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Saturday 1 November 2014

Hussein Chalayan and recent interview

I have been working for the magazine Vestoj doing a series of portraits, to be launched in Paris this month. Below is Hussein Chalayan and a rough draft of the interview with moi.

I started sewing when I was 16. My teacher showed me how to thread up a sewing machine on a little table in the corridor and that was it. The freedom she gave me was key, she just let me play with it and it began a lifelong love of curiosity of what I could do with thread. I got really into hand sewing a few years later in my glass house studio in my first home in West Ham. It was quieter and portable and in some ways quicker, I used to make a cup of tea with a brandy in it after working in an art store all day and sew for hours.

I liked the slowness of sewing, I tried painting, but it always seemed so surface to me, I could go into autopilot with it, whereas with sewing I was totally engaged, point at a stitch and I could tell you what I was thinking at that moment. There are two main things I think about when I am sewing that correspond with the two ways that I work, after years of doing it I have figured out the pattern. Firstly to lay out bolder areas, I find myself thinking about things that have bugged me, injustices small and large and it plays out in a big obsessive circle as I clumsily and bravely lay out the meat of it. Then the next phase it to consolidate and refine, to correct mistakes and to find balance, I often find myself writing letters to loved ones in my head, often apologies, suddenly all the flaws appear and I apologise and forgive. I go through this pattern several times throughout a piece.

The music I listen to is also quite obsessive and narrow, I mostly listen to The Knife and have done for years and it never really gets old, while doing Margaret Howell, I actually listened to Chiquitita, SOS and Fernando, by ABBA, on repeat. They have this euphoric bittersweetness that makes me want to cry with joy and makes me feel like all my doors and windows are open.

While I was sewing Cristophe Lemaire, I watched all my favourite Robin Williams films on the eve of the sad news, it took 5 films and quite a lot of Mork and Mindy's.

Hussein was the first portrait I sewed, it was the middle of summer and I had ravaged through the impenetrable ivy wall that had absorbed my garden. It seemed the most serendipitous thing to do to work outside, So I made good headway and pottered off to smoke a roll up and when I heard a weird noise I turned around and saw a moth had been caught in the net and a bird came down and pecked a hole right through the middle of his forehead to get at it. I hoped he didn't get a headache, sometimes sewing someone's portrait can feel a bit voodooish.

I have big dreams for my work and sometimes they are too big. I think these usually come when I am at the peak of my caffeine high and often roll around my head and then thrash around into impossibility by the inevitable crash, only to be resurrected next time. But I plan to live a long life full of art and when something rolls around for some time, I usually manage to create it, even if not quite the scale of my dreams.

My daughter inspires me a lot, she is a little wizardess and I often find when I back track on a piece that I can see a direct link to something we have discussed. The piece I am making for the New Orleans Biennial, I tracked back to her beautiful handmade birthday book I made her that she filled with booby trap designs.

My favourite and least favourite part of the day is putting my daughter to bed, we talk about things, read adventure books and sing songs and it's so lovely, but I always have a list of things I am supposed to do afterwards and I hardly ever can. I am such a sensual fuck, that the warmth of her little body and the feeling of the silky quilt and the soft singing voice and then her little hot sleepy breath, that's so heady, and I am so incredibly content, but utterly useless and more often than not I float into bed and the dishes wait till morning....

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