Our Story

The Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW) is regarded as an international centre of excellence for innovative, contemporary, hand-woven tapestries, created in collaboration with leading artists, architects & designers. Established in 1976, it is the only workshop of its kind in Australia and one of a few in the world dedicated to the production of hand-woven tapestries.

Using the same techniques employed in Europe since the 15th century, the ATW's skilled weavers work with artists from Australia and overseas to produce tapestries that are known for their vibrancy, technical accomplishment and inventive interpretation. 

The Australian Tapestry Workshop is one of Australia’s leading producers of public art and has produced more than 500 contemporary hand-woven tapestries using the finest Australian wool sourced from suppliers who use best practice in agricultural sustainability. The yarn is dyed onsite by a specialist dyer who creates a palette of over 370 colours.

Our mission is to ensure that this traditional art form and our specialist creative skills are kept alive and thriving in Australia through active collaboration with contemporary artists. As resurgence in the art of contemporary tapestry continues to grow worldwide, the ATW remains deeply committed to its role as an international leader.

This means pushing new boundaries creatively and engaging the public more broadly. The ATW embraces the philosophy of shared creative endeavour. The ATW was founded on the principle of collaboration and interaction between artist, weaver and dyer. This collaborative approach has been skilfully developed by the ATW to the highest professional level, and is maintained as a constantly evolving creative process, which gives the ATW a distinct vitality and strength.

The ATW is a small institution that has survived difficult economic conditions in the sector of the Visual Arts and Craft. It has achieved both creative and commercial success, excelling in the highest cost end of the market, both in Australia and overseas and it has done so without compromising its artistic excellence and world-class reputation. ATW tapestries can be found across Australia at leading institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia, National Library, Sydney Opera House, Arts Centre Melbourne and many other cultural institutions, as well as at prominent government locations including Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. ATW tapestries are also held in many corporate and private collections, and appear internationally, including in nine Australian embassies worldwide.

Many notable Australian and international artists and architects have collaborated with ATW weavers including Arthur Boyd, Jorn Utzon, Patrick Heron, Sally Smart, Jon Cattapan, John Olsen, Frank Stella, David Noonan, Juan Davila, Chicks on Speed, John Wolseley, Imants Tillers, Angela Brennan, Judy Watson, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Roger Kemp, Sangeeta Sandrasegar, Brent Harris, Brook Andrew, Bronwyn Bancroft, Gulammohammed Sheik, and John Young. 

The ATW produces an active schedule of exhibitions and public programs including public lectures, weaving classes, tours, and an Artist in Residence program. It has run programs for primary school children, women, refugees, and hospitals, all produced with limited resources. It has forged international collaborations, such as a weaver exchange and exhibition program with Dovecot Studios (UK). Projects and programs are accessible nationally and internationally on our website and social media.

The ATW has toured exhibitions to the USSR, the USA, Turkey, Germany, France, Denmark, Japan, India, the UK, Italy, Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand. Its tapestries are now represented in many corporate collections throughout the world, as well as many public art and private collections in Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Kuala Lumpur, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, the USA and UK.

The ATW has an international reputation through its prominent commissions; its Embassy Tapestry Collection, its programs involving international artists/scholars such as the Hancock Fellowship, the Kate Derum Award and the Tapestry Design Prize for Architects (TDPA); and recent national and overseas exhibitions including Dovecot Studios (UK), Hayward Gallery ‘British Artshow No7’ (UK), Australian Embassies, Adelaide Biennale 2010, Fleece to Fibre, National Gallery of Victoria QAGOMA and the IMA.



Our Patron - Baillieu Myer AC

Mr Myer is one of the ATW's most longstanding and enthusiastic supporters as well as being a leading philanthropist and cultural leader. We are delighted that he will continue the legacy of our late Patron Dame Elisabeth Murdoch AC DBE, who was a driving force behind the ATW's establishment and a tireless promoter of our work.


A history of tapestry

Tapestry weaving has a long history, with some of the earliest tapestry fragments surviving from ancient civilisations over 1,000 years ago. However, the great flowering of tapestry, occured in France and Flanders during the Middle Ages and the number and variety of tapestries woven during this period has never been surpassed.

The history of Western tapestry, and of the famous workshops associated with it, is integral to the history of painting and architecture. Falling between the fine arts and the decorative arts, tapestry has played a time-honoured role in architecture, humanising the spaces in buildings both public and private. This has been achieved through the medium's natural charm and its softening effect on surroundings, both texturally and acoustically. More than ornamental, its aesthetic quality depends on the merit of its pictorial conception as well as on the excellence of its craft.

Tapestries have always been considered a luxury item and in earlier times were commissioned by the Church, royalty and the very wealthy. They were particularly popular with the nomadic princes of the Middle Ages due to their durability and relative ease of transport. The subjects of medieval tapestries were broad, ranging from the deeds of the commissioning princes to popular tales from literature.

At the beginning of the 16th century the quality of tapestry making declined. Tapestry became imitative, moving away from being a free and creative art as it was in the Gothic period with workshops competing with each other for fidelity of reproduction. Patrons began to favour the work of individual painters, and weavers were expected to copy paintings as exactly as possible.

While William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones were responsible for the revival of the art of tapestry in England in the 19th century, it has only been in recent times that weavers have found themselves in the midst of a rediscovered enthusiasm for the medium.

In the 20th century, the revival of tapestry claims descent from medieval times when workshops returned to the principles of weaving based on traditional methods, and artists began entrusting their designs to the skill and judgement of workshop weavers*.  Today, tapestry enjoys a renewed vigour as part of the modern art world, be it in a textile context or sitting alongside other traditional or contemporary disciplines.

*Opened in 1912, Dovecot Tapestry Studio in Scotland, United Kingdom was used as a model for the Australian Tapestry Workshop when the idea for an Australian tapestry studio were first developed in the mid 1970s.  Creating contemporary tapestries, Dovecot Tapestry Studio works in a similar way to the Australian Tapestry Workshop, while on a smaller scale, creating contemporary tapestries in collaboration with United Kingdom and international artists. 

Australian Craft and Design Centres (ACDC)

The Australian Tapestry Workshop is a member of ACDC, a group of peak organisations from all states and territories in Australia that represent the professional craft and design sector. The organisations engage with the sector at a local, national and international level and offer services and programs that support sustainable practice.