My Story

the travelling artist

Denise Burkitt is an Australian Fabric Designer.

Visit Denise's Blog Page to read more of her ongoing adventures

Creative Beginnings

I have always enjoyed dabbling with paint on fabric. I love the unexpected effects and feel stimulated by creating colour combinations.

Way back at Kindergarten, I remember I just loved finger painting. I couldn’t wait to go to school to do more. In grade one, two and three I waited and waited. Art classes were dissapointing, formal, and to me unimaginative. Unfortunately there was never more of that fabulous freedom of expression.

As a young teenager I began painting flower power images of girls with big eyes. My classmates all wanted them so for months I painted loads more, selling them for five cents each, hiding them under my homework.
I spent hours under the house playing with paint on cotton. I also experimented with screenprinting.

After leaving school, I enrolled at the Queensland College of Art, studying Commercial Illustration, a three year course.

Around this period I was inspired by the work of Olive Ashworth, a designer. Also large scale Art Quilts by Pamela Wilson and the Artwork of painter John Coburn.

Starting Work

As a Commercial Artist I worked in the Art Department of Myer Store, Murray Views, Provincial Newspapers and Cobar Advertising Agency.

Several years later I enrolled at Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education, in a Visual Arts Course, the second year majoring in Textile Design.

During the second year, one of my tutors asked if I could teach a two day beginners workshop on Blockprinting and Creative Hand and Machine Embroidery.

It was to be held at the Northern Territory Fibre and Craft Association in Alice Springs, Central Australia.
With a friend we drove thousands of kilometers to get there. I was overprepared and nervous! It turned in to an amazing experience. I was able to use some of my Commercial Art training for some excercises for drawing items from nature, and then transferring to fabric and expressing with embroidery.

After the Visual Arts Course, I began hand painting on cotton and teashirt fabric. I had free size skirts, pants and shirt patterns cut out, which I then hand painted and delivered to a sewer who made them.

I sold the garments to five boutiques in Brisbane, and also had a stall on several occasions at the Eumundi Markets.
Later I printed on Lycra and had swimwear made up using my block printed and hand painted designs.

Illustrations of garments used in a newspaper advertisement. No computers or photography used then.
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Designing a dress using tissue paper, Visual Arts Course 2008. ​Fashion Design Illustrations, Commercial Illustration Course.
Designing a dress using tissue paper, Visual Arts Course 2008. ​Fashion Design Illustrations, Commercial Illustration Course.

Change of Direction

​From Commercial Artist to Real Estate Agent

In 1988, a friend encouraged me to go into Real Estate. My motivation was to gain more confidence and to have a chance to meet more people. After a few years and hard work, it exceeded any expectations I might have had. I became a fully-licensed Real Estate Agent having my own office for several years.
It changed me from a shy girl to a gregarious one.

Whilst in Real Estate working for PRD Nationwide Manly in Brisbane, I received numerous Queensland Company Awards including “Dedicated to Service” and Outstanding Sales Results.

I became known within the area I worked and the company, for my enthusiasm and unorthodox creative and innovative marketing.

In 1993 I received the Brisbane Courier Mail “Marketer of the Year Award”.
In 1996, I was offered a position as a Trainer at Head Office.

In that corporate role, I travelled to fifty two offices throughout Queensland and New South Wales. Part of my job was to encourage salespeople to personalize and think creatively in their individual approach to selling and marketing properties.

Denise in Real Estate Training Role,1996.

Creativity in all I do

Over the years I have bought and renovated many older houses. I can visualize how it will look when it’s finished, and I love the transformation of an ugly duckling in to something asthetically pleasing. This has been another satisfying and rewarding way to express my creativity.

In 2008 while still working in Real Estate but cutting back my hours, I enrolled in a Fashion Design two-year course at Mt Gravatt College of Advanced Education. I loved it, the design element especially, that was until all the subjects became computerised. It was not as enjoyable to me and I left the course after eight months.

Discussion in class during Visual Arts Course,1982.

Creativity in all I do

Over the years I have bought and renovated many older houses. I can visualize how it will look when it’s finished, and I love the transformation of an ugly duckling in to something asthetically pleasing. This has been another satisfying and rewarding way to express my creativity.

