Helen Stumkat’s journey in art and millinery began in a floristry store in Brisbane with an attached millinery store. Training there as a florist until moving to Toowoomba in 1974, Helen says that this was the “foundation to my artistic flair [and] instilled in me the passion that I still carry to this day.”

Using textiles in different ways in the 1970s and 80s, Helen discovered a need for a specialised textile retail outlet that also enabled her to market the cashmere fleeces she produced with her husband. “I began experimenting with designing and creating handspun yarns… this led me to teach in that field and I travelled as my expertise [was] in demand. I also created one-off, far- to-fashion handspun knitted or felted garments [and] apparel.”

Helen’s involvement with cashmere began in 1977 when she and her husband started breeding cashmere goats on their 1000 acre property in Flagstone Creek. The mother-of-three’s need to acquire knowledge on the properties of fibre technology, “became an obsession with me, as I needed to class the cashmere after sheering. I became a sponge, needing to soak up any knowledge… [and] technical and practical information.”

The following 20 years were spent building the family’s sandstone home from what was left of a historic homestead at Allora. At the same time, they continued to build-up their herd of cashmere goats. “This time was all a very busy existence for the whole family, seven days a week, all pitching in to help, in all aspects of farming, animal husbandry, land clearing and fencing. My mother-in-law was a Godsend, always [having] a hot meal on the table.”

At the age of 66, Helen finally had free time to return to her millinery roots, attending a four-year course in Brisbane. Helen has now entered and won two categories at the 2017 Warwick agricultural show and achieved a First and a Highly Commended at the 2017 Royal Brisbane Show. This year, Helen has entered the Facets of Fairholme Exhibition and the 2018 Downland Art Exhibition, to be held in September. “I love creating individual, one-off creations that give me pride and pleasure [and] when even the younger generation appreciate and purchase my individually crafted works.”

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