76 Hair Grips (2015)
55 x 55 cms
Linen, found metal objects, hand stitch in cotton/silk thread, tea
Alice Fox’ fascination with nature is the focus of her art which uses found and reclaimed items as well as nature itself. Her work often follows a journey where the ageing process (such as rusting) continues after the work is completed. Drawn towards similar colour palettes Alice’s work is recognisable for bringing the beauty of nature indoors.
Tell us about your background
My first degree was in Physical Geography, after which I worked in nature conservation for a few years. I then did an adult education textiles course followed by a part time degree in Contemporary Surface Design and Textiles. I graduated from that in 2011.
How do you describe your work?
I work mainly within textiles although I use techniques from fine art printmaking as well. My work is basically abstract but I aim to capture something of my experience of the natural world within it. My practice is based around exploring the world around me: noticing the detail, recording what I see and find, exploring the potential of the things I find for making marks, stains and structures. The things I find form a tangible link to the places I walk and my work is a response to those objects. It has been said that my work is ‘process led’.
What is it about nature that appeals?
It doesn’t just appeal – it is the foundation of everything. I have been fascinated by the natural world all my life, collecting, identifying and drawing natural things since childhood.
How has your work evolved over time?
My practice is relatively young so I think it is inevitable that things will change as I develop my skills and find a way of working that is true to me. In the final year of my degree I used natural materials and developed a particular aesthetic using neutral tones. Once away from the confines of the institution I developed a way of working that was more intuitive and less ‘designed’. I increasingly used natural dye and staining techniques to make the most of found objects and materials. There is a certain degree of randomness or serendipity to the final form of my work as I allow marks and stains to develop naturally. I still use certain industrially produced raw materials (yarns, fabrics and papers) but I am always questioning the provenance of what I use and justifying to myself the choices I make. I am increasingly leaning towards weave techniques and towards working more three dimensionally.
Your work is very varied, what textile techniques do you use and why?
I do use a range of different techniques but I feel that everything I produce is related: part of a continuum. It is conventional to present work in distinct projects that have their own identity but I see my work as much more of a continuous process, a line of inquiry. I am told that my work has a certain aesthetic, so even though individual work may vary in material or technique it sits well together. Any new work is dictated by the places I have been, where I’ve walked and the things I might have collected on those walks. If I have found rusty objects I will use those to make prints or incorporate them into a textile structure and allow them to stain the threads that surround them. I may make woven structures in response to the form of objects, either staining these with collected plant material or mud, or leaving them unmarked. I might explore the potential of gathered materials for stitching into, manipulating or building a structure. Textured surfaces might lead me to make prints or embossed marks on paper and these may lead on to some sort of book structure. In each case the work develops in response to the objects or materials and the techniques are chosen as part of that response.
Apart from nature itself what inspires you?
I am very inspired by the work of artists such as Shiela Hicks, Eva Hesse, Sue Lawty and Polly Binns. I find the work of certain sculptors fascinating: for example Cornelia Parker and Anthony Gormley. It is as much their approach to their practice that I find inspiring as the work itself. I am really interested in Land Artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash and Richard Long. I read a lot of contemporary ‘nature writing’. Authors such as Richard Mabey, Mark Cocker, Robert MacFarlane and Kathleen Jamie give me a rich and poetic insight into other people’s experience of the natural world.
Can you describe a typical working day?
I usually have one or two days a week working from home and these days include admin, correspondence, writing and some practical work. When I have a studio day I get the kids off to school, have breakfast and then read for 20 minutes or so with a cup of coffee. I find this time settling and a good way to gather thoughts about what needs to be done that day. I might do a bit of email answering and then go off to the studio, which is a 20 minute drive away from home. Once in the studio I am very focused on whatever I’m working on there. It is a very cold building so you don’t sit around and waste time! I work through to about 3 o’clock and then go home to be around for the kids coming home from school. Most days involve a walk to the post office at this time and I will often carry on with work at home for the rest of the afternoon or into the evening, either hand sewing, small scale weaving or admin work. Some days I walk locally. This is useful time for thinking and looking but also potentially good for collecting materials. Ideally I have three or four studio days a week but that is not necessarily the case, depending on teaching or family commitments. I am often teaching workshops at weekends or I’m with my family. Weekend walks are about relaxation but they will still get filed into the memory bank of experiences that feed into my work.
Do your books evolve through your work or does the title dictate your work?
Each of the self-published books I have produced has recorded the development of a project and formed a sort of exhibition catalogue, so they have evolved through the work. Natural processes in Textile Art is my first book for Batsford. Again, I would say this developed with my work as it features the techniques I use.
What have been your highlights so far?
Being selected for and winning the Quilters Guild Graduate Showcase at the Festival of Quilts in 2011 gave me a really good introduction to a specialist textile audience and has led to invitations to speak about my work and to teach workshops. Getting Arts Council funding for my first solo project, Artist in Residence at Spurn NNR, was a big stamp of approval. This project proved a very steep learning curve but really got me going in so many ways. Having my book published by Batsford this year felt like a real milestone too.
Do you have any advice for people who want to make a career as a textile artist?
I am finding that it is essential to have a number of different elements to my output: Workshops, blog, publications, exhibitions etc. I had some business mentoring a couple of years ago, which was very useful. Spending time on keeping the business side of things going can get you down sometimes but it is essential. Allowing time to develop yourself is important too, whether that it is through mentoring, attending workshops, networking etc.
Alice Fox Artist
Alice Fox Artist
Alice Fox Artist