Conversations with the Makers

An array of questions to fibre/textile artists and their answers.

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Conversation with Marta Madison, Australia


CONVERSATION WITH THE MAKER(CWTM) Did you always envision life as an artist?

MARTA MADISON(MM) I’ve had many ideas of what I wanted to be but since I was 7 years old, I’ve loved to draw. It was just a matter of finding ways to combine this along with my other interests such as dancing, music, writing, and teaching.

CWTM What was your first experience in making art?

MM My early drawings were big, busty ladies, which is funny because I am not like that at all. My mom always let me scribble and draw on whatever paper was available; she too was a fashion illustrator in the 40s. When I was 14— of my own volition— I enrolled in a high school that had a two-hour-a-day art program! It was phenomenal and I have no idea where I heard about it. I consider myself incredibly lucky and brave, not only to have had the initiative to enroll on my own, but to be mentored by three fabulous, eccentric gents who were so ahead of their time. Bless you Mo, Herb and Ed.

CWTM Do you have a dedicated studio?

MM At the moment I am part of TWT Creatives Precinct in St Leonards NSW. My studio is Cre8tiv Studio, and I am part of a group of six who have various interests, from oils to canvas to printmaking. I live across the road and the area is converting unused office space to house artists, it is fantastic and a stroke of luck that I am part of this.

CWTM Would you consider your art making to be more about the process than the outcome?

MM I recently had an article published in Living Now Magazine dealing with interesting ideas around creativity and the brain and what goes on during the act of creating. Going with the flow’ is an old axiom and has an element of truth to it. Try going against the flow, and boy, you’ll know the pain it causes! Flow for me happens when I am immersed, occupied; I seem to float above what I am doing in a state of meditation, but with a bit more energy. I will sing, or listen to music while I am felting, but also observe what I am thinking: I subconsciously work through issues in my mind, talking with myself, stepping back, observing both the piece I am working on and my attitude to it. My self-talk will go something like: ‘Is this colour scheme appealing? Is the scarf the right length and proportion? Have I added too much of something here or there?’ I watch for self-critical and sabotaging dialogue because, well, it serves no purpose.

CWTM Do you agree that a small element of uncertainty about the finished look is what makes the process of creating so enticing?

MM Yes! I create things because I enjoy it; not to please others. Once I start creating for others, I lose my focus and my vision. I have always subscribed to the notion of attraction, rather than promotion. So even if I stuff something up, it’s more about the process than the outcome for me.

A CWTM ny indispensable tools or equipment?

MM HB pencils. That is where everything starts. Oh, and a good blade to sharpen said pencils. And good quality merino tops.

CWTM Do your pieces start with a planned course of action or are they more spontaneous?

MM I am an incredibly visual person. I lay awake before falling asleep and literally LIVE the piece, going over and over it in my mind. It helps me sleep. Because imitation is one of the foundations of learning, practicing the drawing or painting or felting in my mind embeds the process and helps me execute the piece. I doodle ideas and often look to nature, photographing it for later reference as well.

CWTM How do you now when to ‘stop’, when do you consider a piece is actually finished?

MM As the Spirit invokes me, I follow. It’s done when I exhale.

CWTM Your greatest source of inspiration is?¶

MM Anything beautiful; mostly women.

CWTM Favourite quote?

MM “An artist is not paid for her labour, but for her vision”. James Whistler

CWTM When do you do your best creative thinking?

MM Bedtime, just before sleep. During the creative process. When the inspiration hits me, I will mull for hours.

CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

MM The greatest benefit for me overall is the deep sense of contentment that I feel during and after working on an art project. I feel so complete, so buoyant. I know from science that what has really happened is that I have undergone fundamental and very healing changes to my physical and emotional being, not the least of which is my responses to stress: I’ve decreased my heart rate, my blood pressure, my rate of breathing, and my muscle tension. Underlying this is the fact that, when creating or crafting, I have actually entered a state of meditation, which is a type of ‘mental exercise’ that regulates attention and emotions, while improving well-being. I know that I feel better about myself and my place in the world, and this ripples out to all areas and people in my life. In fact, there is evidence that, on cellular levels, changes to gene expression have been revealed as a result of the relaxation response. That’s deep!

Most importantly, after a particularly satisfying session in the studio or sitting on the beach drawing, I always have the best sleeps. I put this down to fulfilling my life’s destiny to create; and by not bottling up things or denying myself creative expression, I am living my life’s purpose.

CWTM Best part of the day?

MM I love the holy hour just before dusk, as the day descends into the evening; the birds call; the light is beautiful and a sacred silence descends.

CWTM You’d be lost without¶

MM My husband, my friends, my studio, my art talent, my ability to play.

CWTM What would you do with a few extra hours each day?

MM Exercise more! Finish up all the writing and ebooks that are busting to get out of my head.

CWTM Your favourite luxury in life?¶

MM Spas, massages.

CWTM Has the advancement of computers and technology impacted your work?

MM In a good way: research, social networking, invitations to openings and promotional activities. Bad: I regret not having social media to become a more connected artist 30 years ago. I would have had a different career path altogether.

CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

MM Sharing and giving joy. Living my purpose. Learning new felting techniques. Knowing I can really draw hands and feet now. I don’t how or why this has eventuated but it’s wonderful for me to experience.

CWTM What is next for you?

MM Several fashion events to highlight my scarf collection. Two books about my felted scarves (view here) and illustrations have been published and will be available to purchase from my website in December. And I have two new ideas for silk scarves that I am keen to finish for a client. A happy long Christmas break awaits!