Joanne B Kaar is exhibiting at The Crafts Council of Newfoundland & Labrador Gallery
Our Directory Maker of the Week, Joanne B Kaar, 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?
I think growing up in such a varied and creative environment helped me get into making. I grew up in the village of Brough (the most northerly point on the UK mainland). My mum was a primary school art teacher and then as senior teacher for art covering Caithness and Sutherland. My dad had many jobs including a relief lighthouse keeper and an engineer where he learnt woodturning. For short time during this period, we had a craft shop at our house. Suffering from the dust of dried wood, my dad then changed to use green (fresh) wood. With the change in wood, the products changed from traditional porridge spurtles and spinning wheels, to decorative thin bowls. Working together, my parents exhibited at Chelsea Craft Fair and travelled the world teaching and exhibiting.
My dad has now retired from woodturning, but is sometimes persuaded to make things for special occasions. My mum, since retiring, has had more time for her own artwork, and is currently preparing for a solo exhibition at the Morven Gallery in the Western Isles – exhibiting the original illustrations for 3 books she made for my nephew.
Could you please tell us a bit about your work?
I’m a weaver of grass and a fibre artist that’s inspired by journeys over land, sea and through time.
I have taken part in many project including Managing our Natural and Cultural Heritage Assets' in Iceland in 2016, and being a key-note speaker at The Crafts Council of Newfoundland & Labrador’s conference Using Crafts to Tell a Story.
I recently solved the mystery of how Angus MacPhee made his grass garments. Angus was a crofter from Uist who spent almost 50 years in a Highland psychiatric hospital. During this time, he chose not to speak and instead he wove a series of incredible costumes out of grass. This led to invitations to work at the Manchester Whitworth Art Gallery where I was commissioned by Lancashire based Horse and Bamboo Theatre to make costumes and props, including an adult size grass swallow tail coat for their touring production ‘Angus’.
What are your inspirations?
My artwork takes inspiration from our heritage. As both participant and instigator of arts and heritage projects, I have worked in Taiwan, South Korea, Iceland, USA, Canada, Estonia, and also exhibited in Japan, Germany, Spain, Australia, Sweden and Finland.
Keen to learn traditional skills, research local stories, learn about conservation and care of objects, I enjoy finding inventive ways to attract new audiences while adding new information to artefacts of which little is known. My artwork is varied, and is as much at home in museums as art galleries.
What is your favourite part of the making process?
There isn’t one aspect that stands out as being my favourite. However, I love to get my teeth into a project, often starting with a subject matter I know nothing about and working in collaboration with the experts of their field. I like to have a few different projects on the go – some are quick whilst others continue in the background for years before coming to any sort of tangible conclusion.
What are you working on right now?
Newfoundland – my bags are packed.
I was delighted to be selected to be an artist in residence at The Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador. My first residency was in 2016, and an exhibition of my work from this time is about to open in St. Johns, at the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labradors art gallery. Inspired by a shared history of fishing, the oral history and folklore of buying the wind, and their heritage of moving houses, by rope over ice, string is the tread that runs through this work.
This time I propose a community based project that would be suitable for all ages and abilities. ‘On The Mend’ takes Inspiration from the time of year (winter), the Julia Ann Walsh Heritage Centre’s history of once being a cottage hospital and its “…adaptive re-use of the centre for the preservation of local culture and heritage (including arts, crafts, music and oral history), the promotion of health and wellness, and community economic and social development.”
And I’m really looking forward to it (although they say there are only two ghosts) and my accommodation is in the museum!