Seachange means re-evaluating your life and making dramatic changes to ensure you live your values, and that you can look back on your life with satisfaction. It is about getting in touch with what is important and following through to make what is important - a living experience. (slowmovement.com)
In HAND/EYE Magazine last August I wrote about slowstuff, my creative enterprise that encompasses teaching, designing and making. My driving force through a personally difficult year has been a passion for keeping textile making skills alive, working on a year long project with a local Guild, delivering textile workshops in the community, sharing skills with young people in the hope that these traditional skills of weaving, spinning and dyeing will continue. Inspired by its success as the project drew to a close, I knew that I wanted to continue to offer meaningful learning experiences to others.
In the heart of the medieval textiles district of Norwich, with far reaching views over the rooftops the ‘Slowstuff Studio’ offering a supportive learning environment for “anyone who’s always wanted to … but thought they couldn’t …” The studio provides an opportunity to escape from the world of technology and explore making by hand, being immersed ‘in the moment’ and discover one’s hidden creative self. Saori-inspired weave on simple pre-threaded looms, stitching, spinning, felt making and natural dyeing are just some of the experiences on offer. A light-filled space full of colorful threads and inspiring materials invite you to become immersed in the creative process.
I have also recently fulfilled a long held desire to start a collective of makers who share common values and support each other, and in May 2012 the Slow Makers Group was formed. You can read about them at http://www.slowmakers.co.uk/.
It’s been a busy year, but I have still made time to develop my own practice and make work that celebrates the provenance of Britain. As a designer and maker of contemporary textiles, I am particularly interested in working with wool, a natural, indigenous and sustainable material, sourced from British rare breed sheep wherever possible. I am also fortunate to have local color (woad, weld, madder) growing within 30 miles of where I live in Norwich and I use traditional skills to combine these two local ingredients in my work.
My own practice to date has been focused on woven textile design and construction, but I wanted to know more about the “raw ingredients” of my cloth and the processes that endow the yarns with their individual characteristics. I recently learnt to spin and produce my own yarns, using them to develop work that was inspired by “Saori” a style of weave and a philosophy that encourages spontaneity in choice of materials and design – the result was “seachange” a woven piece that is a move away from the conventional repetitive process of weave design to a textile art form – developing a more mindful way of working, focusing only on the area of warp in front of me, reaching instinctively for materials as the piece takes shape on the loom.
I enjoy this spontaneous style of weave that allows for creative expression and experimentation and have started to create soft sculptural vessels, exploring the qualities of felted wool. I will continue to develop this concept, introducing natural color from Norfolk.
As Artist in Residence at the Textile Archive I have access to a wealth of information from the past about traditional craft skills and I look forward to making work that draws inspiration from Norfolk’s rich textile heritage. Over the summer I will also be offering “textile experience weekends” in unspoiled woodland, working with natural materials and taking inspiration from the beauty of rural England.
Claudy Jongstra is a textile artist who runs workshops to reconnect people to raw materials and processes, allowing them to escape from the high-tech world they have come from. I am inspired by her ethos and end with a quote from her:
I experience the development of my work as a constant unwrapping of gifts. The past comprises an amazing amount of knowledge: botanical knowledge, craft knowledge. This opens a world for me behind the visible world. And I am convinced that this dive in the past also generates knowledge in its turn to develop sustainable production methods. (Jongstra 2011).
To read Aviva’ article, slowstuff, HandEye August 2011, please visit
http://handeyemagazine.com/content/slowstuff. To learn more of her creative journey , stop by www.avivaleigh.com. And for further information about the slowstuff studio go to www.slowstuff.co.uk