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Studio Holder Spotlight - Polly Pollock in Studio 29

Describe your work.

I describe my work as basketry; but I don’t always make “baskets” in the sense that most people understand baskets to be. Possibly, along with other contemporary basketmakers working today, my work explores, experiments with, and challenges what is understood by “Basketry”. I feel basketry has a somewhat limited and probably negative image, but actually it’s a really creative, versatile and exciting medium to work in. As well as being a highly valid discipline on its own terms, it also has lots of connections with textiles - it’s 3D weaving. But also, basketry when worked on a large scale, can be sculptural; when worked with very fine materials can become jewellery.

My work is rarely functional in any conventional understanding of basketry : I work with paper, paper which comes in different forms - sheets cut into strips, paper yarns, and, sometimes, whole sheets of paper cut and assembled/sewn together. Mostly I work with paper in the relative neutral colours it comes in, but sometimes I dye and colour the paper I work with.

I rarely make exactly the same thing twice, but I do make versions/variations of the same thing

What’s your favourite piece of your own work and why?

That’s a difficult question to answer - it should be something I’ve made very recently - I’ve got two “works in progress” - which sounds grander than it is - I’m actually quite liking both of them at the moment, but I’ve still a fair bit of work to go on both of them.

Of completed pieces of work, I think my favourite pieces are two pieces I made a couple of years ago. Both these pieces of work relate to a theme which I keep dipping in and out of - it’s about journeys, footprints and shoes. Why are these pieces favourites? Partly because it’s a thread of interest which I continue to find interesting and inspiring, but also because from a formal basketry point of view, shoes are items of basketry which occur in different forms around the world, are made using a wide range of traditional basketry materials and techniques, but are not what immediately comes to mind when asked “what do you think of when asked to describe a basket”. I like that, and I also like the form of the shoe, the footprint it can leave, and what that can represent - it can be both finite and conclusive, but also something that is endlessly ongoing.

What do you listen to when you’re working in the studios?

Radio 4. I’d love to listen to more music while I’m working - I want a bigger iPhone with more memory (Apple are you paying attention???), I want a MiniRig - a wireless speaker system which one of my daughters has and is brilliant - then I could more easily listen to the Spotify account she gave our family for Christmas ……. and better WiFi at Kingsgate ……….

What are you going to be showing off during Open Studios?

I’m not sure really. I’ve a lot of inspirational basketry around my workshop; and also a lot of samples which relate both to my own work and to the teaching I do. I think this year I will attempt to have less distractions in my studio from my own work. I do a lot of teaching, which is partly responsible for so many samples and and examples, but which provides the backbone of my income, so finding time to make my own work is a constant challenge. This year I would love visitors to Open Studios to be less distracted by all the basketry I have around me in my workshop, which I find very interesting and inspiring, but so that this year the focus is on my own work!

Who else in the studios should people go and see, aside from you?

That’s a hard question! As I have an interest in paper, Lucy Baxandall’s studio is very intriguing - I pass on a lot of ‘waste' materials from my own work and my teaching to Lucy (cane, rush, willow, hemp, flax, sisal, jute and paper yarns) which she transforms into paper; I have some of the products of this waste transformation waiting to use, so I see a kind of connection with the paper she makes; I also love her work. I’d also always visit Josie Warshaw's studio - we’ve been friends for years and our children went through school together - much of Josie’s work stems from her life and what’s going on for her at any given time and I love that aspect of her work. I’d also never miss Naori Priestley's studio - I find it so aesthetically pleasing, but more importantly I love the dark humour of her work; Tom Wilkinson’s work is always fun and interesting in a very different way - a mix of art, ingenuity and engineering;

and Chisato Tomabayashi's books ……..

There’s just so much variety of work to see at Kingsgate Workshops!

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