THIS IS THE 8TH OF A SERIES OF INTERVIEWS AS INSPIRATION. I'M INVITING PEOPLE I ADMIRE; ARTISTS, AUTHORS, PEOPLE I KNOW, AND PEOPLE I DON'T. IT SHOULD BE FUN! AND HOPEFULLY INSPIRATIONAL FOR BOTH YOU AND ME.
I discovered Cas Holmes' work when I got her book, ‘The Found Object in Textile Art’. The book and her style have influenced me greatly! Then, I tracked her down, and bought one of her pieces, because I loved it, and I love to have art work that inspires me. Hopefully Cas will be coming to the US in 2014, and specifically San Diego to teach a workshop. I'm working on it!
Jane LaFazio: Please start by telling us what you do.
Cas Holmes: I am an artist, teacher, and author. All my work is with found materials both in my own practice, in workshops, and beyond. My partner Derek, is unsure of what to 'dispose of' which is just as well as he often gets to use it too. In recessionary times, a sustainable approach to textiles is fast becoming a trend. In my work and my life this desire to re-use is part of an ethical choice.
|Cas Holmes studio (and her old Bernina sewing machine)|
CH: My home, is a very small 1930's terrace house in Maidstone (in southeast UK). It is furnished, and decorated and with items discovered in charity shops, skips (dumpsters) salvage yards, and even off the street. This is where Derek gets to use his handy skills as a builder with a sculpture training background. Every space is used – shelves are fitted above doors to store books, cupboards are squeezed into small spaces and hide all kinds of materials and equipment. An old oak folding table in my workroom studio lifts to the wall when I need a bigger floor space (or have guests), and when down, it reveals a handy space for dyes and paints. Canvas is placed on hooks to act as movable surfaces for pinning work as it progresses.
Everything made or built for our home carries its own story, something you do not usually get with things mass produced. Our home is one not ruled by conspicuous consumption but rather one whose emphasis is on creating as small as environmental footprint as is possible. Neither Derek or I drive....but in the UK, this is still manageable if you do not live in the country.
|Red Bowl by Cas Holmes|
CH: For as long as I remember this is all I wanted to do. An unusual path for someone who grew up on a working class estate in Norwich(outside of England). A local saying is 'To Do Different' and that combined with Romany Gypsy on my grandmothers side meant I was just a little more determined to set my mind to just that.
|Along Peddlers Way by Cas Holmes|
JL: Your work has a very strong nature theme, tell us why you are so drawn to that subject. CH: When you walk, cycle, and use public transportation, you aren't isolated. You make direct contact with the physical world and dress appropriately for the weather! I live in an built up area but am next to a park. It gives me a broad range of materials and references to work with both for my own projects and in projects with others. I am drawn to the ‘hidden edges’, the verges of our roadsides, and field edges, the places where our gardens meet the outside spaces. These simple things of my daily life are inspiration.
|Wayside Grasses by Cas Holmes|
CH: Clothing, plant materials, printed paper, I use whatever I find or am given. This started from need..I had little money to spare when I was studying art and worked evenings in a pub just to ensure I could eat. I love old fabrics. They've been washed so many times the fibers become very receptive to dyes and marks. I like to ‘destroy’ and remake things. My favourite found tool has to be a basic 1970s Bernina sewing machine I recovered from a skip (dumpster). I taught myself to stitch using this old machine and loved the way I could get it to respond to my movements linking drawing with stitch. If I ever lost it, it would be very hard to replace.
JL: Your book, ‘The Found Object in Textile Art’ is one of my very favorite books, and it certainly influenced my work for the better. Tell us a bit about the writing and formulating of the book and the work for it.
CH: Over many years, like any maker who teaches, I created projects and guides for instruction. We are surrounded by things that are carelessly disposed of and overlooked, such as paper and other things we can gather at our feet. These two things came together when I was approached by an inspired editor at Batsford to put some of this together for a book. I had been asked over a number of years by students about putting a book together. I always said if the right publisher comes along...Batsford/Anova proved to be the right publisher.
|working on Tea Flora Tales|
CH: I remember this quote in a catalogue Reflections about my work sometime ago. I think is is still relevant today:
Being a practising artist and a community artist is a kind of double life but she (Cas) suggests, ‘they are closely interwoven’. The low-tech systems she employs in her personal art practice are flexible enough to be used by people of all levels of skill and ability. It is one of the reasons why her work is accessible to a wide audience.
Moira Vincentelli (From Reflections catalogue 1999)
I enjoy the challenge of working on site-specific projects and installations in collaboration with the community and other artists, performers and musicians as it can lead to different interpretations and opportunities for you work. You reach different audiences and learn from this exchange with others.
Tea-Flora-Tales as part of of my recent exhibition Urban Nature is an example of an ongoing collaboration.
|Tea Flora Tales ~ collaborative work|
|Sketchbook image by Cas Holmes|
CH: I would say morning usually...but my days vary so much that I would find it hard to pin a favourite time of the day...time to stitch or draw is always a best part. I have at any one time 4 or 5 sketchbooks on the go and I am afraid my mind does, in fact, work like a magpie, seizing opportunities and ideas as I go through the day and rejecting those that do not work (or as I say often to my students, 'you can always cut it up and use it again'). I have learnt not to be precious about my drawing and just do it whenever I can...whether in sketchbook or with my machine.
Corvus A life with Birds by Esther Woolfson a captivating biography of a woman and her crows.
Any art or textile book I have bought would be too endless to list, but a few are:
Washi by Sukey Hughes, Women and Craft by Gillian Elinor, The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker
JL: Future plans and dreams?
CH: During the winter 2012-13, I had a rare few days of quiet and time to reflect. I had been ill a year ago and was forced to spend time indoors and almost immobile. I found myself drawn to windows, some old pots and the views outside. I re-looked at this, this winter.I am not sure where it will lead...but I enjoy this aspect of not knowing and seeing the possibilities which may open up. Staying healthy and fit...continue making and teaching..and writing.
|from Cas Holmes sketchbook|
And, I'm currently working on my second book, Connected Cloth (co -author Anne Kelly). It's due Autumn of 2013. It will be 'A practical and inspirational guide to setting up and sustaining group textile-art projects, from simple collaborations between friends to ambitious community projects'
|Cas Holmes quilt, hanging on my living room wall|
++++++++++++You can read my other Interviews as Inspiration here:
Mary Beth Shaw, artist and Stencil Girl Products founder
Marcia Derse, textile designer
Lesley Riley, artist and author
Danny Gregory, artist and author
Judy Reeves, writer
Carlo Roberts, The Blue Walk travel company founder
Jane Powell, Random Arts owner