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Beyond the Bale : March 2017
The judges of Australia’s High Court received a sartorial makeover, with a team of Queenslanders creating new judicial robes made from Australian Merino wool. Adream team from Queensland was the minds and hands behind the new Merino wool judicial robes now being worn by judges in the High Court of Australia. Master weaver Kay Faulkner, cutter Margaret Adams and maker Saffron Firkins brought renowned costume designer Bill Haycock’s sketches to life, creating wool/ silk robes for the judges of Australia’s most preeminent court. Bill is no stranger to Australia’s judicial system, having worked alongside Margaret to create the judicial robes for the Federal Court more than 15 years ago. “I was thrilled to be asked again after all these years and to work on what is really a further development of the earlier designs, since these are all Federal Courts with the High Court obviously the pinnacle within the Australian judicial system,” Mr Haycock said. “Even though I've been professionally designing for theatre for over 30 years HIGH COURT ROBES GET A MERINO MAKEOVER these are probably the designs that will outlive me. “I was given an excellent brief and framework which was both clear and specific but also still quite free for interpretation. It required research of what else existed in Australia and around the world.” Bill decided on the allusion of sand ripples upon the robes, referencing the sheer vastness of Australia – the island continent as well as its central desert – and symbolic of the breadth of judicial reach of the High Court. “It was decided early on they'd be all black and so I was thinking about ways to create richness through texture and sheen within that black-on-black surface. The High Court wanted something lighter, cooler, easier to move in and it was also obviously important to reflect a certain gravitas as the highest court in the land – all this while also being timelessly contemporary and symbolically appropriate.” With only seven High Court judges sitting behind the bar, the number of robes to be created was relatively low, and so each robe could be tailor made specifically for each judge whilst remaining identical in looks. It was also crucial that the fibre and fabric be long lasting, soft, comfortable, cool, be able to hang and drape well, be extremely good quality and Australian. “Of course it had to be made from fine Australian Merino wool. And because the woven sections needed to 'read' in a black- on-black way we decided to mix high-quality silk into the hand-woven parts, making the sand ripple patterns read as strongly as possible in various lighting conditions.” And so, back in 2014, Bill sought out master hand weaver Kay, intriguing her with a secret mission. “At that stage I had no idea what it was and it took until mid-2015 to find out,” she said. “Can you imagine my delight when I found out what it was?” With more than 30 years’ experience behind a loom, Kay is no stranger to Australian Merino wool. She worked on a computer- assist hand loom to weave the judicial robes. “There are 1380 warp threads with no threading repeat. This allows for variations in the size of the (sand) ripples across the width. The pattern repeat is 2100 rows long and that allows for the complexity of the pattern as it changes from narrow to wide ripples throughout the length of both sleeves. At one hem the ripples are narrow while at the other they are wider.” Kay agreed that Merino wool was to be the fibre of choice for the robes, firstly because of the strong link to Australia’s history as a wool producing nation and also because the robes had to be of a high quality and readily accessible in the required size and colour. “The wool when combined with silk allows for differences in lustre and so allows for the black-on-black pattern to be seen.” The new judicial robes for the High Court of Australia are made from Australian Merino wool, with silk incorporated on the sleeves to create sand ripple patterns. PHOTO: Adam McGrath, courtesy the High Court of Australia. Master weaver Kay Faulkner working on a computer-assist hand loom to weave the judicial robes. OFF FARM 23
In the Shops - March 2017