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Today we are going to talk about Anita Larkin, an Australian artist who uses felt to create really interesting objects. Anita has become a famous artist thanks to her skills and her talent.
In her work, she tries to breathe new life into things that have fallen into disuse, which most people consider trash. With her craftmanship, Anita Larkin has managed to unite these objects with felt, transforming them into works of art that you won’t forget.
DHG: Anita Larkin, your name is very well known in the art world now. But if you go back to the beginning of your career, what was the event which made you become what you are today?
ANITA: I have always felt I would have a career as an artist, even as a child I often made things. I do not have one event that I can point to. It is a progression, an ongoing investigation. I have followed that steadily, concentrating on making and developing my ideas, exhibiting, teaching art, and taking commissions, working hard to make a living. It is accumulative. My father, would often take my as a young child to the “tip”, the recycling junk heap, and we were allowed to gather whatever we found interesting, and bring it home to make it into something, or just to treasure it. I suppose that was a beginning if I had one.
D: in many of your works, you use recycled materials, finding a new place for them, and above all giving them a new life. What’s behind your choice of materials and behind your work? What are you trying to express?
A: objects that have had a past life intrigue me. I find them beautiful, mysterious, and full of potential for narrative. They have the ability to provoke memory in the viewer, and I play upon this fact in my works that I make. I use felt to bring an element of softness, and animal nature to the objects. It is a very alluring and often spiritual substance.
D: felt is present in many of your works. Where does this passion come from and how did it start?
A: in my final year of my art degree at Sydney College of the Arts I was making sculptures by casting my body in paper and other fragile materials. I wanted to find a material that had the ability to be moulded into a body’s shape, and yet had a tactile quality that would draw the viewer in, that would reference some human qualities. My research led me to find a substance called felt. Nomads made houses out of it! Here was a material that not only had the physical properties I wanted but it was also conceptually exciting too, as I have had a long interest in contemporary nomadism. I found someone to teach me the basics, and I have been felting and exploring the possibilities of what shapes can come from the fibres ever since. That was in 1993.
D: in your photo gallery we have a chance to admire the process through which felt and other materials blend together and become one. How long does it take for you to go from the original idea to the final creation?
A: I work on several projects at any time, so I cannot say how long these processes take. I am thinking about one idea for a sculpture while I am working on a different one. I also thinking about the making of some works while I do the dishes, so it blends in with my tasks as a mother. Art and life are not separate for me. I have several lifetimes of notes and drawings ready to be bought to life. Some reoccur in different notebooks, these are often the ones I end up making first. I wish I could make them all. Some keep haunting me for months, I change them in my mind, do tests, examples of techniques and materials, before deciding that the one is right for that particular work. So some are long periods between idea and finishing the work. Others are quite quick, because they are a result of being in the right state of mind, right place, at the right time. These we call our “light-bulb moments” I have lots of these, and I try to act quickly on them, and also to exercise that part of my mind.
D: which of your felt works are you most strongly attached to — if you had to name just one?
A: Conduit. It is an apparatus that connects two people together at the head, heart and feet. I made it in 2007 when my son was born. It is now in the collection of Wollongong Art Gallery.
D: what new projects are you working on? Will felt always be the centre of your work? What goals have you set for the future?
A: I am working on casting some of my objects, and my body, in porcelain. I want to combine this with felt objects. Yes, felt will always hold a real fascination for me. It speaks so powerfully in the right place in a sculpture. I am also continuing working on taking apart a lot of objects that contain felt inside them. Then turning them inside out, so their making is revealed. I have been doing this for quite some time, and it is now turning into a lovely series. I am looking forward to exhibiting some of these next year in a show. I am also working currently on two community art projects for my local Government. These projects will be completed in two weeks time. After that I will have the money to make my own works for a little while. Coming soon is an exhibition that asks sculptors to explore making a sculpture for the body, and what defines jewellery and sculpture. So I am thinking and drawing ideas for those works, I think felt will be perfect for that exhibition. I will begin making these pieces soon,. I am also slowly working toward completing my book on “felt from a sculptors perspective”. Over the years I have developed and explored many ways of making felted sculptural shapes, and want to put my skills and ideas all in a book. I am hoping it will be published at the end of the year. I need time for that.
D: you are teaching a course here at DHG in September. Have you ever been to Italy? If you have, what did you like the most? If you haven’t, what do you expect you will find here?
A: yes, I have been to Italy once, with my husband and my then 8-month-old son in 2007. I remember we visited the beautiful town of Bolzano in the north. My husband and I were struck by the rough beauty of the Dolomites mountain range on that trip. We both enjoy rock climbing, and bushwalking. I loved visiting the archaeology museums, the Gothic architecture, and enjoyed the depth of history in towns like Verona. I have also been to Venice. Mostly though I enjoyed the friendliness of the people we met on our travels. Warm hearted smiles, and good food. I am looking forward to visiting Italy again.
If you like this article, you might also be interested in the Charity Van Der Meer interview.