textile

Recurrence

I keep coming back to fragments of knit lace retrieved from Herbert Niebling charts. Or they keep coming back to me.

In silk fabric strips:

Lace fragment, silk fabric

 

In hand spun silk and flax, suspended in a web:

Making Time (detail)

 

Revisited later, in fine merino, in a hand made bobbin lace cage:

Ruth Halbert Alight 2013

Alight, 2013. Photo Josh Wells

 

And left in a birch tree at Rud Artist-in-Residence, Dalsland, Sweden:

Fragment, Rud AIR, Sweden, 2014

 

 

Lately, reconsidered in crochet cotton, with mulberry paper.

Paper lace bowl

 

Residency – art in the making not in the made

I had intended, months ago, to write about the process of making the Beverley map, to summarise my residency experience and then show the work in Perth as a conclusion to the experience.

I stalled.

After a long hibernation I have become aware of how my intense experience as artist-in-residence was just the start of what will be an evolving project. I took to Beverley questions about what and how to observe in a new environment, and how to use art-making to explore those questions. In my previous post I describe  collecting information by walking, photographing, collecting and drawing. That research focus changed when my hosts invited me to show my work on the last weekend. I switched from gathering information, ideas and samples for future works, to producing work (or work-in-progress) to hang in the gallery. I also wanted to be part of the established tradition of donating a work I’d made there for the gallery’s collection. With one week of the stay remaining I took the samples I’d dyed from local plants,

Map cloth dyed

and, perhaps influenced by the gliders circling overhead, decided to take an aerial perspective and piece a fabric map of the town site.

Map of town

Sensations that arose while making the pieced map extended beyond cutting and stitching the fabric to my experience of the physicality of moving across the land. I felt the rounded curves of the rolling hills as I shaped the pieces to curve into each other.

Map in progress

Faint odour of plant-dyed fabric recalled walks under gum trees, bark crunching underfoot.

I joined the pieces with vertical black stitches so that the seams stood up like fence lines. The last stitches went in on the final morning. In the gallery I noticed that the Beverley locals who looked at my work saw their familiar town with fresh eyes.

Exhibition view

Back in Perth, I felt unable to call the Beverley map ‘finished’. There was more to it than representing a town map in dyed fabric. In Ground Truthing Paul Carter writes about what a map reveals and conceals, how language, memory and being on-the-ground both enrich and contradict the impression from the air. Being on the ground to collect sensations and materials gave me a means of responding to the particularities of Beverley (physical, historic, cultural) through the process of making. Studying the plan of Beverley and remaking it into a pieced map made clear how the layout of streets and railway had been decided in response to the river Avon. And as the Avon flows into the Swan so the thread of the river leads to Perth where the streets, boundaries and buildings of the city are oriented and shaped by its position on the Swan. Making the Beverley map was not a culmination but a plan for thinking about the city of Perth, and beyond, for a mud map of how to approach any place I choose to observe and remake.

To the studio

I’m writing this in a plane returning home after being away from my studio for four days. The trip wasn’t long enough to miss family, friends or home, but it was far too long to be away from my studio.

Studio window with pomegranates

Surely artists have differing relationships to their studios – from a welcome, creative refuge to a dreaded place when they feel stuck and facing down a block or self-doubt. My studio is a peaceful, private space where I can enter internal realms of research, reflection and making. The physical act of leaving the ‘external’ world and going into my studio allows me to mentally disconnect from mundane life (knowing that it will be waiting for me when I leave the studio) and let my creative self roam. When I close the door behind me I can drop my ‘public’ persona and be unobserved. My attention can be fully directed to the ideas, materials and works-in-progress that fill the space.

Work table 1Work table 2Work table 3

The studio also serves as a sign to others of my commitment to my practice and that I am ‘at work’ when I am there and therefore less likely to be interrupted by daily demands. It is where I try out new ideas, finish work and make long-term plans.

Indigo on the line

But the lease expires in a few weeks; our building, with more than twenty artists, has its third owner in a year and in this speculative town we are once again looking for an affordable, usable space to house our various practices. Otherwise it is back to the interruptible kitchen table and the unlit, dusty shed.