CECILE Falvey is such an avid weaver she’s cheekily hoping she can take her loom to heaven with her.
Cecile is at the loom almost every day in her studio at Tamborine Mountain, in the Gold Coast hinterland, and as a life-long Catholic many church creations have been among the thousands of items she’s produced.
“I’m a great Mary MacKillop fan, and I did a lot of MacKillop tartan for the MacKillop shop in Sydney,” she said.
“It was one of my best sellers down there …
“In fact I got people to come and help me because I had so many orders from the MacKillop shop.
“That was the year that they (the Sisters of St Joseph) were getting ready for the canonisation, so that was a challenge.”
Special items for the Beaudesert parish, which takes in Tamborine Mountain, have also been on the list.
“(One was) the chasuble I did when Fr (James) Foley was an assistant up here, and now he’s bishop in North Queensland,” she said.
A photograph of Bishop Foley wearing the chasuble is featured in Cecile’s recently published book Happiness is Weaving Every Day: 50 years of a weaver’s life 1969-2019.
The book tells Cecile’s story and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Queensland Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, which she founded.
Cecile’s woven altar cloths for each one of the nine churches in her parish, and St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane has one of her creations as well.
The title of her book “Happiness is weaving every day” is a quote from a day when a journalist and photographer were visiting her studio for a feature story.
“(The journalist) said, ‘You just look so happy (at the loom) …’,” Cecile said.
“And I said, ‘Happiness is weaving every day’.
“So the whole heading (on the story) was ‘Happiness is weaving every day …’”
Cecile thought that was the perfect title for her book.
She said she truly did weave “just about every day”.
“Well, some people like to go to the pub every day and have a drink every day … Not me; I like to come to the loom,” she said.
“I like to produce something. I’m single, and I don’t have to answer to anyone, so that’s it.”
She’s been drawn to weaving all her life, and once she started winning awards for it, she was hooked.
“I was producing work that was … I don’t want to sound boastful – but I was getting awards in all sorts of competitions, and each hill I wanted to climb was higher and higher,” she said.
A young Cecile then sent one of her creations to a major event for weavers in the United States, “and – I couldn’t believe it – they hung it”.
“And it went to the (Royal) Flying Doctor (Service) for a raffle when it got back …,” she said.
“I think, maybe I’m competitive.”
And Cecile’s not one to give up easily, either.
“I’ve had all sorts of fights when they’d say, ‘Weaving doesn’t really belong to this show …’,” she said.
“For instance, in Stanthorpe there’s a wonderful art gallery, and I always had work in there, which (the organisers) liked.
“Then they did an extra big art show and they said no textiles.
“So I went around to see them. ‘No, no,’ they said, ‘We’re just doing painting and pottery’.
“So I came home and I thought, okay, and I hired a house and we had a really big two weeks of art,” she laughs as the memory comes back.
“That attracted people to put work in from all over the world.
“And it wasn’t spite. I don’t think I did it out of spite … I just wanted to prove a point.”
Another time someone said “No” led to Cecile forming the Queensland Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.
“It was something we needed,” she said.
“I belonged to the NSW guild (for weavers), which was a very old group.
“There was a little group, in Brisbane, of very dignified ladies, and I suppose I was a bit brash; I phoned them up and said ‘I weave, can I join your group?’
“They were horrified. ‘No, no, we can’t have you …’
“‘What? Why can’t you have me?’, I said.
“(And the answer was still) ‘No’
“‘But I’m coming on; I’ll learn …’, I said, but still it was ‘No’.
“I think that drove me to form a group. And some of them, two of them who were in the (original) group, they joined much later.
“See, don’t say no to me; it’s fatal. My family’s always known that. It’s fatal.”
Cecile couldn’t believe it when 200 people turned up on the day she held the first meeting to form her new group, and still it has 250 paid-up members.
As a woman of faith and a weaver, a poem called The Weaver, by B.H. Franklin, is dear to Cecile.
A framed copy hangs in her studio and she’s included it in her book.
“My life is but a weaving between my Lord and me …” is the first line.
“Well, that’s life, really,” Cecile said.
“And we all fight against the last bit – ‘He gives the very best to those, who leave the choice with Him’.
“We want to do it, don’t we? I try to run God some days …”
Cecile’s ambition now is simply “to do more and more weaving”.
“I haven’t had a show for two years, and I want to have another exhibition,” she said.
“I just couldn’t do those things – weave and write a book. I found that out. It was hard work.”
Another exhibition would mean all new creations.
“That would be day and night happiness then, not just happiness every day …,” Cecile said.
“I want to have another one (exhibition) … I’ve got ideas already.”
And so does that mean she’s always ready with new ideas?
“Oh, absolutely. I won’t live long enough to do it all,” she said.
“So I hope I’m allowed to take this (loom) with me … upstairs. I’d be lost without it …”