Christina Hesford: To construct and deconstruct
Christina Hesford creates beautiful woven artwork. Some of her best work has been featured in galleries, including pieces that were commissioned both publicly and privately.
A number of different Japanese craft concepts influence Christina’s work, including the repair aesthetic of kintsukoroi.
Born in Indonesia and having lived in both Brazil and England, it comes as no surprise that Christina takes both a scholarly and worldly approach to making art.
In this interview, Christina Hesford discusses her early fascination with touch, her passion for deconstruction, and each step of her creative process.
What we experience through touch
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Christina Hesford: Of all the arts, textile art drew me in because it is tangible. Textiles are about tactility, about the physical relationship between our bodies and what we experience through touch.
I realised quite quickly as an artist that every material we have a relationship with is in some way a textile, from granite to silk, from the wind to latex, which makes textiles a very free and exciting place to work!
Have you always been interested in textiles?
Growing up in Indonesia, I was surrounded by colourful and vibrant textiles. There is such a rich heritage of cloth-making in that part of the world, such as batik and ikat, and I’m sure that this making culture must have rubbed off on me! The first time I sat at a loom was as a child in the Indonesian countryside.
My parents also tell me that when I was young, I was quite an embarrassment in other people’s homes! I would walk around feeling the curtains, cupboards and couches! Touch is a key way of learning about the world we live in.
Technical skill alongside artistic freedom
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I went to a very academic school, but made the conscious decision to follow the arts. For me, art was equally as important as Geography or Maths, and indeed the creative industries are a fundamental part of society and the economy.
I did a Foundation at Cleveland College of Art & Design. This was my first year of being fully dedicated to the arts, and was imperative in shifting my perspective from fine art to textiles. It was at this point I realised that materials and their tactility had always played a large part in the work I had produced. Some things only become evident with time!
I went on to Manchester School of Art where I studied Textiles in Practice and specialised in hand-weaving. It was a wonderful textiles department which encouraged technical skill alongside artistic freedom.
As I grew up, I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but followed the things which I enjoyed doing, and ended up discovering weaving!
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
Although I specialise in hand-weaving, I would say that first and foremost I am a maker. Experimenting with materials, from paper twine, to growing salt crystals, I use making processes to put all the ideas in my head into physical form. These physical materials inspire my weaving structures, and are sometimes even integrated into the cloth that I make. I also love dying my own yarns, but I tend to work in white!
I currently have an 8-shaft Harris table-top loom, but most of my work to date has been woven on an ARM 24 shaft dobby-loom, or a TC1 Jacquard loom.
To construct and deconstruct
Tell us a bit about your process.
My creative process is probably best summed up by, ‘Ooh, I wonder what happens if…’!
Usually, I begin with a concept or idea. Drawing is a huge part of how I develop ideas, but I’m not very good at drawing, unlike my husband! Instead I experiment with mark-making and inventing drawing utensils inspired by the ideas I’m thinking about. I also like to construct and deconstruct: ripping up, sticking, painting, shredding, rubbing, stitching, and so on. These experiments inspire my weaving, suggesting the type of yarn I use in a warp, or the type of patterns which I weave. Also, dying yarns and fabrics, making warps, designing final ideas, and constructing final pieces, are all aspects of what I do as a textile artist.
I make commissioned artworks too, and this requires a bit more structure. I make sure I am conscious of the light, the size of walls, the client’s ideas and the use of the space, so that these criteria can guide my decisions, without dictating the outcome.
Overall, my process is a cycle of: research, idea, develop, weave, outcome, analyse, repeat. This is how I progress.
As often as I can, I share my work with others, to get a different perspective, and some feedback. It’s also nice to see what other people are working on!
Do you use a sketchbook?
Yes! Although I love to make and draw on big (and small) surfaces, working on multiple pieces at once, my sketchbook is a place for putting everything I do together so that I can see it clearly in one place. Documented research, reflections on work, little notes of ideas, and photographs of finished pieces, all end up in my sketchbook. By collating everything, I can look at it closely, make sure that I don’t forget anything, and see the overall direction something might be taking.
Also, some experiments are just far too big, messy or fragile to keep, so photographs of these are the only way to keep a record of these obscurities!
What currently inspires you?
Currently, Japanese craft concepts such as ‘kintsukuroi’ and ‘bojagi’ are inspiring my work. ‘Kintsukuroi’ is the art of repairing broken ceramics with gold or silver lacquer, and understanding that the object is more beautiful for having been broken. I am very attracted to the aesthetic sensibilities of Japanese art and craft, as well as this culture’s respect for makers. I recently finished a series of panels entitled, ‘To Repair With Gold’, which explores this idea through woven structures.
The most exciting next steps
Which other artists do you admire and why?
Artists who have inspired me recently are:
- Adam Buick, a ceramicist from Pembrokeshire, whose work is inspired by the materials from his local landscape, and his pieces often returned to that landscape.
- Ismini Samanidou, a contemporary weaver, blurring the line between artist and designer, and incorporating Computer-Aided Design and Manufacture into her work.
- Susie MacMurray, an artist whose installations and use of materials have had a significant impact on my appreciation for ‘the final piece’. In fact, her piece ‘Promenade’ inspired the decorations at my own wedding!
- Claire Curneen, a figurative sculptor from Wales, whose figures I find beautiful and moving.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
I think textile artists tend to be people who ‘think through doing’, so keep doing and making and experimenting, even if you’re not sure what the outcome is for. Eventually you’ll hit on a technique that excites you, or an idea that intrigues you.
Also, don’t let the accidents and things that go wrong get you down – they usually lead to the most exciting next steps!
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
- ‘The Craftsman’ by Richard Sennett is a book for everyone, not only makers, and challenges us all to see what we do, from carpentry, to communication, as something worth practicing, and doing well for the sake of doing a job well.
- ‘Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers’ by Leonard Koren. It’s a bit of a different perspective on making!
- Also, if you can get your hands on any of the ‘Bloom’ publications by Li Edelkoort, they are full of inspiring visuals! If not, you can look at some of the images here.
Be aware of what’s happening
What other resources do you use?
I love magazines! Anything from Crafts, or Selvedge, to The New Scientist! I think it’s important to be aware of what’s happening in the contemporary art and craft spheres, but I also find that the images and stories from non-art publications, often feed into the work I’m producing.
Blogs with lots of images are another source, particularly:
Also, finding opportunities can be difficult sometimes, so I keep an eye on things that may be coming up using websites such as the following:
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
My pencil case! It comes everywhere with me, because you never know when you might need a pencil or a pen or some scissors or a ruler or a compass or a snack…
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes?
Currently, no, but I would love to!
Where can readers see your work this year ?
I now have a permanent artwork on display at St. Peter’s Chaplaincy, Oxford Road, Manchester, UK.
I will also be exhibiting new work at the 15th International Triennial of Tapestry, in Lodz, Poland, which opens on May 9th, 2016.
Learn more about Christina by visiting: www.christinahesford.com
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