Artist Feature: Catherine Sinclair

by Cass Art

We were delighted to speak to speak with founder of Cove Design Catherine Sinclair about her practice, inspiration behind her work and she also gives us talks us through the creation of her amazing Concertina piece she worked with us on.

Hi Catherine, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us. First could you tell us a bit about your practice?

I am a knitted textile designer based on the NW coast of the Scottish Highlands. My collection of scarves, blankets and cushions arose from a desire to experiment with materials and technology to create fabrics with a sense of fluidity and surprise. Designed in my studio in Kylesku and made in Scotland from 100% cruelty free merino lambswool and elastic.

 

 

We loved the work you did in the concertina book, could you talk us through the concept behind this and materials used?

Working within the format of a concertina book enables me to see a lot in one space and to observe connections and potential combinations. I particularly like the fact that they are double sided or reversible. Once you have completed the book you can notice a lot of new surprising elements from your drawings by stepping back, looking at the whole piece and also by zooming in to smaller sections and see new potential compositions and design ideas that you hadn’t planned for. Filling a sketchbook is a vital part of my practice and they are as important as my resolved design work.

For this particular book I was reminiscing about treasure hunts we participated in as children. Sometimes we were given a map with paths to follow, other times just clues that led to us finding the next clue. Either way the sense of adventure and the unknown filled us with excitement and anticipation. I liked the idea of playing with the structure of the book by creating pathways - painted and pierced, so that the book could stand on its own, allowing  tiny holes of light to indicate a passageway through. The individual collages were inspired by things found on my wanderings around the paths where I live; treasures such as fallen bark, sea urchins, fishing line, shells etc.

I like to paint papers (with acrylic and ink) - some plain, some patterned and then use scissors to cut out shapes in response to the forms and textures observed in my found objects. I then arrange and layer these papers, often bringing in tape and crayons to add further marks and texture. Sometimes a drawing will happen very quickly and other times I will play about with lots of patterns and shapes before reaching a point where it seems balanced and complete.

I really like that your work is inspired by the textures and colour of Scottish landscape and the connection between adventure and shelter, could you talk about how you achieve this?

Living up in the remote far north of Scotland, it’s fascinating to see how people come to escape their life for a bit, wanting to live more simply and experience an adventure. However whenever we step out from our comfort zones, we are faced with the dilemma of how much of a risk do we really want to take. I’m interested in how individuals deal with the balance of safety and risk and like to push this spirit of experimentation within my own work. The biggest challenge for me is not to settle or become too predictable or safe in my practice. It took me quite a while to realise that I work best when I adopt a more spontaneous way of creating, without too much thought or planning. When accidents occur, there are surprising results and unplanned things just seem to come together. However this only happens when I’m willing to take a chance and try something a bit different, whether that be a new process or material or drawing tool.

 

 

We’ve spoken to a lot of artists/designers over the last few months about how the pandemic has affected their practice from a creative perspective and the answers vary. How has it affected your practice, whether positive or negative.

I don’t think it has really affected the way in which I work. If anything the time and space we had in the first lockdown, in particular, allowed me to be a bit kinder to myself. There is a danger that we put such a great pressure on ourselves to achieve great things when in fact appreciating the simple things can ease this and enable a calmer approach. There will be always be days when you don’t feel inspired to work - don’t beat yourself up about it. Go and do something that you will enjoy for a bit and then come back to it when your head feels a bit more refreshed.

 

Do you have advice for young creatives who are looking at getting their own business up and running?

One of my favourite quotes is, ‘It is meaningless to create something predictable’ by Rei Kawakubo. Celebrate your uniqueness and don’t be overwhelmed by what everyone else is doing. It may take a while but if you can find something that you love making or drawing in your own style, the authenticity of this will shine through and it will be easier for you to enthusiastically share this with others. Be patient and ask other people for their feedback on your work. Pick people who are really interested in art or design, those who are interested in how you work, not just those who say your work is ‘lovely.’ Talking to creatives who work in other disciplines can be very insightful and seek out grants and advice from your local Enterprise Office as they can be excellent sources of funding and contacts.

 

Lastly, after the strange year that was 2020, what has 2021 got on the cards for you? Any projects on the horizon?

This last year we converted a small shipping container into a shop/studio space. We live on the North Coast 500 and also have holiday cabins (https://www.kyleskulodges.co.uk) that we let out from April til October. As my knitted textiles are used to style the interior spaces of these cabins, it seemed like a good idea to also have a space where guests and passing tourists could see the full range of designs, as well as have a glimpse into my creative practice.

Thanks so much for taking to time to speak to us Catherine and best of luck in the coming year.

Please do follow Cove by Catherine Sinclair on Instagram and be sure to visit her website.

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