26 November – 27 January 2021

This year COVID-19 has overwhelmed life in so many ways. It has been tragic, disruptive, isolating and a deeply personal experience for everyone. The arts and creative industries have been hit hard this year with opportunities to exhibit and sell work limited by closures and restrictions.   

With the support of a City of Sydney Cultural Resilience Grant, Australian Design Centre invited nine creative practitioners from Sydney to participate in a new project called Isolate Make: Creative Resilience in a Pandemic. We worked closely with all nine to unpack the impact this year has had on their practice.

Creative Practitioners:
Glenn Barkley | Crossing Threads | Kathy Elliott | Benja Harney | Liz Payne | Donna Sgro | Lucy Simpson | Melinda Young

Isolate Make explores how creative practice has adapted to isolation, associated restrictions and production challenges, or in response to the year’s tragic global events.  Through images, text, video and final work on exhibition Isolate Make gives a unique insight into a wide range of contemporary art, craft and design practice.

The project took place over a period of several months in which each creative practitioner documented their process in video, text, images and the making of the final work for exhibition.

Isolate Make events are part of the Sydney Festival 2021.

Isolate Make Artists Talk
Take a guided tour and talk with the artists of Isolate Make | Creative Resilience in a Pandemic. The artists will discuss their diversity of practice, techniques and process, sharing insight into their exhibited works. This conversation will uncover the challenges they faced during isolation, their conceptual wins and the creative resilience they've relied during these traumatic times.
When: Saturday 16 January, 11:00am - 1:00pm & 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Where: ADC
Ticketed eventbookings required

Making with Paper Workshop
Join paper engineer and Isolate Make artist Benja Harney for a creative paper construction workshop with a focus on techniques you can take home. As a professional creative, artist and educator, over the last 12 years Benja has led his Sydney-based studio, Paperform, to develop a body of work that pushes the possibilities of the paper medium.
Pop-up books, paper sculpture, installation, illustration, packaging, fine art, fashion, animation, set design – Benja makes anything and everything possible within this endlessly inventive material.
When: Wednesday 20 January, 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Where: ADC
Ticketed eventbookings required

Making with Clay Workshop
Take some time for yourself in a relaxed clay making workshop led by Isolate Make artist and ceramicist, Glenn Barkley. This workshop will focus on ceramic techniques and processes with an experimental flair. Glenn is an artist, writer, curator, and gardener based in Sydney and Berry NSW, Australia. His work operates in the space between these interests drawing upon the history of ceramics, popular song, the garden and conversations about art and the internet. 
When: Thursday 21 January, 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Where: ADC
Ticketed eventbookings required

Image: Kathy Elliott, Danger Within, 2020. Photo: Greg Piper. 

Glenn Barkley

The works are not very big and I set out to complete one pot a day. I would start in the morning, do other things then come back to it in the afternoon. I made moulds out of old Star Wars figures I have had since I was a kid. Sometimes these characters' faces adorn the pots. 

Crossing Threads

 A key takeaway from this experience is how we prioritise our time and invest our energy in both our practice and the relationships we have. The act of creating can be healing. An opportunity to connect with others and with ourselves. 

Kathy Elliott

As the weeks and months of COVID-19 passed I became acutely aware of the objects and surfaces around me. Who had touched the surfaces I was touching? Had the glasses and cups been washed well? Were people covering their mouth as they sneezed or coughed. I wanted to make visible the fears I was having about what I perceived as the invisible dangers around me. 

Benja Harney

The extended loneliness and isolation earlier in the year made me yearn for some kind of connection. In the absence of the human, I found solace in my local environment. During my forays into the bush, the quirky brushturkeys began to capture my attention. For me, they have become emblematic of resilience in the face of adversity. 

Liz Payne

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic I have been forced to look at my practice, how I work, and what I really want to convey. The eye can symbolise vision in all its ways - tapping into our intuition, seeing into the future and looking beyond at what we are currently facing. 

Donna Sgro

I think art, and by extension its relationship to design, is so important right now for many reasons. In my experience, it can help manage negative emotions and the feeling of not being in control of things in the world. It allows the imagination to flow and for us to explore expression with all of our senses. Especially since so much of our engagement is currently through screens - art and design enable connection with our bodies. 

Lucy Simpson

This work was created as a means by which to map and mark time, to process experience and pass on story. Its form is inspired by the traditional reed necklaces made by people of the river, drawing connections between my saltwater Sydney home in Gadigal country (where the fibre was collected and twined), and the floodplains of our ngurrambaa in north-western NSW, the Yuwaalaraay lands to which I belong.

Melinda Young

The work reflects on being adrift and coming together. The idea that we are ‘together alone’ that has been so often used this year. The brooches have been arranged in a shape that reflects a large Arbus cloud that stretched from the south of Wollongong to Sydney on the afternoon of 20 April 2020. The cloud brought people together; my Instagram feed was filled with it - a tangible reminder that my friends and family were grounded together (apart) under the same sky, in extraordinary times.