Scrapbag Studio is the creation of Margaret Berry, where she creates her funky, one-off pieces. It is situated in the hills north of Nimbin in the NSW Northern Rivers area.
Margaret uses recycled fabrics, fibres and yarns - adding paints, dyes, inks and found objects to create amazing wall hangings, paintings, jewellery, quilts, collages and clothes.
Margaret is also my mother. My childhood memories of her are of a woman obsessed with creating; she always had a project on the go. She’s one of those few people I know who whole-heartedly live their life as an Artist. Everything she does and touches is infused with a creative energy.
She always encouraged us to be creative too, which I am grateful for. One of my fondest memories is sitting around the table as a child colouring-in with her and my siblings. All neighborhood children were also welcomed and gladly joined in.
One of my most treasured belongings is a blanket she knitted for me when I was a baby. It’s gotten moth eaten over the years, and she has repaired it in such a beautiful way that it looks like it’s part of the design.
In her own words:
My name is Margaret Berry. I live on a Community in the hills of the Northern Rivers area of NSW surrounded by forest. It is very quiet here, with lots of wildlife and wonderful friends and neighbours. I love it. I spend my time between my garden and my crafts/arts. I knit, patchwork, free-motion machine embroidery, all sorts of mixed media work. I have three grown up children, and five grandchildren in Brisbane as well as extended family and we all get together at the slightest provocation. Occasionally I go on a trip, usually north in winter, and attend fibre forum workshops regularly. In 2010, I was part of a group who went to Alice Springs for the Beanie Festival. I fell in love with the desert and would love to go again. For the past few years I have been to the Woodford Folk Festival for the whole season and am really looking forward to it again this year.
I was born in England during the war. My mother knitted, machine sewed and did the most beautiful hand embroidery. I learned to use a sewing machine at age 4 (my mum’s treadle had a pull-out handle on the wheel and that’s what I used) and I learned to knit so early on that at age 8 I was very competent and couldn’t remember learning. I had knitted as far back as I could remember.
Throughout my childhood I knitted, sewed and embroidered, mostly for my dolls, and in my teens I made a lot of my own clothes and jumpers. I started making a blanket at this time with a big bag of wool, leftovers and unpicked, which was under my parents’ bed. It took me years but I did eventually finish it about 20 years later. At age 12, I found a box of fabric scraps (I’ve no idea whose they were, they weren’t ours) and I started English piecing a circular skirt of hexagons.
In my 20’s I continued to knit and sew, for myself and for my children and I taught myself to crochet, appliqué and I continued with the blanket started all that time ago.
In the 70’s I left my marriage and found myself in Nimbin. It was pioneer time – no power, water or anything else. No space either – living in a bus with three children doesn’t allow for a sewing room, or even sewing corner. I learned to macramé, which was all the rage, and my friend and I macramed our way through our adventures for several years – I made the most beautiful things with string and all kinds of found stuff, as well as beaded bracelets and belts. I also knitted more blankets and crocheted a lot of ponchos in this period. It was overall a very meditative time. Since I’ve developed arthritis, I miss the meditation involved in spending hours and hours knitting, crocheting or similar.
Towards the end of my 30’s I acquired a treadle machine – this transformed my life. Although the stuff I made on it were fairly primitive by my current standards, it did mean I could sew again and this is where my later obsession with patchwork really started.
At the end of the 80’s I went to live again in S.E. Qld and finally was able to use a sewing machine and even have a sewing/craft room to myself. This was a very formative time for me.