Soosie Jobson is an obsessive feltmaker who lives in Fremantle Western Australia, loves Sci-Fi, rides a red Vespa and has a mini-schnauzer called Delilah Cheese-Head Banana Dog.
The first half of my life was the quintessential rebirth story. The story of a dyed in the wool (pun intended) city girl who gave up a career for love, and in return, found not only a wonderful partner but the gift of a creative life.
I met my husband in Fremantle Western Australia in 1986. He was a novice metallurgist, fresh from University and I was a junior executive in corporate banking. He was ready to move to a remote mining location and I had a well planned and organised city life. I was climbing the corporate ladder thinking I was on my way to a dream existence, all influenced by the ideals of the 1980’s. When he asked me to go with him, I didn’t really have any idea what I was in for, but I had fallen in love and I said, “Yes”. We promptly moved to the bush in Western Australia.
For an administrator the work itself was very similar to that of banking, it’s all about numbers and documents, but the culture and locations were drastically different. I traded my oversized shoulder padded suit for khaki work clobber and my much-loved Italian stilettos for steel cap boots. Putting on makeup was pointless as it literally melted off your face in the often 45°C daytime temperature, and doing your hair – this was the big hair days of the 1980s, tying it back to keep the red dirt out was the prudent option.
We worked long hours for 6 weeks at a time followed by one week off. The drive back to Perth was 1,500 kms through the wheatbelt, hundreds of kilometres of suburb sized paddocks of grain; quilted by roads that are edged with remnant bush. As we drove passed these remnants the trunks of the Eucalypt trees made the sunlight flicker like an old movie, and the swaying heads of the wheat moved like golden water behind the trees. But for most of our weeks off we would pack up our 4WD vehicle and head further into the bush.
On the very first inland trip I forgot about all of those city things, as I became absolutely captivated by my extraordinary surroundings. The first thing that struck me was the vast unbroken horizon and a sky that envelopes you like a giant blue umbrella. It’s called Breakaway country – flat open plains interspersed with alternating ridges and gorges or canyons. This country is quiet and bright.
Being out there made me rethink what I wanted from life, and it wasn’t the corporate world. I had made the right decision. I love a big sky.
During the 12 years we spent out bush, we explored national parks the size of small countries, often going for days without seeing any other people and being completely self-reliant. The expansive plains were the weathered remains of ancient mountain ranges ground into orange dust only capable of supporting the fairy like rings of the salty sage coloured Spinifex. We would drive for hundreds of kilometres to see a gorge then climb and clamber down for our reward; a swim in a crystal-clear pool of very cold water. It is only at the bottom of a gorge that you can grasp the powerful persistence that water has to sculpt and spilt the rock leaving them to be stacked by giants. The duo tone orange and sage of the plains does not hint at the colour of the gorge walls. Criss crossed by black cracks and crevices that support an array of flora and fauna, the colour of the gorge walls changes as the sun marches through the day. At first, they are subdued and soft but as the sun reaches its zenith so does the intensity of the red, purple and orange hues of the rock.
Our biggest adventure was a 5000 km trip across the centre of Western Australia along the Gunbarrel Highway to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Many of my felt pieces have been based upon this 6 week trip, including 4 winning Alice Springs Beanie Festival beanies: Mt Canyon, All roads lead…, Thorny Devil and Campfire. All of them have stories that inspire their making and in being made become aide-memoire for their story. “Mt Canyon” is about the breakaway country. “All roads lead…” recollects thousands of kilometres of driving along corrugated red dirt roads to be surprised by racing camels and tiny oases. “Thorny Devil” is well – they are just the cutest lizards on earth. And “Campfire” is about camping under the clearest, brightest night sky beneath the watchful eye of the Great Mother Emu.
We didn’t always head inland. Western Australia has over 10,000 kms of coastline and we have driven along much of it. The state extends from 13 to 32 degrees in latitude so has cold blustery coast buffeted by the Southern Ocean, the glorious western sunsets of the Indian Ocean, and the warm shallow 12 metre tides of the Timor Sea in the Kimberley. One of my favourite trips was camping along the Cape Range on the Ningaloo Reef. We camped in the sand dunes to mitigate the cooling but blustery westerly wind that arrives most afternoons. I always marveled how the soft grey blue grass held fast in the sand and managed to still radiate beauty in death by turning a bronze colour – even when it had succumbed to the encroaching sand. We snorkeled every day, all day. I was so captivated by the coral structures of Ningaloo – they are intricate and complex and teaming with life –that I turned my local café into a coral reef with my Reef Dwellers installation.
We returned to Fremantle 22 years ago and it was then that my felting story began.
I am blessed to have had 2 amazing makers influence my life. Both my mother and grandmother were excellent dress makers, knitters and crocheters, and making things with them fills my early memories. I think we tried every craft together. I have vivid memories of macramé, hook rugs, granny blankets, beading, basket making and sewing. Both of them were artisans at their chosen craft but until we settled in Fremantle, our semi-nomadic life meant I hadn’t found the media that really obsessed me, I always created but really, I dabbled. Then in Fremantle I found felting and all the stories of our adventures found a creative and permanent home in wearables, sculptures, vessels, and wallart.
We continue to have adventures throughout our vast country but we haven’t been so isolated in the bush since. In recent times I have had a strong yearning, almost a need, to be out under a big sky again and hope to bring that to fruition soon.
Facing west reflects my 40 year love affair with my chosen home: – Western Australia. This love combined with my making obsession has produced 34 works in embellished felt and polymer clay inspired by my life experiences whilst living and working in remote and rural areas of our vast state. From the tropics of the Kimberley, the red dirt of the western deserts, the golden patchwork of the wheatbelt and down to the tall timbers of the south each work has a story.