THE August Craft Month theme of 'Made in Northern Ireland' has a special resonance for Lisburn textile artist Michelle Stephens as she is deeply influenced by illustrious linen making and weaving in the past.
A hand weaver by trade Michelle, who was recently awarded 'Young Artist of the Year' by the Lisburn Arts Advisory Committee, is artist in residence at R-Space in Lisburn and is passionate about stimulating public interest in the history and processes of creating handwoven fabrics.
Michelle is one of six designer makers from the Making It programme featured in the exhibition at Craft NI in Belfast, which launches this year's August Craft Month. The Making It programme involves a two year residency and Michelle aims to help designer makers create sustainable craft businesses.
Her work which is textile based, includes wall mounted works, small sculptural objects made from wood, metal and paint, along with woven fabrics.
"I see myself as an educator of a process that has slowly died out
due to industrialisation and the use of mechanized looms," said
Michelle. "There are very few hand weavers left in Ireland today.
I own an eight shaft Ashford Loom that I have used on numerous occasions for outreach programmes within the local community."
The rich history of the linen industry has always been a constant
theme running throughout my work. I always reference textile processes
whether it is the form or woven pattern," said Michelle.
"The fact that I am placed at R-Space Gallery in Lisburn has enabled me to access the Irish linen Centre and Lisburn Museum more freely for research purposes. This has further informed my practice and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
"I've been working with our business mentor, Dr. Rachel Smart in order to create ranges of work for different market places, not only locally and nationally but internationally as well.
"We have also had discussions with regards to exhibitions and outlets for my practice. I will be rolling this plan out during and after the two years on the making it programme."
For the work in progress show she has created a forged steel sculpture that originated from an old form of tablet weaving.
The foam has been abstracted and twisted into a shape that I can then manipulate my woven drawings within the frame," she-said.
"I constantly play on opposites; order and chaos, construction and deconstruction, as well as using the positive and negative spaces within the form to create depth and make the work almost holographic in feel.
"I am currently researching carbon fiber and electrical components as well as other tubing that could be used for pieces that are able to stay outside as well as inside a building. This opens up possibilities for commissions on a wider context."