Fibre Sculptor-by Christine Mockett
The windows and doors are gone. There are almost a dozen different sized holes in the roof and lots of the roof tiles are missing. Graffiti decorates the outside walls where not so tall arms can reach. The pale white outside walls have beige shadows where things used to be attached and small trees have sprouted through the cracks in the concrete walkway.
A peek inside one of the open doorways reveals scattered house debris and an almost entirely missing upper level floor. More graffiti decorates the insides. The birds are chirping in the nearby trees, the bees are buzzing and a family of furry somethings look like they will return later this evening. What a wonderful place. I am at home.
I love old buildings and places like this. They have sheltered so many creatures, had so many purposes and continue to change, shelter and be surrounded with life. This one kindly offered me a hospitable wall to lean against while drinking in the inspiration and watching nature going about its business. If I am lucky enough to be very old one day I hope I am like this house.
For almost ten years I have been building sculptures based on buildings and places. The sculptures are usually large 5 to 8 feet tall, and not so easy to move around at 50 lb each. Some come in sets of five too, but I can’t help myself. The inspiration is relentless and will not be ignored. It is too much fun.
Each creation is an abstracted human form combined with the appearance and imaginings of a place. Sometimes I research the origin of the building, past uses and history of the area. Sometimes I run wild inventing possibilities based on interesting things at the site or after encountering people engaged in curious activities.
A new inspiration will yield the delightful smell of sawdust, melodic sounds a saw munching its way through some salvaged construction timber and a new assortment of discarded but not worn out clothing on my studio floor.
The sculptures grow out of piles of materials like these that are finished with their initial purpose and I think are now eager to join together into something different and unexpected. I pour the base concrete into a cut off piece of sonotube collected from the side of the road, left over from someone’s renovations. I set the salvaged wood in the concrete and add tiny pegs all the way up the sides of the wood to hold the next step in place.
Next I tear up clothing into strips and wind it around the wood support, like lives wound around places. The clothing is like an intermediary between the people and building, a portable architecture that has been carried around. The wear patterns on the clothing become enclosed stories under layers of paint, like buildings with many past owners.
All of this memory loaded clothing is held in place by yarn tied in sections. The yarn I purchase from a lady who donates the money to the humane society. It is perfect yarn for this purpose, too coarse to become a sweater but so strong it won’t yield except to the sharpest scissors.
And then there is sludge, a wonderful acrylic paint medium. Sludge is a bit of all the acrylic paints and mediums made by one particularly environmentally conscious acrylic paint manufacturer. Generally speaking it is the goo that comes off of their machines and its production allows them to reuse their waste water.
After all of this wrapping, tying, sludging, shaping and forming is complete a sculpture emerges. It is now ready to be coated in layers of leftover paint colours or embroidered, ‘dressed’ or otherwise finished with text, lines, appliques and maybe even accessories.
The sculptures are usually life size for a more personal interaction, the sense of walking among the people, shadows and buildings. Standing in a circle with them, you could feel the shade of a wall on a hot afternoon or wonder if you heard the whisper of a conversation.
Christine Mockett is a fibre sculptor, born in England and raised in Southern Ontario. In Australia, Christine studied clothing design and garments, which now appear in her artwork. She studied fine art in Montreal, specializing in fiberart. Her artwork has appeared in the Preston Catalogue, Fiberarts, Embroidery Canada and Fibre Quarterly, and has been exhibited and collected in Canada, the USA, Italy, Mexico and Australia. Her current body of work addresses issues of place, and the interrelationship between architecture, environment and human presence.