Tara Axford: Rise of the Sunday Shelfie
Mixed media artist Tara Axford talks about her artistic journey, her passion for online learning and her mini exhibitions during COVID.
Tara’s Friday Feature Artist Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.
As a mixed media artist and tutor who is focused on printmaking, collage, fibre arts and photography, Tara Axford draws inspiration from her hometown in Sydney, Australia. She lives a truly creative life exploring found objects, patterns and textures within her art practice. Tara’s passion is to abstract the essence of a place to create something new, giving the viewer an opportunity to experience something they may have previously overlooked with fresh eyes.
Recently Tara found some time for a chat with Fibre Arts Take Two about her artistic beginnings and the appeal of mixed media art.
Like many artists, Tara came to art early. “From a small child, I was always just trying to think of ideas. My parents had a desk, and my sister and I had a desk next to them. Underneath the desk was a box of cardboard and bits of fabric and things like that. It was always a sense of, ‘what can I make today?’”
Tara went on to work full-time for Good Weekend Magazine but never lost her drive to create. “Because I lived in the suburbs, I would commute to the city. On the bus on the way home, as I walked my way to the bus stop, I would mentally process the day and then think about what I would do next in my time. I’d start to formulate little project ideas so that when I came home, I had an idea of what I would do, and I’d head for the shed.
Eventually, Tara decided to find an evening class. “I needed to sign up for something at least one or two nights a week where I would be productive. And then I got to a point where I thought, well, I’ll make my own class.”
With her kids all grown up and now only working part-time at the magazine, Tara has more time to create and has taken over her children’s old craft room. “Gradually, they kind of disappeared, and I spent more time here and then one day, I decided that actually, I could own the space.”
The allure of mixed media
Tara has dabbled stylistically but ultimately prefers her media mixed. “I’ve got a very short attention span. So I think that’s the essence of it all, that I couldn’t imagine doing one thing for hours and hours at a time. For a while, I did kind of question that and think ‘am I just dabbling in so many things? Should I consolidate in something?’”
But the allure of mixed media was too strong, “I like the contrast of working, abstract, working, expressive, working in 2D.”
For Tara, the appeal comes through not knowing when you start what you will end up with. “All these different things I’ve done are starting to come together. And that’s quite exciting to see the crossover that I couldn’t have expected or anticipated.”
The online artist
Like many of us in this post-COVID world, Tara has been branching into online experiences and happily espouses the benefits of online learning.
“I think the beauty now is that sense of this self-paced thing and finding your own way. You go to a live workshop, and it’s great; you’ve got the energy of the room, and you’ve worked out where you fit within that space, but when you get back to your own space, it can be really conflicting. Online, you really do have that chance to go at your own pace, and really find your own way in your space in your time and explore that and keep coming back and fine-tuning that.”
Tara also enjoys digital platforms like Instagram as a method to share her art. “I had this little tiny shelf and bits and pieces on it. Then when I moved around the studio to fit the press in, I asked my husband to relocate the shelf to the other side of the room, and suddenly, it had all this light.
Unable to get to galleries, Tara decided to have a little exhibition herself and ‘Tara’s Sunday Shelfies’ were born. “Shelfie” is an actual hashtag, and Sunday seemed like a good time of the week. It has been really interesting to explore 2D in 3D combined. They are found objects, nature or little artworks, and I just imagine a scenario. And the graphic designer in me couldn’t help but fall in love with the idea of putting a book together. So stay tuned for the exhibition catalogue!
About the artist
Tara Axford has been creating artwork her entire life. From her professional career in graphic design to becoming an art director for one of Australia’s leading publications. As a mixed media artist and tutor focusing on printmaking, collage, fibre arts and photography, Tara draws inspiration from her hometown in Sydney, Australia, and lives a truly creative life. She is exploring found objects, patterns and textures within her art practice.
Tara’s passion is to abstract the essence of a place to create something new, giving the viewer an opportunity to experience something they may have previously overlooked with fresh eyes. Tara’s work seems to effortlessly create a connection to and reflect a sense of place.
Tara has an unquenched curiosity, not only for exploring nature but for learning and teaching. Tara loves teaching people how to do the same in her popular online and in-person workshops, where the core theme is pockets of time. She is disciplined, focused and fun-loving, with one of her students describing her online course as playing with the plan.
Tara’s beautiful abstract watercolours can be found in private collections worldwide. She regularly contributes to exhibitions, including the Saatchi Gallery in London. Make sure to check out Tara’s website for more.