Cameron Anne Mason | ARTIST INTERVIEW
Cameron Anne Mason | In Conversation
Foster/White Gallery: What draws you to work in textiles and fabrics?
Cameron Anne Mason: Fabric is a part of our everyday world, from the sheets on our beds to the clothes we wear. Textiles have been with us since ancient times. I just read that archaeologists found twined cord with a Neanderthal tool made thousands of years ago. Decoration and artistry of textiles have been a part of all cultural traditions, from tapa cloth to medieval tapestries.
I am fascinated by these long traditions and the contrast inherent in using non-traditional art-making materials to create fine art. I am also endlessly interested in the marks I can make on fabric with dyes. The dyes I use create a permanent chemical bond with the fiber molecules, changing the way it looks but the hand-dyed fabric remains a flexible plane made up of plant-based and silk-fibers, not masked by the processes but enhanced.
Fabric is fundamental to my process. It is an intimate part of our lives. It protects us from the elements, gives us comfort, and a means to express ourselves. It is sensual and essential. I am drawn to fabric because of its changeability and its constancy. Fabric is the skin that clothes my work.
F/WG: Which processes do you favor working with fabrics?
CAM: I use Procion dyes which are cold-water fiber-reactive dyes, on natural fiber fabrics including plant-based fibers like cotton, linen, rayon, hemp and silks. I use dyes as powders for ice dyeing; in thin solution for immersion dyeing and painting; and also in thickened solution for printing and working with resists. There is a huge amount of flexibility for mark-making using these media.
Early this Spring I took my first foray into Ice Dyeing. The ice retards the reaction of the dyes on the fabrics and the dyes separate into their component chemical colors creating crystalline marks on the fabrics. By folding and manipulating the fabrics before dyeing, I can affect the way the patterns will unfold but there is always a bit of alchemical magic revealed when I wash out the fabrics.
Right now I’m using fern fronds from my garden to make monotypes. I use thickened dye and a sheet of polyester film as my printing surface. I apply the dye to the printing surface with a brush and then lay the ferns over the dye. I then lay the fabric on top of the surface and use my hands to press the fabric into the dye. I can get good results this way because the fabric is flexible and don’t need to use a printing press. Once I have taken a first print, I remove the ferns and take a second (and sometimes a third) print from the pattern left in the dye by the ferns after the first print. These two prints create related “positive” and “negative” images. There is a looseness and flexibility to these prints. Some are quite ephemeral, while others are very specific, and sometimes both results combine in the same print.
I also really like the effects of using a simple resist of flour and water. I apply the resulting paste onto the fabrics, sometimes using ferns or other objects as stencils. Once the fabrics dry overnight, I break up the paste to create cracks and apply thickened dye. Once the dye has set, I wash away the paste (quite a messy process) to reveal the results. The results can look archaeological, as if I have printed fossils onto fabric.
F/WG: What are some of the challenges with creating three-dimensional work using fabric?
CAM: As a sculptor working with soft materials my biggest challenge is gravity. My first consideration is how to stiffen the fabrics to create 3-D forms. For pieces up to about 40 inches tall I use only a stiff, non-woven interfacing available at sewing stores. For anything taller than that, I need to add an inner structure.
Cameron Anne Mason, Willsall, textile, 27 x 10.5 x 5 in.
F/WG: Your sewing technique is marvelous. How do you combine hand stitching and machine sewing in your work?
CAM: The stitching is the last step in the multiple processes I use to create my work. Almost all of the stitching on my pieces is done using a sewing machine. I only use hand-stitching to assemble the final 3-D pieces. I use free-motion embroidery with a sewing machine. I disengage the feed dogs on the machine (the part below the needle that pushes the fabric through the machine) and move the fabric by hand. This allows me to “draw” with the stitch. These “drawn” lines respond to the fabric, or create pattern that reinforces the feel or concept of the piece.
F/WG: Textile work is often associated with folk art and community-centered artwork. Do you draw inspiration from this rich tradition? Where do you depart from it?
CAM: I draw inspiration from the dyeing traditions of many cultures, especially Indonesia and Japan. A community batik workshop is what originally introduced me to dyeing fabric. I use traditional Shibori-binding, folding, and resist techniques from Japan and batik from Indonesia. I am inspired by American folk traditions of quilt-making. All of these traditions run through my work. I have a huge respect for hand-craft and take that kind of care in the details of creating and constructing my work. However, I am equally inspired by contemporary abstract painting. I feel that my artwork straddles the line between contemporary craft and abstraction.
F/WG: You have made many pieces for mass gatherings and celebrations, such as Burning Man. How does your process or conception change when working for different audiences?
CAM: My work for Festivals is both simpler in concept and larger in scale than my work for the gallery. When creating work for Burning Man it is important to have the artwork read from varying perspectives. The installation has to be “read” at a distance to invite the viewer to come closer. As the participant approaches, more detail can be revealed to multiply and intensify the concept. Because Burning Man is immersive and participatory, there is an importance to create works that involve more than the visual. Sound, touch, text, a place to sit and reflect, and encouragement to interact, these all intensify the experience. The environment of the Black Rock Desert is challenging and the landscape itself contextualizes the art.
Cameron Anne Mason, Heartland, textile, 32 x 32 in.
F/WG: Now that your studio is in your home rather than away from your dwelling space, has this shift changed the level of intimacy you have making your work?
CAM: Although we only moved three months ago, I can already feel a difference in my work. We recently moved out of the city to a beautiful spot with a large garden and views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. My studio life is definitely more integrated into the rest of my life. There is more ease in working since, with my studio at home, all of my materials and tools are in one place for the first time.
F/WG: Has sheltering-in-place changed your creative approach? How do you advise others to introduce creativity in their lives during this time?
CAM: The work that I am doing now is about Home, our collective lives along the Salish Sea and how we can live more lightly on the land. For me, it is a specific response about the land I am living on—my garden, my home, my views of the changing water and sky.
This time of sheltering-in-place has only deepened the concept. Home provides safety, but also confinement. It protects us but also keeps us away from friends and family. I have found this time to be both generative and paralyzing in turns. Daily work in the studio keeps me going but I find I can’t think too far ahead. I have had to give myself permission to not know what the future holds, to not know what these finished works will look like. I can only continue to make content and have faith that the final forms will be revealed in time.
Enjoy a look at some of the processes Cameron Anne Mason uses in her work
To learn more about Cameron Anne Mason and see available works please visit www.fosterwhite.com