Loving Gabriella Grill's multimedia explorations of textile, especially in her recent 'Towels' series in which she utilizes stitched rubber and other materials. Check out more at the links following this fab interview!
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When did you first discover or become interested in art? Was there a moment when you knew you wanted to pursue making it?
I always loved making art--It was my favorite part of elementary school, middle school, high school...but in high school, I had no intention of pursuing art as a career. I didn't consider going to art school as a senior in high school, and I ended up at Tulane University. I was planning on studying English and Anthropology. As a freshman at Tulane, I started taking art classes, and I wasn't satisfied with the level of interest from the other students or the freedom of creativity given to me by my teachers. I then knew that I wanted a more rigorous art program at my school, so I applied to transfer.
I wasn't sure I was going to end up pursuing art as a career just then either, although the consideration was developing. When I was accepted to MICA, I decided it would be a really exciting adventure to do something that makes me happy and to be surrounded by other people who are passionate about making art. So I transferred, and that was the beginning of my pursuit of a career making art.
You graduated in 2015 and have been maintaining a studio since then; how has it been pursuing art outside of the university setting?
Outside of a university setting, it's been more difficult to make work. I was a printmaking major in college, and towards the end of my career at MICA, I realized that I didn't want to be limited by the constraints of medium. I had taken a lot of sculpture classes at MICA, but my focus was on print. During my last semester, I wanted to realign my focus to start making larger works that I couldn't send through a press, and I wanted to start experimenting with materials again. So a lot of what I've been doing since graduation I've been figuring out as I go.
I also moved to Philadelphia after graduation, I've been working jobs, so there's been a bit of juggling to maintain a studio practice.
Your work utilizes various soft materials and found objects, which you incorporate into textiles or sculptures. Can you elaborate a bit on your practice, and what themes or ideas you're interested in?
I have been making the tapestries as a method to cope with existential thoughts. Within certain tapestries, I have included images and symbols of space and time, or references to nature and chance. They are a sort of coping method to deal with lost memory and to find beauty in the world while recognizing mortality. The softness of the materials has become so important within my work, as they are a physical manifestation of comfort. The tapestries and sculptures serve to provide comfort, but also to hold within them reflections about perception and the cycle of life and death.
What is your process like?
I typically spend anywhere from 2 weeks to a month on a given piece, depending on scale and the number/type of techniques used. My research is normally in the form of material tests and experiments, drawings, and reading poetry. I read poetry a lot to get ideas and make connections between my own thoughts and the physical world.
To create a piece, I normally start out with material tests, and when I am happy with where the tests are going, I will stop to sketch ideas for how a project can matriculate. My final projects rarely turn out exactly as I have intended, but I love how that turn of events keeps the project exciting all the way through.
What is your studio or workspace like?
I am currently working in a home studio. This is the first time I have worked from home, and it is challenging! I have a desk, where I sew, draw, pour rubber, etc. I have a few shelving units for materials and supplies, a second table for laying out work, and a decent amount of floor space.
Is there a tool or an object in your studio that you can't live without?
My sewing machine is my most used tool in my studio by far. I upgraded this year to a new, heavy duty machine, since my old machine couldn't stand up to all the stress I was putting it through.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you in the mode to create?
I always listen to music or podcasts while I am working. Once I have a project laid out the way that I want it, a lot of the sewing can get repetitive and sometimes mindless, so having something good to listen to keeps me engaged while I'm working.
Do you have a favorite mantra, quote, or piece of advice you rely on when you're working?
I try to remind myself to trust my instincts and not to overthink elements of a piece.
What do you need or value most as an artist?
I value time in and out of the studio. In order to be productive, I need enough time to work comfortably, and not to feel rushed, but I also need time away from my work to relax and enjoy other parts of my life. Sometimes I get to feeling guilty if I'm not in the studio, but I try and remind myself that being in the studio all the time is not necessarily the most productive way for me to make good work.
What is or has been the most challenging or daunting aspect of pursuing art?
I've come into ruts where I want to keep making work without knowing why, or what I'm interested in making work about. Sometimes I feel like there is this huge pressure to make work according to a thesis, or that my work has to "say something" specifically. This, I think isn't totally true, though it is comforting to know what I am working toward. Making work through these questioning moments, and maintaining a consistent practice of making work can be really hard. Still, continuing to make work anyway helps me navigate through my own doubts.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on more rubber sculptures that I am calling "Towels". I am making a series of these towels that include different materials and hardware within them. I have one of these towels on my site already, and a few to come. The one that I am making right now has leather in it. I am excited about this series because I find the towels to be beautiful and morbid at the same time. The process of these works involves stitching rubber together, and in that action, the rubber takes on a very fleshy quality. There is also a lot of play and experimentation in the making which is really fun.
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