Sunday, 15 September 2013

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Interview with Anna Krystyna Casey

I  met Anna last year when she asked me to come along and provide a talk to the students at the school she works as a technician.  At the time I didn't know much about her work or her creativity, only that she was a Design Factory member.  I was soon to become better informed as I listened to her own artists talk on the same day.  Now, I have seen wire used in crochet, but it intrigued me how she uses wire and crochet to create very organic forms, trapping other mediums within the lacework.  My first reaction to her work was how experimental it feels.

Since our first meeting, our paths have crossed on many occasions, not least her recent exhibition at the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford where she is part of the 10th anniversary celebrations. I was fortunate enough to be there on the celebratory day. Anna sat by her installation calmly crocheting her wire into omeba-like forms whilst talking to visitors and introducing them to the delights of dipping the omebas into pulped paper and adding elements of colour.

It was at this visit, I made a mental note to ask Anna to become a guest on my blog so I could find out a little more about her creativity and what makes her use her chosen materials.

Here are the questions I pitted to her:-

Can you describe your journey to becoming a professional maker?

During the final stages of my degree (Multi Media Textiles) at Loughborough University I began getting people asking to buy the things I was making. This continued while I was at New Designers, giving me the confidence to consider becoming ‘professional’ and running a business as a Designer/Maker. When I entered the UKHKA UK Hand Knitting Association Graduate prize, I was selected as a finalist, and as a result I exhibited in London and Harrogate, and again people wanted to buy what I was making. It went from there really!

What made you become a Designer/Maker as opposed to a 9 to 5 job? 

I have no idea. I didn’t plan it! I always thought I’d be very sensible, find a nice 9-5 job I enjoyed and the creative making would probably be a hobby. But I suppose I got the bug, and I didn’t want to stop! I sat applying for ‘sensible’ graduate placements etc, but when I was filling out the forms I’d reach the section that asked ‘Why do you want this job?’ (or words to that effect) and I just couldn’t answer it!! So I started to realize that I was going to take a different route, and I felt I needed to take the risk and find a way to be a creative professional. 

What are your main influences when conceiving a piece of work? 

It depends entirely on the situation; quite often an exhibition will provide a framework, such as a request for only 2d work. Challenges like these stimulate me to develop and adapt existing work, which then creates new ideas. Or it could be that I’ve had an inkling of an idea for a while, and suddenly, I’ll know how to develop it. I have a very organic working process really. I’m sure you’ve been asked this question many times.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I love looking at the small details, the microscopic elements and details that are often overlooked. By magnifying these intricate details, I find a new way to look at the world around us.

Are there any particular styles or visual stimuli that influence the design of your work and why?

I’m not sure there are any particular styles which have a clear visual cohesion with my work, because I draw influences from so many! However, there are a handful of artists I always go back to. They might be surprising; their work is very different to my own. For instance; I love the work of Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois, especially the pieces that make me feel uncomfortable. And I really love ceramics, even though clay and I never seemed to work well together during my explorative studies! I think I am influenced by contemporary ceramics actually.

If you had a choice of venues and locations, where would you most like your work to be exhibited and why?

There are so many!! I especially love the V&A, the high level of technical excellence and innovation in their collection is defiantly something I aspire to reach one day.

Do you have any new plans, collections in the pipeline?

I have so many ideas for new work; my studio is full of sketches and scribbled notes!! But at the moment, I’m concentrating on the three main collections I have already. The beginning of this year was taken up with preparation for my first big solo show, Synthesis, and I’m still working on off shoots of that for the time being. But keep an eye out, those sketches will come alive soon!!

When designing your work, what comes first the materials or the design? 

It varies, depending on the intended outcome. I think usually they go hand in hand. I’m very experimental with my materials, and I have a collection I love to work from, so I suppose I design with them in mind. Inevitably the intention I start out with changes anyway! I’ve stopped worrying about that so much!

What would you say are your values and ethics when it comes to making?

To be completely honest, at the moment I am trying to make sure I am true to my own aesthetic vision rather than commercial values, I am trying to focus on making work I am proud to put my name to, rather than creating top selling items. I feel so new to it all, I still feel like a beginner sometimes, so my main focus is that anything I create feels like me. Finding your ‘voice’, your own visual language is so hard, and I think it evolves with you. I like my work to be as environmentally friendly as possible, and I keep trying to improve in this area where I can.

 From all of your pieces which is your favourite and why?

