Katrina Hansford Interview: Inspiration in a Taxi
Innovative Textile Artist Katrina Hansford graduated in 2007 with a BA (Hons) in Illustration from Southampton Solent University and has recently completed an FdA in Stitched Textiles at Eastleigh College.
Her work is largely inspired by the natural world and mans’ effect upon it and she uses a variety of media and combines her illustration skills with stitch which often leads to an interesting exploration of form.
Here she discusses how a glove-making factory was an early inspiration and how ferrying around her children often produces her best ideas.
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Katrina Hansford: I was undertaking a degree in Illustration as a mature student at Southampton Solent University when I first realised the possibilities of using textiles in my art work. It allowed me to concentrate more on the line, shape and design rather than getting bogged down in the intricate details of the drawing which I had a tendency to do. But the first time I used textiles in this way was for my final work for the Illustration Degree Show. Some worked better than others.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
I grew up in a small Dorset village and most weekends we visited my Auntie and Uncle on their farm. My cousin and I ran wild on the farm, exploring the hills, woods and ponds. This nurtured a love of the countryside and a deep respect for animals and nature. My cousin and I both drew the animals we saw, although her renditions were much better than mine (I like to think this was because I was 2 years younger). Also, as a child I was fascinated with how my Mother made leather gloves on her machine at home and I loved being taken to the factory when she took in the gloves she had made and seeing all the gloves in the various stages of assembly. My Grandmother also did lots of hand-sewing, knitting and crochet and she taught me a few basics when she stayed with us. When I started at secondary school I learnt some dress-making skills which, although I dropped the subject in favour of science “O” levels, I continued to make my own clothes and soft toys (animals, of course). These roots became major influences to my current work.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I took art at school and continued to “A” level. I then had a long gap when I occasionally did a few doodles but I had become interested in photography and had continued taking photographs of things I found interesting. I took an evening course gaining a GCSE in photography then, after a few years, enrolled on a pattern cutting course. However, as I became pregnant, had my first child and then fell for the second during this, my patterns were constantly being adjusted to accommodate an increasing/decreasing girth. Sadly, I lost my Father just after the birth of my second child and I just found I was unable to concentrate on making anything. I had a third child and, as they grew up and started school, I started to think of doing something for myself. I applied to Solent University in Southampton to study Illustration, graduating in 2007. After this did one day-a-week studying Botanical Illustration (City & Guilds), and then moved on to Life Drawing. The tutor for this mentioned that she was going to start teaching art for a new course, a Foundation Degree in Stitched Textiles at Eastleigh College. Some of her Life Drawing students applied to take the FdA and three years later we celebrated our achievements by Graduating in Winchester Cathedral.
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
I use a variety of media and techniques, combining my illustration with textiles but I have also developed an interest in producing installations. My Life Drawing tutor was constantly encouraging me to work larger than A5; I persevered and my final degree show included a life-sized felted body as part of the installation.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
My work is multi-disciplinary as I also produce pen and ink, watercolour and acrylic paintings; these are fairly traditional but the textile work is moving in a different direction and is making more of a statement on the human condition. I can be more expressive as I don’t get tied down in tiny details.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in.
I tend to get my best ideas and develop them whilst I am doing my “taxi service” for one of the children; why this happens I do not know but can only assume my brain focuses on the driving and then subconsciously shifts to another level with other distractions shut out. Unfortunately, this made it difficult to show the development of my ideas whilst undertaking the FdA as, by the time I had the opportunity to sit down and sketch things I had moved the idea along considerably and certain parts of the thought process had been “filed” and forgotten.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
I obtain my inspiration from the natural world and admire artists such as Albrecht Dürer and, of course, Leonardo da Vinci. Also Grayson Perry, Angelo Filomeno, Kara Walker, Peter Callesen, Pip McGarry, Jamie Boots, Julie Verhoeven, Alexander McQueen, Sue Rangeley, Issey Miyake, Louise Bourgeois, Rozanne Hawksley, Constance Howard.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
Le Musee des Plumes, the work I produced for the end of year show in the first year of the FdA, is special. I had been agonising over the subject title “The Everyday” for weeks before deciding to use feathers from my chicken as inspiration. Although each stitched feather can stand alone, this was the first time I had used other items to link the individual pieces and make them into an installation. It made me realise how much I enjoyment I got from the thought processes behind the work, the unseen research and development. It became more than something pretty to look at; there was a story which had developed, grown and evolved and could have different meanings read into it by the individual viewer. It made me realise the importance of involving the viewer emotionally but I also realised it was much more draining (although ultimately satisfying) to produce such work.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
My work has become more complex with links from one piece of the installation to another. My last piece, Fashion Victims of Birds of Prey, which was exhibited as part of the Graduate Showcase with the Embroiderer’s Guild at Alexandra Palace in October was the largest and most complex piece I have produced to date. I enjoyed the research involved in the production of this work and a story began to form behind the piece which resulted in the Spider Web poem. However, it did cause me some angst when I realised I had to take the whole thing to London, body, elk antlers, “beating heart”, et al. I have promised myself never to make anything like this again as it causes so many difficulties with transportation and storage – although my cats do love sleeping inside the “body”! I have no clear idea of how my work will develop in the future – I will just see where it leads me and, hopefully, have fun along the way.
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so, where can readers find information about these?
I have a couple of talks in the offing for the future, although the dates are not yet confirmed. I hope some more will come along. Workshops are something I may do in the future but at present I do not have the facilities to do this. Keep a look out on my website and blog for future dates of interest.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
In 2008, some of my illustration work was exhibited at Images 32 in London (The Association of Illustrators Annual Exhibition), I have also exhibited at several local exhibitions in addition to Final Degree Shows and the Embroiderer’s Guild Graduate Showcase at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace.
Where can readers see your work this year?
Next year I will be exhibiting some new work with neuf (the 2012 Graduates of the Stitched Textiles FdA at Eastleigh College) at the NEC in Birmingham. Our theme is “Moving On”. The work can be viewed at the International Craft and Hobby Fair at the NEC from 21-24 March 2013. I will also be taking part in Art at Work with Romsey Art Group on 23 and 24 February 2013.
Future events will be listed on my website www.katrinahansford.com.
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