In 2008 while still working in Real Estate but cutting back my hours, I enrolled in a Fashion Design two-year course at Mt Gravatt College of Advanced Education. I loved it, the design element especially, that was until all the subjects became computerised. It was not as enjoyable to me and I left the course after eight months.

Discussion in class during Visual Arts Course,1982.

Creativity in all I do

After 21 years I retired from Real Estate

I bought a motorhome, rented my house and a month later in July 2009, I set off to go around Australia, just me with my fox terrier dog “Millie”. I set myself a new purpose and that was to allow my creative side to reemerge and seek a sense of inner contentment.

For the first two weeks I travelled with a friend and three other new friends who were heading to North Queensland in their individual vehicles in convoy. I had a two-week crash course on how to live on the road. A difficult day was waving goodbye to the others the day before my birthday.​

Cutting a pumpkin. Camped at Lara Station near Barcaldine, North Queensland. Travelling in convoy with friends who were preparing a roast dinner for my birthday.

Creativity in all I do

After 21 years I retired from Real Estate

I bought a motorhome, rented my house and a month later in July 2009, I set off to go around Australia, just me with my fox terrier dog “Millie”. I set myself a new purpose and that was to allow my creative side to reemerge and seek a sense of inner contentment.

For the first two weeks I travelled with a friend and three other new friends who were heading to North Queensland in their individual vehicles in convoy. I had a two-week crash course on how to live on the road. A difficult day was waving goodbye to the others the day before my birthday.​

Cutting a pumpkin. Camped at Lara Station near Barcaldine, North Queensland. Travelling in convoy with friends who were preparing a roast dinner for my birthday.
​​​Painting at Bonus Downs Station, Mitchell, Queensland.

Creativity takes hold

​​​An afternoon painting at Bedford Weir, North Queensland, 2015.

​Off on another adventure!

In May 2016, I sold my house and set off on another journey, joining friends travelling to Darwin in Northern Territory, via Western Queensland. I continued with a friend to Kununurra in Western Australia and later back on my own again towards Victoria and New South Wales.

On this trip I developed a keen interest in taking photographs of anything and everything that inspired me. Many a time I turned the motorhome around and drove back several kilometers to capture colours or a scene I had glimpsed.

I have cooked on a campfire and then dyed cotton and wool fabric, boiling it up in a large tin. Adding rusty railway line nails collected in Western Queensland and any other rusty or metal bottle tops I could use as a mordant.

I began house/ pet sitting on properties in various areas of Southern NSW. In 2017 alone, I house sat eight properties from New South Wales back to Queensland. I cared for a variety of animals- Horses, a Peacock, Pet Kangaroos, Llamas, Alpacas, Chickens, Dogs and Cats.

I’ve always loved animals, and this was a highlight on my travells. Housesitting also gave me the opportunity to set up my sewing machine and iron, and explore ideas gathered from inspiration of landscape, fauna and flora.

The Quilting Scene

I joined quilting groups in country towns on my journey, at Quamma, Gunning, and Dalton, New South Wales. I booked in to do workshops with Lisa Walton, Wendy Nutt and Kathy Doughty at Misty Mountain Getaway in Dorrigo.
I enjoyed it so much I went two years in a row.

Other workshops were with Deborah Louie in Berry and another on Rusting Fabric at a Quilting shop at Narooma, New South Wales.

A highlight was a workshop put on by the Galong Patchwork group. it was held at the gracious St Clements Monastery in Galong New South Wales.
In Melbourne, Victoria I booked into a class with Velda Newman at the Australasian Quilt Festival for four days, my first time there.
In-between whilst travelling I managed to dye fabrics to have ready for workshops.

Today
I live in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. I am in this country town while I am having a house built on a rural ten acre property which I purchased at Ridgewood, near Cooroy last August.

My passion is still to play with paint directly onto fabric. In a way, a reemergence of the finger painting I loved so much as a child.
Being very tactile in my art practices, I collect found objects often to paint with. Having learnt the skills manually as a Commercial Artist, I still prefer to do my art hands on.

