Melbourne Now countdown – day 56

Hotham Street Ladies (HSL) are a group of five women whose work is rooted in their experiences of sharing a run-down but much-loved house in Hotham Street, Collingwood. The collective’s members are Cassandra Chilton, Molly O’Shaughnessy, Sarah Parkes, Caroline Price and Lyndal Walker. Their practice embraces themes of home life, feminism and craft. Their work’s innovative combination of humour and contemporary critique with nostalgic or familiar elements makes it appealing to a wide audience.

Food is a constant presence in HSL’s work. For Melbourne Now the group take baking and icing to a whole new level. Their installation At home with the Hotham Street Ladies, 2013, transforms the foyer of The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia into an ice-bombed domestic wonderland.

KS: How did you come together to form the Hotham Street Ladies?

HSL: Cass, Molly and Lyndal lived together from 2004.  We decided to make a recipe book to give away to friends for Christmas.  We got our friends to contribute a recipe and included pictures from dinner parties.  It was a great success so we decided to do another one in 2007.  By this time, the household had changed to include Sarah and Caroline and this is when the current Hotham Street Ladies line up was born.

KS: What has been one of your most memorable projects to date?

HSL: In 2010 we made our Miss Havisham Cake to submit to the Royal Melbourne
Show. Miss Havisham is a character in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations who was jilted at the alter and sat in her wedding dress, at her wedding table for thirty years.  So we made a traditional looking white wedding cake but covered it in icing sugar dust and painted it to look like it was mouldy.  We made mice and spiders and parts where the cake had collapsed.  The judges did not appreciate our literary reference or humour and disqualified it for being in poor taste.

KS: In your own words, please describe your work in
Melbourne Now.

HSL: We have created a cluttered share household space constructed of iced and cake-like objects in order to annexe and domesticise the institutional foyer of NGV Australia. The spaces include a living room, hall runner and post-dinner party table. This work subverts the model of museum rooms which showcase exemplary arrangements of period decorative arts furniture and objects and instead presents an inhabited everyday modern version of living.

KS: Have you begun work on your installation for
Melbourne Now and can you share any work in progress insights?

HSL: We have begun work on modelling all of the loose icing objects. There are hundreds of small pieces to fabricate and paint. We have learnt not to
lick our fingers as we work as the sugar overload can be overwhelming.