Mary-Ann Williams interview: A textile system builder
Mary-Ann Williams studied a variety of disciplines relating to textile art, including patterns and fashion. She did this in both Cape Town and Hamburg.
Her designs are not only trendsetting, but also part of the MAK permanent collection in Frankfurt.
Mary-Ann Williams shares her first experience with cutting felt, taking textile art to a higher level, and her love of hats.
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Mary-Ann Williams: Boredom!?
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
In primary school the teachers used a flannel board and cut shapes of vegetables, fruits, animals etc. from felt and pinned it onto the board, for educational reasons. I was really fascinated by the fact that this was cut by hand.
The fact that other designers call this simple process of cutting figures from felt “design” was such a disgrace that I decided to go my own way making felt as art redrawing boundaries.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
Actually I was always fascinated by Haute Couture, because of the extraordinary craftsmanship and the possibility of expressing clothing in an artistic way.
A higher level
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
My chosen medium is felt with a little spice. I enjoy my interlocking techniques ranging from 2D to 3D, improving acoustic properties to diffuse sound and send a message, without stitching, gluing and tool-free. Simply bringing felt art to a higher level as there are unlimited possibilities.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
Adolf Loos used to say “ornament is crime.” In my case he would describe my work as “crime”… my design objects speak to our senses in many different ways because they are like humans that have skins, fingers, organs and memories… a passionate dialogue, a perfect relationship between a beautiful object and its contemplator.
I personally think that my work can’t be categorised; there simply is nothing like my art. It’s simple, yet no one ever tried stepping into its realms. Until I did.
Tell us a bit more about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I need the sound of music in my ears to free my soul and I love the freedom of a huge open space and the ideas flow automatically. Doesn’t that sound a little boring?
An entirely different direction
Do you use a sketchbook?
Yes; my mind is my sketchbook.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
A beautiful hat dedicated to my dad who died after I finished design school. He was a passionate hat lover which I inherited from him. That’s why I became a milliner, as well.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
It has developed into an entirely different direction from what it had been in the beginning. I mean I started out with fashion and hats and used it for making wall art and along with that I started doing 3D acoustic modular interlocking textile art and design. You will discover that this is already the future. Modularity and system building are the future. So basically I am a textile system builder.
A very hard business
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
This is a very hard business. If you don’t have the energy and the strength to fight this battle then you will never make it. This is nothing for the “generation drag-and-drop.” Very much realistic.
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
These books still do not exist. I am working on it.
What other resources do you use?
Although I don’t use it as a resource, I would recommend the TextileArtist.org blog.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
My hands – at least what’s left of them.
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so, where can readers find information about these?
In Germany, no one ever asked me. 🙁
Where can readers see your work this year?
I am relocating at the moment so my website is the only way to see a few.
Get more information on Mary-Ann Williams or her company, Illu Stration, here: illu-stration.com
Don’t forget to leave a comment!