Quilt, childrens, cotton, print designed by Pixie O'Harris, 1950s, made by Ann Eccles, Australia, 2003
Pixie O'Harris was born Rhona Olive Harris in Cardiff, Wales, in 1903. She became well known for her drawings for children and at the age of 14, Pixie became the youngest person ever selected for membership into the Royal Art Society of South Wales. Her father, George Frederick Harris, an artist and chairman of the Royal Art Society of Wales, and her mother Rosetta Harris (nee Lucas) emigrated to Australia with their nine children in 1920, first settling in Perth and later Sydney.
Influenced by the art nouveau style, Pixie's work is easily recognisable for the goblins and fairies which were recurring motifs throughout her long and illustrious career. Her work was most popular during the 1930s and 40s until contemporary tastes changed and fantasy themes fell out of fashion. However, Pixie enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s and 80s when many of her books were reprinted with new illustrations in full colour.
A much loved author and illustrator of 22 children's books, Pixie also illustrated 14 books by other authors, including Frank Dalby Davison and C J Dennis. She applied her whimsical artistic style in decorating more than 50 children's hospital wards, day nurseries, baby clinics and schools. One of her nursery pictures adorned the princesses' nursery in Buckingham Palace.
This quilt made by Ann Eccles in 2003 from a print designed by Pixie in the 1950s for Colortex Fabrics is possibly the only print Pixie designed, as she concentrated mainly on writing and illustrating.
Jim Logan, curator of the The Merchants' House Museum wrote in a publication produced by the NSW Department of Health in 1994, that '...her contribution as an artist is quite remarkable. This is arguably the largest body of public artworks by an individual in this country.'
Throughout her prolific career, Pixie received many distinguished awards recognising her contribution to the Arts including the Queen's Coronation Medal (1953), Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) (1976) and the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal (1977). Her importance to Australian art and literature is recognised by the 'Pixie O'Harris Award' established in 1994 to those offering 'distinguished and dedicated service to the development and reputation of Australian children's books.'
W Circosta 2011
Germaine, Max. A dictionary of women artists of Australia, Craftsman House, Roseville East, Australia, 1991, p.342
Merchants House National Trust, Pixie O'Harris: murals in New South Wales hospitals, New South Wales Department of Health, Sydney, 1994
Heywood, Annie.The Australian Womens Register: O'Harris, Pixie (1903-1991),
Australian Government Office for Women, Faith, Hope, Charity Project, www.womenaustralia.info/biogs, 18 October 2002, retrieved March 2011
The quilt was made by Ann Eccles for Halcyon Evans, the daughter of children's author and artist, Pixie O'Harris, in Australia, 2003. The print was designed by Pixie O'Harris in the 1950s.
This quilt was made by Ann Eccles in 2003 from a print designed by Pixie O'Harris (1903-1991) for Colortex Fabrics possibly in the 1950s. According to Halcyon Evans, Pixie's eldest daughter, this is the only print Pixie designed as her work was mostly writing, book illustration and murals, eg. Camperdown Children's Hospital, 'Wade House' - which became the casualty department of Princess Alexandra Children's Hospital.
Halcyon met Ann through 'Friendship Force' a national and international exchange program that seeks 'to promote world peace and understanding by creating an environment, where individual friendships can be established across the barriers that separate people.'
Visiting from Queensland, Ann and her husband stayed with Halcyon for several days and Ann offered to make the quilt on discovering by chance that she was staying with the daughter of one of her favourite childhood authors, Pixie O'Harris.
Ann worked in a fabric shop in Box Hill in the early 1960s that specialised in 'job lot fabrics' left over when manufacturers had finished a range and/or from fabric manufacturers who had not managed to sell all they produced, hence none of the fabric was current fashion. Ann bought a quantity of fabrics in 1963 on staff discount before leaving to marry her husband, Tony Eccles.
In 1964, Ann gave her sister, Rachel, who was expecting her first baby, a length of fabric featuring one of Pixie's designs. The fabric, made into curtains for the nursery window, had added significance as Rachel and Anne's mother's maiden name was Harris. Rachel would tell her daughter, Trista, stories based on the illustrations on her curtains.
The fabric remnant used in making the quilt was left over from the nursery curtains valance so is missing some motifs. Ann made the quilt in appreciation for Halcyon's generous hospitality and recalls: '...I made the coverlet, just as big as the available piece would allow...I hoped you'd use it as a table topper or tray cloth, or maybe just enjoy having some of your Mum's fabric. It is quite possibly the most simple piece of work I have ever done, but it was made from the heart...'