Alice Kettle: Reinvent, rework and reconstruct
We were introduced to the work of Alice Kettle when our mum Sue Stone raved about the books Hand Stitch, Perspectives and Machine Stitch: Perspectives, both of which Alice co-authored with long-time collaborator Jane McKeating. We were the lucky enough to meet her and see her work ‘in the flesh’ at the Knit and Stitch show in London a couple of years ago.
Alice is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Designer Craftsmen and the Royal Society of Arts, an Honorary Fellow of the University of Winchester, a Research Fellow of the Manchester Metropolitan University, and an Honorary member of the 62 group of textile artists.
Here she talks about her background in painting and how she discovered her true love; textiles.
The most natural way to work
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Alice Kettle: I have always liked sewing and having trained as a painter, I just started sewing as I had been painting since that felt the most natural way to work. I knew the sewing machine well as a tool, I had made my own clothes since I was very young.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
I worked in a craft shop as a teenager which was not like any other shop I have been into before or since. I think the eclectic nature of the work and the high quality of making was captivating. It gave me a glimpse into a world I wanted to be a part of. My mother took us to galleries often. She would buy artworks from the final year of the graduate shows at Winchester School of Art – They would always be textile.
What was your route to becoming an artist? (Formal training or another pathway?)
I did a degree in painting and then went to Goldsmiths College London to do a postgrad in textile art.
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
Machine stitch, simply that.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
No idea, I just do it, I just like sewing. I like the improvisatory nature of it, where you can reinvent, rework and reconstruct pictorially. Thus a narrative can unfold through making.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I work in a shed in the garden, I have many sewing machine and I work on huge pieces of cloth which I bundle under the arm of the sewing machine. I change threads constantly, work from the front and the back and hope that it will be ok. I never know.
Do you use a sketchbook?
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
Stories, I am intrigued by the work of Imran qureshi which I have recently discovered.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
I don’t really think I have fond memories of any. I always look at them critically. I am proud of my work ‘Creation’ which I did at an optimistic time and finished a few days before my first daughter was born. This piece saved me when it was bought for the Museo applicant Oggi in Turin. It was as though it gave me back what I had given birth to. When I was about to have everything taken from me, that piece started my new life and I knew I must work on and it would be ok.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
Yes, I now use print and stitch and much more digital stitch.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Work very hard, it is a laborious process any textile work. Keep the joy, don’t give up, it is hard but wonderful.
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
Well of course, Machine Stitch Perspectives, Hand Stitch perspectives and Collaboration through Craft.
Resources, equipment and exhibitions
What other resources do you use? Blogs, websites, magazines etc.
I love books.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I go where I am asked.
Where can readers see your work this year?
Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh in Feb 2015 and Collect, Saatchi Gallery, London in May.
For more information please visit: www.alicekettle.co.uk
Alice is the co-author of Hand Stitch, Perspectives and Machine Stitch: Perspectives.
If you’ve enjoyed this interview with Alice let us know by leaving a comment below
3 comments on “Alice Kettle: Reinvent, rework and reconstruct”
I enjoy Alice’s work very much. I am absolutely awed by the scale in which she chooses to work. Absolutely brilliant!
I love your work, such vitality. Pushing at the boundaries of machine and tradition.
A great inspiration!
I spend too much time in my sketchbooks and not enough on the machine – thanks, Alice!