Another of our members took time out of her busy schedule to speak to me last week. Mary Sleigh is a well known textile artist, tutor and author and in our series of interviews I wanted to take the chance to find out what Mary is working on for DIS/rupt, the group’s forthcoming exhibition opening in Stroud in May 2017. My first question was to ask Mary which of the aspects of the DIS/rupt brief had appealed to her.
Mary, can you tell us a little about your area of interest for DIS/rupt please?
Ecology and the environment; the story of the peat cutting in Ireland where it started as a domestic activity for the home. Over the years, it developed into an industrial process leaving scars in the landscape and using up resources created over thousands of years.
Can you tell us something about the piece you are working on for DIS/rupt?
I am working on two pieces that are inspired by the black bogs and deep trenches created by peat cutting over the centuries. Despite the changes made by human intervention nature takes over eventually and we tend to look upon it and enjoy it as it is. I try to record my responses to places that I know, have walked and discovered by following a path, discovering unexpected things and been surprised by what I stumble upon. Peat Lands is the next in my current series of Cloth Stories, as J K Rowling says: ‘There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.’
Peat Lands revisited is a response to the repetitive mechanical process of peat cutting for commercial use.
What are the materials and processes that you are working with?
I refer to drawings, notes and photographs to give me a palette of colours, textures and marks. I dye fabrics, cotton, silk and linen, sometimes with natural or Procion dyes, then put together combinations that reflect my ideas. Hand stitching comes next, which adds details and is important in construction. I love the process of gradual change in the making and words are often an important component.
Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your piece?
I have made two pieces; one is more intimate, a book construction when opened is just over 1 metre long and 10cm wide. The second is a 2metre length of digitally printed silk crepe de Chine.
Is the finished piece to be free standing or wall mounted?
Both are wall hung, the book fully open and the silk hanging from a rod.
What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?
There is a story in everything and there are few places accessible to us that are truly wild and untouched. Despite catastrophic events or intervention by man they still have a beauty of their own as nature takes over. It’s in the making of something that we really get to know it and as I have discovered when dipping my toe into the digital world with the printed silk ‘craft helps to make technology human’.
Mary, these pieces look very interesting, thank you very much for allowing me to glimpse what you have been working on. I look forward to seeing the finished work in the exhibition.
More information about DIS/rupt can be found here TSG and all information and booking details about the programme of workshops which tie into the exhibition and lead by several TSG members can be found on the SIT select website at this link. SIT select 2017