Work In Progress: Sarah Hewitt

During the month of March, we have the pleasure of hosting Sarah Hewitt as our Work in Progress (WIP) resident at TAC. She is a contemporary artist whose constructions are crafted using laborious textile techniques, sacred rituals, and synthetic, mass produced materials with vivid colors. She uses knitting, crochet, stitching, basketry techniques, weaving, and any concoction her hands produce to create forms. I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Sarah about collaborating with the community and the future of her work.

File_003On her textile background:

“I fell in love with weaving and fiber studios on a visit to Truchas in northern New Mexico when I was 13. On this visit I was introduced to Harry Cordova, a well-known weaver and the son of two weavers. Harry became an adopted father to me and I instantly felt at home in the old Spanish village. Every year we would return and my interest in weaving and traditions handed down via crafts deepened. At the time I always had a camera in my hand and photographed people I met on my adventures and hoped to study art in college. Instead my family felt I should have a more well-rounded education.. so I studied philosophy for my first two years in Santa Fe at St. John’s College.

Truchas is 45 minutes north of Santa Fe, and on expeditions with my college friends we would escape up to Truchas, entertain Harry, and have impromptu photography sessions. Finally, in 1994, I transferred to art school and finished up in 3.5 years with a BFA in photography and painting.

I am a bit restless and a nomad. Before I had even finished my BFA I had written Harry and said I was ready to return to Truchas, find a place to live and learn to weave. It did not happen quite that succinctly, but it did happen. In a year’s time I had bought a house in Truchas and started to learn how to weave, naturally dye, and spin. Never have I stuck to one modality in art making though. I painted and photographed through these years and worked very hard to start to combine the aesthetics. I remember the day it all came together very well and then in an instant I was off on to making something new.”

File_003 (1)On her work environment: 

“Quiet that I can fill with my own noise…My peak hours of production are from 11-6 and I need caffeine and healthy food to keep me going. Sleep is really important when I am working on putting together a show. Honestly, my life gets really boring when I’m focused on making. Clean eating, lots of hiking and walking my dog, yoga/Pilates, meditation, reading and then letting myself focus solely on making work. I go into space of deep focus and can get lost in it for long periods of time. Sometimes it feels self-indulgent, but I know that I am working towards something for a community or creating an experience for viewers. It is my job and it restarts every time I finish a show or an installation. Research, study, sketch, plan, throw that plan out the window and get to work. I also sing to the work when I’m in the studio.”

IMG_9828On the ideal environment to show her work:

“Right now I am dreaming about creating an installation for a church or creating my own fully woven temple – floors, walls, canopy, the whole shebang. I want to make a peaceful and exuberant space that is playful and sacred all in one breath.

Grad school offered me such freedom to just make for two years and try not to think about where a piece might go or how ‘finished’ something had to be. Actually the faculty tried to break me of all the finishing habits I had perfected. I ended up making big, wild, weird pieces that I thought would never exist outside my studio. It did not turn out that way at all. The pieces have gone on to show at a museum and various galleries. My favorite place for the works though are when they are all gathered in my studio and it gets so crowded and populated that it is nearly vibrating.”

TACStudioOn what materials and techniques she uses:

“I use knitting, crochet, stitching, basketry techniques, weaving – any concoction my hands produce to create the forms. I started to weave in 1997 and kept using looms until 2002 or so. Then I started working in methods that allowed me to be a bit more flexible in movement – I could carry knitting and crochet with me. I used to spin on a drop spindle in a car on long road trips.. I have restless hands.

In the spring of 2015, I felt a deep need to return to weaving. My mentors in school thought I was nuts, but I found a lap loom at Goodwill and started weaving really weird cloth on it. I remember someone looking at it on my table just shaking their head. I promised them, just wait and a couple weeks later I had constructed Way of the Shaman from that fabric. That summer I started weaving my version of tapestries and it just keeps going. The weavings start on the loom and then grew on to the walls in organic shapes. I take nails and start creating points for the material to grow. It is magical and maddening if I really try to plan it out. When a weaving is done and I need to map it out, archive it and document the points – it gets interesting.”

TAC_WindowOn her time at TAC and showing in public spaces:

“I love being in the window and engaging people on the street – NOW. The first time I was installing in a gallery in Chelsea – at street level with huge windows – there was no paper up or anything to conceal what was opening next. I got so overwhelmed and anxious because people started stopping and taking pictures of the work and me setting the work up. Luckily the gallery took charge and covered the windows so that I could focus. Sometimes I do not want people to ever see me with the work. I fear it ruins it but slowly I’ve become more comfortable being with the work in public places.

Last year at Spring/Break I had a piece up and was talking to people, but I was distracted by an adorable little girl and her father. They were inspecting the weaving, looking at all the points and intersections. Slowly I went to the other side of the weaving, looked through and asked the girl if she knew who had made it. She shook her head slowly. When I said that I had she couldn’t believe it. She looked at her father, then me, then her father and touched the weaving. What a sweet memory.”

File_001On what the future holds:

“Hopefully many more opportunities to exhibit, collaborate, make and travel. In May my work will be included in a fashion show near Chicago. Right now I am working on the yardage for those pieces. I am a bit behind where I’d like to be with them, but I am a planner. I plan in my head, worry, work, and then it happens. In October I will be installing works at Perimeter Gallery in Belfast, Maine. It is the first time people will see what kind of work I do, in the town I live in. For this show I have a lot of space to take up for three months. The building is really large and a great space for me to play. I have a rough sketch and an idea of what I am working up to. I hope the community responds well to it – that is becoming more and more important to me as our political climate has changed – community, collaboration, supporting each other. You can expect me working feverishly this summer on making larger pieces, swimming in the bay, hiking in the woods, designing and consulting for artists, galleries, nonprofits and looking forward to what is next.

I’m also working on an online forum for artists, performers, critics and activists who are working on behalf of feminism, the feminine and femme – www.riseofthefemme.com. ”

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Photos by Sam Crow and Sarah Hewitt.

You can visit Sarah’s installation for Work In Progress from March 1-31, and learn more about her work and process during Artist Open Hours, on Saturdays, 2-5PM at our Manhattan studio.

Join us on Saturday, March 25th, for Artists’ Role Today – Round Table Discussion + Crochet with Sarah Hewitt.

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