Exhibition review: Weave it, Abbotsford Convent

Interactive all-ages fun of weaving and rope making.

The Abbotsford Convent is a magical place, so it’s a fitting venue for an exhibition like Weave It, a 17-day interactive and evolving exhibition based on First Nations exploration of interconnectivity, storytelling and sustainability. 

The brainchild of Gunditjmara and Torres Strait Islander multidisciplinary textile artists Lisa Waup and John Brooks, Weave It is a the multi-sensory installation and workshop series. 

The exhibition starts with a video that explains – in super simple terms – two ways to make rope. It’s simple and easy for the little ones to understand and for the parents to follow. 

This leads into a corridor, one side of which is a painting installation, with rope fabric and sponges for the kids to create different shapes and images. The other side of the room is hung with looms through which the kids can weave fabric. 

There are seemingly bottomless buckets of fabric shreds and offcuts in every colour of the rainbow and the most wonderful textures like fur (fake of course) and plastic neon. Reusing old fabrics, repurposing old clothes and other similar materials in order to create something new is a great way to have family conversations about recycling and upcycling. 

The second part of the exhibition is a table at which kids can sit and create rope using several techniques. They can then hang their rope from a number of hooks that have been installed over brightly coloured paint or they can add it to coil baskets. Anything they want to take home is fine too, which was a relief for the little ones who got a little too attached to their creations.

The nature of the interactive exhibits means that a wide range of ages can be catered to and there were quite a few adults who seemed to lost in the weaving and rope making. While we visited at the start of the run, already a vision of the cumulative effect of the ongoing work was gaining pace. Our family will be back to visit towards the end of the exhibition to see the riotous explosion of colour and textures it’s sure to become.

It was a huge treat to watch and listen to Lisa Waup during our visit, as she generously showed us how she adds layers to the coil baskets and the kids were entranced. Each activity has a staff member or artist assisting the kids and showing them how it works. They were welcoming, patient and kind, helping draw even the most shy bubs out of their shell. The 2+ age suggestion is about right, but no matter the age, make sure they don’t wear their Sunday best so they can get messy in the paint section. 

Read: Exhibition review: Jeffrey Smart, NGA

Waup, who is currently doing a Master of Contemporary Art Degree at the Victorian College of the Arts, focuses her practice on the importance of ‘tracing lost history, ancestral relationships, Country, motherhood and time through woven stories of her past, present and future into contemporary forms.’

While Brooks originally trained as a designer, he now works with hand-weaving techniques combined with other media like video, performance, sculpture and installation. 

With cafes on site, the convent’s beautiful grounds for a picnic and Collingwood Children’s Farm just next door, Weave It is a fabulous excuse to go on an adventure across the precinct, but it’s worth a visit in its own right too. 

Weave It!
Abbotsford Convent, Victoria

Ages: 2+
Exhibition dates: 7 – 23 January 2022

A veteran journalist, Isabelle Oderberg is a comedy fanatic and has been reviewing comedy for six years. She also reviews restaurants, opera and theatre.