Alice Hume interview: Hand weaving textiles
Alice Hume has narrowed her artistic focus on handcrafting her work in an effort to resist an increasingly mechanised future.
From the southeast of England, Alice had her work featured last year in Candid Arts, an Islington London Exhibition, as well as as the Kalopsia Collective, an Edinburgh Exhibition.
Alice walks us through the origins of her creative identity, while crafting by hand is so important to her, as well as her process for selecting rich colours to use.
The beginning of my creative identity
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Alice Hume: I first came across textile art at a degree show in 2010. A student had made a garment out of turf and she was spraying it with water to keep it alive and growing. I love the idea that textile art pushes all limits and can be so experimental.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life influenced your work?
As a child we always went on family camping holidays, so being outside in the natural world always inspired me. I was shown how to appreciate nature and my parents always encouraged us to do what we loved. I remember collecting sticks, seaweed and pebbles and making little land art sculptures by the beach.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
At school, I always loved art but it wasn’t until foundation level that I fell in love with textiles. I decided I had to do this as a degree, so I studied woven design at Winchester School of Art. In my final year, my work naturally developed into one-off textile art pieces, such as wall-hangings, giant neck pieces and extravagant bags which I named the Native Beard Collection.
This was the start of my textile art work, and also the beginning of my creative identity. I knew I wanted to weave with a fine art approach.
It’s a longer process
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
I always use hand weaving in my textile work and in particular my Harris loom. My dad made me a heddle hook, warping mill, and raddle, all from recycled wood and materials. I like to use different methods, so I have my own weaving sticks and a Swedish loom I got from a charity shop. Each of them has its strengths and weaknesses but my Harris loom is my most favourite to use.
I like my warps to have different heddle set ups. For instance, my warp at the moment has a pointed draft in the centre and straight draft on the edges. This makes the outcome far more interesting and the different setups create a symmetrical pattern. The yarns I choose for the warp are usually two colours, and for my bags I used linen in the centre. I kept a damp cloth over it while I wove so it didn’t snap by drying out.
For the weft, I use a variety of yarns, such as raffia, plastic and textured yarn. I always start a warp with miniature experiments. This helps me choose what yarns work best and gets my creativity ticking. Once taken off the warp, I work into the fabric – whether that’s macrame, wrapping thread around the loose ends, or melting the tips of the plastic yarn. For the neck pieces and wall hangings I usually use dowling to frame the fabric, and with a soldering iron I draw patterns onto the wood.
I always encourage hand craft and craftsmanship in my work. It’s a longer process but it’s so rewarding.
Bring the old and new together
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
My work is heavily textured with vivid colours and combined techniques of macrame, binding, knotting and weaving. My textiles has always been handmade, using traditional handcrafted techniques. I think its important to keep practicing hand craft especially in an increasingly mechanised future, which is why I unify the modern and the old by using unusual yarns and contrasting colours, such as linen and plastic. My vision is to bring the old and the new together into something unique.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I have an 8 shaft Harris loom in my room next to my window, where I tend to have some inspiring images or drawings to work from. Weaving is a therapeutic process, so I find it relaxing watching the world go by whilst I create my fabrics.
Do you use a sketchbook?
I always use a sketchbook. I find that Biro drawings can help to get my creative mind rolling. I draw pressed plants, dried flowers and anything with interesting mark-making to get initial ideas. To help me choose colour combinations and materials, I make swatches on cardboard or on objects. This gives me an idea of what sculptural textures I want to use. I also make mini tassels out of the yarns I like which are developed from my sketches.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
Gustav Klimt will always be my favourite artist. His rich colours and beautifully detailed paintings never fail to feed my imagination.
Lenore Tawney had an unusual approach to weaving and textiles, and created really feminine, delicate pieces. I also love her collages and illustrations.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
In my first year at university we had to make an accessory of our choice, and I decided to make a feminine take of a sporran. This was my first ever handmade woven accessory, and one of the first woven fabrics I made. It always reminds me how much my woven skills and textile skills have developed.
A journey of discovery
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I believe textile artists are always on a journey of discovery. There will always be lessons to be learnt and new ideas to be explored. My work is still evolving, and I want to keep pushing my ideas to create something unusual. In some senses, your work grows with you.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Find what you love, keep going, and never give up. No matter how bizarre or crazy your work or ideas are, just do it.
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite by Paul Arden. This is a short and sweet little book, and always inspires me to think outside the box with my work
What other resources do you use?
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
A black Biro pen and paper as drawing is the core of my textile practice and always inspires my work, especially mark-making and texture.
A huge psychedelic octopus
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
Last summer I ran a 60s themed art workshop in collaboration with Textile Artist Andrea Arengo-Jones, celebrating 50 years of Winnall Community Centre in Winchester. This led to creating a huge psychedelic octopus made through nail art of wool and wood, where children and adults of all ages were able to join in.
Weaving and Macrame Workshops
Alice runs Introduction to Frame Loom Weaving and Macrame Pot Hanger Workshops from her studio at Hotwalls Studios these are day classes which include all materials. She also runs weave workshops on zoom and virtual workshops on how to make your own Woven Coaster and Macrame Wall Hanging. For more info and to book please visit: www.vanderhume.co.uk/workshops-1
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I always submit my work into competitions, which is how I got to exhibit my work with Kalopsia Collective in the “What is Textiles” exhibition in Edinburgh and Candid Arts in London last year.
Where can readers see your work this year?
Keep an eye out on my website.
Want more information? Please visit: www.vanderhume.co.uk