A Kookaburra for Bird Week 2013

2010/11/38-2 Tablemat, embroidered, linen and cotton, Kookaburra design, maker unknown, Australia, 1920-1950.
2010/11/38-2 Tablemat, embroidered, linen and cotton, Kookaburra design, maker unknown, Australia, 1920-1950.

This week is Bird Week which celebrates Australia’s beautiful native birds. It seems the perfect excuse to feature this charming table mat from the Ian Rumsey Australian Textiles Collection. The motif is one of Australia’s best known and easily seen birds, the Laughing Kookaburra.

The table mat is linen with a finely embroidered Kookaburra in the centre, sitting on a sprig of gum tree, complete with gum nuts.  Different stitches have been used to represent the feathers, beak and eye of the bird. It is not known who made the table mat. The database record states: “This  (Ian Rumsey Australian Textile) collection represents an important pastime of Australian women of the late 19th to mid 20th century. Women’s focus was the home and its decoration was important. Embroidery and crochet work was an affordable way to personalise and add aesthetic value, and examples of embroidered and crocheted pieces could be found in most Australian homes, decorating or protecting furniture, floors and walls, and keeping off flies and insects from food. Embroidery and crochet work provided a much needed creative outlet for some and a restful leisure activity for others, as a way to commemorate significant events or supplement the family income”.

Kookaburras have done quite well with urban settlement and are often fed by local residents. They can become very bold and many an outdoor BBQ has seen the sausages snatched straight off the hot plate by a passing bird. Another reason for them to laugh!

Lynne McNairn, Web and Social Technologies

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