That depends on my mood. I am incredibly proud of the Synthesis body of work, as I feel I have developed the Cellular Collection into something more than I initially envisioned was possible! But I think the hooked collection might just win out! I think the "Hooked" collection is most ‘me’, it is the sort of work I would invest in, and I absolutely love the colour palette in the work, the reds and blues that appear in the glass are incredible!

Tell us about what keeps you motivated? 

That’s hard. On a day to day basis, really I’m the sort of person that needs a deadline to work to; otherwise I can be very easily distracted. In the bigger picture, I can’t put my finger on it. There are so many negatives in this job; a day of mistakes, a bad day at a craft fair, the irregular income, but somehow they don’t matter!! It’s a passion; more than that, I think it’s a bit of an addiction!!

What tips do you have to get around creative block? 

When it comes to kick starting new ideas, think big. Start scribbling about a dream project- as if funds/ time/ etc were no issue… Usually thinking big helps you spark new ideas!! Then you can reign yourself in and address the reality factor. Alternatively: walk away, let your brain rest, and think on something else. Usually I get creative block if I’ve been working too hard. A bit of distance always helps.

What do you listen to when you create? 

I like to have the radio on, as the conversation and music varies from one day to the next. Also (very naughty I know!) I have the television on if I’m crocheting large amounts. Having something to focus on in the distance helps me stop straining my eyes and by forcing me to look up every so often. It sounds like an excuse I know, but it really does help!!!

Tell us about your workspace.

It’s in my home, and it’s rammed full!! I have a mish mash of furniture collected over the years, like a vintage dressing table as my computer desk, and a lovely little Lloyd Loom chair for when I’m crocheting. Lots of desk space for spreading out big work. Oh, and a paddling pool. Yes, a paddling pool! When working on some of my new pieces, they were so big; they wouldn’t fit in my usual paper troughs! So a paddling pool provided the perfect solution.

Do you have an online presence that we can find more information about your work?

I’m on Facebook and Twitter, and I’m utterly addicted to Pinterest! I blog most weeks and include a whole range of creative subjects. All of these profiles can be found by through Where do you sell your work? I sell online through Folksy, where I sell arrange of smaller works, and I have several Gallery stockists. I also do a lot of Craft Fairs and similar events!

So, where can we expect to see your work over the next few months?

I have an outdoor exhibition, Sculpture at Coughton Court, open at the moment. In September, I’ll be part of the Melbourne Arts Trail, I can’t wait for this one, as there is always so much to see, and I usually have to leave my purse hidden at home!! I’ve got a lot of Craft Fairs in the run up to the big C- I’ll be at Gifted.13 (Sleaford) The Maker’s Mart (Leicester) and I’ll be confirming more on my website nearer the time.

It's always a pleasure to meet up with Anna, we always enjoy a creative banter.

I will next see Anna at Gifted13, as it looks like we will both be at this event. Applications are now open if you would like to apply for a stand at Gifted13.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Engaging the people of Lincolnshire with creativity

The lovely Carole Miles
Over the past couple of months I have been working with Carole Miles over in Lincolnshire for an organization called Transported Art funded by the Creative People and Places fund. Their focus is investing in parts of the country where people’s involvement in the arts is significantly low.  The idea is to increase the likelihood of participation by the local community and those hard to reach people who wouldn't normally access the arts.

During May, June and July 2013, Phase One began which was a consultation to gather information in order find out what arts activities the community would like to see in their area using commissioned artists in a variety of areas including dance, acting and visual art, throughout Boston Borough and South Holland.  Carole and I joined forces and became the "Eloquent Fold" and worked on the project providing a number of engagement activities in a variety of public places including libraries, community centres and pop-up shops.

"Wish you Were here" workshop in Boston in full swing

The activities we provided during July and August were Pin a Petal, Sewing the Seeds, Origami Fleet and Wish you Were Here  and we did our best to encourage many different age groups to get involved.  I was interested at the response we got.  When presented with a craft actvitiy, Mums and Dads seem to often discount themselves seeing it as an opportunity to keep a child occupied.  What can quite often happen is the parent, helps the child to the point of taking over their project.  At this point, I find it is alway good to entice the parent to make something of their own, working alongside their child so they share each others creativity.

Can we come and join you?
Other people often reply, I don't do this sort of thing or I'm no good at it.  This makes me wonder if somewhere along the way they have been told this.  Statements made in childhood often stick with us then we start to believe these negative mantras.  Carole and I were exceeding good at generating conversations which quite often led to a little dabble of our engagement activities.  The people we met proved very interesting, we loved the stories that were shared with us and we have both been inspired by the people and places in Lincolnshire. We both know in our hearts that we will be returning to this inspiring county in the future.

Silent Sunday