Former Damascus College student Courtney Stedman's intricate embroidery wins people's choice award at the Art Gallery of Ballarat's Next Gen exhibition

POPULAR: Courtney Stedman with her embroideries, which took out the people's choice award at the Next Gen exhibition. Picture: Michelle Smith.
POPULAR: Courtney Stedman with her embroideries, which took out the people's choice award at the Next Gen exhibition. Picture: Michelle Smith.

Embroidery is in Courtney Stedman's blood, but she had never embroidered anything until she created works of art as part of her VCE studies.

The former Damascus College student embroidered two pieces Roots at a Tender Depth and Connections using a collection of embroidery threads her mother had stashed in a cupboard decades ago.

“My mother did cross stitch since she was pregnant with me and my sister, and my grandmother used to embroider and she won art prizes for her embroidery, so I feel that it’s come out through my DNA,” she said.

But she hadn’t actually attempted to embroider herself until she decided to use the needlework technique in her art studies. Her mother stopped stitching many years ago.

Courtney’s intricate, detailed artworks won a place in the annual Next Gen exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, an exhibition showcasing the incredible art created by students from the Ballarat region who have just completed VCE studies in art, studio arts, design and technology, visual communication and design and media.

And this week it was announced that her two pieces had taken out the People’s Choice Award voted for by visitors who viewed the exhibition over the past five weeks.

Roots at a Tender Depth and Connections explore concepts of love and relationships.

“My theme is about love; about how you grow as a person when you are with somebody or family. It talks to the growth of that love or relationship, and every single flower represents a different meaning, like the rose represents love. 

“It canvasses all those emotions that come with being in love, and it’s not just on the surface it’s deep, it gets in to your skin, and that’s what the roots signify. The roots delve in to the person and how they are growing as a person.

“The woman is sleeping because she is sinking down, going in to the dirt. Humans are a part of nature as well; we will eventually die but come back as something else.”

Local students Patrick Staley and Tahlia Stanton with their art works that were on display in the 2018 Next Gen exhibition at the Art Gallery. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Local students Patrick Staley and Tahlia Stanton with their art works that were on display in the 2018 Next Gen exhibition at the Art Gallery. Picture: Lachlan Bence

The only time Courtney had sewed before taking on her art project was sewing clothes for toys as a child.

“It took a lot of time and effort and patience. Every single thread has gone through me and I pricked my fingers probably 60 times,” she said.

What makes the work even more extraordinary, apart from the fact Courtney had never embroidered before, is that she created it freehand. She drew herself on calico, drew some flowers and did the rest by eye.

”I really don’t know how many hours it took. It felt like eternity because every single stitch took forever. It took me four weeks to do it and I probably worked nearly four hours a day on it in that time.”

Trudy Nicholson, vice president of the Ballarat Society of Artists who sponsor the Next Gen exhibition, said Courtney’s work was astounding and mature.

“The textile concept and the thought behind it is beautiful and very mature. The whole idea of grounding and connection, it’s a very important message that kids of this generation need to hold on to as a basis, as a strength, and the inner recognition and being able to express that is fantastic.”

Ms Nicholson said the standard of art from senior students continued to soar.

“It has broadened, particularly the tech side of it has become more embraced by some of the youth as their understanding grows of it. But the drawing, the drawing ability and different mediums is absolutely fantastic and the combination of mediums mixing is fantastic.”

Despite her success, Courtney is not tempted to continue with embroidery.

“I draw as a hobby, I paint, I sketch, I just love art and love to look at it and really appreciate it, but I feel like I got embroidery out of my system. I feel like i can now leave it because i can really appreciate how much work and effort I put in to it.”