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Crafts Council Maker of the Week: Fiona Rutherford

Fiona Rutherford will be exhibiting at Contemporary Applied Arts until 21 April

Our Directory Maker of the Week, Fiona Rutherford, talks to us about getting into making, what inspires her and her favourite part of the making process.

Who or what got you into making?

My mother was a massive influence on me as a child. Her sewing machine was often in use on the kitchen table so I was making my own clothes and designing them from early on. However, it was a visit to Crete as a student that made me take this interest a step further. It was here that I saw the village women weaving on old wooden looms for the first time and became interested in weaving. We had no common language other than the brightly coloured cloth they created. I was fascinated and hooked from that day.

Could you please tell us a bit about your work?

I make tapestries using a traditional technique where warp and weft are woven by hand on an upright frame. But I am not interested in the representational approach that is historically associated with tapestry. The surfaces of my work are made up of broken edges, selvedges, and mark making together with a minimal colour palate. Much of my work is created in long strips that can be hung vertically or horizontally creating a different visual effect according to their location. The concept of space is important within and around my tapestries. Design is integral to how I work and I have collaborated on a number of public commissions using mixed media as well as tapestry. It's good to sometimes create outside my comfort zone.

What are your inspirations?

I am drawn to strong colour. I was born in India and spent my early childhood there, so that exposure to exuberant colour has stayed with me and remains a major influence on my work. There is also a story telling element running through my tapestries. Language and weaving are closely linked. So words and music from everyday are naturally drawn into my designs. It's a very personal approach and as a result I'm quite eclectic in my sources. I love the work of Louise Bourgeois and Sonia Delaunay. Strong women artists who fused the worlds of textiles and art through autobiography.

What is your favourite part of the making process?

I don't know if I have a particular favourite part. But maybe it's when an idea or design comes together that I start to get excited and want to start weaving the ideas before that feeling loses its edge. Weaving is not a quick art form so I like to keep the energy in the making as much as possible. On a large tapestry the daily rhythm of work starts to build as you take ownership of the yarns and the cloth emerges. The repetitive nature of manipulating the warp and weft and the challenge to create a strong visual effect from this simple act is absorbing.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on a series of small tapestries. It's quite a change of scale and a deliberate creative move as for the past few years I have only made large pieces. They are irregular in shape and style as if cut from larger pieces of cloth and reassembled. It's a process I am still working through and I’m enjoying the freedom of playing with the uncertainties of the finished work. Ultimately, I hope they will come together in an exhibition.

See Fiona’s work in Colour Theory at Contemporary Applied Arts in London until 21 April.

Find Fiona Rutherford on the Directory.

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