THE SIX FOOT GALLERY INTERVIEW: Rachael Rutherford (Awakenings)

Six Foot Gallery is delighted to present its annual spring show, Awakenings, featuring twenty-seven artists working in a diverse range of mediums and disciplines including sculpture, soundscapes, textiles, collage, video, woodturning, jewellery, photography, screenprinting, performance, and painting.

Rachael’s work currently focuses on using discarded fabrics to investigate the communal healing and sentimentality that textile objects can provide. The inspiration for this body of work partly came from the environmental concern of textile waste, but also from the Celtic tradition of ‘clootie wells’ – a healing practice in which a scrap of cloth would be taken from a sick person, soaked in a well, and hung on a nearby tree. As the cloth dried and subsequently rotted away, the person who it belonged to would be healed. She wonders how we can use this Celtic process as a metaphor for something new. Pulling together the threads of healing, textiles and nature.

Hi Rachael! How did you arrive at the theme of your work?
As an artist and sewist, I tend to generate a lot of scrap fabric. With an awareness of the harmful impact of textile waste on the planet, I became increasingly interested in how I could use every little bit of fabric in my work without waste. I then learnt of the ritual of rag wells completely coincidentally and became hooked on this idea of fabric waste as a metaphor for our healing process and how these reflect in each other.

Can you walk us through your creative process?
My creative process is a bit of a scattered approach, I like to explore lots of different avenues of the same idea. I like to live in the world of the work. I construct narratives and although derived from some truth, I also invent some of the folklore that surrounds it. The work in this show is part of a larger body of work that also involves a costume and some video works around fabric rags, clootie wells and healing – more of this can be seen on my Instagram! 

Are there specific advantages or challenges associated with working in your chosen mediums? Have you experimented with other mediums or techniques?
I think with textiles there are so many ways to interpret them within cultural and contextual connotations. It is an accessible way of working in which everyone can take something different from them. I have worked in different mediums and often move between painting and sculpture but I always seem to find myself reincorporating or coming back to textiles. 

What do you do to keep motivated and interested in your work?
Just keep making all of the time. Everyday I have to do some sort of creative action, even if it is just sewing one seam. It means that even in those uninspired moments, the creative muscles keep moving and eventually something will strike to push the work on or into something new. 

Which artists inspire you? Are there non-artistic influences such as literature or music that impact your work?
Textile artists are a big influence for me. I love Louise Bourgeois textile sculptures and their tactility. It has been amazing having a selection of them on my doorstep in Aberdeen which is worth a visit if you can! I do however also find a lot of inspiration in sentimental textiles, things like cross stitch works made by my Mum, a shirt that my Gran had repaired for my Pops, or a table cloth embroidered by my Great Gran. The sentimentality and softness of textiles fuels a lot of what I want to do.

Will your next project be a continuation of your current style or are you experimenting with something different? Can you share a glimpse of your next project?
This is a continual project. I tend not to have beginnings and ends of projects, they all blur together into one practice. But I can share the next part! I am currently working on a short film inspired by rag wells, with the inclusion of a costume I have made that is a part of this body of work and links to the work in this show through the text written. 

You can find out more about Rachael and her work on Instagram @rachaelrutherford_art and her website. Awakenings runs at Six Foot Gallery until Friday 24th May.

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