​​​After our third swim that day, so hot! With a couple I met who parked next to me, we swam with our dogs, and played ball with several Aboriginal children in the ocean off the boat ramp nearby. Ceduna, South Australia, 2010.

Creativity takes hold

​Off on another adventure!

In May 2016, I sold my house and set off on another journey, joining friends travelling to Darwin in Northern Territory, via Western Queensland. I continued with a friend to Kununurra in Western Australia and later back on my own again towards Victoria and New South Wales.

On this trip I developed a keen interest in taking photographs of anything and everything that inspired me. Many a time I turned the motorhome around and drove back several kilometers to capture colours or a scene I had glimpsed.

I have cooked on a campfire and then dyed cotton and wool fabric, boiling it up in a large tin. Adding rusty railway line nails collected in Western Queensland and any other rusty or metal bottle tops I could use as a mordant.

I began house/ pet sitting on properties in various areas of Southern NSW. In 2017 alone, I house sat eight properties from New South Wales back to Queensland. I cared for a variety of animals- Horses, a Peacock, Pet Kangaroos, Llamas, Alpacas, Chickens, Dogs and Cats.

​​​After our third swim that day, so hot! With a couple I met who parked next to me, we swam with our dogs, and played ball with several Aboriginal children in the ocean off the boat ramp nearby. Ceduna, South Australia, 2010.

I’ve always loved animals, and this was a highlight on my travells. Housesitting also gave me the opportunity to set up my sewing machine and iron, and explore ideas gathered from inspiration of landscape, fauna and flora.

The Quilting Scene

I joined quilting groups in country towns on my journey, at Quamma, Gunning, and Dalton, New South Wales. I booked in to do workshops with Lisa Walton, Wendy Nutt and Kathy Doughty at Misty Mountain Getaway in Dorrigo.
I enjoyed it so much I went two years in a row.

Other workshops were with Deborah Louie in Berry and another on Rusting Fabric at a Quilting shop at Narooma, New South Wales.

A highlight was a workshop put on by the Galong Patchwork group. it was held at the gracious St Clements Monastery in Galong New South Wales.
In Melbourne, Victoria I booked into a class with Velda Newman at the Australasian Quilt Festival for four days, my first time there.
In-between whilst travelling I managed to dye fabrics to have ready for workshops.

Today
I live in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. I am in this country town while I am having a house built on a rural ten acre property which I purchased at Ridgewood, near Cooroy last August.

My passion is still to play with paint directly onto fabric. In a way, a reemergence of the finger painting I loved so much as a child.
Being very tactile in my art practices, I collect found objects often to paint with. Having learnt the skills manually as a Commercial Artist, I still prefer to do my art hands on.

​​​An afternoon painting at Bedford Weir, North Queensland, 2015.

​​​Painting at Bonus Downs Station, Mitchell, Queensland.

Denise's Qualifications:

Certificate in Commercial Illustration, College of Art Brisbane, Queensland. 1972 – 1975.

Associate Diploma in Visual Arts, Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education, Brisbane, Queensland. 1980 – 1982.

Real Estate Agent’s Licence, Real Estate Institute of Queensland, Brisbane. 1988 -Current

Train the Trainer, Certificate 4, Maroochydore College of Advanced Education, Queensland. 2003.

Interior Decoration Course, Beaumont School, Brisbane Queensland. 2007.

Applied Fashion, Mount Gravatt College of Advanced Education, Brisbane, Queensland. 2008.

Achievements:

Third Prize, (Painting). Fort Lytton Art Competition,Brisbane. 1980.

Highly Commended, (Wallhanging). Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Fibre and Craft Association. 1982.

One of seven finalists for Queensland, Jeans for Jeans Competition,
(Design of an outfit using denim fabric commemorating fifty years of a Golden Celebration.) 2008.

First Prize, for Banksia Party (Monoprint). Kenilworth Celebrates Art Competition, Kenilworth Queensland, 2015.

Tutor of Workshop: (Two day Beginners Block Printing and Creative Hand and Machine Embroidery),
Northern Territory Fibre and Arts Association, Alice Springs, Northern Territory. 1982.

Tutor of Workshop: Hand Painting on Fabric, Kenilworth, Queensland. 2012.

I am teaching fabric painting workshops.

Are you interested?