Imagine a time when all clothes were stitched by hand. It is estimated that the invention and availability of the domestic sewing machine reduced the time to stitch an average shirt from 14 hours to just four hours. This was a turning point in history!

Machines & Makers, a touring exhibition by ART ON THE MOVE, captures twelve artist’s responses to this truly revolutionary invention. It is on display at the Museum of the Goldfields until 10 February 2019.

“Part of the phenomenon of this machinery is that these objects, made in their hundreds of millions, continue to work as well in the 21st century as they did in the 19th century when they were new,” said Machine & Makers curator Jude van der Merwe.

The exhibition brings together high-calibre Western Australian artists who reflect on the political, social and economic differences made by inventions such as the sewing machine. Viewed as a ‘disruptive technology’ in the early 19th century, sewing machines quickly gained popularity and by 1860 Singer had become the world’s largest manufacturer, making more than 15,000 machines that year.

The tradition of working on a sewing machine continues to be cherished within communities and passed on through generations. As part of this exhibition, audiences can engage with ART ON THE MOVE’s hands-on activity ‘Making it Reel’, by creating their own composition using sewing materials such as colourful reels, buttons, cotton spools as well as scrap materials.  

Museum of the Goldfields Regional Manager Cara Haymes said visitors to the exhibition will experience the value of the makers and see how a machine changed the world.

“The 12 creative and diverse WA artists have done a spectacular job telling the extraordinary history of the sewing machine and the political, social and economic impact it has had on the world,” Ms Haymes said.

“The exhibition brings to life the magic of creating stitch, texture and beauty, and gives you the opportunity to reflect on the impact of the disposable clothing culture of the 21st Century.”

Machines & Makers is on display at the Museum of the Goldfields from 8 December 2018 to 10 February 2019. To find out more about the history of Machines & Makers visit the ART ON THE MOVE website.





ART ON THE MOVE is a not-for-profit visual arts organisation encouraging connections and fostering a sense of belonging, creativity and a greater understanding of ourselves and the world through visual art. We do this by touring quality contemporary art with appropriate learning and development opportunities that speak to and develop the unique cultural narratives of communities whatever the cultural practice, age, ability and engagement with culture.

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Media contacts

For interviews with Cara Haymes and for photography and filming requests at the Museum of the Goldfields, please contact Hillary Henry (Western Australian Museum Media and Publicity Officer) via (08) 6552 7897 / 0466 304 807 /

For interviews with the exhibition curator or artists, please contact Grace Traeger (ART ON THE MOVE Marketing and Communications Officer) via (08) 9249 3479 /