Calico, felt, slate
H. 11 x w. 30 x d. 22 cm
About Caroline Burgess
"I am a textile artist based in North London. I specialised in textiles on my art foundation course at the City Literary Institute in London and recently completed the Advance Textiles Diploma there. My love of textiles started at an early age as my mother made all our clothes and I was surrounded by swathes of fabric and beautiful reels of thread. I have a particularly strong memory of a scrap of teal coloured velvet which my mother had saved from her own favourite childhood dress."
"Texture is an essential feature of my sculptural practice. My childhood in the Kent countryside and summers spent on beaches in Cornwall have inspired my sculptures. From the undulating lines drawn in the sand by the ebbing tide to the crisp folds of the leaf of the hornbeam as it unfurls in early spring, I attempt to capture the beauty of the irregularity of these natural patterns. I use the traditional shibori pole wrapping technique to create my textured fabric which is steamed to fix the creases. The most exciting part comes when I remove the fabric from the pole after steaming to reveal how the textures have taken and then can consider how the piece, working with and against the natural will of the fabric, can be shaped into a sculpture."
"My colour palette is limited to monochrome as the play of light on the textured surface forms a vital part of the final sculpture. The crisp shadows cast by the folds of a sculpted piece of cotton organdie for me are sublime. I want to recreate that feeling of lightness and vitality that I get when walking along a deserted beach in the winter sunlight; that sense of beauty that transcends all the mundanity of everyday life. I capture and exploit the subtle imperfections in texture that emerge through the wrapping process. It is these irregularities in the folds that form the essence of my sculptural work."
Caroline Burgess completed her Advance Textiles Diploma at City Lit, London, in 2022. Her work quickly received much attention from an international group of curators including her work in online features as well as through exhibitions including our open submission exhibition 'The Wild Collective' at OmVed Gardens, 2022. In 2023, her work was exhibited in the London Group Open, Wales Contemporary, 'Piece by Piece' at City Lit Insitute, the Royal West of England Academy and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Her work is held in many private collections.
What has been your biggest achievement in your artistic career so far?
C: Being selected for the RA Summer Exhibition this year (2023) has to be the biggest achievement of my artistic career. It was such an excitement being part of Varnishing Day. To have my delicate sculpture sold, and then viewed by so many in that beautiful space was just wonderful.
Tell us more about your recent series, when did you begin this and how has it developed?
C: My most recent series is my Calico Collection. The three works in the Winter Online Exhibition are part of this series. I started this collection at the end of last year with ‘Stillness’, the three cylinders on show here.
My earlier sculptures are made from cotton organdie, a very fine and delicate material, which can hold small forms beautifully. I wanted to make larger pieces so started experimenting with calico and was delighted with how the calico held the cylindrical form. This first success led me to develop larger pieces like ‘Serenity’ which involve more complexity of structure allowing the light to play on the textured surface and create exactly what I am striving for in terms of the balance of light and deep shadow.
I aim for the work to emanate both strength and fragility and the calico appears to do just that. The seeming solidity of the calico sculptures lead many to think that ‘Stillness’ and others are ceramic which adds to the appeal.
How do you decide when a form works? What are you looking for in a final piece?
C: I absolutely love developing the form of the sculpture. Part of my sculptural process involves steaming the fabric to create the texture and this results in the piece having some natural curves and form of its own. I can’t wait to see which way the calico wants to take me and at the same time discover what I can persuade it to do.
I am looking for a strong and yet fragile form with clear curves in the main structure whilst having sufficient variation in surface to enable the light to animate the whole piece. So how do I decide when a form has worked? After a few hours or maybe days of experimentation I will settle on a form which seems to fulfil these criteria. I will place the piece in a prominent position on my desk and will view the work over the course of several days, changing viewpoints, sometimes making adjustments, sometimes not, undoing changes then maybe putting them back again, taking photos until I am finally happy with the overall form and commit to stitching the sculpture into place.
Some pieces of course never make the final cut. A subtle difference in the way I created the texture in the fabric may result in a partial surface area that does not respond in a pleasing way to the light. Or a curve in the structure refuses to maintain its form in the way I desire. This is the challenge of the process which gives so much satisfaction when everything settles into that elusive near perfect form.
Do you listen to anything whilst you work?
C: It has to be the songs of Leonard Cohen or the music from the film ‘The Broken Circle Breakdown’ - a heartbreakingly sad film. Nothing else will do. Whilst there’s a melancholy undertone all the songs are mellow and gentle allowing me to become fully absorbed in the sculptural process.
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