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Australian Modernities Vernacular Performers and Consumers International Conference 5 - 7 December 2006 The University of Queensland St. Lucia, Brisbane, Australia PRESENTER: Dr Susan Wood – Charles Sturt University TITLE: A forgotten contribution: Ann Gillmore Rees and the teaching of modern design in Sydney ABSTRACT: Accounts of the development of craft and design in New South Wales identify a variety of ways in which concepts of modernity were translated from Britain to Australia but none of them discuss the role played by Ann Gillmore Rees. Ann Gillmore Rees studied at the Central School of Art in the nineteen twenties and subsequently earned a living as a teacher and designer in London. As well as working as an illustrator, she designed for Joyce Clissold’s Footprints Studio which produced modernist textiles for dress and furnishings. In the late 1930s Ann Gillmore Rees migrated to Australia where, through her work as a designer for Marion Best Fabrics and, later, her teaching of design, she influenced many Australian women artists and designers, including Marion Hall Best, Dora Sweetapple, Joan Law Smith and Margaret Oppen. One of her contributions to the development of craft and design in Sydney was to establish the curriculum and act as the first principal of a craft training school run the by Society of Arts and Crafts of NSW between 1947 and 1951. In this paper I discuss the role played by Ann Rees in promoting modern design among upper middle class women in New South Wales through her teaching and design work, with a particular focus on textiles. I also explore briefly the reasons why both Ann Gillmore Rees and the Society of Arts and Crafts of New South Wales’ craft training school have ‘disappeared’ from standard accounts of the history of art and craft in Australia. PRESENTER’S BIOGRAPHY: Sue Wood is a Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. She is also a practising textile artist, with a Masters degree in Visual Art. Her PhD thesis, recently submitted at RMIT University, is titled ‘Creative embroidery in New South Wales, 1960 – 1975’. She is particularly interested in the links between British and Australian textiles and embroidery in the twentieth century and in recovering the stories of ‘forgotten’ embroiderers. She will spend Spring 2006 further investigating the life and work of Ann Gillmore Rees in Britain and Australia.
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