Clovelly Cecilia, Clare, Claire

Donna Sgro is one of 9 Sydney-based artists and designers invited to exhibit in Isolate Make: Creative Resilience in a Pandemic, opening at the Australian Design Centre (ADC), November 26th. The exhibition is open until January 27th 2021 and is part of Sydney Festival. ADC asked each artist to reflect on how their creative practice has changed in 2020 due to Covid-19 and isolation. The exhibition theme is timely; the creative industries are enduring hardship with limited funding and venue closures.
“Isolate Make explores how creative practice has adapted to isolation, associated restrictions and production challenges, or simply in response to the 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.” Australian Design Centre
‘Clovelly’ is a collection of 3 dresses designed and hand-made by Sgro while in isolation. Early in 2020, Sgro moved residence from the Inner West, where she lived for more than 20 years, to Clovelly. After the summer catastrophe of the bushfires, the heat, ash and humidity, she needed a sea change. Since March, Sgro has been working in her new home-studio, in isolation.
Sgro reflects, “I have been inspired by moving to the coastal area of Clovelly, where the vibrant qualities of light and colours in the environment feel invigorating, more especially since isolation during Covid-19. In this project, it is my sense of the beauty and energy in this environment that underpins the work I am doing.”
Sgro designed each dress with three Sydney-based creative women, and the garments named after each person. Sgro formed relationships with each of the women through her work and creative practice and wanted to celebrate them in the absence of physical proximity. ‘Cecilia’ is a wise and generous colleague, academic and textile artist. ‘Clare’ is a warm and engaging visual artist whose work spans contemporary art and performance. ‘Claire’ has a performer’s curiosity tempered by calmness and clarity. Each woman is inspirational in their own way and the garments aim to celebrate the strength of each individual.
Sgro uses her novel approach to cutting and constructing garments, called ‘Dynamic Cutting.’ This method involves creating each garment individually without the use of commercial patterns or standard garment styles. As a designer motivated to evolve and innovate design methods, her approach is distinctly different from standard industrial practices in fashion. Each garment, made with care, consideration and a lot of love, is designed to be a unique wardrobe addition which can transcend seasons.

Sgro’s creative methods during isolation have involved a re-investigation and invigoration of her drawing practice to create colour and pattern studies. Following this, she generates textile concepts by cutting and sewing different textiles together. The garments evolve piece by piece in a hands-on, dynamic way. As a result, each garment is individually. Each dress can be worn in multiple ways with the potential for reconstruction and redesign in time. They are also one-size, avoiding age and body shape restrictions that plague contemporary fashion design. The process is slow, and the result aims to generate joy through the continual discovery of the details in construction.

Overall, the experience of reflecting on creative resilience during Covid-19 for Sgro has helped her focus on what is important; inspiration through the notions of place, people and experimentation. Spending time in isolation has strengthened and focused the aims of her practice and has provided creative comfort when 2020 has thrown up so much uncertainty.

Sgro wishes to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, whose lands have never been ceded. She pays her respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

Sgro thanks the vision of the Australian Design Centre, including ADC CEO and Artistic Director, Lisa Cahill, for providing this opportunity. Sgro also thanks the City of Sydney Cultural Resilience Grant for providing support to all the artists.

For more information

Clovelly is a new project by Donna Sgro which will launch as part of Isolate Make: Creative Resilience in a Pandemic 
Australian Design Centre
26 November 2020 -27 January 2020.

Donna will be giving an artist talk on January 16th at ADC as part of Sydney Festival. To book a ticket: