22 x 28 cms
Linen and printed fabric laces of a letter
Archana Pathak studied textiles in two countries (India where she grew up and the UK where she now lives) and recently found her work evolving into the field of fine art textiles. Her work evolves around ‘the interplay between memory, place and identity,’ and is inspired by found artefacts which are incorporated into her work through the medium of stitch.
What is your background in textiles?
I have studied textiles in two countries, India and the UK. There was a significant time gap (and a few life events) in between both these studies. First was a Masters degree in Textiles from National Institute of Design, India and the next one again a Masters in Sustainable Textile Design from Chelsea College of Arts (UAL) in London.
Before coming to the UK, I spent most of my life in India. My Indian heritage and education opened me to the immense skills in traditional handcrafts and textiles that the country offers.
I came to the UK in 2008 and after my time at Chelsea my work evolved and I moved into fine art textiles. The move led me to choose a path away from commercial design and towards work that is connected more closely to my own ideas and self. The move to art was big breakthrough, and changed everything for me in my work and life.
How do you describe your work?
I specialise in stitch and fine art textiles and I make one off Textile Art pieces.
My studio work centres around collecting and working with found memory artefacts such as old photographs, postcards, letters, diaries and maps. Through these, I am exploring the interplay between memory, place and identity. Often these artefacts are old maps that bring forth the evolving nature of boundaries – both physical as well as psychological. Along with these constantly evolving boundaries, are the identities that are being re-shaped. I use bare minimum tools and use stitch to recreate a sense of belonging that often requires listening and nurturing that my work attempts to capture.
My studio practice generally involves collecting, organising, slowing down and making sense of my life, which is divided between making art and being in the world. The rituals around my work help me question, comprehend and eventually believe in what my work stands for. It helps me appreciate what is precious and important in today’s fast and digital world. Also, for me, it is an attempt to stay connected with what is fading but precious in life.
Where are you based and where do you work?
I am based out of London and divide my work between my studio and home. My studio is in West Hampstead London where I work with an exciting mix of Artists, Designers and makers under one roof, which gives an opportunity to interact and exchange ideas as a group during open studio exhibitions etc. Also it is ‘my quiet space’ to escape, to think, reflect and listen which has become a very important part of my creative process. When my work is in the making stage, I tend to divide my time between studio and home to save travel time.
Can you describe the process of your work?
I use a very modest small sketch book to record my thoughts and ideas. I tend to write more than sketch in my sketchbook. It is actually like a log book of my thought process, including anything that touches and inspires in me in everyday life. It can be something that someone said, a news item or simply an inspiring quote.
What do you sew with?
I stitch with printed fabric lace only. I print the found artefact, on which my work is based, on a fine cotton fabric by heat transfer. After the heat transfer the fabric tends to become like paper and it doesn’t usually fray when I stitch. I do bond it with masking tape at point where it goes through the needle head as there is a lot of pressure at this point.
How long does a piece take?
My work is very slow and it depends on the size of the artwork. It can take me any time from one week to a couple of months to finish a piece.
What is your career highlight to date?
I have just started and the biggest highlight was when I decided to move into fine art textiles – that has transformed my life. I was recently selected as one of the finalist for the ‘Transformation 10: Contemporary Works in Found Materials, the Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize (September 14, 2018-March 9, 2019), in the US. It’s a traveling exhibition so my work will get an audience in many venues there where I haven’t travelled myself.
But the biggest joy I have experienced besides the process of making itself, is when I showed my work recently in Devon, the one to one interaction with the visitors and their response to my work. I suppose that is the biggest take away that my work offers. They also selected my work for the best new business award which, needless to say, was very pleasing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring textile artists?
In my experience, being an artist requires one to do a lot of questioning, thinking, listening and waiting. It also requires one to let oneself be vulnerable. But when all this is embraced fully, it starts feeding into the work by itself and makes the journey enriching and enticing as life itself. Slowly you won’t feel that you are divided anymore and everything becomes part of the process of making art.
Archana is exhibiting at: Transformation 10: Contemporary Works in Found Materials, the Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize (September 14, 2018-March 9, 2019), USA ; Selvedge Fair, London (2nd December 2017); Marshwood Arts, Bridport Arts Centre from Saturday 4th November to 2nd December 2017)