At Her Loom; Imogen Di Sapia and the Mother-Artist Archetype
Artist, maker and mother Imogen Di Sapia is committed to the British heritage of independent craftspeople, ethical production and environmental awareness, from source to artistic collaboration. She specifically uses a local rescue flock of twenty-four South Downs sheep, and custom blends their wool using luxury fibres such as wild ethical silk, Irish linen and new fibres such as Seacell and soy. This is all cleaned and processed by The Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall to high standards, then is custom blended with fibres depending on specific design needs.
All textiles are handwoven in Di Sapia’s home studio, which allows her much needed time to care for her two young children. In March 2018 Bright Moon Yarn launched with a solo exhibition of Di Sapia’s woven work at O N C A Gallery in Brighton, alongside a pop-up shop launch at YAK. Since then she continues to weave luxury, ethical, unique textiles and wraps, producing a new body of work to coincide with the launch of her online shop; Bright Moon Weaving Studio.
Her exhibition, The Selkie: Weaving and the Wild Feminine at O N C A in Brighton in March, 2018, was the culmination of a year long project which aimed to challenge challenges and reflect on contemporary textile practice. Through Di Sapia’s weaving, relationships and storytelling symbols emerged, mediating a multi-layered response to invisibility; an antidote, perhaps, to the segregated space of perinatal mental health. In an interview with the exhibition curator, Imogen stated:
“I’ve struggled with the invisibility of motherhood, the changes in my mental health, the demands on my time which means my studio making is often sacrificed. I hear the words of Marina Abramovic, who is clear that her choice not to have children is her sacrifice to her art. And yes, the idea of ‘giving up’ my creative career has been reflected back to me by many people in different ways, because sometimes it becomes very difficult. However, not to make or create isn’t an option for most artists I know, so one must then adapt and find a way, and for me, weaving has been the medium that keeps everything in balance. I think there somehow needs to be a recognition that when a woman becomes a mother, she still has a deep need to create and be seen; perhaps my woven textiles are a way of me attempting to be seen.”
Di Sapia’s commitment to collaboration was reflected in the forging of a network of female artists who were asked to respond to the motifs of the Selkie myth and the broader, contemporary issues it suggests. The resulting aggregate of artistic processes, alongside Di Sapia’s tactile works stitched together a dialogue which conceptualised craft, and art, as power. The value of support is also reflected in Di Sapia’s use of social media platforms as a tool for growth, knowledge sharing and inspiration and challenging the solitary nature of home-based handwork. A keenness for collaboration, says Di Sapia, was crucial for her work in theatre, when the studio-environment was key in facilitating each other to grow and develop, pulling out the best of the work, and the most fertile new ideas. On becoming a mother, this access changed; working mostly alone and in the home-studio due to the needs of her children, her modes of collaboration have had to adapt to distance projects, facilitated by social media channels, leading to strong relationships through conversation, discussion and imagery without face-to-face meeting.
Imogen’s holistic yet dedicated approach to production and her consistent questioning of the limitations imposed on the artist-mother is testament to her advocacy of real change. We should all sit at her loom with a cup of tea, telling stories and imagining futures.
Imogen’s piece ‘The Midwife’ will be included in the Spilt Milk Members Show, Custom House Gallery, Edinburgh, October 27th – November 5th 2018, as part of her Artist Residency in Motherhood project.
Alice Clayton is a curator and facilitator of creative endeavours which critically engage with perception, learning and change. Alice has principally worked with artists exploring social and environmental change, previously as coordinator of the O N C A Gallery in Brighton and then through her MA studies in Curating, Arts Management and Law at Stockholm University. Currently, Alice is producing exhibitions and events in Brighton, London and Stockholm. For Alice, the Arts represent ongoing enquiry into systemic change, and she has recently joined The Other Foundation to explore the role of emergent community arts and creative outreach.
Grace Gelder; portrait and exhibition documentation
Final image by Michaela Meadow featuring Seal Mask by Gladys Paulus, with Francesca Cluney as The Selkie.
Copyright Author & Artists 2018.
To be reproduced in print only with written permission.
Online sharing; link in full back to source with credits.