Mid-century ‘kitchenalia’ and ‘Queenslandiana’ are having a renaissance of sorts among local designers and makers. But what do 200 tea towels en masse say about aspects of our collective memory and design aesthetic?
A vibrant tribute to the humble tea towel, the State Library of Queensland’s latest exhibition – Queensland to a T – examines just that. Dated between 1950 and 2016, the tea towels reflect our state’s changing ideas and interests – and the stubborn longevity of some stereotypes. Most of the collection was designed for popular consumption and is from the Glenn R Cooke Souvenir Textile Collection.
Collecting is about learning and these tea towels help tell the social history of the state and explain how Queenslanders saw their local communities.
Glenn, a social historian, curator and collector, believes the collection is the only one of its kind in the world. “I have searched the great cultural institutions of the world which, at most, have a handful and none have such a comprehensive focus,” he says. “For me, collecting is about learning and these tea towels help tell the social history of the state and explain how Queenslanders saw their local communities.”
Playing with themes of destination, design and domesticity, the free exhibition – which you can learn more about here – leans heavily into nostalgia and will run from 6 August to 22 January. Soak up the kitchen kitsch and take a gander at a few classic tea towels from the collection below!