It was amazing to see my work exhibited in Isamu Noguchi’s indoor stone garden Heaven at the Sogetsu Kaikan building in Tokyo [for the Loewe Craft Prize exhibition] as the organic forms of his sculptures and furniture have had a big impact on my practice, as you can see from this particular piece. It was an important moment for me personally too, because it was the first time my family had ever seen my work in the flesh. The V&A purchased a similar sculpture from my gallery, Jaggedart, at Collect art fair last February – the first one I ever made with black linen twine – which will be on display in October.
Your work requires enormous precision, discipline and patience. How do get yourself in the zone?
It’s actually quite meditative, but listening to some classical music ensures I’m calm before I begin. If I’m not in a happy place, my work takes on an unhappy shape.
Nature is ephemeral. Are you interested in decay as much as growth?
My aim is to interrupt the process. If hawthorn twigs and grasses were just left outside, within months they would be gone. I step in to halt the decay.
You were recently invited to Sharjah by Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council – which aims to build a future for crafts in the UAE and beyond – to host workshops for local artisans, with artist Patricia Swannell and Jaggedart. Tell us about your work there.
The women we met practise safeefah, the Emirati art of weaving with palm fronds, creating beautiful work but in a very traditional way. I was asked to teach them new embroidery techniques and ideas. They learnt how to make the palm strands very thin so they could embroider through washi paper, which they had never done before, and mix it with other materials like linen, bark and grasses.
Patricia was there doing research for her tree drawings. We went for walks in the desert and along the beach, and I would find references for the artisans to give them direction, such as trees, landscapes and details like pebbles. We then collaborated with them to make a series of wall tapestries and I would add the finishing touches, like a moon in gold leaf. Their passion and enthusiasm were infectious.