Taking this step into learning the dyeing and spinning skills to create my own yarn was what solidified the thought process for me that these two separate parts of my life could come together within my art practice. But from a very basic level, I've really enjoyed taking crochet - a recognisable, relatable activity - and framing it in the context of contemporary art.
As part of this venture, I have become a member of a spinning, dyeing and weaving Guild. Since joining this community I've met so many generous makers with so many years of experience to share. For a newbie like me, this has been an incredible experience of peer learning and mentorship. There's something generational and sacred about craft making like this, and while we sit spinning away in the village hall, sipping tea and sharing biscuits, there's a sense of strength in the community, something honest and pure about a genuine love of the craft and material. And yet makers like this may still see themselves and their work as something quite foreign to a contemporary art gallery.
During my artist residency at NAGW, I have been thrilled to speak to so many visitors who come by the studio and talk to me about my practice and their relationship to the materials I'm using. And that has been key for me; that there almost always is a recognition or a resonance that the viewer has. It's a familiar thing - familiar visually and familiar in terms of the making. Memories of family members or attempts at learning their own crafts are discussed, and people lean in to the feeling of relatability.
I've never sat well with the idea that contemporary art can be seen as 'high end' in comparison to the craftsperson's 'low end'... That there's a hierarchy between homely hobbies and gallery 'art'. What seperates them, really, other than positioning and context?
As I've been experimenting with dyeing the colours of my yarn fibres in response to my dad's photographs, I've been keen to explore the idea of what might be considered 'low end'. There are ways of dyeing yarn using natural dyes, requiring mordants, preparation, particular equipment, knowledge of temperatures, of exposure... But there are also lots of things around the home that can be used to stain, and I've been enjoying playing with these elements as a low-tech method, achievable by anyone with some old tubs to dunk their fibres into.