Restoration work from Carl Irving, A Maker's Journey from Eileen Prior, joyful textiles to brighten our lockdown days from Kas Williams and Shiftlink, Art-textiles in the Provincial from Mona Craven and Alison Baxter.
Carl's work focuses on societal restoration by using discarded material (waste) and embedding it into the work. Scrap becomes valued and is grafted together with new material. A selection of sculptures have been designed to encourage touch by creating intriguing forms. This is to encourage the viewer to engage echoing the need to physically connect. Carl produces works in various mediums that challenge ideology whilst encouraging diversity and acceptance.
Carl has also generously shared some images of recent commissions in his gallery below.
Meet the material.
The Herdwick herd grazed for land management on a National Trust estate in West Sussex. A chance encounter, after becoming a volunteer gardener. I had already been working with Herdwick yarn from its home county of Cumbria. The hardy characterful sheep of the Lakeland produce a fleece not greatly in demand. It is course and has relatively short fibres. It does however give two distinct shades of grey: dark from the first year’s lambs and lighter from the older ewes. Both shades dye well and I have taken advantage of this together with a Rough Fell breed to give me ivory, dyeing all three in the same dye bath give good shade variation to add subtlety to designs and making the most of each dyebath. Having approached the farm managers and been given the OK to take the fleece after sheering, I found the Natural Fibre Company were able to convert single breed wool into a yarn I could weave with. A slow process, but I think a valuable one, to see something that would be wasted, turned into a useful commodity
Although gardening had to stop through the first lockdown, the National trust team devised a way of bringing back two teams of volunteers to work safely with the fulltime gardeners. It is just one day a week for me, but so valuable as a source of inspiration from the beautiful surroundings and the camaraderie of teamwork which helps keep a “Hidden Gem” for more people to enjoy. There are so many aspects of the garden that capture the imagination and bring joy. The seasonal changes, the play of light throughout the day – brings a freshness to the spirit and helps brighten tired eyes. I am intrigued by the effects of time and nature on the man-made infrastructure of the garden. The lichen on the walls, the distressed paint on a worn bench, become major players in the timelessness of the place, the calm acceptance of ageing contributing to a carefully curated design, where the hand of the gardener plays in tune with nature .
The old bench down the long walk became the driving force for the first woven piece using my newly processed yarn. There is a strong sense of the Japanese Wabi Sabi aesthetic, allowing just the right amount of degradation and weathering to blend into the surroundings. Whereas other benches on the estate are cleaned and painted to immaculate perfection every year, this one remains quietly at one in its space. My intention in weaving was to leave imperfections that would undoubtedly occur in my construction process and even to put tiny variations into an otherwise conventional tie-up. Weave design is so much about ordering single strands into perfectly repeating patterns that the random and uneven often seems unacceptable. I was interested to see if my simple design interpretation would give me a result that could convey a sense of rightness implied in the Wabi Sabi ideals.
The end results? Who knows? I am simply happy it got me motivated enough to produce a new original work.
MATTERS OF MAKING
I have a profound love of colour. It has a lyrical energy and exuberance that resonates with me and it’s at the heart of all my work. Colour pattern and texture are things that I’m very aware of in the world around me and vibrant use of these has become a signature of my work along with a playful layering of shades, tones, and marks. It’s a visual vocabulary that I express in abstract form. My creative practice is rooted in painting from where I can follow any number of directions mixing diverse materials and methods to create sophisticated pieces. I have a very loose playful approach to creativity and I like unpredictability and the sense of freedom that comes with experiment. It's natural for me to consider the order of things, the hidden and the visible, masking and unmasking and the combination of different textures processes and techniques always offers up surprises.
Music is really important to me and I feel a sense of composing in my work redolent of the tempo and dynamics of a musical composition. When I’m working I nearly always have sound of some sort playing in my studio. It can be music or sometimes more experimental soundscapes and I’m sure it becomes a subliminal feed as I can often recognise what I was listening to from gestures, shapes and marks in the finished piece. Meditation is important too. It’s something that I’ve practiced for many years and at times it is a balm to this energetic and colourful world that gives me a place to reflect and ground myself, often creating a new dimension in my work and a very different visual expression.
Favourite artists: Albert Irvin, Gillian Ayres, Mali Morris, Hella Jongerius, Dale Chjihuly
Shifthink, Art-textiles in the Provincial
Mona Craven and Alison Baxter exhibited art-textiles at Shifthink, Art-textiles in the Provincial, the Victoria Institute, Arundel, 28 February to 1 March 2020. Presented prior to lockdown, during the Collect week 2020, this short exhibition event offered a new view of craft-based meaning presented outside of London.
Alison explores a duality between jewellery and textile art through solidity and fragility. Mona connects past and present through the everyday cloth. Both artists use the familiar materials of thread, cloth and paper to create crafted installations that connect time, space and materiality.
Alison questions the transformation of an artwork when either worn or presented as an installation. The materials she employs capture and contain the impermanent, to reveal minute details that are overlooked and undervalued.
Mona is inspired by a love of beauty in battered and worn cloth that connects across the decades of a colonial and postcolonial past. She unravels and unpicks, stitch by stitch, to reveal the stories the cloth holds. Her work placed at this Institute presents work on the threshold of the ‘in-between’ in which historical decay breaks ground to make new cultural meaning visible.
Shifthink, Art-textiles in the Provincial provided both artists, visitors and the community new insights through the placement of the art-textile installations, artist led workshops and a reading event. Daring in the choice of venue, the exhibition provided both artists, visitors and the community new insights through the encounter with the tactility of material, contrast, culture and difference in a local space.
Alison has subsequently developed new work responding to space, revealing the forgotten. This can be seen at the exhibition Hidden Histories, South Hill Park, 2 Dec 2020 – 27 Jan 2021. Mona is re-reading the event to develop re-readings of the stories-so-far of cloth, whilst work on the confirmation phase of practice-based PhD research.