Revealing the creative process: Q&A with maker Alice Hume

Our current Craft Space exhibition, Wild Water, is by Portsmouth-based artist and former Aspex volunteer, Alice Hume.

Inspired by her studio location at the Hotwalls, Old Portsmouth (the recently transformed artillery barracks now house thirteen work spaces for both new and established artists), Hume has explored our evolving relationship with coastal landscape, playing with colours and materials that reference the constantly changing nature of the sea.

Aspex Volunteer Jess sat down with Hume to find out more about the exhibition's influences, her creative process, and how her immediate environment affects the way she works.


What is it about textiles that fascinates you?

AH: "I think it’s the texture and playing with different colours, I always thought I was going to do printed textiles at university, but weaving really grabbed me. You’re making your own fabric and it’s three-dimensional, and you can play with so many different materials. When I went to Winchester School of Art I got to try different textile pathways, and I’d never done weaving before so I had a go, and thought “Wow, this is amazing, I love this!” We had big looms where you learnt how to make the warp, thread it up, and weave whatever you wanted onto it".

Do you see a difference between “textiles” and “textile art”?

AH: "I definitely see a difference. I find that some textiles are more geared towards industry - for fashion or interiors – so it’s wearable and you can use it. Whereas textile art is combining fine art and textiles, like making a wall hanging, you still put it in the house but it’s more like putting a painting on the wall".

Do you find it’s often the spaces you’re working in that inspire you?

AH: "Definitely, before I got the studio my work used to be very Native American with triangles and geometric shapes, but since being here I’ve used more of the greens and the colours of the sea, and it’s more floaty, abstract almost".

Looking at your Wild Water pieces, I can recognise their coastal influences and the colours recall my own experience. How do you go about choosing your palette?

AH: "I play around with different yarns, I put the balls next to one another and choose which ones I like together, and then I just go for it and let the designs come through. Sometimes I draw it and pre-plan, but I’ve started to realise that it’s better to just experiment and let it come out".

In the past you have mentioned the importance of handcraft - why do you believe so strongly in this?

AH: "I think weaving is such an old skill where you’re using your hands and there’s nothing digital about it, and it’s such a shame now that we’ve got these jacquard looms where you put a design in the computer and it weaves it out. It’s great for fashion and clothes but I still think it’s important to keep the skill of weaving and using your hands as tools".

It’s interesting that rather than reject mass-produced materials, however, you incorporate them into your designs – juxtaposing plastic and linen, why are you trying to bring them into conversation with one another?

AH: "I just want to make weaving more contemporary; most people think of weaving as a tapestry in a church or as a carpet, but I want to experiment with using different materials to show you can weave with anything. I recently went to the New Forest and just took a spool of twine and made it there, you can weave with anything. I collected all different bits of bark and made the frame in the forest as well with parts I was just coming across. I was sat on a bench making it in the space. I left it in the garden for a while and when it rained all the colours came out and it looked really cool. I was going to leave it in the forest because it looked really nice".

To me, with the bigger looms there's something very physical about how you work, you're noticeably taking up space and performing an action, does that make you feel more connected to your work?

AH: "Yeah definitely, I guess if you were going to do a painting and you’d made the canvas as well you may feel more connected, but with weaving you’ve got to make the warp and make sure it’s all correct before you even start. If some of the strings are twisted, or some parts are tighter than others then the weave will come out wonky. You can just feel it". 

How is the studio [Hotwalls Studios] as a space to work in?

AH: "It’s really nice, if you get creative block you can walk to the beach and have some time out, or I’ll go next door and see what they’re up to. We have meetings every month, I’ve just done some dying with Alex next door, from acorns and rusty nails, I was experimenting with natural dyes. That’s the first yarn that I’ve dyed as well. It’s so clever you just take acorns, blend then boil them. 

It feels like an art community, everyone’s different ages and some people having been doing this for years, some people have only just started, it’s a real mixture. People are using different medias - for example, I didn’t know anything about dyeing before moving here".

How has the studio changed the way you work?

AH: "I used to do my work at home, but I’d get distracted all the time so having a studio and a space to just focus and work has really helped; I’ve never done so much work. I want to make the most of it, we get the studio for about three years. I found out they were making them so I applied, put together a proposal where you write about your work and your business, some photos. I sent in pictures from my university Native Beard collection".

Can you talk me through a day in your studio?

AH: |It’s very different, it depends what day of the week it is. Today, for example [Wednesday], it’ll be really quiet. I’ll just crack on with my work and know that I can do my work and not get disturbed. But on weekends there’s lots of families about, people walking their dogs, they come in, have a little chat. It’s a really nice balance of getting my work done in the week and then selling on the weekends".

How was it volunteering at Aspex?

AH: "It was really good, it’s a really nice space and I love the Shop, plus the exhibitions they put on are really contemporary so it’s quite different to other galleries where it’s just paintings, plus they’re really supportive of artists. Whilst there, I worked behind the Info Desk, answering phone calls and talking to people. It was great meeting people, other artists, getting involved, finding out what they do".

What has been the most creatively rewarding thing you’ve done so far?

AH: "There was a lady called Cynthia who’s 93 and she came to my studio, she asked me to teach her how to weave, so my dad made her a big loom and I went round to her house and I taught her. I really enjoy that, the workshops are great, I run three about once a month".


Don't miss Wild Water

The exhibition will be on show in the Gallery's Craft Space until Sunday 4 February.