I wanted to share a little interview that I was lucky enough to conduct with the artist Anna Gleeson. I discovered her work a few months ago and have ben really inspired by it. I find her work to be thoughtful, well considered and to possess a delicate beauty and playfulness. The questions I asked were in response to her giant paper earrings, but she has a lot of other work that I urge you to check out!
Does paper's fragility and impermanence inform your work? Is that an important part of what you do?
Fragility, yes but permanence/impermanence isn't really something I think about. I like that paper has memory and becomes like a record of everything that happens to it. I think I also just like paper because it's available, it's cheap and there's such variety - colour, surface, feel, how crunchy or silky or stiff it is, how it rolls, what sound it makes, how pronounced the grain is, how thin or thick, how it smells....
Does it influence your design to the point where you feel limitations when working with paper? Or does the challenge bring about new ideas? Yes! Someone came to the talk in Tokyo and asked me if I liked prism shapes and why, for example, there aren't so many spheres in all those earrings. I think a lot of the engineering problems I faced making these are a lot of the same problems packaging designers would deal with - how to make a three dimensional object out of a two dimensional material. Once I took a millinery course and the basic pattern-making technique I learnt there informed how I went about making these shapes; by subtraction. I think limitations are necessary. I'm not sure if the challenge brings about new ideas or if it's just if you have too much to choose from if would take too long. Like if you went out to buy a dress and seriously considered one at a time every dress in every store everywhere....you'de be tired and dressless at the end of the day. Another limitation I gave myself with this project was that each of the earrings had to be made to suit the ear. The right size but also the same degree of realism as the wooden ear (which doesn't look much like a real ear).
What or who inspires you?
Materials inspire me. Like physically having my hands on materials. I'm really into old craft books; I like the diagrams and the odd projects. Of course the internet is great but lately I like to go to the library and just grab a bunch of books from the shelves, anything that grabs my fancy. Last time I was looking at a book about how to crochet minature gardens, american folk art, how to paint backdrop scenery for the theatre, a book of photographs of jewellers in their studios, the art of tassel making, a lot of 'how to' books I guess. It's pretty funny when everyone else there is quietly studying economics from one book and I'm wildly flicking through a massive stack of any book with pictures. I listen to a lot of music in the studio. This week I'm addicted to Arthur Russell especially this song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjzsnNkL-7o And also by my sister http://www.felicitygleeson.com/ who just has this real flair for making things beautiful. And my friend Nobuko Yamamoto, a book designer who has a really subtle and unexpected way with colour. http://hiroiyomu.blogspot.com/
Do you feel that your cultural surroundings influence you? If so, in what way?
Yep they definitely do. I used to live in a city of neutral colours and textural facades where people are quiet and value slow processes, artisanal crafts, refined designs, quality and expense. And now I live between a jungle and a mall in boom-and-bust-ville where people value speed and convenience and like things that are cheap and throwaway. I could probably blather on and on about the influence that has on me.... and that would just be the part of it that I'm aware of.
And then as well as that I'm still Australian and although I haven't lived there for 8-or-something years if the sun is in my eyes I still put my hand up against my forehead in just the same way that Australian women do (with the thumb wrapping around to the temple) which is just the same way that a lot of Australian store-fronts have an awning on their foreheads. I notice little things like this. Or my Japanese friends tell me I'm more business-minded than I used to be....there are definitely little shifts but I don't think about it too much I guess.
To see more of Anna's work, have a look at her website and her blog.