Lost in Fiber | archives + preservation initiatives

Lost in Fiber | Interview | Slow Creations

Posted on: Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Lost in Fiber work table with a 'slow creations print', dried vegetation from Bulgaria,
knotted wool from my own stash, and detail of a macramé net bag
from Ranran design in Spain | photo by Abigail Doan

This is the first of several autumn installments in an ongoing series of interviews with Lost in Fiber materials contributors. I am so excited to share the work of Petra of slow creations in Sweden, who I first met during a Stockholm meet up in June of 2013. We had been virtual friends for some time, but it was tremendously valuable to finally connect in person to share ideas about the nature of textiles, slow fashion methodology, and the curation of objects and personal artifacts. 

Here is my early October interview with Petra, whose exquisite images explore the blurred intersections of textured palettes, memories of place, the organic realm, and what might creatively sustain us.

AD: Might you share five objects or artifacts that you currently have in your studio or home – particularly as forms that you feel resonate with your studio work and current investigations?

SCFor the moment I do not have a separate studio per se, but I do have an overloaded table in my apartment kitchen with my textile stuff like my sewing machine and materials for natural dyeing. Because I tend to squeeze in creative work every now and then, it is easiest not to have to go away to a studio. I like the idea of trying to find something new in everyday life or things that are not considered to be especially beautiful (like electric cabinets with graffiti). So this (inspiration) might not be typical artifacts, but more like phenomena.

I observe my son´s creative process on a daily basis as he draws constantly. This personal act is as important as eating is for him (or more so, as he told me yesterday). I recognize in myself that inner urge.

I am also a stone collector, and although I seldom actually look at them, the very act of collecting them and having them is pure bliss for me. It makes me feel very connected to my roots, too, as most of them were found at the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, where my mother was born. I also think rather much about time and vanity. The fossilized stones are a perfect symbol of that.

I also love books ... especially those about textiles, fashion, and art ... the presence of books makes me feel quite comfortable. If I had to choose one, I would say Taschen's monumental volume about the collections of the Kyoto Costume Institute (a gift from Petra's husband, pictured above).

My tools are, of course, important too, i.e. the glass containers that I use for solar dyeing and the rusty objects (tin cans, nails, etc.) that always add ‘nerve’ to the natural dyeing.

This is very ephemeral, but I love to see the light and shadows playing at home and the wonderful view from the apartment (to the street and to the church outside, with big trees growing and changing in the seasons).

AD:  Do you use social media on a daily basis and if so, do you feel that is helps you to build community in ways that non-virtual interaction does not? That is, do you feel that you have 'virtual friends' who are essential to your creative community? How does this inform your work day-to-day, if at all?

SC: Yes, I definitely use Instagram and Facebook on a daily basis as well as Tumblr now and then. I find all of these platforms to be amazing when trying to find (or actually just stumble upon) creative 'soul mates'. My virtual (art) friends really mean a lot to me. It feels good to share what you do with certain people. That said, it is problematic in these times, to always seek affirmations from others, as social media, the tool. seems to be built on this principle. I see big risks with this in terms of possible addictive behavior.

AD: What is your idea of the perfect garden, rural, urban or somewhere in between?

SC: My mother was a true gardener and her passion for and knowledge of plants has influenced me since childhood when I tried to learn both the Swedish and Latin names of plants. I like to go to any garden or green spot which is not very 'strict'. The best perhaps are those that I just happen to find. I also like the idea of guerilla gardening and city gardening a lot, although I tend to leave the real gardening to those with better skills.

Flipping through a special book of unique prints by slow creations while visiting Sweden

AD: As a natural dyer, photographer (image maker) and 'slow creations' alchemist, are you more concerned with personally slowing down the creative process in an almost therapeutic manner or the documenting of certain organic ideas? Or both?

SC: A very good question! I tend to become absorbed by slow processes despite or perhaps because I am a rather busy and restless person, i.e. one that easily gets bored. I first discovered this when starting to weave and consequently wanted to challenge my impatience with the introduction of slow techniques. The same holds true with natural dyeing, which I find totally absorbing. It usually takes days or even weeks to get a fabric ready for cutting and sewing. I used to think of my photo making as being some what fast, but found that I needed time to take in the new settings (specifically while traveling) before starting the process or to be ready. My images are often done in a very introverted way. They take time to be created – this is essential, this inward time for me personally. I often say that I tend to have 'fast ideas, slow creations', which is also a joke about the fact that I  have difficulty finishing things. 

AD: Do you have any future exhibits or projects in the works that you would like to share?

SC: I have been thinking of trying to do the first bigger solo exhibition of my photos, but I need time to prepare this and also identify the right place. After attending a wonderfully inspirational and intensive university level course in natural dyeing with artist Jeanette Schäring in the Swedish countryside this past summer, we have all decided to start a special community or association for natural dyeing in Sweden. So this lies ahead for the autumn or winter.  We hope to further evolve this important concept in our country and in order to help people reflect upon issues related to art, design and fashion via both collective and individual processes against the backdrop of severe environmental issues such as the earth´s water resources, (which is of particular concern for Jeanette). I also have plans to collaborate with one of my former virtual friends (now a 'real' friend), Swedish designer, fiber artist, and performer Babaruna, who currently divides her time between Sweden and Berlin.

AD:  If you could collaborate with any artist or (fashion) designer in history, who would you want to partner with and what sort of theme would you ideally work with or cultivate?

SC: I must say I cannot even imagine partnering with my favorite designers, but if I could just dream for a while: I would love to make my visual versions of the world of Alexander McQueen´s design as well as my teenage favorite, Issey Miyake. It would be very challenging to try to portray their work with my camera. Also, using natural dyeing as colouring for fabrics as contrast in their designs would be quite interesting. On  a more realistic note, I would love to collaborate with emerging designers – to make my visual versions of their design and to experiment with fashion photography. 

AD: What does 'slow' design or living mean to you?

SC: To help me slow down and live with more calm, I practice zhineng qigong daily and attend short and longer courses regularly. After years of for example garment making out of what I call 'ugly' fabrics and (non-environmentally friendly) yarns, I now favour organic solutions whenever possible. The spirit and materiality of objects is very important to me, so I usually find mainstream (fast) fashion to be rather disgusting when it comes not only to production but also quality. The feeling is simply not there. In line with that, I also strongly believe in the wisdom of hand, heart and head that are expressed in the Swedish term “slöjd” – that is, to combine materials, techniques, recycling, and manual skills with both heritage, hybrids, bricolage and totally new innovations. 


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