Marie Wharton is a winner with her weaving. She received two prizes at the NSW CWA’s annual conference in Armidale this year, out of hundreds of entries.
Marie has form. Last year, her jacket was awarded the champion prize.
This year, the hand-spun, hand-woven vest she made for her niece received the Highly Commended prize in the Land section of the handicraft competition, while a jumper took second prize in the over-80s section.
“The jacket was going to be for me, actually!” she said. “My niece came up and said: ‘Auntie Marie, please!’ I said: ‘Suzy, it’s wool, you won’t be able to wear it, you’re allergic to it.’ She tried it, and went: ‘Well, I’m not allergic to that!’”
Marie has been making fine arts for more than half a century. She trained at East Sydney Tech as a handicrafts teacher, learning weaving and spinning, as well as clothmaking and millinery. After teaching in Sydney, she moved to Glen Innes in 1958.
“When I came here,” she said, “I was a TAFE teacher on the stage of the town hall, because there was no tech at all. I’ve continued to teach over the years, sometimes high school, sometimes primary school.”
These days, Marie teaches the Fiber Arts Group, who meet every Friday at the Knick-Knackery in Wentworth Street.
Marie was one of the founding members 40 years ago. Now, many of her former pupils are in the group, eager to learn.
“When you get to my age, and you can’t do anything else,” Marie said, “you can at least spin. A lot of the girls in here are ex-students of mine, and they want to learn more because when we get to the stage where we’re housebound, we can entertain ourselves.
“I’ve got so many jobs and projects that I’m busy all the time, whereas if I was sitting at home thinking ‘What am I going to do next?’, because I live on 50 acres, I haven’t got a next-door neighbour to chat to, I’d be lonely – and I’m not lonely. I’m flat-out!”
Marie wanted to thank Dallas Cameron, the Knick-Knackery’s owner, for supporting the group.
“It’s been a great help to us to be able to meet once a week,” Marie said, “and have our looms stored here. We’re very grateful to the Knick-Knackery for allowing us. They carry our insurance, our heating, our lighting. As a small group, we couldn't afford to do that.”
The shop also donated $200 worth of prizes to the CWA for the handicrafts section alone – a great incentive, Marie said, for weavers to enter the show. They went from 27 entries in the handicrafts section the year before last to 280 this year.
"She's helping promote our group, and we're getting more members because we've got a place to meet."
If you are interested in learning handicrafts from expert Marie Wharton, why not go to the Knick-Knackery on Friday morning?