What’s with the concrete?

If you’ve been following me on Facebook you might have seen a few posts about concrete lately. A few people have been asking why so I thought now might be a good time to explain what’s going on.

Firstly, I love quilts, but they are not the only way I work. When I was a kid I was much more interested in woodwork or hand needlework, and I only started making art quilts in 2012. Part of my uni course has been about branching out and trying new ways of working, and without these other experiments (like the painted paper collages) I wouldn’t be making quilts with paint the way I am now – each new method I learn informs the others.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about ways to work with textiles that are more sculptural, without resorting to wire frames or stuffed toys. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing people working with these mediums right now that I absolutely love (Barbara Franc and Mister Finch would be at the top of that list), but if anything that makes me more determined to find my own path.

I came across some work done by a UK company called the Tactility Factory which involved layering fabrics then casting them in a flat concrete base. Their work is amazing a beautiful, done primarily for an interior design aesthetic but still incredibly beautiful and clever. I’d already been working with concrete, trying to make bases for the moths, so I had to give combining the two a go.

early concrete experiments for moth bases

early concrete experiments for moth bases

The little concrete shapes are open to interpretation – but I see them as a combination of beauty and strength. Concrete and fabric are materials we see all around us all the time, so it’s interesting to see them used in a non-traditional way. The concrete mix I use is pure, literally just plain cement and a local fine sand which is dug up not far from where we live. I’ve use a few different types of moulds, but glass gives the shiniest and smoothest surface, which is what I’m looking for.

By using recycled glasses, bottles, vases and bowls I get to play with something which has been abandoned and give it a new life. The shapes are curvy and individual, and in many respects anonymous – they remind me of little female figurines like my Nanna had on her dresser, adored for their impracticality, fragility and their beauty.

So, I’m making quilts and casting concrete and happy with both :)