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Weston, Nora Kate (1880–1965)

by Jane E. Hunt

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Nora Kate Weston (1880-1965), woodcarver, was born on 18 June 1880 at Parramatta, Sydney, eighth of nine children of native-born parents Frederick Weston, draftsman, and his wife Mary Ann, née Elliott. Lieutenant George Johnston was Nora's great-grandfather. Her education at home had a practical, outdoor emphasis. She matured into a tall, physically active woman who possessed a sense of humour and freely used slang and Australianisms.

By 1902 Nora was living in Alexandra House, a residence for colonial students in London, while she studied at the School of Art Wood-Carving, South Kensington. She formed a lifelong friendship with fellow Australian, Eirene Mort. On their return to Sydney in 1906, they rented a studio in the city. Weston, known as 'Chips', described herself as a cabinet-maker and taught woodcarving, carpentry and leatherwork. The pair set up as interior decorators, creating dados, ornaments and furnishings with an Australian flavour. In a complementary working relationship, Weston executed Mort's designs for such objects as a chair made of silky oak and Australian leather, and copper boxes. To further their aims, in 1906 they founded the short-lived Australian Guild of Handicraft for women, which hoped to produce articles for 'household use and decoration'. The group staged an exhibition in December.

Joining the Society of Arts and Crafts of New South Wales (founded 1906) in March 1908, Weston was briefly custodian of its rooms. At the society's exhibition in 1910, she and Mort included cushions, blotters and leatherwork as well as larger displays and panels. In 1911, before an extended visit to England, Weston acted as honorary secretary. On her return she resumed her association with the society, serving on its selection committee (1917-19) and its general committee (1918, 1929-32). She taught at a studio in Rowe Street in the 1920s.

Weston developed friendships with Thea Proctor, Margaret Preston and many others, and arranged nature study picnics in the bush. She attended and provided scenery and costumes for the Artists' Ball from 1922. Relying on the sale of her wood, metal and leather products for an income, she usually produced small items suitable for gifts. From about 1920 she and Mort lived together at Vaucluse until moving to Greenhayes, Mittagong, in 1937 and to Bowral in 1960.

As they had in World War I, Weston and Mort taught crafts to wounded and convalescent soldiers in various hospitals in World War II; they continued to visit returned soldiers after the war. Miss Weston remained a constant companion to Eirene Mort. Her health declined slowly over many years. She died on 16 August 1965 at Berrima and was cremated with Anglican rites. A well-attended memorial exhibition was held in their Bowral home.

Select Bibliography

  • A History of the Society of Arts & Crafts of New South Wales 1906-1991 (Syd, 1991)
  • P. Starr, Wielding the Waratah—Eirene Mort. A Study of an Artist/craftswoman's Training and Working Experiences from the Period 1879 to 1910 (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Sydney, 1980)
  • Society of Arts and Crafts of New South Wales records (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Mort family papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Jane E. Hunt, 'Weston, Nora Kate (1880–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/weston-nora-kate-12004/text21525, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 7 April 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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