Fabric artist Anna Warfield explains her work and how she came to it…
E-Interview with Mike Foldes
When did you become interested in art?
I’ve been interested in art for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a creative household with a creative extended family and with creative friends. My mom is one of the most artistic people I know. Amongst the many hats she wore was her industrial embroidery cap. She designed logos and filled orders on hundreds of t-shirts, baseball caps, and bags. From an early age, I remember threads. Lots of threads. Similarly, my dad worked in industrial silk screening. His shop was filled to the brim with canvas, vinyl, and the smell of ink. The father of my best friend growing up was an artist. Walking into their house was like walking into a whimsical dream with cupboards morphing from trees, and not a single hard angle in sight. My aunt; a quilter. My uncle; a woodworker. My cousins; painters. My sister; a dancer. Everyone around me was making art and constantly tapping into their creative selves, which made it a natural thing for me to do as well.
Are others in your family artists, and if so, what genre?
My mom, in particular, explores many areas of creative expression. Recently she has been working with photography and poetry. Growing up, however, I remember her as a painter. She volunteered for set design in community musicals in my hometown. It was miraculous to see her visions come to life and to begrudgingly be a part of that process. In addition to set design, she worked on windows. Her bachelor’s degree is in fashion merchandising and theatrical windows and display cases are her forte.
Where did you study, and what major?
Cornell University, Bachelor of Fine Arts & Bachelor of Science in Communication
Were soft sculptures always your medium of choice?
I’d say fiber has been my medium of choice, not necessarily soft sculpture. My undergraduate career took me on a few tangents when my required coursework had me testing out the breadth of “fine art” media. I went into Cornell working with fabric (making quilted portraits), and I ended my time working with reams and reams of fabric.
Soft sculpture is a more recent and very happy occurrence. It stemmed from a line of thinking where I allowed the works I felt an urgency to make to come into fruition, and then I’d think, “okay, what’s next? Where do I go from here? What is needed?” Initially, I was making fabric books, then there it was an uptick in scale, a shift away from the book form, now I have arrived at soft sculpture.
What prompted you to make soft sculptures?
It stemmed from working with the book format. The content I filled the books with was heavy and needed a literal softness to lighten it and to counteract the mood. So, I shifted into fibers. From there, the more successful books became sculptural in themselves. I acknowledged that, and as I exhausted iterations of the book form I began to naturally shift into soft sculpture.
No, Don’t Stop
How do you approach a project? Drawings, first, then cutting/sewing, etc.?
Ideas come to me pretty unpredictably.
The piece, “No, Don’t Stop” came to me in a half sleep after some late night Pad Thai. I had a frustratingly light sleep that entire night and words kept racing through my head in a sort of urgent barrage. They kept me up, and at some point, I had “no, don’t stop. stop, no don’t” flashing before my eyes. I rolled over, reached for a scrap of paper on the chair next to my bed and ugly-scrawled the words at about 4 am. And about a month later I had a bed-sized book to show for it.
When an idea does come, I make sure to jot it down and I then think on it some more. Sometimes a lot more. I think on where it’s coming from, how to execute it best, how it will read, and how to enhance the read I’m interested in. It’s a process. I have a lot of scraps with ideas that aren’t full-fledged works because I haven’t given them enough think-time.
After the jotting and thinking through a piece, I plan. I’ve never considered myself a numbers person, but there’s certainly a lot of math involved with working in fabric. And coupons. Lots of coupon clipping. I tend to plan my approach in order to maximize efficiency in the making process. In my most recent piece, for instance, I was like “okay, I have about 130 letters to cut out, let’s make each cut count.” It was a matter of calculating the exact size each letter could be to fit a frame while considering spacing between letters and words and general legibility. Then taking the time to cut an exact rectangle that my letters could be no larger than. I then freehand cut each letter. For that piece, I had to cut out the words “use your” ten times. It was a treat to finally move on to the letter “T” which has no curves to slip up on.
Ten Commands-detail, Use Your Hips, left, and Use Your Tongue
What are you working on now?
I just finished a series of quilt block squares titled, “Ten Commands.” They are ten bedroom commands to use with a sexual partner. I have a quilted car cover I’ve been working on for about a year now. It could be another year before it’s finished. I looking into translating my books into zines. And I am presently thinking through a few projects based on velvet, text, touch, and texture.
Any shows in the works?
I have a solo show in at The ARTS council of the Southern Finger Lake’s Evelyn Peeler Peacock Gallery in the fall as well as a solo show in spring 2020 at the Broome County Arts Council. I just had work accepted into the Site: Brooklyn’s “Body” show, as well as a piece accepted into Schweinfurth Art Centers “Made in NY 2019”.
I plan to keep making work. I have so many ideas circulating it’s just a matter of getting them out of my head and forcing them through my hands. My goal for 2019 is a new piece or suite every two months (there’s a hefty amount of labor involved in my practice). I’m applying to residencies this year to give myself the space to execute works and am trying to strike a healthy balance between creating and the entrepreneurial aspects of being an artist.
MAY 2018: Artist’s Statement
Anna was recently accepted into Schweinfurth Art Centers “Made in NY 2019” juried group show, and also was awarded a solo exhibition with The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes through the Evelyn Peeler Peacock Gallery.
About the interviewer:
Mike Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.cc. You can read more about him in About Us.