Ruth Singer & Bethany Walker: The collaborative process
Interlace is a collaboration between textile artists Ruth Singer and Bethany Walker.
Ruth is perhaps best known for her textile manipulation and Bethany for her mixed media concrete compositions. Together they explore the combination of delicate and manipulated textiles set in concrete, a delightful combination of hard and soft materials.
Ruth draws inspiration largely from the concepts of growth, preservation, and heritage. Bethany prefers to explore connections and contrasts in an urban environment, offering an interesting balance of creative forces emphasized throughout the entire collaborative process.
Interlace will be on display at the Bilston Craft Gallery between 21 March 2015 and 18 April 2015.
Rarely do we get the opportunity to connect with two talented textile artists at the exact same time, so we were especially thrilled to learn more about Interlace from both Ruth Singer and Bethany Walker.
The combination of hard and soft material
TextileArtist.org: How did this collaboration come about?
Bethany Walker: I was approached by Ruth in July 2013 about the possibility of collaborating. Having studied her work through my school and college years, I jumped at the chance to work with such an established artist whom I held in such high regard.
What excited me the most about this potential collaboration was the prospect of combining Ruth’s beautifully manipulated fabrics with concrete. In my own work, there is actually no ‘fabric’ involved so I was intrigued to see how the two would mix.
Why did you choose to collaborate with Bethany?
Ruth Singer: I was intrigued by the combination of textile with concrete and felt my manipulated textiles would work well with Bethany’s compositions. I love the combination of hard and soft material and felt that a collaboration would be a great route to large-scale work.
I thought about it for several months, but the a-n Collaborations Bursary funding was what really compelled me to move from thought to action.
Why do you do collaborations?
RS: I find collaboration to be a way of learning more about my own practice as well as learning about someone else. Simply spending time with another maker, talking about your work, your techniques and, above all, your ideas is worth its weight in gold. By articulating and sharing ideas, barely-formed concepts, and directions for development, I have worked out new ways to work both in collaboration and in my own studio practice.
The collaborative process
What have you learned through this collaborative process?
RS: Fruitful, potentially-long-term collaborations cannot be rushed. We’ve been lucky to have more than 12 months working together, with our travel and materials costs supported by the a-n Collaborations Bursary. This has enabled us to take our time, experiment, refine, and review our work to create something which we are both incredibly proud of.
We’ve also had mentoring support from Stella Corrall through the bursary. She has pushed us to think big and develop work which isn’t confined to a gallery wall.
BW: Working in collaboration also pushes your own practice no end, making you look at things in a whole different light, thus creating new avenues to explore. I would usually stick to a square or rectangular format but this collaborative process provided the opportunity to explore form – something I have wanted to do for a while.
Can you describe your first session working together?
BW: We arranged to meet at my studio. Neither of us really had an idea of what we wanted to create, just that we both interested in working towards public art commissions. We began by talking about what influenced us in our own work and found common ground in growth, lichen, and imperfections. We then began to explore this together.
We both brought samples of our own work, which we laid out on the workbench and spent a couple of hours discussing the possibilities. After the session I was left with a few samples from Ruth. I spent the next couple of weeks experimenting with these to see how I could combine these gorgeous fabric pieces with concrete without losing the fragility of them.
The excitement of waiting impatiently
What has the process been like since your first session?
RS: We’ve visited each others’ studios once a month or so for most of 2014 to assess and plan. There have been a lot of petals made and posted in batches up to Bethany for her to work on, and I have had the excitement of waiting (impatiently) to see the finished bowls.
We’ve also met up with our mentor a couple of times and visited the first exhibition of Interlace work. We are both very busy, so we tend to be very focused on getting the work planned and decisions made, but there is always time for a little gossip too! It is always good to get out of your studio and see someone else at work.
What next for the collaboration?
BW: Well, we have our launch exhibition at Bilston Craft Gallery opening Saturday March 21st , with a preview event from 1-3 pm. It runs until Saturday, 18th April, 2015. The project will then go on to The National Centre for Craft & Design (NCCD) in July where it will be part of an exhibition called ‘Synchronise’ which will showcase 15 or so collaborations between Design Factory members.
One of our aims for Interlace is for it to become involved in public art projects and large scale commissions, so no doubt we will be busy working on a few applications this year, too.
What are your thoughts on artistic collaboration? Who would you most enjoy an opportunity to work with? Leave your comments below.