Q&A from Ness Donelly

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Ness Donnelly

What is your practice? Materials? Processes?

I use hand embroidery but not in a decorative way – it is a way of expressing line. I prefer quite plain and utilitarian stitches on linen or paper. My current work uses linen and drawn thread work. I am interested in altering the structure of the fabric by taking something away and then using stitch in its place or leaving the warp exposed. I also wanted to play around with more sculptural forms; the work is still wall-based but the fabric bends and folds to protrude away from the wall.

I have recently been using walking as a way of gathering ideas, almost like drawing. I am looking and taking photos then back in the studio I study what it is that caught my interest. It has become obvious that I am interested in marks left by something or someone and things that are embedded in the ground. It is taking away and replacing that I am exploring with the textile works and also an element of the hidden; the folds in the linen make it impossible to view the whole piece of cloth.

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What 5 words best describe your work?

Linear, repetitive, tactile, colourful, sculptural

Do you have any design heroes?

The biggest influences on my practice are Sheila Hicks, Sol LeWitt, Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin and Lenore Tawney. I discovered Sheila Hicks and Lenore Tawney at college and they made me see Textile Art in a new and exciting way. Another student on my degree course suggested I look up Sol LeWitt after seeing some drawings in my workspace. I can’t explain what a revelation it was to find him and then Eva Hesse and Agnes Martin. I had no interest in drawing in a representational or conventional way and preferred to explore different ways of making a drawing, so to discover artists that were also interested in this gave me more confidence in what I was doing. I am looking forward to seeing the Agnes Martin exhibition at Tate Modern over the summer.

Where is your studio?

I have a small studio space at home with a nice big window and my work table is right in front of it. I try to make sure I have at least two – three full days a week in the studio, but my mind is never switched off from my work really. I try to stay away from the internet as much as possible during my studio time and just have the radio and dog for company. I am usually working on a couple of projects at a time so there is always something to do, but I tend to go with what I feel like doing at that moment. I might spend all day sewing or a mixture of drawing and sewing or researching the next project. If I feel like I’m struggling a bit I usually go for a walk or bake, both are good for focusing the mind.

Describe in 10 words a typical day in your studio

Sewing, drawing, drinking coffee, eating cake and writing my journal.

getting started on drawn thread work

Are you working on anything unusual at the moment? Commissions? New work?

I have just reached the end of a period of research and the work on display at Waterside Arts Centre is a result of this. I looked primarily at the slow movement and walking as Art. I am in the process of editing out what is and isn’t relevant to my practice. I think it’s always best to gather a lot of information and then start to narrow it down to what’s really important. The work on display for Sale Arts Trail is the start of this narrowing down and exploration of a more sculptural way of working.

Work in progress

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Did you exhibit or visit last years SAT?

No, but I’m looking forward to this year’s trail.

What will you be selling at SAT15? Anything new?

I will have three works on display and these will be for sale.

What venue are you exhibiting at on the trail?

Waterside Arts Centre

Tell us something we don’t know

My love of embroidery was encouraged by my Grandma Florentine. The first thing I noticed whenever I went to her house was a stitched tapestry of the Madonna and child, made by my great Grandmother in Belgium. I must have shown an interest in embroidery because my Grandma would buy me linen dollies to embroider. She would get her amazing sewing box out and teach me all the different stitches. I still have some of her embroidery threads.


Thank you!

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