Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Artist Interview: Cally Booker - BonnyClaith

The Artist Interview returns with local talent - please welcome Cally, whom I've met at the Meadow Mills Open Studios day - her collection of an amazing rainbow of yarns instantly drew me to her space :-)
This striped yardage was inspired by a multi-coloured skein of yarn
please tell us about yourself / background / childhood impressions 
My name is Carolyn. It got abbreviated to Cally when I was an undergraduate in the 1980s – and now pretty much everyone calls me Cally except my mother, who hates it! 
I learned to sew and to knit from my mum and can’t really remember a time when I didn’t make things.
It wouldn’t be true to say that *all* my clothes were homemade by my mother and grandmother, but a lot of them were. I made my first dress when I was seven or eight. The fabric was white cotton with a blue flowery print. The dress was a simple shape with a gathered skirt, bell-shaped sleeves and a zip up the back. When I set in the zip, one side of the dress ended up about half an inch higher than the other! But I was so proud of this dress that I carried on wearing it until I was nearly 11 and it was barely long enough to cover my knickers… I wear longer skirts these days but, to be honest, I am still not much good at setting zips. 
My first handwoven garment was made by a friend of my mother’s. She wove and sewed a cape for each of us: mine was pink and my mother’s purple. I can only remember wearing the cape once – to a wedding – but again I was very reluctant to part with it when I outgrew it. I always struggled a bit with my mother’s sewing machine, which was a very complicated model for doing machine embroidery. 
My parents gave me my own sewing machine for my 18th birthday and then I really got into dressmaking. I had absolutely no flair for design and came up with some truly terrible creations of my own, but, when sewing from a commercial pattern, I began to get quite ambitious. At the end of my first year at university I went to the students’ union ball and my mother treated me to a length of blue silk so that I could make a ballgown. I can still remember the thrill of unfurling this glorious fabric on our dining room table. I realised that I would rather keep the cloth whole than turn it into a gown, although I went ahead and did it anyway. 
scarves from Cally’s Graffiti collection (Photos by Jenni Gudgeon) -  inspired by colours and shapes found in the graffiti in Dudhope Skate Park, Dundee.
where does your inspiration come from? 
There are so many ingredients in a woven textile. Ideas can come from anywhere. Visual sources which particularly inspire me include architecture and the built environment, historic textiles and textiles from other cultures, mathematical patterns and data visualisation. Then there are the materials. Who among us can resist reaching out to touch an unusual yarn? How does it feel, how strong is it, how will it behave? I get very excited about yarn. 
Weaving brings together ideas, materials, colours and structures – there are so many permutations that one of the hardest things is deciding what to do, because at the same time I am also deciding what *not* to do. 
where / when / how did you learn your craft? 
Much as I love cloth, it never even occurred to me to weave my own until quite recently. I tried it for the first time in November 2003… and bought a secondhand table loom on the same day. I went to a beginners’ class run by Peter Beaven at Twist Fibre Craft Studio for six weeks in early 2004. We wove some samplers and then designed and wove our first project: mine was a tote bag which I still use. I carried on weaving on my table loom, then got my first floor loom, and then from 2005 – 2007 I did an HNC in Handwoven Textile Design at Bradford College
The HNC was the most exhausting thing I have ever undertaken. I was working full time in a stressful day job, and when I wasn’t working I was weaving. The course was very much focused on design rather than craft skills. As I didn’t have a lot of weaving experience, I was extremely slow to begin with, but had become a great deal more efficient by the time I finished! The thing which kept me going was the amazing work which the rest of the class were producing. We worked mainly at home and then travelled to Bradford roughly every three months. It was always so exciting to see what everyone else had created, because we had all started from the same brief but gone in completely different directions. Because you don’t find weaving classes on every street corner, the groups that I belong to – such as Complex Weavers – are very important to me and help to keep me learning new things.
(L)Brightly coloured handwoven fabric and a coordinating strap for a messenger bag – this design was the result of an international inspiration exchange organised by New Zealand weaver Meg Nakagawa 
(R)Yardage inspired by the Adinkra funeral cloth of Ghana
describe your style / preferred scale / colour / texture? 
I think that the first thing other people notice about my work is my use of colour. It doesn’t really feel to me that I have developed a distinctive style yet – everything is a work in progress – but I do tend to use fairly strong colours, and lots of them. “When in doubt, add another colour” would be quite a good motto for me. In weaving you can create very fine and detailed patterns in the cloth, but that’s not me at all. I like large scale designs, which can actually be quite tricky to produce – but the fun is often in the challenge. The contrast between the intricate interlacements seen close-to and the bold shapes seen from a distance is very appealing. 
Cally’s looms in her Meadow Mill studio
do you have a studio in your home / workspace / playlist / preferred working hour / or work everywhere? 
I recently moved from my home studio to one that I rent. I have two floor looms that are actually very compact for the amount of weaving space they give me, but which were nonetheless crowding me out of my room… It does feel a bit strange not having looms around the house, but I love having a dedicated working space and uninterrupted time to enjoy it. I am already so much more productive! I like to go to the studio in the mornings because I am not a morning person: the prospect of loom time motivates me to get out of bed and get going. 
Weaving is a very physical activity with a lot of repetitive movements, so I need to make sure that I mix up my day a bit or there is a risk of overdoing it. At home in the evenings I often do the finishing tasks, such as sewing or fringe-twisting, or I spin, knit or braid
A scarf for Cally’s Graffiti collection in progress
Do you have a favourite time of year / day / human age? 
In my first job we got paid every four weeks on a Thursday, so it tended to be Thursday rather than Friday when we would go out after work for drinks or a meal. I left that job more than 20 years ago but I’ve liked Thursdays ever since! Thursday night is like a mini-weekend all of itself. My husband and I both love films, so any night when we are at the cinema or watching a DVD is a mini-weekend too. 
Taking a slightly broader look at time… The two things which always make me glad to live where and when I do are dentistry and plumbing. I am basically a softie, and I value my creature comforts. However, if teeth, hot water and sewerage were all taken care of, I would love to experience a bit of time travel, though I might have to go in disguise. I could happily be a medieval wool merchant, or a student of Plato, or perhaps a calligrapher in Persia. 

To find out more about Cally's work, please visit her website, facebook, twitter, and of course her Shop.

Photos by Cally, with the exception of no.2, is by Jenni Gudgeon (copyright 2012)

No comments:

Post a Comment