Charlotte Street Foundation identifies the needs and fuels the evolution of an ever-changing multidisciplinary arts ecosystem, acting as its primary provocateur. We cultivate the contemporary, the exceptional, and the unexpected in the practice of artists working in and engaging with the Kansas City Art Community
Almost every time I walk by interdisciplinary artist Lauren Sobchak‘s studio in the Town Pavilion, I see colorful new work on display or evidence of other new works-in-progress. Occasionally she will introduce me to other artists who have dropped by to visit or enjoy a piece of fresh fruit from the bowl in the center of her studio table. This week, Lauren took a break from her work to answer these questions via email.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a weaver / textile artist?
Being labeled a textile artist. I respect the history of fiber practices tremendously and utilize many forms of fiber processes in my work. But I dye and sculpt more than I weave. The act of weaving is just apart of the process to get me elsewhere. Instead of buying a canvas and stretching it, I weave one and then sculpt it.
What kind of loom do you use?
It’s a Leclerc Colonial V2, 60″ 12 Shaft, Canadian Maple Loom. I’m able to make very large work but any time I move to a new space I have to break down everything to nuts and bolts and be extremely careful to not lose or damage pieces.
Does time pass differently for you when you’re working on the loom? What kind of music do you like to listen to while you work?
There are different stages of work that require different levels of attention and time. Preparing a loom at full width requires Classical music or a book on tape. For anything else, Hip Hop, Punk or Post-punk, Metal, French-pop, Reggea, Country (more Kris Kristofferson than “she thinks my tractor’s sexy”).
What kind of dying methods do you use? Which yield the most interesting results?
Immersion, Shibori, Ikat, Direct Application, Vat, Overdye, Discharge with Bleach or Thiox, and when necessary Natural Dying (staining etc.). Shibori and Ikat resist methods yield patterns specific to the maker’s mark, intentional or not, and are found to be more rigorous of a process. I use immersion with varying resist methods.
How are you able to achieve such varied textures amid the rich colors of a work like “Sea Trough”? (pictured above)
Dyeing is a lot like painting in that if you don’t fully mix your components (binder+solvent+pigment), the result is an array of colors and visual textures. Due to a variance of color plus any dye technique, most of the yarn I use has some sort of inherent visual texture. Add that to material textures like wool, fulled wool, draping, and creasing, and you end up with a lot of dimension.
How do you balance producing fine art with functional or wearable work? Do you draw any distinction between them?
Making functional or non-functional pieces differs only due to consumer response. I try my best to balance both approaches, but who complains when making money?
You have a background in metal work as well. Do you plan to keep pursuing commercial welding work along with your artwork?
I no longer have a space that I can do metal work in and miss it dearly. As far as working in the industry, I don’t think I will until society stops sexualizing female welders and diminishing the great skill and hard work that it takes to be a welder.
You incorporate a variety of materials in your work, including wood and metal as well as fibers. Your recent piece “Old Man and the Child Bearer” includes a fringe that looks like thread until you look close and see it’s actually steel wire. Is this a sign of new experimentation in your work?
Incorporating varying finishes on all of my pieces stems from my time working with master weavers, knitters, and bookmakers. It’s really just a nod to them and the inherent history of the technique.
What kinds of projects do you hope to pursue in the next five years?
Get another loom. Keep building my skill sets. I need more tools. Find or create a wood and metals shop to work in. Show maybe once or twice a year, depending on if the work is right. Find more interns to teach and work with.
If you could design and make a scarf for any famous person (living, dead, real or imaginary) and get them to model it on television, stage or film, who would it be and what would you make for them?
Drop Dead Fred ripping one of my pieces apart and throwing it around like confetti while listening to The Mighty Mouse theme song.
There are days that some of the residents use my studio as a break room — I have a big table with a few chairs around it in half of my studio. Those few hours every week I like to listen to them discuss current projects, new ideas, little and big events going on in life, and laugh quite a bit. People are always happy when they’re eating
“Pavilionaires” is a recurring q&a series with current (and former) Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Residents. To take part, or to nominate someone, email Lucashwetzel at gmail dot com.