I don't even know when or how I first stumbled upon the work of artist Alex Falkiner. I just know that the very moment I saw her pieces, her sense of colour-play and creative movement caught my heart and my eyes, and I haven't stopped looking and enjoying and being inspired since that day some years ago.
I currently only 'know' Alex through online interaction; Instagram, emails, etc. We haven't yet met in real life, but I know already that Alex and I have a lot in common, and a lot to talk about. A lot to share and a lot to give. For alongside her work of textile manipulation, of taking pieces of forgotten thread and combining them with found fragments of wire or lost assorted pieces, Alex feels and talks and connects with the act of making, the process of making and creating. She is open with her journey of being an artist, an emerging artist as she calls herself. Perhaps an unfurling artist might be more apt - as Alex talks a lot about Unfurling and discovering and growing and learning through the exploration of creative art-making. You can join in her conversations, or be inspired by her words, through her Instagram feed, her website or her regular newsletters sharing her current thoughts and ways of being.
At this moment, Alex has left a home and is journeying where the artist winds take her. Meeting and connecting with people, and sharing her joyful sense of finding moments in your life away from the busy of everyday. Of soaking up the moments of a crease upon a table cloth, or the shadow made by her morning coffee cup. Her workshops aren't so much a follow the rules, do what I say, they are more a 'here's what I know, here's my technique and my own way of doing this, but let's discover a new way together'. She brings the supplies - the fabric and threads and colour bursting to make your heart sing, and the little collections of pieces that you may walk straight past. Under Alex's eye these pieces will be turned into a treasure, a something to enjoy, to inspire, to amuse. And under Alex's guidance you will see how to take these patches of colour and texture and make something that will lift your heart and inspire your eyes.
What does being a creative mean to you?
Being creative doesn't just mean being an artist, it’s not a thing that some special people are born or blessed with. I believe creativity is in each of us and nurturing it is actually essential if you want to enjoy life and contribute to others. Creativity is a practice, it's about doing things with attention, bringing beauty and appreciation into your life. I’ve also found that it is impossible to separate creativity from play, appreciation and curiosity, they’re all bundled up. I'm interested in expanding our idea of what creativity is and taking the time to see where we’re being creative already in our lives, the creativity that goes unnoticed, part of that is finding words that resonate with you, being able to articulate it. Like the word ‘unfurl’ for me at the moment, I love that word.
How do you find inspiration for new work?
I always begin with material play and some kind of 'problem' in mind. I find if I set myself some quite specific limitations I can really play freely inside of them. Actually, we’ll be experimenting with this in the workshop, finding and creating the ideal conditions you need to play. Asking: what does that space look like for you?
How do you push yourself through a creative slump (e.g. - if the inspiration isn't coming and you have a deadline...)?
The main thing is to get to know your creative slumps, feel them, notice them and then make stuff anyway. I find my slumps are usually money triggered and come in the form of resignation and judgement and crying and wanting to hide or give up. I can be quite dramatic about it all!
To get out of it I ask myself how I would like to feel in this moment and what steps I could take to make that happen. It’s about getting connected with what is important, remembering what I was up to before the slump, refocusing on what lights me up. If it’s a really set-in slump this usually involves a lot of writing and listening to favourite talks, reading tender words. Then I take action! I find a series of tiny actions to get the fruitful stuff happening again.
I often begin something mindless, automated, something that I’ve done a bazillion times, something with no purpose – just making for the sake of making! Once my hands are moving, it gets me out of my head. This is one of the reasons I love making, I focus on working the materials, exploring pleasing colour combinations, mastering or innovating a technique, experimenting – I get lost here! Making always reminds me what I’m good at and what is possible. I feel very different here – cocooned, nourished, enlivened, curious. It’s a good place to be.
Do you prefer to work to your own ideas, or do you like the challenge of a brief from someone else?
I definitely prefer working on my own projects and setting my own (open) briefs. I have this very strong sense that it is important to follow my own trajectory, exploring and uncovering what it is I need to make, seeing what will happen next.
What's your ideal creative day?
Hmm... I’d begin the day in silence. A few pages of writing to clear some space. Laying on the floor daydreaming, a bit of a stretch, then I’d write lots of words on paper, culling them down to words I really enjoy the sound of, ones that feel like home… I’d ponder these words over pancakes and black coffee, keeping warm in the sun and enjoying the sunlight across the breakfast crockery casting shadows on the table. After breakfast I’d lay out some old works, half made pieces, materials and tools out on the table and spend the whole morning arranging, adapting and reworking them, listening to music. On this ideal day I’d have a small nap, followed by a leafy walk and lunch with a good friend and perhaps even an afternoon sea swim! We’d return to my studio for crumbly apple cake and a pot of tea and spend the afternoon chatting and making together. I’d spend an unreasonable amount of time just arranging the fragments and odds and ends on various surfaces…haha!
What's your favourite material to work with?
I mainly work with textiles, I am drawn to them because they are part of life, so accessible and very adaptable. They also bring this sort of comforting, nurturing element to the table, which I love. I think it’s important to choose materials according to your state. If you’re feeling tentative choose materials that are appealing or curious to you… perhaps like a colourful bait to lure your creative self out of hiding. If you feel like a challenge take something you consider to be ‘bad taste’ and see what you can do with it, find it’s potential, find something about it that delights you, transform it into something of value.
Collaboration - do you like working with someone else, or are you best on your own? How do you bring your own voice to collaboration?
I am actually on the look out for a kind of collaboration that would work for me, but exactly what this would look like is still forming. I’ve collaborated with different organisations in the past to create installations, community engaged projects and create workshops. I tend to try and do everything on my own! But I love the support and the momentum of collaboration and know that things can be richer and more far-reaching when the right people get behind it. In a way my workshops are a kind of collaboration, we support each other and learn and build something together…
Are there lots of pieces or work that never makes it to the light of day - or is everything you make a final "good copy"?
I make use of everything! I actually get a real kick out of putting not-quite things or still-being-made pieces in exhibitions! It’s a fine line, it has to be just balancing on the edge… I can’t tell you how liberating it is to exhibit a piece of Easter egg foil! Or a single thread! Haha! And it’s not just liberating for me, I believe the job of artists is to make room, to hold spaces. I get such joy turning up to a gallery with a small Tupperware container full of ‘stuff’ and seeing doubt and concern wash over the face of the person in charge… Then seeing their surprise and delight as careful pinning and thoughtful arranging of that overlooked stuff becomes a beautiful dance of colour and shadow across the wall. It has to be close to failing so the surprise is real! I’m looking to shift our belief of what is possible.
Why is play-based creative making so important to you? And also, why share it with others? Why not keep it to yourself..?
Play-based making always leads me where I want to go, it opens me up, opens up ideas and leads to genuine ‘me’ work. Not the work I think I should make, but the work that I need to make. Play allows me to safely detour from what I know, offers an alternative to the certainty of the predetermined outcome… Play is expansive, but not in a scary way! It is the opposite of forcing and pushing. Play-based making gives me room to unfurl, it takes the pressure off.
Alex is our guest facilitator at the upcoming Gather :: Create workshop. She will be sharing her way of working in a 3hour session "Unfurl ~ small scale conversations with textiles". Bookings for this workshop are essential, and we only have a few spots left - you can find more information, or book here. This is a full day workshop event, with our other guest facilitator Karina Sharpe.
You can see more of Alex's work on her website here, or her Instagram here. Of go and connect via her Facebook page here.
** all images used with kind thanks from Alex Falkiner, via her website.