From materialism to materiality
I make work from materials that are usually taken for granted, used and discarded. Single use products; paper coffee cups, crisp packets, paper carrier bags; post-consumer waste that has nowhere to go. This is neither re-cycling nor up-cycling, more about the alchemic power of craft, of making. My work is about resources; resources overabundant in our privileged First World life-styles; resources that we are normally distanced from by a veil, or a shield, of familiarity, of disposability, and hence disinterest.
In order to make I first have to un-make; releasing material from these products. I make yarn from crisp packets; paper from coffee cups. In seeking to elicit a response from the viewer I re-work these scavenged materials into different forms; paper cups stripped bare to reveal a substrate of plastic; crisp packets cut by hand, machine stitched and made into yarn. Thus I alter these familiar materials into unidentifiable ones; creating objects seemingly more permanent and aesthetically arresting. An important aspect of this is just how much resources are invested in these products; almost six metres of yarn comes from one crisp packet, I can make a whole sheet of paper from one paper cup. I am seeking a reaction; curiosity, intrigue, amusement even. What is it? What is it for? Where has it come from? What have you done to it? Why have you done this? Where is it going to? Why bother?
Thus these products, mass produced in their millions and then discarded as a necessary by-product of consumerism and seen as having no value, neither monetary nor aesthetic, are re-invented and re-instated as craft/art objects. By doing this I am questioning attitudes to our treatment of ‘debris’ and to our dis-connection from not only the materials, but also from the life-cycle of ‘stuff’ and its inherent environmental impact. What is the art object? Who decides?
By investigating the materiality of these products and re-instating them as craft/art objects I am seeking a shift in current attitudes and am asking the question when does ‘insignificant’ debris become ‘significant’? When do we start to care? The topic of how much time this has taken me is one that is often brought up by the viewer – it seems that in a ‘time-poor’ culture these ‘time-rich’ activities raise questions of how we spend our time and what are ‘worthwhile’ activities. Saying some-one has ‘too much time on their hands’ is intended as a form of derision.
The use of textile art and craft processes used in this work, processes traditionally associated with making and mending, caring and sharing and the use of tactile ‘soft’ materials, serves to underline and emphasise the current feeling of alienation from the physical world. With new technologies changing our lives almost on a daily basis, we are in danger of living in a world where often little is understood of how things are made; where they have come from; whether they will always be there or indeed what went before. I am stressing the importance of remembering that the maintenance and nurturing of skills, of knowing how to make things and the inherent curiosity about and fascination with materials is viewed as an important part (not always recognised) of being human, of being sensitive; that by embracing creativity we underline our compassion and our place in the world.