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.

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