Forest and Found founders Abi and Max are makers in residence at the Pitt Rivers Museum until the end of June 2017
Our Directory Maker of the Week is Forest and Found, made up by makers Abi and Max. They talk to us about getting into making, what inspires them and their favourite part of the making process.
Who or what got you into making?
Having both studied Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts we were always in the studios and workshops. Our practice while at Chelsea was hands-on and experimental, working with different materials, and methods of construction as we both made sculptural and installation-based work about the experience of place and the nature of the object. Sharing a studio space in our final year it quickly became evident we were both driven by the same ideas and approaches to making, but always producing different outcomes and pursuing different materials. On leaving we were determined to set something up that would allow us to continue this hands-on approach to our work which lead to the founding of our collaborative studio practice Forest + Found.
Having no funding to set up we turned to working with materials we could easily access and for little cost. Felled local wood from nearby Epping Forest and cotton calico from Walthamstow market were the catalyst for beginning to look at traditional craftsmanship and how we could challenge preconceptions of these materials and methods in the context of a fine art practice.
Could you please tell us a bit about your work?
Architectural structures, ancient landscape and cultural objects are all starting points for physical process and visual compositions in our work. Having trained in Fine Art, our approach to practice is investigative and research driven and stems from a deep relationship to object making. The traditional skills we employ are a result of questioning how, through the use of natural materials and hand tools, we can gain a greater understanding of our strong connection to place through the experience of making and handling objects. Hand carving, woodturning, natural dyeing and textile construction are tools for exploring the sculptural and performative quality of objects, through form, composition and colour. Working with native wood and a dye palette sourced from the land, our practice is driven by process and a generated dialogue between the objects and textiles we make. Mark making and the meaning of the made object is looked at across all times and cultures, allowing us to produce work inherently connected to the past, yet always contextualizing itself in the present and projected future.
What are your inspirations?
We look a lot to the artists Barbara Hepworth, Agnes Martin, David Nash and Robert Ryman. The sensitivity in their use of colour, form and strong connection to their choice of materials are something we relate to in the making of our own work. For us, abstraction and simplicity are sought out not as a way to adhere to purist ideals, but for the ability to evoke a strong emotional response in an audience. We aim to make work that delivers in visual impact whilst maintaining sensitivity in our treatment and handling of natural materials. For each of these artists, the hand plays an important role in their work where gesture, failure and intent are all considered components at play in each sculpture and painting. In the same way we allow the making of marks and accidents to work hand in hand in the production of each piece we make.
What is your favourite part of the making process?
The tension between living and working in a city and the experience of escapism when out in natural landscape informs our making process a great deal. The act of seeking out natural materials, be it fallen wood to turn on the lathe or earths to transform into different dyes, is an integral part of our practice. It provides a connection and grounding in place that allows us to return to the quiet and solitude of our studio to begin freely playing out new ideas. The sense of freedom and unexpected when we are out of the studio feeds back into our spontaneous way of creating work. Pieces of wood dictate the finished forms of vessels and sculptures while the conception of a natural colour from wood tannin will ally itself to a previous sketch or composition on paper.
What are you working on right now?
We are the current artists in residence at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and are working in response to a new display of their archaeology collection. Having recently finished a program of events in collaboration with the museum we are now focused on producing a commissioned piece of work to be installed July this year. Currently our proposed work is a piece of video exploring our connection to landscape, materials and the unseen acts of making. We are interested in our changing relationships to made objects and how meaning attached to objects is transformed and abstracted over time.