Work in Progress: Fiorella Gonzales Vigil

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We were recently pleased to host Fiorella Gonzales-Vigil as our January Work-in-Progress resident! I met up with her at TAC’s Manhattan studio to discuss the different stages of her artistic process, her reimagination of Anillado, a traditional Peruvian knitting technique, and what draws her to textiles.

How have you enjoyed working in this environment so far?

I like it very much. I have been here already…the time passes really fast and at the same time very slow, and it’s finishing very soon. I’ve had time with people in the studio, and by myself alone, and I’ve had time to work. It’s very nice to be here working and see what workshops the center has to offer. It’s very interesting to me. It adds a lot for you to work. It motivates you when you’re here and people are working.

What is your daily routine like?

Usually I try to separate the day with different tasks, so I am not working only on one thing during the whole day. I will arrive at the studio and settle in. Sometimes I have to leave everything from outside out, sometimes I carry it with me because I will use it for a project.

Then I will continue with the piece I was working on, or work on some sketches. Sometimes I will work on applications or continue developing the idea of the project on my laptop.

Of course between those things I will take breaks, go out buy something to eat, or buy materials.

I also will have my lunch break and in the afternoon a coffee break. Usually the day before I try to organize my day in a calendar so I don’t forget what I need to do and also give it enough time.

How do you choose materials to use?

For the last three years, I’ve worked with ceramics and yarn. It depends on what I want to create, but lately, I’ve been exploring textiles and what textiles have to offer. I took a class on Anillado, which is an ancestral Peruvian knitting technique that offers the opportunity to create three-dimensional pieces.

How did you become interested in Anillado?

I met a friend in Lima. She’s a textile conservator. She’s Japanese, so she travels back and forth Japan and Lima. She had a friend in Japan who knew this technique, which is not maintained in Peru. People haven’t continued using it, but this woman recovered it and is very interested in teaching it so that it doesn’t get lost. I took the class at the beginning of 2017. The pieces that are usually made using Anillado are really small. Traditionally, it’s created as a decoration along the edge of a mantle. But because I work with installation, I wanted to create larger pieces. I started experimenting using thicker yarn. My work is completely different, and that’s where I am right now. I find it interesting because it creates three dimensional pieces, but they’re not functional, not something you can wear — they’re sculptural.

Traditional use of the Anillado technique

Traditional use of the Anillado technique

Have you shared your most recent work with your instructor and classmates that you learned the Anillado technique with?

They have seen some. I was working on some of this back in Lima, and I’m working with a couple of friends that are applying the same technique in different ways. The three of us are taking the technique towards different directions and seeing how we can apply it in our art.

What are the preparatory materials you create before you start knitting? Do you draw or create mockups?

I don’t draw, at least not by hand.  Usually I take a lot of pictures and I use Photoshop or Illustrator to create sketches. For this project, I want to create a connection between the yarn and furniture, specifically drawers. I will make the sketches on the computer or print the images, and start knitting on the sheet.

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Has your time in New York, now and before, inform your practice?

Yes. One of the things that is very different than my experiences in Lima, that I am very aware since I arrived, is the way you move from one place to another. In Lima, everything is by car. Here, I walk everywhere. I have much more time to think about everything, to look around, the way I connect to the space is completely different than in Lima. Walking enriches my art practice, which is very helpful. The time on the street informs my work a lot in a different sense — it is raw material.

What is the audience that you want to see your work?

For me, anyone that is interested. I don’t think I have a very specific audience. I think it’s for anyone that is interested in seeing art. I’m talking also about intimacy, which everyone can relate to. It’s important to talk about, to have it more present in your daily life. To be more aware.

The works I’m creating here are 3D pieces. I am creating tubular pieces. I am interesting in assembling them with furniture, for example, a desk with drawers. The yarn pieces will go inside the drawer, so when you see inside it you are also seeing inside the textile. I want to convey the idea of looking inside something. That’s what I was working on here. The colors I’m using are referencing the colors inside our bodies. The reds, the browns, for organs, blood, white for bones or fat . It’s about going to the inside, mentally, into the things you want to hide, keep private.

I have some ideas about how to install it. I found some images of furniture. I’m more driven to use old furniture than modern.

Why is that?

Old furniture makes you think more of the past. It’s more personal and evocative. I will do some sketches with these images, to see how it works with the yarn.

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How did you start working with textiles and incorporating it into your practice?

I was attracted to the variety of colors, and the softness of the materials. I have a background in painting, so I look for materials that offer me the same opportunity to play with colors.

Right now, I’m not painting. I’m creating more sketches and collage, but textiles offer me that activity, without actually painting.

What was the first time you used yarn?

It was a piece that was wrapped. I didn’t know how to do anything with textiles, no knitting, no weaving, so I started wrapping. Then, I worked with felt. Then, I started weaving. I don’t know what prompted me to consider weaving. Maybe one visit to Michael’s and I picked up a piece of yarn, and thought I can use this.

Did you like it?

Michael’s?

No, weaving!

Yes, I love it. Working on the blue piece, that’s where I started weaving. Then, I think in my last year at the MFA, I looked further into weaving, looms, and techniques.

Fiorella Gonzales Vigil,  Weaving Blue Doors, yarn, felt, and wood, 2015

Fiorella Gonzales Vigil, Weaving Blue Doors, yarn, felt, and wood, 2015

What excites you about textiles now?

When I was painting, it was more about creating an illusion over the canvas, and the canvas was important up to certain point. With textiles, the canvas will be the important part, not what you create on top of it, it is the structure (weft and warp) that you need to exploit. I have also been working on pieces where I try to exclude the stretcher bars or anything that strains the textile.

How has your experience at TAC been so far?

Very nice. I was already familiar with TAC, because I took classes here, before I left for Lima. I took weaving and painting on the warp. I also took Weaving 101. I should take more.

You’re also a teacher. How does teaching inform your artistic practice and vice versa?

I teach in Lima at an elementary school and at a university. I teach arts to kids, and I teach Fundamentals of Art at the University. It makes you more aware of everything. The way you relate to kids. It makes you more aware of what you’re doing. You see it from another angle. It’s not the perspective you’re accustomed to as an artist relating to your work or other artists. It’s also interesting what you can learn from your students. For example, it is fascinating to see the subject matter that students, as first-years at university, deal with. They are starting to explore and dig into their experiences, and of course some of them are examining similar themes to what I have been working on for a long time. As I said before, you see yourself from a new perspective, and because you can relate to that it is easier to approach them.

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Is there anything else you want to share about your growth as an artist for other artists?

Balancing a part-time job and also being an artist might be the hardest part. Try to continue making art as much as you can, and keep a balance, so you don’t stop working. That’s something we should try to do as much as we can. The other part-time job — it can be taken advantage of — perhaps it can also bring in new ideas for your stuff, and always try to find the time to be in your studio space.

What are some ways you sustain your practice?

I’m not able to go to the studio everyday, but textiles is something that keeps me working all the time. It’s something I can do at home. I will continue working with that, even if I’m not in the studio. When I’m working with textiles, I’m thinking about what I want to do, even when I’m not physically making. It gives me that space to connect to the material, as well as the ideas I want to develop eventually.

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