Conversations with the Makers

An array of questions to fibre/textile artists and their answers.

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Conversation with Anita Larkin, Australia

Anita Larkin is a sculptor and feltmaker. She graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts from Sydney College of The Arts in 1993, and is represented by Defiance Gallery in Sydney. The sculptural possibilities of felt and making assemblages of collected objects are the main focus of her practice. She also now spends time making work for public commissions. Her work has been exhibited in Australia, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Mexico and the UK, and is represented in public collections such as The Wollongong City Gallery, and The Australian War Memorial Art Collection.

  ( Anita is teaching for Fibre Arts Australia in July 2014 go here to get all the info)

CONVERSATION WITH THE MAKER (CWTM) Did you always envision a life as an artist?

ANITA LARKIN (AL)Yes. Decided in high school. Well, I didn't really “decide” it was something I felt a deep desire for. I am miserable and grumpy if I am not making for some time. I need it. Went from highschool to study a Bachelor of Visual Arts at Sydney College of the Arts graduating in 1993.


CWTM What was your first experience with making art?

AL Playdough and painting as a toddler, and constructing cubby houses with my brother and two sisters later. Making papier mache costumes for the local school discos, Childhood art experiences are very important.


CWTM Do you have a dedicated studio?

AL Yes. I have had several different spaces over the 20 years. The one I have enjoyed most was in an arts precinct sharing with other artists in my home town of Jamberoo. Nice to be social when you need feedback on something, but can also shut the door to be making on your own.

Now I am working in my garage. Since my son is not at school yet (next year he will start) I find it easier to squeese in a little studio time, because it is just the other side of the kitchen door!

It is a bit squishy but it is a designated space, which is helpful for me.


CWTM Can you describe a typical day?

AL Don't have a typical day. I do whatever is required of that day. I wouldn't want to have a “typical day”.


CWTM Would you consider your art making to be more about the process than the outcome?

AL It is a balance of both for me. I enjoy the process certainly, but often that is part struggle and frustration. If there wasn't enjoyment in the process I wouldn't be an artist. The elation when things are humming along is one of complete union with a force greater than me. I love that feeling. I also am searching, trying to resolve the work into a finished one, trying to make a good work, a work that makes a connection of some sort with the viewer. So the outcome becomes more critical as I get closer to the end of making. I strive to create successful works, and this pushes me to challenge myself, to make new works continually.


CWTM Do you agree that a small element of uncertainty about the finished look is what makes the process of creating so enticing?

AL I enjoy being surprised by what I make, I try to keep an element of the unexpected in what the finished work will look like as that keeps the process intriguing to my brain, and also allows an element of PLAY in the process which often creates works that you might not have imagined.


CWTM Any indispensable tools or equipment?

AL My hands would be my best tools by far.

Also my fulling tools, my little ball pein hammer, my rivet gun, my little wire brush, Love my drill press too.


CWTM Do your pieces start with a planned course of action or are they more spontaneous?

AL I make works in both ways.

Some begin with no idea and evolve from intuitive play, others are planned with drawings, and drawings will be made during the process to resolve the work.

However they start, the best works I have made have been made keeping an eye out for a playful solution to problems encountered during the making, instead of reaching for the obvious or logical one. I try to think outside the square.


CWTM How do you know when to “stop” – when do you consider a piece actually finished?

AL You definitely know if it “works” or not.

Or you will know if you go for a walk away from it and come back to it with a fresh mind. If it is not working I am not afraid to chop the thing up and rework it into something else, some great works have come about by joining to halves of previous works together. Then a tension and dialogue is created.


CWTM Your greatest source of inspiration is….

AL life 

CWTM When do you do your best creative thinking?

AL when I am challenged and intrigued by the materials that I am working with.


CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

AL The making. 

CWTM Best advice you’ve ever received?

AL Allow time for play.


CWTM Worst advice you’ve ever received?

AL You need a day job, do an accounting degree and be an accountant. Needless to say I did none of these!

 CWTM Best part of your day?

AL Making in the studio, reading books to my six year old at night, swimming in the harbour or hugging my hubby.


CWTM Who would be 6 people that you would invite to dinner?

AL Frida Kahlo, my husband, Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, The Dalai Lama, musicians -The Con Artists, Amy Johnson, my Dad, my son as a 25 year old(he is six now) can I have more than six please???

CWTM What inspires your creativity?

AL I am inspired by many things, they are often random associations of things. Life is strange and it intrigues me.


CWTM What are you excited about right now in the world of textile art?

AL Innovation, and cross cultural collaboration. It is a very exciting time to make textiles.

 CWTM You’d be lost without…

AL I would adapt to the new situation. I was always a roll with the punches kind of person, who would try to make the best of any situation, my Dad instilled that in me.


CWTM What would you do with a few extra hours each day? 

AL Make more felt experiments, listen to talking books, visit friends, bush walking


 CWTM Your favourite luxury in life?

AL To have time to make artworks


CWTM Has the advancement of computers and technology impacted your work?

AL I spend a lot more time now on the computer in relation to work. I have gotten to be much quicker at typing! I have also met and worked for people internationally that have found me on the web, so that has been great.


CWTM Is it important for us to be recognized by the art world and if so, how can we help affect that change?

AL I am in the artworld, exhibiting and selling textile artworks, and have been since 1993. I don't feel this is an issue for textiles. It is just a matter of finding your little pocket of the art world (jungle), your niche.


CWTM What is next for you?

AL For me or for my work??

In terms of my work: I have just finished a 15 metre long sculpture commission for Wollongong University. It has taken a year to complete, so am having a rest, before I begin making again for The Tamworth Textile Triennial and for Sculptural Felt International in the Netherlands. I am also planning for my teaching schedule next year, and will be teaching in The Netherlands and Germany, which I am really looking forward to.

For me personally: My son starts kindergarten next year, so I am looking forward to having a little more regular time for making, for learning an instrument, practising yoga, going sea kayaking and bushwalking with my husband, and I would also like to learn more about boat building, maybe build a little wooden tub. It has been quite a long time since I had any regularity to my days, -all you mums would understand that!