Why is art so integral to being human? The creation and appreciation of art occurs across all cultures and is as defining a characteristic of being human as are opposable thumbs and language. Since studying animal behaviour and genetics at university, I have been interested in the evolution of behaviour and have a fascination with what instinctively captivates us about art. Such a biological mindset might seem reductive, but I think it is anything but … it is about exploring, experiencing, understanding, and embracing what makes us who we are. Don’t worry – I am not advocating for this belief nor is my art about proving it, it is just my context.
I enjoy working with a variety of media. Painting and drawing predominated my early practice. In the past decade, felt-making has become a large part of my current practice. Felt’s ancient roots and its inherent organic reference and appearance lend themselves well to exploring our artistic instincts. By its nature, felt making is a process of responding to the wool and using ancient and modern techniques to transform fibre into art – it is challenging, rewarding, and addictively surprising and it fits well with my preference for responding to a medium rather than controlling it.
One question that influences my current practice is: why do we tend to attribute an inner life, personality, or emotion to inanimate objects and what characteristics cause this to happen? I can feel this happening almost immediately when felt making. It feels like the wool is actively participating in the creative process. Hints of emotion, character, or personality often appear as the piece starts to take shape and I see it as my role to build on and reveal these. In the end, the final piece feels like a collaboration between me and this inanimate substance that has a mind of its own. I am surprised at how often the essence of the piece that I have seen evolving during the process is obvious to the viewer, even when quite subtle. For me, creating art is a way to express or share a feeling or concept and to communicate at a very basic but powerful level.