'Precious Waste' by Lois Walpole is showing at Cesta Republica, Madrid
Our Directory Maker of the Week, Lois Walpole, 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 first basket was actually a sculpture of a life size West Indian Olympic sprinter woven out of rattan. It was one of the 'protest' pieces that I made at St Martins as a sculpture student. At the time, St. Martins was renowned for abstract welded steel sculpture and I realised on my first day there that the welding basement was not a place I was going to revisit. I had therefore to find my own way to work as the staff were understandably unimpressed by my attitude. There was a shop selling cane and rattan next door to the college and I thought that rattan looked like something I could work with.
On seeing my rattan man people started asking me if I could make baskets and as I needed money I thought I should at least try, so I borrowed a book out of the college library and made a laundry basket. It wasn't until 9 years later that I found a way to enjoy basket making and to use it as a means of artistic self expression.
What are your inspirations?
My work has changed in many ways over the years but at its core is a profound desire to follow in the age old tradition of basket makers everywhere which is to to use only the materials that they have access to in their immediate environment and which they gather for free. This means that I use a lot of man made waste along with natural materials that I grow or gather. Now I do not buy anything to make my work with. The techniques and the forms of basket making intrigue me and by juxtaposing found materials with ancient techniques I try to create something visually new and exciting. Sometimes these pieces are functional sometimes purely sculptural. The materials are my main inspiration.
What is your favourite part of the making process?
For me the exciting part of what I do is the experimentation and problem solving that is necessary to find a way to use a lot of materials that are not obviously ideal for basket making. There are a lot of hours of weaving or material preparation in basket making, which can be tedious, but I have learnt that they both need to be done to the best of my ability or the end result doesn't work.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I have a one person show, 'Precious Waste', at Cesta Republica in Madrid until the 9th June. There is also a solo touring show 'Weaving Ghosts' that will be opening at its 4th venue in Norway in August and which returns to UK to An Lanntair in Stornaway in January 2018. 'Weaving Ghosts' has been inspired by the quantities of ghost gear that wash up on the beaches in the Shetland Islands, but combined with local natural materials the works also reflect on the now irrevocable loss of basketry knowledge in the Islands.
The exhibition changes slightly at each venue to reflect local basket knowledge and materials and I am currently seeking more venues.