Circle skirtThe guest on The Fine Line on Tuesday 26 August was Sia Cox, local textile artist and sculptor, who enthralled listeners with the story behind her current project, ‘Cleopatra’s Dress’. Sia spoke movingly about her new project inspired by her great grandmother, Cleopatra Katsoolis for the mini arts festival ‘FREE BBQ CASH GIVEAWAY’ (FBCG) at Watch This Space Gallery here in Alice Springs this September.

Sia’s great grandmother, Cleopatra Katsoolis was born in 1907 on a Greek island and at the age of ten was forced to leave school as her family was too poor to buy her shoes. A visiting Athens family offered to adopt Cleopatra in order for her to attend school; only to deceive her family and instead forced her into unpaid domestic service coupled with the additional trauma of being forbidden to go to Church with them.

When Cleopatra was thirteen, she was freed by a relative but suffered the humiliation of having to leave the house in Athens, wearing only clothes that belonged to her, the clothes she arrived in. She was now a teenage girl in the dress of a ten year old child. It was too short and too tight and this experience was to haunt Cleopatra for the rest of her life.

On migrating to Australia aged sixteen, Cleopatra was fortunate through her family, to meet and marry a kindly Greek man. Aged forty she decided she wanted to go to Art School and after an ultimatum to her husband, this indomitable and inspiring woman spent the next 35 years as a free woman at art school in Sydney. She became a respected textile and fashion designer, leaving behind a collection of lino cuts and screen prints that are as fresh and relevant today as they were fifty years ago.

SiaGrowing up, Sia always knew about her great grandmother’s screen prints and designs and it was while working at the Batchelor Institute of Tertiary Education as a textile tutor that Sia learnt screen printing. Sia recounted that she wanted to celebrate her great grandmother’s work before the silk screens she had left, embedded with her artworks, perished.

This was the genesis of Sia’s project ‘Cleopatra’s Dress’. Sia spoke how she has carefully re-printed some of Cleopatra’s original designs and made them into new silk screens. She has then printed two of the designs on new fabric, and made a collection of full-circle skirts based on the original designs, which were brought to life in a live dance performance at the FBCG festival.

Sia also exhibited some of Cleopatra’s original lino and screen prints, photographs of Cleopatra and her work and a beautiful piece of Cleopatra’s original work, a fragile and perishing printed silk circle skirt at the FBCG Festival at Watch This Space.

With a whole collection of her great grandmother’s screen prints to inspire her, Sia is working towards exhibiting ‘Cleopatra’s Dress’ in Sydney and to recreating more of Cleopatra’s inspiring prints in the future.

Jen Standish-White talks with Sia Cox, local textile artist and sculptor, and creator of the textile art performance and exhibition ‘Cleopatra’s Dress’.

Broadcast: Tuesday 26 August 2014 at 12 noon on 8CCC Community Radio 102.1FM

Producer and Presenter: Jen Standish-White