Values and making artwork that aligns with those values is very fulfilling, but not always easy to do. Sometimes those values that are very important mean that you have to turn down work or a commission or that you can't use the latest new thing or invention that is all over social media.
We all have values and they are different for each person; some people may feel it is important to be sustainable whereas others find this less important. We may have similar values, but how we go about using these in our daily lives or what exactly they mean to us will differ.
As an artist I like to push the boundaries of the materials I use, to see what I can do with them and also at what point they just won't take any more manipulating and will break or stop working in the way that I would like. It's all about exploration. Materials are central to my work; it's important to me that they further the narrative and emotion behind the work. I choose to use lots of non-traditional textile materials like wood, paper and found objects for this reason. However, sustainability is also important to me, especially with fabrics as I'm well aware of how damaging to the environment the production of cloth is. To bring these two values together I select to work with lots of pre-loved items and materials. The added bonus of this is that they also bring their own narrative and history to the piece I'm working on.
The work above is inspired by Boro embroidery; a Japanese embroidery technique used to make necessary repairs to garments and textiles making them last longer. This was developed due to severe poverty and was essential to those that used it. In creating this work I was able to share this history, use preloved fabrics that also had a story of their own as well as create a piece of art that said something.
Creating high quality, unusual artwork is another value that is important to me - I like to encourage people to look again. This aligns well with using non traditional textile materials as I mentioned above. I also love social history. To bring these values together I look for high quality, vintage objects that I can embroider on to like this sieve above. It's a wooden vintage sieve and the mesh is just perfect to hand embroider into. It's tricky to get the design transferred over - though I like a challenge!
Some fabrics, especially when using preloved fabrics, aren't the right colour for the work. Sometimes I want to emphasise the link to a place and need a different colour fabric. In these situations I use natural dyeing as, for me, it aligns with my sustainability values and allows me to use the fabric I have and dye that in a more planet friendly way.
When dyeing most fabrics a mordant is needed to adhere the dye to the cloth. Most often a chemical mordant is suggested, but this doesn't sit well with my values and so early on in this way of working I stuck to silk, wool and other fabrics that don't need a mordant, but this was restrictive. Through research I discovered that sea water is an excellent mordant and as there are different chemical and elements already in sea water the dye is altered each time you use it in non-predictable ways. This aligns with my need for excitement and the unknown element and my sustainability values.
The work above is another piece inspired by Boro, this time exploring the language associated with Boro. It is naturally dyed using a seawater mordant and leaves collected on my walks.
There are many ways to bring values you have and creating artwork together; they don't always work and that's ok - learning from this can happen and help to move things forwards. I'd love to hear how you align your values with creativity or other activities.