Arts and Culture

Jo’s many stylish hats

Story: April Spadina. Photographer: Joy Butler.
This article was originally published in Alive Magazine Wide Bay. 
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Sometimes, as they say, when two worlds collide magic happens. This is definitely the case for Fraser Coast artist Jo Williams with the delicious collision of her beautiful paintings and the fashion industry in the form of wearable coats inspired by the shape of the Japanese kimono.

Jo Williams is larger than life and makes no excuses for her bold personality and robust nature. Her artwork is a reflection of her personality with earthy, rustic tones and bold brush strokes. But there’s also a gentleness there as well, in her art and in her nature. Her body of work titled “Me and Leonard and an Old Piano” was a moving exhibition of her soulful connection to music and the old piano hammers that the universe somehow knew she was looking for.

The rhythmic patterns that appear in her paintings come from the interpretation of lyrics and music by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Phillip Glass, Bach, Mozart and the sounds of indigenous music.
Her work is like a map of her life, the path left behind her and yet to tread, a criss-cross of earthy colours, music notes and organic shapes and this is what has now become a new art in the form of fabric for her elegant coats.

Jo was one of three artists mentored by artist and businesswoman Nicole Duyst, a recipient of a Fraser Coast RADF grant to help artists transform their work into fabrics with the potential to start a business.

As a strong advocate for human connection, Jo insisted that anything she did had to involve local producers, so Nicole aligned the planets and contacted Point Vernon seamstress Sue Fluell-Smith who developed an dressmaker’s pattern to enhance Jo’s artworks and with her intricate stitching and attention to detail, the first of the garments were born.

Coats have been a strong presence in Jo’s art journey, visiting Jo in many forms over the years, so it’s a natural progression that they would now become wearable art.

Created from natural bamboo fibre, Jo’s artwork truly shines on the smooth, sumptuous fabric surface which were printed in Brisbane, as close to Jo’s home as possible and honouring her local requirements. But the details aren’t just in the fabric – delicate embellishments enhance the coat, and there are pockets! Who doesn’t love pockets!?

Jo Williams truly is a rockstar in so many ways. This fedora-wearing and black t-shirt-and-sneakers-rocking strong woman has immersed herself in art and music for decades so it makes sense that she would now wear the hat of fashion designer. In the lyrics of Leonard Cohen…

“Ring the bells you can ring. Forget your perfect offering.”

Jo continues to ring her own bell.


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