Growing up on a self sufficient Canadian wheat farm, Evelyn has always been aware of nature and has used her early skills in the crafts of knitting, crocheting and sewing to create objects as a living. Being educated in a prairie one room schoolhouse gave her a fine base in community artworks and lead to her immigration to Australia in 1996 under the special talent category as a community artist.
When the United Nations conference on habitation was planned for Vancouver in 1976, in the plan was to renovate 5 derelict airplane hangars into the conference centre. I was made head of the fabric arts to decorate these hangars, and fortunately with a train car load of leftover nylon fabric from a tenting company thus began the work on making huge banners, window coverings and even a total ceiling cover the size of a football field.
International guests at the conference including Margaret Mead, Buckminster Fuller and wife of then Prime Minister, Margaret Trudeau all spoke in this huge hangar theatre. This really put my design and creative skills in full sight and from there began my world of using nylon for the giant inflatable story theatres, and animal, bird, insect costumes for children to wear and dance beginning in 1982 at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in which I was the Canadian guest artist.
Nylon Zoo is a culmination of my experiences, art and creations over the years, it includes a fabulous educational eco-maze consisting of 3 huge inflatable domes which feature Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu material on aboriginal agriculture- one can replant the walls of the replant dome with fabric plants, insects and flowers. You can read the story of the creation of the Murray river by Kondoli. Listen to our story tellers explain biodiversity, history and climate change. We are now taking bookings from more schools.
Internationally, in my base in Hawaii (on the island of Kauai) the storybook theatre allows me to sew up another marine animal which then tours all the Hawaiian islands reaching some 5,000 children each year and receiving a colouring book about my latest creature, this has happened for the past 25 years and is the best representation of my work.
I created the Nylon Zoo as a natural extension of my moving sculpture dance company in Canada when my dancers had children and wanted to all work together. I made the first children’s costumes, frogs, ravens, bears and rainbow dancer capes which then lead to the challenge to provide a huge presence at Brisbane’s botanic gardens for the 1982 Commonwealth Games. Womadelaide contacted me for their first event on McLaren Vale oval in the early 1990’s, they loved the concept and since then I have participated with my Nylon Zoo program at every WOMAD since. It brings me so much joy! What other 83 year old can sit at her sewing machine making another butterfly costume then join in a community event and be the rainbow cape parade leader with a field of children following, flying as butterflies, birds, bugs and hopping kangaroos.
Womadelaide is one of the worlds finest gatherings of musicians, there’s a French group who make incredible installations in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens from fire installations to feathered angels flying at the tree tops. I get to meet these wonderful artists, and they truly inspire me to be ever more creative. Innovative artists inspire me, community based climate change artists, inventors. I’m searching for a replacement material for my nylon fabric, this possibly will be from seaweed and drift net plastics.
One can see the Nylon Zoo at WOMAD, local events with various councils, the Adelaide fringe, shopping centres (Aldinga is a Centre for many events) and Maslin Beach holiday events.
For more information and to book Evelyn’s masterpieces for events and parties head to : evelynrotharts.com/nylonzoo