Thursday, June 23, 2011

An Interview with Breadtag Artist, Beth Taylor

Beth Taylor's 'Breadtag World' is open from 2nd - 20th July

What can viewers expect from your exhibition ‘Breadtag World’, at Sweets Workshop?

People who come and see the show will get to see the planets, moons and sun of our solar system lovingly rendered out of over 12,000 breadtags. As my husband Jeff kindly pointed out, there are no stars in our solar system except for the sun, but I've got artistic license so there will be some stars too. I would love it if people came and checked it out, got a smile out of it, and thought about all the things we throw away that could have another incarnation.

How would you describe your style?
Hmmm. That's a tough one. I am a photographer and a documentary filmmaker as well as being (possibly the world's only) breadtag artist. What hangs all my work together is a love of the everyday, a desire to find beauty in unexpected places, and a sense of humour.

Can you tell us about about the processes you use to produce your 3D sculptures?
The first step has been to amass enough breadtags, and that has taken years. Approximately 15,000 breadtags have gone into making these sculptures, so to give you an idea, if you laid the loaves of bread end to end they would stretch the length of 66 Olympic swimming pools! Half of them are from family, friends and co-workers. The other half are from the Mental Illness Foundation of South Australia, who sell recycled breadtags to farmers for their produce. Boy was it a relief to find those guys, because I didn't want to have to use unused ones.

To make the sculptures, I formed units of the tags by clipping them together and melted them in the oven (keeping the space well-ventilated!) Then I glued them onto styrofoam balls that were painted showing where each colour should go (like paint by numbers). Sometimes if I didn't have the exact colour I wanted, I would paint each tag individually with plastics dye.

Each of the larger works took about 40 hours to produce, and much of it was done while half-watching Masterchef on my computer to keep me revved up! The last, and one of the most important processes was to keep my 18 month old away from the sculptures (he calls them "moons"). He is almost as obsessed with breadtags as his mother and if he sees one lying around anywhere he'll bring it to me with much excitement.

When did you start creating things from breadtags, and what do you enjoy about it?
I've been collecting them since 2003 and making things with them since 2006. I love all the colours they come in, the fact that every one of them is unique with its little quirks in the plastic and the date stamped on them. They are little found objects that are beautiful as well as functional. I also love the thought that everyone I know collects them for me instead of throwing them out.

Making sculptures out of them is really meditative. They fit together so beautifully. It's like re-scaling a fish, or putting a jigsaw puzzle together.

My greatest honour to date was to make a commissioned work for Jerre Paxton, the son of the man who invented bread-tags in the States. He runs his father's company Kwiklok, and he now has his very own piece of bread-tag art (pictured below).

I owe a lot to bread-tags.

What else can you make with all those breadtags?
I have made magnets, brooches, necklaces and earrings. I've also made cards and CD covers with them. My husband and I have a family crest and there's a breadtag on there. We used them as bonbonniere for our wedding and made the wedding invitations using them. The applications are infinite!

I already know the project I'm doing with them next, but it's a secret!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

An Interview with soft sculpture artist: Torunn Higgins

An exhibition by Torunn Higgins
Open at Sweets Workshop from the 4th – 29th June 2011

What can viewers expect from your exhibition ‘The Sewn Machine’, at Sweets Workshop?
Viewers can expect to be transported into a world reminiscent of dreams and memories where objects are ‘soft’ around the edges and lose their functional abilities. It’s a place where things seem normal at first glance, but on closer inspection seams start to appear and everything seems a little odd. It’s an uncanny world, in which the familiar becomes strange.

How would you describe your sculptures?
Ordinary functional inanimate objects that have been transformed into sensuous, inviting objects irresistible to the touch.

What drew you to start making soft creations?
The first soft sculpture I made was the sewing machine. I made it as a kind of tribute to sewing, the history of sewing, and the unexpected central role sewing had taken in my life (I had just recently started my label Herbert & Friends). I had been invited to take part in a group exhibition and at the time it seemed the obvious choice, to hand-sew a sewing machine! After that I continued making these soft creation because I enjoyed the challenge and diversity of the objects.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
I always find this a difficult question to answer because I never really know where an idea comes from, it just appears. But if I had to nominate a source, it would be the odd little moments that stand out in the everyday goings-on of life. They’re the small details that not everyone notices. In fact I think these moments are very subjective and are different for everyone.

When I reflect on the pieces in the show I would also say that my surroundings, the people around me, dreams and nostalgia have inspired my work.

What materials do you like to work with?
Most of all I love to work with felt because it’s so straightforward, doesn’t fray like other fabrics, and it’s also very forgiving if you make mistakes! Cardboard has also become an essential part of making my large sewn sculptures, mostly to give the object some structural stability.

Your creations are so detailed, what do you enjoy about making everyday objects soft?
Recreating these objects is profoundly banal and incredibly inspiring, all at the same time. It’s this contradiction that I find really interesting. The objects are so familiar it’s almost painful to think about sewing a copy of them by hand, but once I start the process I begin to view the object in a new light, as the process is unfailingly much more challenging than I anticipate.

Similarly, I experience contradicting emotions as I go through the drawn-out process of making these objects in such detail. One minute I’ll be relishing in the precise detail and getting excited over how it’s turning out. Then frustration takes hold and I start questioning why I started making it in the first place. In some ways I see these as endurance artworks, and it’s as much about the process as the finished product.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Sewn Machine by Torunn Higgins

Date: Saturday 4th – Wednesday 29th June

Official Opening: 2pm Saturday, 4th June. Torunn will be at the gallery to open her new exhibition

Where: Sweets Workshop, Shop 4, 58-60 Carlton Crescent, Summer Hill 2130

The Sewn Machine is a sculptural exhibition by Torunn Higgins. She is a full-time designer and softie maker with her own label, Herbert & Friends.
...The toaster was a bit disgruntled, as it had only been used once on that particular day. Nevertheless it did it’s very best to toast that single piece of bread to perfection...