Describe Your Workspace - is it in your living space or separate?
I have an 800 square foot studio located on the ground floor of our home. It faces Southeast with a view of the St Lawrence shipping lanes. Distracting? Not at all!
The room is equipped with three 8'x 8' design walls, a large cutting surface and an even larger sewing table (made from a repurposed government desk) that measures 4' x 8'. This table houses two sewing machines, a Janome for piecing and a Bernina for embroidery. The table is large enough to allow large textile pieces to puddle freely on the surface, as I free-motion stitch. Without this surface, my larger works would drag on the floor.
|Studio view during the Open Studio Tour sponsored by the Thousand Island Arts Group|
I have also repurposed our laundry room into a surface design lab. This room is equipped with a separate exhaust system from the rest of the house and so functions beautifully, when I want to dye, paint, stamp, discharge and otherwise distress many bolts of silk and pimatex fabric.
|Dye run showing pimatex cotton ready for second application of colour|
|Re-purposed dockside cottage showing print table|
Do you have a preference for working in your living space or elsewhere?
I work and have work in just about every room in the house.
is there anything your setup doesn't allow or that you have to do in a weird way?
I wish I had planned for more storage space.
I wish I had planned for more storage space.
Have you come up with any ridiculously clever ways of working with the space you have available to you?
I have a 200 foot garden hose that I throw over our cliff to reach down some 30 feet to my Summer Art Shack. This brings running water to this area where I carry out most of my surface design activities - I have even run an occasional workshop this way. I also rigged up a French Drain next to the Shack. Having running water makes all the difference when working down there. It’s rudimentary but it works!
|Flat dyeing workshop that I ran last summer for SAQA Central members|
Would you say your personal style runs more towards clutter or organization? Does your style work for you, or are there elements of it you wish you could change?
Clutter always accumulates as I am working. Once a project is finished though, I like to clean up. I find that a clean workspace is so much more inviting when launching into something new - it can even act as a creative prompt.
|Cutting table and ironing station with new project underway|
Do you ever have to choose between doing some aspect of your work "the lazy way" versus "the better but far more annoying way," and has going for "the lazy way" ever produced unexpectedly awesome results?
In the past I looked for any and all silver bullets – I have since discovered that there are none. I have learned the benefits of working with intent and I work only that way now.
That said, I am still a sap for new gadgets and technologies:-))
|First Light, 42x60", 2010, Hand-dyed cottons and silks, machine pieced and quilted|
Are there any particular patterns or motifs that creep into your work when you're not paying attention (as opposed to the motifs you've consciously chosen to work with), and have you given any thought to where they might come from?
I came to stitched art roughly ten years ago. My early work represents numerous explorations into all types of imagery and media. Some of this work has been representative, namely my embroidery and surface design work. I also experimented with fabric collage that eventually brought me closer to abstract design. Currently I work with abstract imagery, focusing on my own designs.
|Refuge, 28x28", 2006, hand-dyed cottons and silks, wool felt, fabric collage, machine quilted. An example of earlier work.|
Do you incorporate any materials or techniques into your art that are not normally thought of as art supplies?
I have been experimenting and working with hand-coloured fabric paper, made with a polyester substrate, also known commercially as ‘bounce’. I can get this stuff by the 72” roll before it is thrown into a nearby land-fill by the manufacturer.
|Painted sheets of polyester substrate drying in my laundry room|
What about these items makes them appeal to you personally?
This material can be made into a very strong fabric-paper. It can be cut, does not ravel, takes fabric paint beautifully and can be sewn or fused at will. In many respects way better than paper and a lot easier to collage than fabric
How do you use them, and how did you discover this unexpected artistic use?
My friend Jennifer Hodge who owns a quilt shop in Brockville Ontario (www.picketfencefabrics.com) discovered this material. She uses it to make patterns.
She suggested that I play with it to see if anything else could be done with it. I have been working with it ever since.
Are there any media or methods that you know are definitely NOT FOR YOU?
Working with a pattern.
Are you a stickler about your particular medium, or are you happy to cheat, borrow and steal from other disciplines whenever it seems like a good idea?
I have never hesitated to beg, borrow and steal (ethically, of course) any and all good ideas.
|Fused collage design includes polyester substrate and is inspired by some of Sue Benner's earlier pieces (www.suebenner.com)|
Which materials do you tend to amass at a far greater rate than you could ever hope to use them in your work?
Pimatex cotton, I buy it 100+ yards at a time. I love to dye my own fabric and I have a healthy stash in my studio.
|I keep my hand dyes in sight on shelves. It would be better to store them away from studio lights but then I forget I have them - I need to see them as I work. I like to stack them by colour, then value.|
What was your most recent art-material impulse, and what have you done with it or are you planning to do?
I am attempting to get a better handle on using Photoshop as an aid when designing. I usually have more design ideas than I know what to do with and I hope that PS will help me explore each design in greater depth, also keep all these designs organized. I recently came across www.lynda.com as a learning tool, which I love!
Stay tuned next week for the second half of the interview, featuring more gorgeous images of Kit's work and process, plus tons of insights about artistic inspiration and making connections with other artists!