Conversation with fellow art student Steve Ward, 20th March 2012
SW. Have you always had an artistic vein in your body?
DF. No I haven’t always had a creative vein in my body. When I was in infant’s school, we never had any painting or drawing lessons, but on a Friday we were allowed to take our own toys in and I took some paints. So, I painted the palms of my hands and put them down on the paper. The teacher hauled me up in front of the whole class and made me stand on a chair, hold my hands up and absolutely laid into me for being so messy and dirty. So, after that……….. no, I can’t paint, but I did have a prize for needlework in Junior school but my Mother said that they had to give me a prize for something.
SW. So when did it happen?
DF. When did it happen? It happened a few years ago. I deliberately set out to challenge myself. I thought, right. I’d challenged myself in one direction by giving up work and moving to a different location but I wanted to continue challenging myself. I was told that I was rubbish at art so never did any at school. But yet both my daughters are artistic so I’m thinking they’ve got to get it from somewhere, have I any ability? It was my younger daughter, she encouraged me and said ‘Why don’t you go and find out’, and I did!
SW. What about traditional skills like painting and drawing.
DF. No. No. No, a fear of painting and a fear of drawing. I did a few crafty things when I was younger, like dressmaking for the kids and knitting for the kids that sort of thing. I always liked going round museums and art galleries but never knew what I was looking at. I was one of those people who said ‘I know what I like and I know what I don’t like.’ but not having any comprehension of what was behind the work.
SW. Oh, well done! Well, another linking question here, your work is three dimensional and highly skilled and processed based has this always been the case.
DF. Yes. I think it is often the research and the process rather than the outcome.
SW. Yes. After today’s presentation I got a better idea of what your work was about, but….. um, I got a feeling that the actual hands on and the making was as important as the final outcome.
DF. It is. It is. Yes. And often I have got no idea how it’s going to turn out until I get into the process.
SW. That’s scary and exciting all at the same time.
DF. Yes. It is with my degree show coming up! I’ve got half an idea, but I don’t know how it’s going to end up.
SW. That’s very brave. This is the way the lecturers would like me to work. Where your work informs the outcome rather than you and not having any preconceived ideas about the work.
DF. I think it’s because I’ve never been able to draw or paint, therefore I haven’t an expectations of myself, because if I thought, right I’ve got to draw that and it’s got to look like …. a still life and if it doesn’t, I would be so disappointed with the results.
SW. Yes again your work is very much grounded in the participation of others, is this to get a message or concept across or is it an aid for your inspiration.
DF. No. I don’t have think I have got a message I want to get across, I’m not a campaigner, or a pioneer. What I do want is an engagement with my work and wonder how the viewer’s own life fits into it. At the moment it’s about identity through the family, my place in the family in the largest context, not just Mum and Dad and grandparents. This all stems from the fact that my maiden name was Ball and I was always told, ‘Oh you come from the Ball family’ and everybody else was dismissed, and, of course, each generation you go back the Ball just name gets more and more diluted. So I just wanted to place myself amongst my other ancestors who aren’t named at all.
SW. I have only known you for three years. Colour does not seem to be an aspect of your work, are texture and processes more important?
DF. Yes. I love texture.
SW. Yes I do as well. I loved those paper prints.
DF. Yes. That’s not to say that it won’t change. I mean I’m not dismissing colour………… at all.
SW. But are we still going back to the early thing about not being able to draw and paint that you had such a bad start with or perhaps it’s not a conscious thing. I’m sorry I know it’s your interview, but I look at your work which is exquisite but I’m also thinking there are some fabulous coloured wool about.
DF. Yes. Why don’t I use those? Well one reason is that I didn’t want colour to take away anything from the actual stitch, because it’s the formation of the stitch that I enjoy, the feeling of the needles in my hand, my body moving and each stitch in like a marker in time. Also I have chosen that material because it’s dishcloth cotton which is a very domestic…… material, very lowly, very……very humble and it reflects my background and to shake it up a bit, give it a different story.
SW. I, well I read a bit of your Blog, about unravelling the ball of wool as you walked around the park, which picked up all the bits and detritus. I thought that was a fabulous idea. I could connect with that with my work, where you are taking traces from………. from places and using them in your work.
DF. Yes. That walk round the park was a metaphor for my life. I walk around the park quite often and just like life you pick up all this rubbish, don’t you. Some of it is pristine and some of it is really dirty, just like my life.
SW. Well this has been answered but is your work about yourself or your environment.
DF. It is about myself, but….but it could be equally be about someone else. I’m not……..obviously it is personal, but I don’t feel any need to express my deepest darkest thoughts.
SW. Is there a particular process you adopt in coming up with certain ideas……..is, knitting always going to feature in your art practice, or can you see this developing in some way?
DF. No….no, I was a bit worried because in my second year I did a knitting piece, and I’ve come back to it because I love it so much.
SW. Well stick with it.
DF. Yes, but I was thinking that I’m repeating myself yet people use oil paint and canvas for their expression, so I shouldn’t be afraid of using these materials and of course the more I do the more confident I will get and the more experimental I’ll become and the more interesting the outcome will be.
SW. So you’ve been knitting for quite a while.
DF. Yes…….yes. Many years but not expressively.
SW. I was fascinated when um…… you asked me to pick a stitch and then a number and um…….. I thought this was great, that um……. not having control, your passing that responsibility onto the viewer or whoever it is and then you are adding this into your art work. I was intrigued by that.
SW. What artist have influenced you?
DF. What artist have influenced me? I like Eva Hess, because she does, she did lots of hangings, great big long hangings. I enjoy work that I can walk round and preferably ones you can touch, and I think with textiles that’s important. I don’t mind…….. I encourage people to touch my work, because the….. that leaves traces of them on my work, which is lovely.
There’s Hanna Lamb who also does a lot of textile work, and she hangs her work outside and lets the elements take their course, the process of decay is important to her, I love that.
And Ed Hallahan, he uses yarn, and he makes wooden structures to hang his work from. And there are lots more. Um……. lighting is very important to me and I have really got to look at in the next few weeks, because lighting my work is crucial.
SW. I notice from the work last year, it was hung from the window. Were you happy with the position of that?
DF. No, no, I was far happier with it the way it was hanging in Tactile Bosh and it should have been hung in a dark space, with the shadow of the work, so you could actually see the textures and stitches in a shadow of the work, on a black background, Yes that was a totally unsuitable place for the work. It was a compromise.
SW. So that’s it then, thanks.