In the studio with Alice Thompson, whose practice depicts fragile and mundane motifs are described through the fabrics. We met with Alice to tell us more about growing up in London, what inspired her to first pursue her artistic journey and unexpected sources of inspiration.
When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?
There wasn’t a specific time I thought I was but I remember my art teacher at school saying choose something you want to spend all day doing. I think after doing my degree I could think of myself as an artist more and more.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?
I am from and was raised in west London, in Shepherds Bush. Being in such an energetic and creative city like London, I was inspired by everything around me and I didn’t really feel restricted from pursuing my own creativity. My secondary school had a great art department and my art teachers spurred me on to continue making beyond school and told me about opportunities, giving me the confidence to do an Art Foundation. As well as art, I also really liked maths and numbers so maybe the number aspect feeds into some of my work now!
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice artistic work?
For sure it was my art teachers at school who inspired me to pursue art. Whilst doing my Art Foundation I knew I wanted to take it further and study to degree level- I was perhaps torn at that point between Sculpture and Textiles. On my BA in Textile Design at Chelsea, we were able to specialise between different pathways (Knit, Weave, Stitch, Print). I have always loved yarns and the endless possibilities with it, making fabric from scratch, so I was really again torn between Knit and Weave. A real turning point was having the opportunity to study in Tokyo on a student exchange programme. In a completely different environment I was surrounded by new sights, textures, colours, infrastructure etc, discovering more about Japan’s history and meeting new people. I studied weaving and Katazome dyeing predominantly. On my return to London I actually chose to specialise in Knit. Still enjoying knitting as much as I do now makes me feel like I’m on the right track?!
What’s the message of your work? Where do they come from?
I did some work about baby clothes and maternity wear. I found it interesting how babies’ clothing is grouped by months, whereas in adults you can have one size fits all. With a sustainable conscience, I want to reduce the amount of clothing bought around these times in our lifetime; for example, seeing how clothes can adapt to our shape using stretch or pleating. For my current stretched works, I tend to use loose tension as I love seeing the physical line of the knitted structure and the intricacies within it, and how knit can take on the shape of objects.
Who & what are your greatest influences?
There are many. I like motion sequence photographers such as Edward Muybridge and Jules Etienne Marey. Seeing how their work evokes so much movement from stills really interests me. Also their subject matter.
An unexpected source of inspiration?
The action of say knitting on the machine is so rhythmic in itself. I’ve have been taking drum lessons over the past year and the coordination required and different structures within music seem sort of parallel.
What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?
I never really think about the audience when creating; I feel that my work is open to interpretation. Maybe they are seen better in the flesh as you can move around the work and see how the fibres combine and change.
What events in your life have mobilized change in your practice?
Meeting and collaborating with people makes me think in ways my mind would never go. There’s still many possibilities within knitting and beyond that I want to test out so I think it’s always evolving.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
It depends what I’m doing. Usually I work in silence with outside noise from neighbouring studios or the small rumble of traffic outside on the street. If I know exactly what I’m doing I’ll put some music on but usually I leave that to my journey home.
Tell us the inspiration behind your works?
I like playing around with different colours and breaking up structures- I think each colour combination, say two colours in stripes and how they are arranged could perhaps evoke a memory to the person viewing them. The ecru and bottle green grid could evoke something pretty ordinary, like school uniform, say ordinary and mundane aspects in someone’s life. The fluorescent pink and lime green could evoke something joyful.
Something in the future you hope to explore?
I am always trying to learn new things within knitting. I would love to learn how Stoll programming works.