Friends Forever (2015)
50 x 16 inches
Cotton, wool and metallic threads
[Photograph Will Ellis]
Brooklyn based Alicia Scardetta brings a fresh approach to tapestry weaving with her pared back approach that highlights the warp rather than hiding it. This technique and the ensuing texture in colours that pop, brings a contemporary edge to her desirable work.
Where are you based and where do you work?
I grew up in San Antonio, Texas and moved to Brooklyn, for my undergraduate education and have lived here ever since. My studio is located in a spare room in my apartment, a luxury in New York City! The space is pretty small and lacks natural light but having a designated room to make my own work has elevated my art practice.
What is your background in textiles?
I studied fine art drawing at Pratt, when I started preparing my BFA thesis I found myself longing to take the line off the paper and into a physical, tactile structure. Fibre and thread felt like the most intuitive way to interpret a line. At the time, Pratt didn’t offer fibre or textile classes to fine art majors, so I sought out fibre opportunities outside of my coursework. I first interned at Dieu Donne Papermill in Manhattan, where I learned how to process flax fibre and cotton pulp into finished sheets of handmade paper. Then, through an internship at the Textile Arts Centre, I learned how to operate a treadle loom and weave tapestry. I also went on to take workshops at both Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and Penland School of Crafts, these experiences shaped my work and exposed me to the magic of artistic community.
How do you describe your work?
Most of my fibre work is constructed on frame looms, so I see my work as a form of tapestry weaving. I am interested in manipulating the many variables of weaving, exploring what can be produced when the warp and weft are challenged. Using vibrant colours, woven appendages, and negative space, each piece achieves a playful quality within the historical context of weaving and tapestry.
Can you talk us through how you create a piece?
It really depends on the piece, usually I start with an overall structure or colour palette in mind. From there I may make sketches of what I want the finished piece to look like or create some colour studies. I have a full-time job outside of weaving, so my art practice is reserved for mornings, evenings, and weekends. With this schedule I try to maximise the time I spend on completing pieces so my planning stage tends to be brief.
It’s tricky to answer but how long does a larger piece take to make?
Since I’m not a full-time artist, my largest pieces can take months to complete. The techniques I use are time consuming. Some of my recent pieces are reflections on the time consuming nature of weaving. For the piece “Forever II” I hand wrapped individual lengths of rope, measuring about 4ft each, off loom and then wove them into what is now the finished piece. It takes about an hour or so to wrap each rope, I lost count of how many are included in this piece.
Did your distinctive style take long for you to develop?
I think my weaving style was influenced by the way I fell into tapestry. Coming from a fine art background with little design or textiles experience I was able to start using fibre materials without a distinct set of rules in mind. After experimenting with weaving and fibre I then took workshops and classes to learn the rules. Somewhere between exploring fibres on my own and learning techniques and construction from professional artists, I found a balance between play and technical skill. The colours in my work are intrinsic to who I am, I’ve always favoured every crayon in the box.
What type of loom do you use?
All of my looms are frames, most of which I’ve built myself from wood, stretcher bars, pvc pipes, or recycled picture frames. I do have one really nice frame loom that I purchased at the Rhinebeck, NY Sheep and Wool Festival made by craftsman located in upstate New York. The loom is an A-frame with front and back weaving capabilities, it’s really beautiful and one of my favourites!
Where do you find inspiration?
The bright colours and playfulness found in my work is largely inspired by themes associated with girlhood, specifically the common experience of growing up in the 1990s. The wrapping techniques throughout my work are reminiscent of friendship bracelets and the colours I use wouldn’t be out of place in a Nickelodeon cartoon.
I’m also inspired by nature, time and again I come back to the American Southwest for colour and texture inspiration. Growing up I went on many road trips with my family throughout the United States, usually starting in the Southwest. My recent collection of lariat wall hangings were inspired by Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. The landscape is awe inspiring and mesmerising, each colour found out there feels like its truest form – bright, bold and clear.
What is your career highlight so far?
Every opportunity feels like a highlight! I love making my work and feel super lucky that other people are interested in what I do. Sharing my work through different platforms is very exciting for me and I don’t take it for granted.
Do you have any advice for inspiring textile artists?
Take classes and learn as much as possible. Weaving is one of the oldest forms of making, there’s so much to learn and so many people who came before you – learn from them! Stay curious! Textile history and technical skills will give you the resources and reference points essential to creating new and innovative work.