Work in Progress: Claire Le Pape

The Work in Progress studio space at the TAC Manhattan location is filled with color. Despite the rainy weather, the front window space is bathed in natural light, highlighting the brilliantly colored materials that inhabit Claire Le Pape’s workspace. A few of Claire’s finished pieces hang in the window, accentuating the rich neon colors of the nylon fiber that she uses.

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Claire Le Pape is a French artist and fiber craftswoman who the Textile Arts Center is excited to host as the Work in Progress Resident for the month of June. She grew up in the North-West of France, and while she is currently practicing in New York, she is based in Bordeaux where she operates from a studio in her home.

As we chat, Claire works on her loom, slowly and precisely forming a new piece. Throughout our chat, it became clear that textile arts have played an important role in her life starting at a very early age.

“I don’t remember not making things. I guess since I was a child I was always drawing or playing with paper, sewing garments for my dolls, making a lot of stuff with reclaimed cardboard or anything I could find. I loved to go in the craft supplies shop to buy chenille wire and all those kinds of things.”

Claire tells me that the aspect of color is very important to her work. She notes that, as a child, she loved looking at the vast range of paint samples that she would find at the craft store.

“I try to recall that childhood sensation when I’m using the colors.”

In fact, she noted that the imagery of the paint sample booklets that intrigued her as a child became an inspiration for her project in which she creates one square piece of woven material during the initial hour of her studio practice each day.

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As Claire began to grow into her artistic career, she attended the highly competitive Duperré Applied Arts School in Paris, France where she studied Textile Design with a focus on embroidery. During her time at school, Claire explored many different art forms including engraving, tapestry weaving, crocheting, knitting, macramé, and many other fiber arts techniques.

Claire’s time as the WIP Resident at TAC has been focused on rituals and daily processes. In her more recent work, Claire focuses on time, which allows her to explore the necessity of long-term dedication to her work in fiber arts. Claire plans out her days according to a clear schedule which helps her balance her work in the studio with her family obligations. She feels that textiles are slow-work, and planning out her time in the studio ensures that she will be able to achieve her goals during her time in New York.

“I don’t have a lot of time, and textile creation goes so slowly, so I give myself challenges… That’s what I try to reproduce here, to have a schedule of my actions, and I guess it’s my way of being productive, and not letting myself dream or think about anything else without really completing the work that has to be done.”

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Claire draws inspiration from many different sources. She doesn’t necessarily draw inspiration from other textile artists, but she is interested in many different art forms.

“I think I’m like a sponge, so I have a lot of images and words and things inside me, and I capture everything in art… I’m oversensitive in some ways, so it’s also a lot of feelings and impressions.”

Claire also told me that even though she often has so many ideas, and wants to work on so many different projects, when she works she prefers to choose a few things and do them properly, rather than never finishing a project. For her, it’s about balancing two different mindsets, being a perfectionist, and having an open mind about what can happen with her work.

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More recently, Claire has begun to develop her work in a more performative direction. Last month at TAC, she hosted a participative performance in which she weaved participants together using cotton thread. Claire had pondered the idea of this piece for a long time, so when the idea came to fruition, Claire was very appreciative of the participants and the feedback that they offered her.

”I was very touched to hear the things that they were saying, most of them said that they felt very wrapped, but in a very smooth way, it was like a meditation moment for them.”

“I like the idea that textiles have a healing power, and I think in the performance this happened.”

Claire has also become more willing to share her work in a public setting and receive feedback from her audience. For her, as she has matured in her art-making practice, she has become more confident with presenting her work publicly. She noted that audiences, despite coming from a variety of backgrounds, are often able to understand the concepts that she aims to convey through her works.

“Everyone sees something that I know that I want to say.”

We also spoke about Claire’s experience exploring and living in New York so far. For her, this experience has been very interesting, especially as this is her first time visiting the city.

“It’s amazing, it’s full of contrasts. And you have the whole world here, people coming from everywhere on the planet.”

She feels like her time in New York has been going very quickly, and she has a very limited amount of time to explore the city with her busy schedule as the WIP Resident.

“It’s so vibrant and so full of everything. I want to see everything, but I have to restrain myself.”

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After her WIP Residency finishes, Claire will return to the TAC space in Brooklyn where she will be renting a studio for a month. After she leaves the WIP space, she looks forward to the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the art scene in New York. Afterward, Claire will return to her hometown in France for a holiday to visit her parents. While she is there, she will have an opportunity to collect more reclaimed fishing net material which she can use to work on a new large weaving project. She looks forward to showing the finished piece, perhaps in association with a non-profit organization that is working to protect our oceans.

You can follow Claire’s work on her Instagram account @clairelepapeplasticienne.

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