Conversations with the Makers

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

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Conversation with Meg Viney, Australia

My practise involves a relationship with Nature – I love gathering her cast-offs, and, before they decompose, simply transform them into new materials with a life of their own. I have always had an interest in containment – a concept that provides emotional, spiritual and physical security.  My vessels reference the fact that all living entities emerge from something that contains and nurtures the gestating embryo from conception to emergence – egg,  cocoon, uterus, bud, seedpod, shell - the reality is Universal – the inference, the certainty of containment. Many of my figurative works I perceive as vessels.  People are containers of life, of love, of one another.  Whilst vessels may be containers of things, they are, more importantly, harbingers of emotions, of spirit, of life itself.


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

MEG VINEY (MG) Not consciously, although I was always looking at things around me and making from the environment.


CWTMWhat was your first experience with making art?

MG Grandma's roses'.  My grandmother had been a beautiful painter. I had a dream, that I was in her rose garden. The dream involved all my senses (the feel of the rust on the gate, the squeak as it opened, the feel of the buffalo grass under my feet).  When I woke, I seamlessly began to make these boots, the felted laces of which were hooked around gold painted thorns.  They ended up featuring in an exhibition and went on to become an image used by a Professor of Architecture in his lectures.  The thorns were painted gold, because it is the thorns that teach us, not the pretty flowers.


CWTM Do you have a dedicated studio?

MG Oh yes, very much so, and it is my sanctuary. 


CWTM Can you describe a typical day?

MG I am not in my studio every day because I teach food as well as art and am quite involved in community.  A creative day, however, is pure joy.  I quickly get into a zone and am fully immersed until it is time to pay attention to the necessities.


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

MG That was the comment made by my supervisor and the other lecturers when I was doing my Masters Degree.  I believe that everything is achieved as a result of process.  The outcome is the result of process, and thus, finally, becomes equally important.


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

MG I always have a concept before starting a body of work.  This is accompanied by what I call my 'visual vocabulary', involving scale, materials, colour (environmental), a palpable spirit or essence...  The element of uncertainty occurs as the result of process.  Ben Shahn talks about 'harnessing the inner critic' and this is now innate to the way I work.  This is a triadic process in which the artist, the work and the inner critic 'dialogue' with one another until the work is clearly complete.

Thus I learn as I make, and work with the piece as it undergoes this triadic process.  I usually work in a series (see 'Figures in Contemplation') and each figure weaves its way into a personality with me as the guide. Uncertainty is a fundamental aspect of this method.


CWTM Any indispensable tools or equipment?

MG My hands

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

MG See above

CWTM How do you know when to “stop” – when do you consider a piece actually finished?

MG See above

CWTM Your greatest source of inspiration is….

MG The environment.


CWTM Favourite quote?

MG From a Canadian Professor who said 'I think of my students not as vessels to be filled, but as candles to be lit'.  That is my teaching philosophy.


CWTM When do you do your best creative thinking?

MG I am always looking and thinking.  Best?  Probably when I am working on a series, and immersed in process.


CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

MG The collaboration innate in working with my hands and natural materials.


CWTM Best advice you’ve ever received?

MG My supervisor, Mark McDean, before I began my Masters, said 'listen to  the authority of your own voice, and obey the power of your own creativity.'


CWTM Worst advice you’ve ever received?

MG 'Work big, go huge'.  I had a go and hated it.


CWTM Best part of your day?

MG Being in 'the zone'.


CWTM Who would be 6 people that you would invite to dinner?

MG Emily Dickinson, Antony Gormley, C.S. Lewis, Aunty Joy Murphy, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela


CWTM What inspires your creativity?

MG The transformative process of gathering materials discarded by Nature, and, with a few simple procedures, releasing the beauty of the fibres that are concealed by the living plant, to be revealed in a new form.


CWTM What are you excited about right now in the world of textile art?

MG For me, as I get older, reaching back and incorporating techniques I learned as a young artist, into my current work.  For example, weaving, but using plant fibres instead of threads (see detail)


 CWTM You’d be lost without…

MG Bill


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

MG Explore more possibilities in the studio.


CWTM Your favourite luxury in life? 

MG Living it.


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

MG A little.  I have a website, for which I am grateful, and search engines are wonderful, but I don't use it as a creative tool.


CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

MG The process of creating and watching the transformation of nature's materials into artforms.


CWTM Is it important for us to be recognized by the art world and if so, how can we help affect that change?

MG It is a privilege to be recognized.  The work that people like you do, Glenys, makes an enormous difference.  You are the link for so many people.


CWTM What is next for you?

MG Work for Lyrebird Hill Sculpture event in November and work for Stanthorpe Arts Festival.