the books then. She was working at Concord Hospital at Christmas 1949 (see photo), and it is likely that she completed her course in late 1949.
MadeDavidson, Barbara 1947-1949