vivonne thwaites



sera waters


Sera Waters

Telling Tales on Terry Towelling: Fashioning Locals, 2016-2017
Towel, wool, cotton, bedsheet, velvet, trim
90 x 50 cm
Photograph Grant Hancock

This towel, Fashioning Locals, is from a larger series of towels, each telling passed along tales from Australia’s settler colonial and domestic histories. Though towels are often dismissed as innocuous, they have intimate relationships with their owners. They dry bodies, offer warmth and protection, wipe away dirt and soak up spills, and are subject to regimes of homely repetitive care … often for decades. They witness all kinds of goings on, and sometimes even get passed along family lines. The towels of this series are all pre-loved, have somewhat faded patterns, and are marked and worn from such exposure. 

Home-based textiles, including towels and embroidery, have often had a penchant for translating nature (from outside) into comforting, decorative and idealised versions to live with inside. The embroidery and textile collage upon this towel weaves a not-so-comforting story around the part my ancestor played in domesticating her surroundings, in a specific time and region in our history. In a plethora of palm pattern she stands proudly, not wearing a fashionable fox fur, but sporting a Toolache wallaby, a now extinct species which inhabited the south east of South Australia. I use needlework to recognise and question intergenerational legacies and I push traditions into discomfiting territories with an aim of shifting trajectories. 

Being from South Australia (and having children) my residency at the Australian Tapestry Workshop was necessarily short, but intense and valuable. I quickly developed a daily practice embroidering upon towels, using and mixing as many colours as I could. Highlights included participating in the morning tea quiz, getting to know the inspiring AIRs (Kirsty Macafee and John Brooks), as well as being privy to the complex colour mixing decisions the amazing team of tapestry artists negotiated regularly. ATW is a special, colourful and wondrous place and have grown from my time spent there. 



Things Happened, 2010
Card, teatowel, cotton, wooden beads, trim, stuffing
50 x 22 cm
Photograph Grant Hancock


Great Australian Bite: Cavernous, 2009-2011
Linen, cotton, crewel, beads, sequins, trimmings, chain, card, stuffing, leather, felt
84 x 65 cm
Photograph Grant Hancock

view 2010 artworks


artist statement

This collection of wall-hangings arise from my curiosity with local myths, histories and narratives to do with the Australian bush and interior; in particular stemming from research into explorers (especially Burke & Wills and John McDouall Stuart), BBQ culture, screened tales such as Underbelly, and my own family history. Each work, whether a biting set of teeth or a blinding glare, is about being here and being human (including the animal within) and the struggle to survive (emotionally and physically) in this hot, harsh and unpredictable land. The bared teeth in particular are quasi portals for journeying into multiple temporalities; back into our collective past, into horror-filled fictional bush tales, or our own encounters in the bush. They are also a way of showing power and an instinctive reaction to danger; to growl, to bite, to eat, to do anything to survive. The sun glare similarly causes us to stop; our vision is repelled, we are blinded to what lays ahead and are forced to flinch and look away. The sun and its rays give and take life rapidly here. There is a ferocity and brutality that lurks within these works, one I find lives within numerous Australian narratives, including that of my ancestors who took great risks (even living in caves) to sustain their family life.  These battles were costly however, to their bodies, their minds, their relationships, and no doubt to others.

Materially, each of these works is laboriously made from methods once associated with ‘home-craft’; embroidery and blackwork, with cottons, beads, sequins, linen, and printed fabrics, and most importantly, time. Due to this materiality they can be read as strange offerings and craftings that have transpired from a domestic or inside state, made slowly and reflectively in order to ponder, confront and fathom encounters with our world. In particular the colours - pearly white and cream teeth with off-coloured blemishes, against colours like desert sand, greens of the bush or the high blue sky – meld body with place, transforming all into a terrain to negotiate and work through. The fine embroidered and embellished qualities are disarmingly distracting from the overall depictions of strong sunlight and wild mouths which are about to bite or swallow….just who or what (and where the eaten would eventuate) is unclear… but these works are at once delicate, brutal, darkly humourous and affronting. 


sera waters - cv

Short Biography

Sera Waters is a South Australian based artist, as well as arts writer and academic. Since 2006, when awarded a Ruth Tuck Scholarship to study hand embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework (UK), Waters’ art practice has been characterised by a darkly stitched meticulousness. She uses laborious embroidery methods, often black work, to dwell within the gaps of Australian settler colonial histories, mostly to examine the home-making practices of women and her own genealogical ghostscapes. Waters’ embroideries and hand-crafted sculptures have been exhibited nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include Ghostscapes (2014, Fontanelle Gallery, SA), Sappers & Shrapnel (2016, Art Gallery of South Australia) and Domestic Arts (opening July 20 2017, ACE Open, SA). In 2016 Waters won the Heysen Prize for Landscape with her rag-rug and needlework piece Fritz and the rose garden. Waters is the Head of Art History and Theory at Adelaide Central School of Art and is represented by Hugo Michell Gallery.

