''I only ever wear clothes I've made myself, so if you meet me in Adelaide in the supermarket I'm dressed like this,'' an indescribably exotic-looking Cheryl Bridgart declared, from beneath a unique hat, at yesterday's session of the Canberra Craft and Quilt Fair.
Behind one of the ''windows'' in her tunic a single eye stared out wildly at the world. What an impression the freestyle sewing machine artist must make, encountered near the frozen peas in Woolies.
What it, the eye in Bridgart's costume, saw yesterday was a vast, milling throng of folk, overwhelmingly women of a certain age (averaging 38, show manager Gary Fitz-Roy advised yesterday) with blokes so rare that they seemed almost as exotic as Bridgart's clothes.
The sheer scale of the fair was a revelation yesterday. Fitz-Roy expects it to attract 16,000 souls over its four days. Its dozens of stalls of artists and craft-materials suppliers of fill the capacious Budawang space while nearby another roomy pavilion is devoted to finished works and especially to quilts.
Some of the quilts are so big and so brightly coloured that an hour spent among them engendered in this former flower-child a legal version of the illegal hallucinogenic experiences of the 1960s.
One of them, Helen Godden's winner of the ''Best In Show'' rosette is Phar Lap Fashion, a portrayal of Phar Lap and his ecstatic connections immediately after his victory in the 1930 Melbourne Cup. The great horse was reddish, really, but Godden has made him golden, encouraging the idea of him as a golden statue deserving of worship. All of his connections are exquisitely depicted wearing the fashions of the time. One woman sports a fox fur.
Floating on, this reporter alighted in front of Merelyn Pearce's Preston Dreaming. Huge (226 centimetres by 232 centimetres) and overwhelmingly monochromatic and intricate and detailed beyond belief.
There are koalas to the centre but elsewhere in it there's a cast of dozens of plant and animal species. It is the kind of artwork you could live with all your life and find something new in it on every brand new day.
Bridgart's work includes pictures of the animal-enriched dreams she found herself having during a year she spent working on a project at Adelaide's Monarto Zoo. At night she dreamed of the zoo.
Yesterday she showed us a sheet of illustrations she'd made of the individual eyes of Monarto's exotic creatures, including big cats and one of Monarto's famous pandas.
That explained it! No wonder the eye that peered out of her costume was so striking. It was the eye of the tiger.
The Canberra Craft and Quilt Fair continues at Exhibition Park in Mitchell today, opening at 10am.