Ann Goddard interview: Textile artist inspired by nature
Ann Goddard is a Chester-based textile artist inspired by nature, whose practice combines fine art and making. Her work is heavily influenced by the history of textile art and takes the form of constructed wall pieces and installations. Recently she has produced a body of work investigating the impact of human activity on nature.
She is a member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and has an MA in Fine Art from the University College Chester. In2010 she won the Grand Prize at the Amateras Annual Mini Paper Art Exhibition in Bulgaria.
Here she tells us about the unconventional route she took to becoming a textile artist, her early influences and who or what inspires her today.
Using cloth creatively
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Ann Goddard: My first experience of textile art was seeing machine embroidered pictures and becoming excited at the possibilities of using stitch expressively rather than functionally. Soon after, I was given a book on quilting which showed ways of raising the surface, creating texture and incorporating non-textile elements into the work. This opened my eyes to the further potential of using cloth creatively.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
Growing up in the North East of England during the 1960’s, school art lessons seemed to mainly consist of painting & drawing. I was totally unaware of textiles as a potential art form. Textile work was called needlework & was aimed at learning garment making. My mother stitched & knitted most of my clothes & my paternal grandmother embroidered tablecloths, antimacassars and fire-screens, but despite this I was never interested in making functional items – a feeling that was reinforced when I discovered I was hopeless at dressmaking! Luckily there were ceramics lessons which led to me becoming interested in craft.
What was your route to becoming a mixed media artist?
My route has been rather convoluted with most of my studying done as a mature student. I initially trained to be a teacher, specializing in ceramics. Later, after marrying and starting a family, I decided to try a City & Guilds Creative Embroidery course, little realizing how it would take over my life! Although called embroidery it introduced me to many different aspects of textile art… I just wish a course like this had been available when I was younger. Winning a City & Guilds Medal of Excellence gave me the impetus to carry on developing my work. An HNC in Stitched & Constructed Textiles followed, which led to further study and gaining an MA in Fine Art.
Mixed media constructions
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
My chosen medium varies depending on the ideas I am exploring at the time. I try to select materials and processes for their potential to evoke associations & to allude to wider issues.
Most of my work combines textile elements with non-traditional textile media such as wood, slate & concrete. I enjoy working in a sculptural context with fibres and handmade & felted papers. Stitching and knotting are used strategically as elements of meaning, and functionally as a means of holding the constructions together.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
My work takes the form of mixed media constructions & small installations comprising multiple, modular units. It is mostly wall based. The history of textile practice underpins all the work but due to the materials used the viewer may not immediately recognize the textile connections. As the work is a hybrid of previously separate disciplines it is not easy to categorize. I would describe myself as working on the margins of textile practice & existing in a border zone between fine art & craft – a mixture of crafting and conceptualising.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
Initially I immerse myself in research, reading round my chosen subject, collecting photos, making notes & lists of words & phrases related to the theme. I find this generates ideas & identifies relevant materials and processes to use.
Direct engagement with the materials follows. Experimentation and sampling helps me to discover the inherent qualities of materials, to work out construction methods and visualize the finished piece. I use my sketchbooks to keep notes of what works & what doesn’t, to jot down construction ideas & to collect photos of various stages of making, recording ideas which could be developed further in another piece of work. All the elements of a piece are then prepared separately & assembled into the desired form. I prefer to work in series so the research is used for many pieces, with each piece generating ideas for further work.
Because I work with an eclectic mix of materials my studio has to cope with different kinds of activity.
I have a messy area for sawing wood, mixing concrete & using power tools and a clean area where I can make felted papers and do more detailed and delicate work. I work alone so like to play CD’s or have the radio on for company.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
Currently my work is inspired by concern for the environment. I am very interested in nature and have been researching the impact of human activity on biodiversity.
I am drawn to artists working three dimensionally whose work exhibits a strong sense of materiality, and artists working with natural materials or the landscape. Examples are Sue Lawty, Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Richard Long, many Japanese textile artists and contemporary basket makers. Also many members of the 62 Group of Textile Artists have been hugely inspirational, especially when I started making.
Exploring the concept of boundaries
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
Beyond Boundaries – It was the first piece I submitted for a 62 Group exhibition. It evolved from exploring the concept of Boundaries – boundaries in the landscape, boundaries between men’s & women’s work, boundaries between art and craft, and boundaries between genres.
I made it whilst also caring for my father who was very ill at the time. I could only work on it in small bursts whilst he was asleep. When he saw what I was doing he was bemused & called it my ‘plank phase’!
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
My method of working has expanded to incorporate a wider range of materials and the ideas behind the work have become increasingly conceptual. Next year I have the opportunity to work outside in a wood so I will be interested to see if this changes my approach.
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
A colleague & myself run TX, an independent textile based art course in Frodsham, Cheshire. We meet once a month for workshops and mentoring. For further information I can be contacted through the website mentioned above.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
Sometimes I am invited to take part in an exhibition otherwise I search textile magazines for exhibiting opportunities. Also as a member of the 62 Group of Textile Artists I am fortunate to have the chance to exhibit regularly in major venues.
Where can readers see your work this year?
11 – 14 October 2012, Alexandra Palace, London
1 – 4 November 2012, RDS, Dublin
22 – 25 November 2012, International Centre, Harrogate
Visit Twisted Thead for more info.
For more information visit: Ann Goddard’s 62 Group page
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