Four of Sera Water's works have been acquired for a collection of women's art held at UWA.

1979 – Born Murray Bridge, South Australia
Lives Adelaide, South Australia

2006 Embroidery Summer School courses, Royal School of Needlework, Surrey, UK
2003-2006 Masters of Arts in Art History, Adelaide University
1997-2000 Bachelor of Visual Arts (First Class Honours), SASA, University of South Australia
2011 Flocked, Inside SAM’s Place residency, SA Museum (with Craftsouth), Adelaide SA
  Home Stories, Adelaide Central Gallery, curated by Vivonne Thwaites, Adelaide SA artroom5, Adelaide SA
  Tamworth Textile Triennial, curated by Patrick Snelling, Tamworth, NSW (+ touring)
2010 Flyblown, FELTspace, Adelaide SA
  Moving Wounded (ongoing participatory project):
  Consumed, Adelaide Central Gallery, Adelaide SA
  Little Weeds, online ( + Peel Street exhibition space (with Format Festival) + Seedling Art Space, curated by Lisa Harms, Adelaide SA
2009 Nell Pearson, Sera Waters, Claude Jones & Beci Orpin, Edwina Corlette Gallery, Brisbane Qld
  Just Is, Max Dawn Gallery, curated by Bev Southcott, Adelaide SA
  Craft’n Disaster, The Project Space, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide SA
  Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award, Wangaratta Vic
  artroom5, Adelaide SA
  Talente 2009, International Trade Fair, Munich, Germany
2008 artroom5, Adelaide SA
2007 Spirited Away, Adelaide Central Gallery, Adelaide, SA
  Quiet Hands, Gaff Gallery, curated by Rayleen Forrester, Port Adelaide SA
  Hedgemaze, Light Square Gallery, Adelaide SA
2006 Crooks & Nannies, downtown art space, Adelaide SA
2001 Hatched, National Graduate Show, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth WA
2010 Project & Development Grant, Arts SA
2005 AJA Roy Terrill Prize, Japanese Art History Essay Prize, Adelaide University
2005 Ruth Tuck Scholarship, South Australian Youth Arts Board
2002 Artists-in-studios, South Australian Youth Arts Board
Adams, Jude, 'Three Artists- in the world: Anne Kay, Irmina Van Niele, Sera Waters', Artlink, vol 29, no 2, 2009
Dunt, Nerina, ‘Craft’n Disaster: Sera Waters’, Object, issue 59, October 2009, p. 58.
Hart, Jenny, ‘Sera Waters’, Embroidery as Art blog, Jan 12, 2010 (
Hemmings, Dr Jessica, ‘The Dark Side’, embroidery (UK), vol. 60, Sept/Oct 2009, pp. 24-27.
Kemp, Jemima, ‘During the South Australian Living Artists Festival’, Point Blank, Point 3, 09/08.
Radok, Stephanie, ‘Filling an extraordinary space’, The Adelaide Review, no 253, Sept 28, 2004, pp 20-21
Zeplin, Dr Pamela, ‘Sera Waters: Crooks & Nannies’, Craft Culture online, Craft Victoria, 2007
2010-current Studio member of The Incinerator, Thebarton, SA
2005-current Committee Member on Adelaide Visual Arts Critic Circle, since Nov 2005.
2005-current Lecturing and tutoring in Art History at Adelaide University, Adelaide Central School of Art and South Australian School of Art (University of South Australia).
2004 – current Arts writer for various local and national publications and catalogues
2010 AAANZ conference, presenter in Relational Craft session + Chair, Post Graduate Symposium
2010 Artistspeak, University of South Australia
2007-2009 Peer Assessment Panel, Arts SA
2007 Key note speaker, SALA Festival, Art Gallery of South Australia
2005-2009 Studio member of Hedgemaze, Port Adelaide, SA
2005 Project Assistant, Tatsuo Miyajima residency, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia
The Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art, University of Western Australia
Private Collections, South Australia and New South Wales, Australia



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