AIR Interview: Isabella Amstrup
Isabella Amstrup, one of our AIR Cycle 8 residents, has been exploring the meaning of raw material and its value. Coming from a studio based practice in weaving, she has recently shifted her practice to one that exists in the everyday and is centered around listening. During the last few months, she has been questioning what it means to be a maker while spending her time reading, writing, unmaking/unweaving, and engaging in critical dialogue. I had the pleasure of talking with Isabella about how her practice has changed during this residency, and her thoughts on the value of materials.
On her creative background:
“As a child, I spent a lot of time coiled up in blankets and building forts with my brother. We were always finding ways to alter our environment to match the stories we imagined. Growing up in South East Asia, my family traveled a lot to the Philippines and other neighboring countries to visit friends and relatives. We moved a number of times and the homes we lived in spoke of my parents love of travel. It is through their collection of textiles and objects that my love for the story behind things came to be. My grandmother, by way of my mother, also taught me the value of well crafted things, and the importance of style as a form of expression. As two very stylish women, they are completely to blame for my love of clothing and textiles”
On how the residency has changed her practice:
“I came into the program having just finished a M.S. in Textile Design with a focus in weaving thinking I was going to weave my way through the 9 months. I even bought an old loom from a nice elderly couple in Pennsylvania, thinking it would ease my new found resistance to weaving, which it did not. I now recognize the resistance as a hunger for new and unfamiliar forms of making, deeply rooted in a place of questioning what means to be a maker. This is something I have been exploring through reading, writing, unmaking/unweaving, and engaging in critical dialogue and collaborative making with my friend and fellow resident, Mia Daniels.”
On the impact of her work:
“Humans are emotional beings and I believe we all have an innate desire to connect with one another and our environment. I see textiles as a conduit for energetic exchange, human to human, or human to material – as a way to be together or alone together – textiles become the basis for connection through conversation, movement, and touch.”
“I have recently come back to weaving and am really interested in playing with this idea that the act of weaving belongs to everyone. Especially since we have forgotten the sanctity of woven cloth as mass production and opaque supply chains further promote disposability. I think it is time to reclaim weaving as a form of expression and perhaps a form of protest.”
“I am currently experimenting with weaving between people, creating a loom that is anchored from body to body. A taut tension is achieved by pulling away from one another, but in order to advance on the loom each body has to take turns coiling the weaving around themselves and allowing the other to weave until they reach one another. I am also experimenting with anchoring the body to one’s environment and playing with the ways advancing on the loom differs depending on the object or the space.”
On her creative process:
“Though we often think that the value of an object begins with the human ability to mold and shape the material, we forget that materials have a living presence. During the residency, I have spent some time contemplating raw material and its value. This exploration is one that I believe derives from a practice of deconstructing made objects for a number of years, in which I mostly deconstructed used clothing and recontextualized the material in a new garment or weaving. I see the process of deconstructing as an act of uncovering hidden information. The repetitive nature of the act is something I find to be quite meditative and often use as a tool to help me think through ideas. Lately, one of my daily deconstructing activities has been to unweave a small swatch I cut from an old pair of jeans. Sometimes I completely deconstruct the swatch and at other times I leave them as semi-deconstructed sketches.”
On her perfect environment to work:
“It is hard to say what scenario would be perfect for me as I am always surprised by what unexpected situations can bring to my work and how it can shift my perspective. During the course of the residency I have been shifting my practice from a studio practice to one that exists in the everyday and is centered around listening. This was not a direction I set out on, it just sort of happened and in recognizing this path I have slowly been uncovering its importance.”
On what influences her work:
“I am forever inspired by the collaborative and harmonious nature of honey bees, it’s something I come back to anytime I feel stuck. Also I have a weird obsession with watching honey harvesting videos, I find them to be quite calming.”
All photos by Isabella Amstrup.
Check out the video below to see Isabella in action!
You can also see Isabella’s work in-person, and learn more about her work and process this Saturday, May 13th, from 6-8pm during AIR Second Saturdays.