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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Feature Artist: Rachel Penn (UK)

Get ready for one of most in-depth feature artist post Red Thread has ever had. Rachel Penn contacted us after moving recently to Adelaide after graduating from the Chelsea School of Art Textile Design program and I couldn't wait to share her practice with the Adelaide community and our readers to gain an insight into her unique and striking pieces. Read on...

Tell us about yourself, how would you describe your work? I think I would best describe myself as an all rounder. Although I have predominantly focused on knit and crochet for the last few years I would still consider myself a mixed media textile designer, I love to get involved and experiment with all processes and materials, exploring the true potential of fabric design. I especially have a passion for niche, constructed and very detailed textiles that have a strong focus on concept, following them through into bespoke or editorial fashion, jewellery and interior pieces. I find it particularly uplifting seeing my design work through to end, from drawings and samples, to the finalised collection. 

Who or what inspires you as a textile designer? The inspiration behind my previous projects has always varied depending on the brief given. I like my design ideas to follow a strong narrative, taking inspiration either from the diverse patterns and constructive qualities of architecture to the organic forms and structures in nature. I particularly love to explore different cultures and the diverse aspects of life within them, looking at historical craft techniques and the art associated with individual countries. I also believe that drawing, painting and taking photos are extremely important parts of the design process when it comes to developing your ideas and gaining inspiration about a subject. 

What materials do you like to work with? My list of favourite materials to work with is always changing depending on the project at hand, however I have focused alot on knit and crochet the past couple of years. Having very little prior knowledge of the craft, with its heavily traditional connotations, I felt it gave me the opportunity to explore the potential within a constructive process, finding new ways to use yarn as a basis for mixed media, structural design. I love to experiment between the contrast in hard and soft materials, which I focused on in my final degree show project.

What did you most enjoy about the Textile Design program at Chelsea College of Art? I believe that the best thing about my Textile Design degree at Chelsea was the opportunity to meet like minded, creative individuals. I loved working in the studios amongst my peers, immersing myself in contemporary design 24/7. Also the fact that I was based in London was a huge bonus as it fed my enthusiasm for knowledge and inspiration, something that has brought me to Australia with a desire to see and experience more worldwide.

Is textiles highly regarded as a medium in contemporary visual arts culture? Textiles has the ability to connect us to our past through the tradition of the craft. It can create social identity, bring together communities and represent culture, and this is something that I as a designer try to represent in my textiles through hand crafted techniques used in a contemporary style. It is important to bring textiles into the present contemporary visual arts culture as it is way to connect to the individual using nostalgia.

What are your favourite 5 art related websites or blogs? Well I would say that my favourite website and blogs depend on what I am researching at the time. Previously when in London, I always used to look at the big museum websites such as the V&A, Tate and Somerset House, for inspirational artists and designers or for current exhibitions. I love looking through blogs as you never know what someone else has discovered such as an art piece, fashion designer or illustrator, that could inspire your own work. 

How do you think living in Australia, will influence your designs? As a designer I feel that is extremely important, especially if your given the opportunity, to stimulate your senses and to see as much as possible. After living in london for 4 years I was ready to experience something new, a different environment and culture to inspire me, and when my Family up and moved to Australia, it presented me with this opportunity to begin my discoveries. Im hoping that being here will enable me to explore another side of the world that I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing, immersing myself in the art, community and place.

Red Thread Collective looks forward to meeting Rachel at the next meeting on Wednesday 21 September, but for now check out her website and blog to see more of her amazing works. 


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