Ricki O.

I'm struggling to abbreviate this any further:

History

Many years ago, I was given a screen printed cloth as a gift and I knew immediately that this was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I took 6 months off work and spent that time experimenting, learning and exploring screen print. At the end of that period I knew I would never go back to my old job andI have been printing and teaching screen print professionally ever since.

After selling printed cloth for several years, I decided that printing would be a wonderful thing to do with children and I gradually started working in community settings. I now work in schools, youth clubs, with older people and and with people with learning disabilities.  In effect, I have now become a full time community artist and textiles tutor. 

Over the years,  I have added to my arsenal of textile skills to include felt making, dyeing, and stitch techniques. It’s been an exciting and wonderful journey for me and I have never for one moment regretted leaving that job 26 years ago. 

I recently returned to doing my own personal work for exhibiting, and realised what a lot I have learned from collaborations with communities and how much this has informed and matured my current work.

Process:  

My first stage is always brainstorming, research and sampling. Research may involve gathering materials from archives, taking photographs, doing drawings, speaking to people, measuring and thinking…lots of thinking.

Then I work to develop images. Because I have developed a mild tremor in my hand, I am always looking for different ways to generate images. This has been an opportunity for me to seek out less conventional ways of making drawings and capturing a mood. Cutting is generally easier for me than drawing so I often use cut and torn paper as a design tool. I like that this process makes me think in terms of space and shape. I also like to use unconventional tools to make expressive marks or scratches in surfaces.   

I always start with white fabric and colour it myself with both natural and man made dyes. Sometimes I like to stain or degrade cloth, sometimes to crudely mend or bind things with string and rags. I sometimes use machine stitch to draw with a because I love the fast spidery quality of the line. Equally, I enjoy the thoughtful meditative process of slow stitching by hand. And of course, I always like to screen print..

Content

I have an innate need for diversity and have always worked on multiple themes at once.  I havea need to balance any one thing I am making with at least 2 others to create a stable tripod of ideas.

In one corner, I like scratchy things, scarred things and worn cloth.  I see the process of working with cloth as a healing process to patch up and bind the more broken and painful aspects of life. Sometimes this is about contemporary or personalissues, sometimes it’s about memory of place and people as evidenced by the objects they have left behindor the objects that survived them. Sometimes it’s about the earth, about burying my hands in the earth to pull out weeds and pushing plants in to make them grow. I like to make ritual objects that bind us to the ancestors, to the power of earth and the cycle of life.

In another corner,  I like the logic of exploring formal design exercises and pushing the boundaries of technique.  I like to have the ‘what if?’ conversation with my work to drive it into new territory -    looking at logical variations, options, progressions and letting the process inform me on where the work needs to go next. 

My third corner often comes through my screen printed and community work. I like to reference 20th century art and graphic design. I look for pattern that celebrates the every day and the ordinary. Patterns that are exuberant and fun and happy - like the summer garden after all that earth stuff has happened and it’s time to go outdoors eat all those warm homegrown tomatoes on a chilli- pepper- hand- printed- picnic cloth!