Textile Tessera – 2018

A fibre collaboration by two textile artists, Judi Tompkins (Queensland) and Jo Franco (Western Austratlia)

Challenges of Collaboration by Judi Tompkins

At first glance, Jo and my decision to collaborate on an installation for Re-imagined: A Challenge with a Difference seemed pretty straightforward. After all, we have a pretty good understanding and respect for each other’s opinions and approach to rughooking and fibre/textile art; we communicate well and offer support and criticism in a constructive way; agreed on our common goal; are willing to compromise; are reliable and reasonable time-mangers; and Jo is pretty tolerant!

So, could we have overlooked anything in our simple plan to share the work on a common project and bring it smoothly together at the end?

You bet! (Keeping in mind that your experience will differ from ours.)

Life Like all of you, we both have incredibly busy lives on a “good” day with the usual appointments, chores, family “stuff”, frustrations and things that require attention and get in the way.  I however managed to add selling a house, moving and building a house and studio into the middle of this; and the building process became quite awful just about the time I was due to work on our mutual project and served to redefine and clarify the concept of “challenge” for me!

Logistics Naturally if you build a new house and don’t have family to live with (sponge off?) then you need find someplace to rent and keep your “stuff” – most of which you are convinced you won’t need because the build will, “only take about four months”.


Just to keep things interesting and adrenaline-filled, I initially kept only a few boxes of rughooking and fibre supplies, frames, fabrics and fibres in a small room – supposedly my “studio” but used by my dog as her “office” at my rental unit (“I’ll just keep the necessary things because I can easily get anything I need from one of the two large shipping containers at the building site”). Hah! (again) I realised too late that access to these containers would be “delicate” because of the construction toilet and the sheer volume of stacked building materials. Oh well…surely, I can get what I need from Spotlight.


Gradually I unloaded more and more from the storage units into my rental “studio” and into the back bedroom, ensuring I can’t find anything (“but…I know I have it somewhere”) in any location.


The realization that I needed to get my “bit” done well in advance of my shifting house; preparation for a workshop/demo early in July and Jo’s leaving for the US when she  takes our collaborative pieces to the launch of the Reimagined Challenge at Sauder Village made the next obstacle an extra challenge indeed!

Tabula Rasa

Yes. The dreaded blank slate indeed! In spite of all the communication via email, Skype, photos and Facebook with Jo … I just couldn’t start hooking! Didn’t know what to do (I thought I did at first … but I didn’t!); didn’t know where to start; didn’t know what fabric and colours to use; didn’t like what I did start; convinced I just couldn’t do it; thought it was probably a dumb idea anyway (whose was it?) Surely, I was innocent in all this! Nearly suggested that Jo should “just do it”.  I didn’t.

I’m sure there are and will be other hassles and frustrations with getting this collaboration done but it has been worth the aggravation. It is indeed a challenge and had really pushed me (nearly over the edge…but not quite…yet!) I needed to think faster; keep the goal and vision in mind and just “do it”!

I will.

I am.

I will be OK in the end … everything is frustrating at the halfway point.

“Re-imagined” is a Challenge with a Difference – these hooked pieces are certainly different! If “collaborating” wasn’t challenging enough – the “tyranny of distance” makes it more so! 

Finally – all finished each with artist statement card (each piece had its own story) Judi’s pieces shipped from Queensland on the East Coast to Perth on the West Coast – packed and ready to travel half way around the world!

BUT WAIT ……. there’s more – each of the 12 pieces now have a new home – see below where they are now?

No.1 of 12 by Josephine Franco is now in Florida
No. 2 of 12 by Josephine Franco is in Queensland
No. 3 of 12 by Judi Tompkins now travels with Meryl Cook of Nova Scotia as she gives talks and workshops.
No. 4 of 12 by Josephine Franco went with new owner to Michigan, USA.
No. 5 of 12 by Judi Tompkins is now on display in Perth, West Australia
No. 6 of 12 by Judi Tompkins is in Seattle with Cami Smith of Fiber Art Now. Cami and Jo at lunch at the Seattle Centre
No. 7 of 12 by Judi Tompkins is also in Seattle with Judy Taylor
No. 8 of 12 By Judi Tompkins is in West Virginia at the home of Susan Feller.
No 9 of 12 has been taken to California by Alice Sharon Smith
No 10 of 12 by Josephine Franco is with Kris McDermet in Vermont
No 11 of 12 by Josephine Franco is now in Pennsylvania
No. 12 of 12 by Josephine Franco was sent as a gift to Florida

This video shows clearer images of the individual pieces.

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