Home | History | Objects | Acknowledgements | Help

Needlerun lace fan leaf: kangaroo apple and kangaroo

Needlerun lace fan leaf: kangaroo apple and kangaroo

c. 1910
Ada Grey Wilson (?–1948), lace maker; Patty Mault (n.d.), designer
Textile (cotton)
Presented by Lady Ada Grey Wilson, 1938
19 h x 38 w cm



Ada Grey Wilson was the president of the committee established in 1908 to form ‘a school of lace design in Hobart’. This fan leaf is part of a large collection of material associated with an exhibition held by the committee in Hobart in 1910. Ada Grey Wilson subsequently migrated to the United Kingdom and took this collection with her. She donated it to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in 1938.


In 1908 a group of members of the Arts and Crafts Society of Tasmania formed a committee to establish ‘a school of lace design in Hobart’ with the stated aim to ‘further the development of local characteristics and to hasten the time when Tasmania may have well known and well defined laces of her own’.

The donor of the collection and the maker of this fan leaf, Ada Grey Wilson, was the daughter of Tasmanian Premier, Sir James Milne Wilson (1812–80) and his wife, Deborah Hope (nee Degraves). Ada Grey Wilson was the president of the committee. The designer of this fan leaf, ME (Patty) Mault was also a member of the committee. The other members of the committee are listed as Mrs McFarlane, Mrs David Barclay, Mrs Stourton, Miss Anastasia Hall and Mrs George Clark. Miss Louisa Swan represented the Arts Society of Tasmania and the architect Alan Cameron Walker represented the Arts and Crafts Society of Tasmania. The committee’s patroness was Lady Edeline Strickland (d.1918), wife of the Maltese-born Governor of Tasmania, Sir Gerald Strickland (1861–-1940). The vice patroness was Lady Dodds, wife of Tasmanian politician, Attorney General and Chief Justice, Sir John Stokell Dodds (1848–1914).

Following the philosophies of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, the Tasmanian lace makers sought to move away from traditional and conventional designs in order to make work that both expressed individual creativity and drew its inspiration from the immediate experience of the designers in Tasmania. Thus, the group emphasised designs that incorporated local flora and fauna. The subject of this fan leaf is the kangaroo apple (Solanum laciniatum)—an edible Australian native plant that has long, lance-shaped leaves and five-petalled flowers—and Australian’s signature native marsupial, the kangaroo, here depicted eating the plant.

A competition was held along with the exhibition in 1910 and this fan leaf took first prize. The entries were judged equally for craftsmanship and originality of design. The technique employed was needlerun lace, also called embroidery lace. This is made on machine-made cotton net.

In the decades before the First World War, lace was becoming increasingly fashionable and was used for accessories, such as gloves, as well as for decorating garments with flounces, collars and other trimmings. Lace doilies and other decorations were also popular for interior decoration. With this growing popularity, the lace industry became a global phenomenon and new schools of lace were established in Britain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium and Austria.

The Tasmanian lace makers were clearly influenced by this rising global tide of lace—soon to be cut short by the First World War—but they were also drawing on a longer Australian tradition of the representation of native flora and fauna in needlework that dated back to the mid-nineteenth century. This tradition and the popularity of lace found common ground in the philosophies of the Arts and Crafts Movement at the turn of the century. In a letter written to accompany her donation, Ada Grey Wilson remarks that the First World War put an end to the fashion for lace and that Tasmanian attempts to establish a local school of lace were short-lived.

There is little biographical information about the designer, Patty Mault, or the maker, Ada Grey Wilson. Patty Mault was the daughter of Alfred Mault (1829–1902), an engineer born in the East Indies who migrated to Tasmania in 1883. She is recorded as being active as an artist in Tasmania from 1883 to 1910 and is known to have produced illuminated manuscripts, including, with her father, Tasmania’s Jubilee Address to Queen Victoria in 1887. Ada Grey Wilson migrated permanently to Britain in 1914.


A semi-circular lace fan leaf executed in needlerun lace on machine-made cotton net. The design has a central ovoid vignette with depictions of two kangaroos eating fruit under the overhanging branches of kangaroo apple (Solanum laciniatum) plants. To either side of the kangaroos there are approximately symmetrical depictions of kangaroo apple branches, leaves and flowers. The outer edge of the fan leaf is decorated with a border of closely spaced and overlapping flowers with fine, closely spaced picots along the outer edge.

Statement of Significance

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of the origins and development of the studio crafts and design in Tasmania. This lace fan leaf and design are part of a large collection of material associated with the Tasmanian Lace Exhibition, held in the Masonic Hall in Hobart on 15 September 1910. This was a unique event in which a group of Tasmanians associated with the Arts and Crafts Society of Tasmania sought to initiate a local style of lace making using Tasmanian native flora and fauna as subjects for the designs.

The lace designs are indicative of a growing interest in, and increased identification with, local flora and fauna. This was largely inspired by an emphasis in the British Arts and Crafts Movement on original design based on the immediate, observed environment and the lived experience of the designer/maker. The fan leaf depicts a Tasmanian native plant, the kangaroo apple, and a kangaroo.


None visiable


Dufour, M 1983, ‘Inspiration from Flora; the Tasmanian Lace Competition of 1910’, The Australian Antique Collector, January–June, pp. 87–90.

Miley, C 1987, Beautiful and Useful: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Tasmania, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania.

This website was made possible through the generous support of the Gordon Darling Foundation, which provided funds for research, equipment and website design.

© 2009 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
This page was last modified on : 1 July, 2010