It’s hard to comprehend that artwork created in a 1860s revamped horse stable in the Adelaide CBD is being sent to the dark side of the Moon.

“I never thought it was going to happen,” says freestyle machine embroider Cheryl Bridgart. “It’s a bit surreal.”

Bridgart is one of 40,000 contemporary artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers from around the world whose work has been digitalised and stored on a cache aboard a Lunar Codex space capsule.

The project, headed by NASA, has been in the works for two years, and Bridgart’s work is set to fly in February. The idea is to preserve culture and, if the mission is successful, the cache will remain on the Moon for hundreds of thousands of years.

“My husband says that the aliens will find my Moon box and look at the images and say that my artwork’s a bit strange, and that I look a bit strange with what I wear.

“And I would have saved the planet because the aliens will think, ‘Oh, no, we’re not going to the earth’,” Bridgart says, laughing.

Bridgart creates her artworks using freestyle machine embroidering. Photo: Jack Fenby

She says her pieces each take hundreds of hours to complete, so the idea that it can be embedded into a thumb-size piece of technology and sent to the Moon is as “strange” as the work itself.

A work titled Gentle Whispering was selected by Bridgart for this journey to the Moon. It was inspired, like a lot of the artist’s work, by her dreams, and the desire to create something positive, despite the destruction and devastation in the world.

“I try not to make art that makes you feel squirmy.

“It [Gentle Whispering] is a little bit about butterflies – wing flaps – and there’s some catastrophe that happens in the world, and we’ve got a lot of bad things happening in our world.

“It also has a landscape with little Australian animals, so you’ve got to sit and lose yourself in it to find the animals.”

A lot of Cheryl Bridgart’s pieces are inspired by her dreams. Photo: Jack Fenby

Like all of Bridgart’s work, Gentle Whispering was created through freestyle machine embroidering, which is like sketching with a sewing machine.

“All I need is my threads, but the machine doesn’t do anything for me,” she explains.

“It doesn’t do a zigzag stitch; it doesn’t do a fancy stitch; it doesn’t do a straight stitch; it hasn’t got a feed dog, so it doesn’t move my fabric.

“My hands take over – once it’s bobbing up and down, I could go sideways backwards, so I basically draw or scribble.”

Bridgart has noticed a revival of interest in textiles since COVID, and finds pleasure in sharing her methods with others.

“I don’t have secrets if students come on in wanting to learn – it’s always nice to inspire. We’re going back to learning how to cook, how to make things. We’re doing craft now!”

All of this creativity unfolds in Bridgart’s home studio.

“This place has just got a lovely feel,” she says, noting that it once housed horses. She adds that she never suffers writer’s ­– or artist’s ­– block in the studio: “I continually draw.”

The artist’s work lines the walls of her unique home and studio space. Photo: Jack Fenby

It is an expansive, open space, which feels huge for a house, but also like a cosy, quaint gallery. Jazz music plays, and a fire burns. Bridgart’s work lines the walls and fills adjoining rooms.

Bridgart, dressed in one of her creations, fits the space. She has been making her own clothes since she was a teenager, and says it’s a skill she learnt from her mother.

“I had a mother that did tapestries.

“I was surrounded by her wools and colours, and she made our clothes when we were younger. But then she couldn’t make what I wanted, so I learnt to do it myself.

“I never, never had any sewing lessons, and when I was at art school, I ended up making garments as sculptures and put them on during the exams.”

Each of her creations, on display in studio/gallery, features a trademark: “Everything’s got a pocket, because a girl needs a pocket for lipstick and a mobile phone.”

The studio space was restored after Bridgart and her husband moved into the property in 2008. As a long-term Guildhouse member, she has also hosted events for the networking initiative Guildhouse Greets at the premises.

“Guildhouse is a great organisation for supporting artists, whether you’re established or an up-and-coming artist or you’re a student,” she says.

“We’ve got this big old building, and we feel like we’re custodians of it, so we wanted to use it where we could.”

Colour is integral to Cheryl Bridgart’s work. Photo: Jack Fenby

The space has also been the site of the Bridgart’s yearly SALA exhibitions, and this year will be no different.

“Each year, I create 30-40 artworks and work towards a solo exhibition, and there generally is a theme,” she says.

“This year, it’s about the Moon.”

Bridgart is also preparing for an exhibition later this year at the Art Gallery of South Australia titled Radical Textiles, which will run from November until March next year.

“It’s going to be a huge exhibition. They’ve got the tapestries from Parliament House, which are the suffragettes’ tapestries, and there’s artists from around Australia, so I’m going to be in amazing company.”

No matter what Bridgart is working on, there is one “sacred cow” that governs her work.

“Things should be well made,” she says.

“I know that art can be very conceptual, and it doesn’t matter how it’s put together, but I just love things to be well made.”

And perhaps this is all she needs to preserve her work for years to come.

In the Studio is a regular series presented by InReview in partnership with not-for-profit organisation Guildhouse (see previous stories here).  Cheryl Bridgart is a longstanding member of Guildhouse and a host of the Guildhouse Greets networking initiative. Read more about her on the artist’s website. The exhibition is also part of SALA Festival in August.

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