Can you describe your work in 3 words?
DO YOU THINK ONE IS BORN AN ARTIST OR BECOMES ONE ALONG THE WAY?
I think everyone has a need to be creative in some way, but our innate talents differ quite a bit. My family supported my interest in drawing and painting from an early age, and I developed my skills as I grew up. I always felt that I would be an artist and I imagined myself illustrating book covers, as I also loved to read.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR STYLE OF KNITTED ANIMAL HEADS?
I trained as a print maker and photographer and my early works consisted of shadowboxes with sculptural elements. I created one knit deer trophy for my own home around five years ago, and everyone that visited really responded to the piece. I began to experiment with patterns and texture and just began to make more of the trophy series. I like to have the materials relate to the animal form in some way, to create more layers of meaning in the work. I love that the work is personal to me and accessible to others.
DO THEY BEAR DIFFERENT NAMES?
I collectively call the mounted deer heads, "Domestic Trophies". The other animal trophies are singular works and bear names relating to the theme of the work, such as "Four Points" for the trade blanket buffalo and "The Lion and the Lamb", for a shaggy knit lion sculpture.
DOES THE SELECTION OF COLOUR BEAR ANY SPECIFIC or CONCEPTUAL MEANING? OR IS IT MORE OF A MOOD THING?
I usually choose a colour that appeals to me aesthetically for the trophies. My early work had a very limited palette, so I enjoy using a variety of colour.
How do people usually react to your trophies? Any particularly memorable comment that struck you?
I think the texture is startling and some people see them as rather spooky, while others are delighted by how playful they are. One collector purchased a trophy to hang amongst her husbands real taxidermy kills, as a sort of revolt against his macabre collection.
YOU LIVE IN PORTLAND INSTEAD OF A BIG, FAMOUSLY 'ARTIST FRIENDLY' CITY LIKE NEW YORK, SAN FRANCISCO OR EVEN LA. WHAT IS IT ABOUT PORTLAND THAT YOU VALUE?
Portland actually is a very artist friendly city. I have lived here since 1993 and the community is very supportive of the arts. The city if full of creatives and there is always an event or exhibit to go see, when I take a moment from the studio. The one thing it does lack is a serious financially supportive base; I rarely sell my work in Portland.
What I really appreciate about the city is how close it is to the geographical features Oregon has to offer. In an hour I can be deep in the forest at the base of Mount Hood, or If I drive in the opposite direction I can be at the Pacific Ocean. The landscape here is beautifully varied. I also like that Portland has a slower pace than some of the other cities I have been in. The months of grayness and rain are also a good time to stoke the stove and get some work done.
COULD YOU DESCIRBE YOUR REGULAR WORKING DAY?
I usually wake up at around 6am, drink way too much coffee and answer emails. I take the dogs for a walk along the river, then I come home and try to draw and just get new ideas down in my sketchbook. Then my day varies from sawing down wood in the studio, to sewing a pattern in the house while watching a film. My work is very process oriented and I usually have a huge list of tasks to accomplish for the week, that I whittle away at each day.
HOW DO YOU LIKE RELAXING AFTER WORK, WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES OR FAVOURITE PASTIME ACTIVITIES?
I love reading and feel a bit lost if I don't have a book waiting for me. I sometimes make enormous cakes as I once worked as a baker, and later in the evening my husband and I love to watch a film or British comedies.
YOUR WORK OBVIOUSLY STRONGLY REFERS TO THE ANIMAL KINGDOM AND NATURE IN GENERAL. HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN FASCINATED BY NATURE?
When I was quite young, we lived in an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in Idaho. My family would take picnics to settler cabins, I would go hunting with my father for grouse and deer, and herds of elk would graze in the field by our home. I loved wandering in the surrounding country and the forest always seemed mysterious and alive to me. I think these early experiences certainly shaped my affinity with animals and nature.
DO YOU THINK THAT DUE TO TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT PEOPLE WILL MOVE AWAY FROM NATURE? OR PERHAPS SHIFT TOWARDS THE NATURAL WORLD due to the over-technologised modern day?
Technology is simply a tool and people who do not live in natural settings, always try to surround themselves with artefacts of nature. We tend our gardens and lawns with a fervor and collect exotic plants for our homes. I think it is easy to get a bit sucked into a virtual world, and not realize that you need to come up for air and see something in person. But I also love how accessible the world is, to someone who will never be able to see an exhibit, or travel to a place in person. Without the use of my computer, I would not be able to work from home, which allows me to spend more time outdoors, and to work on what gives me the most personal satisfaction.
WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT SO FAR?
I am glad that I have had the confidence to create what I want to. I love going into the studio and seeing my personally manufactured world, and being able to make an idea into a concrete object.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON? WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY DEVELOPING?
I am busy in the studio on a new body of work, for a solo exhibit, at the Sylvia White Gallery in LA. It will be on view this winter. I have multiple pieces in progress including a warhorse armored in coins, a knit dutch still life, and a large wooden tree whose inhabitants will be made from found scraps of paper. There is also a series of modern knit side tables in the works for a pop up store. I have been going a little crazy with color and patterns....
CAN YOU SHARE WITH ME SOMETHING THAT VERY FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I am part Chippewa Indian. My grandmother would sit with me on the stairwell and tell me stories in her native tongue, that she was not allowed to speak when she was a child.
IS THERE ANY CREATIVE THAT YOU DREAM COLLABORATING WITH?
I really admire the work of Xavier Veilhan, Allison Schulnik and Matt Johnson but I would love to spend a week in the studio of Claude and Francois Lalanne. Their work is so beautifully crafted, playful, and full of life.
WHO IS YOUR IDOL?
Lee Miller, the WW2 photographer and surrealist muse. She was not afraid to take risks and live her life according to her own rules.
Written by Natascha Chtena