I’m so excited to share yet another talented weaver with you today. Today’s interview is with Kat Howard who really takes her weaving to the next level. She puts a lot of thought and time into her weaves and explores what it means to be human from many different viewpoints. Her work is really inspiring, so let’s hear what Kat has to share…
How did you first come across weaving?
I first came across weaving in grad school. I have an MFA in Poetry and an MFA in Book Art, and for my graduate thesis I combined my own writing with language from the diaries of the Brontë sisters, as a lens through which to explore the woman historically whose home and most intimate surroundings are the very instruments of the imprisonment of her mind, body and personhood. I wanted to create an installation of woven walls that you could walk between that represented the domestic space traditionally designated for a woman’s only means of self expression, but in the interest of time, I made paper quilts with embroidered text instead. You can see the project here (http://www.kat-howard.com/new-gallery-5/)
I fell in love with the possibilities of fiber art as a result, its tactile nature and how I could use it to bring poetic fragments to life. I put a ‘pin’ in learning to weave, and two years later ordered a loom kit from Maryanne Moodie’s etsy shop and started experimenting at home in my studio.
What time of day do you feel most creative?
I’m a night owl 100%, I feel most creative at night, approximately 8 pm – 2 am. However, I also have a three year old and a two month old, so I’ve adapted my creative schedule in recent years. I have a dedicated home studio, and so I dip in there whenever the kids are napping, and once they’re in bed for the evening.
Do you have a creative ritual?
Yes! I always make a cup of tea (preferably Russian Caravan or Lapsang Souchong), build a small fire (season permitting), put on my comfy red indoor studio sneakers (I mainly work standing up at my 4 x 3 foot looms), and either listen to a podcast (The History Chicks or BBC History Extra), music (Zoe Keating or Selda) or watch a show (I’m obsessed with British TV, Poldark, Vera, and the Great British Bake Off)
Are you a messy creative or an organized creative?
In the beginning of my creative process I’m structured and organized. I spend a chunk of time researching a concept or articulating an idea before I actually start working. When I’m picking a concept to work with in my art, I pour through stacks of books for inspiration, create mood boards on Pinterest, and write in to the idea, which I usually use for the title and to help me further develop the feeling that I’m trying to capture in the piece. Once I’m at the loom, I’m a messy, spontaneous creative. Sometimes I have a very simple sketch, but I sort of take all of the content that’s been percolating in my mind and let it come out in the shapes and textures on the loom.
What is your process for coming up with new ideas? Do you start with materials or an idea first?
I always start with an idea first, I almost exclusively work in monochromatic neutrals because I like to focus on texture, and once I have the idea, I gather all of the potential fibre together for that project and pick from it as I go. Most of my work is either a rumination on the female body, or an examination of a point in history (corsets, witches, Victorian mourning rituals are past subjects). I’m currently making a collection of woven wall hangings for an exhibition at Surface Gallery (http://www.surfacegallery.com/) in Asheville, NC. I wanted my collection to have a connection to the landscape where the gallery is located, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and when I started researching the area and its history, I learned that it is where the Trail of Tears started, where the Cherokee people lived for thousands of years before being forced West. I’ve been studying the landscape that they initially called home, and their own traditions and modes of expression have inspired various pieces in this collection; one is a large scale depiction of the Blue Ridge Mountains, another is inspired by the record keeping used in Wampum belts, and another is an abstraction of oral tradition.
Do you have a preferred material that you like to use?
I love working with hand spun yarn because of the unevenness in texture and the ‘animal’ quality retained in it. I also incorporate a lot of raw wool locks in my pieces, love to use fine mohair thread to represent rain, as well as the lustre of sari silk ribbon. In every weaving I include some mull (aka super or crash). It’s actually a material traditionally used in bookbinding that looks like stiffened cheese cloth made from finely woven linen threads. It enables me to get more sculptural with my weaving and is a little homage to my other creative passion, book art.
How is making things important in your life? What does being a maker mean to you?
Making art and being an artist is the root of who I am. For me personally, it means I’m happiest with a pen or a needle in my hand. Creating and using text, texture and textile to express these concepts and ideas that I have, enables me to connect with others while exposing a raw part of my self that would otherwise stay neatly tucked away.
What is your most favorite creation and why?
My favorite creation is a small scale piece called ‘Uncaged.’ It was inspired by the medical consequences of corsetry and patriarchal domination over the female body. It is a play on the aftermath of the corset being removed, based on Victorian X-rays. The tapestry is designed to look like an exposed chest cavity, the ribs paper thin and cracked open, the lung tissue tattered and frayed, while also resembling female anatomy. I feel like I was really able to capture a sense of discomfort and make a work of art that is both intriguing and uncomfortable to really look at closely, because it feels so intimate. I’m always trying to push myself and use texture to unsettle the viewer, and I think I managed to do that in this piece.
What advice do you have for those wanting to find their own style?
When I was in grad school, I had a poetry professor who encouraged us to create a project to ‘write in to’ instead of just free-form writing a wide range of unrelated poems. At first I balked at the restrictions created by working within a series to articulate the same idea over and over again. However, this research driven process and mind-mapping mode of working in years since has become my go-to when creating; I’m now able to get at the real kernel of an idea instead of just scratching the surface, by tackling it from different angles I can get deeper under its skin. As a result, I’ve found that my creative voice has become stronger and more defined.
|| Five mini questions to get to know you a little better ||
Are you a eat in or take out person?
I love eating out, and nice restaurants, or even better, under the radar, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that only have bar seating are a distant memory now with kids!
If you could pick your last meal what would it be?
Probably a traditional Afternoon Tea, with scones, pastries, cake, petit fours, sandwiches…can you tell I’ve been binge watching The Great British Bake Off?
What is your favorite color and why?
Grey, because there are so many tones and shades of it that elicit a haunting mood.
Are you a book or movie person? And what is a good one you’d recommend?
I’m a book person. I recently came across “Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois” and while technically a children’s book, this is one of the most beautiful, moving stories about being an artist that I’ve seen. Here’s a lovely article on it: https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/04/08/cloth-lullaby-louise-bourgeois/
Do you prefer relaxing beach vacations or on the move sight-seeing vacations?
Sight-seeing vacations all the way, preferably museum and cafe heavy! My mother’s Swedish and we also have family in Ireland so when we do travel, it’s usually to visit these two countries.
- Instagram: @Kat_Howard
- Website: http://www.kat-howard.com/
- Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/BookMeatStudio
- And for those located near Asheville, N.C. you can see Kat’s work in person at Surface Gallery beginning October 15th: http://www.surfacegallery.com/events/
I love how Kat comes up with her ideas. Isn’t her ‘Uncaged’ piece so interesting?! It is so fun to hear Kat talk about her work, you can really see the inspiration and emotions that go into each of her creations.
What is your favorite piece of Kat’s? Was there one that resonated with you?
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