Last week we sat down with Textile Artist, Maryanne Moodie, to discuss the ins and outs of weaving (sorry we couldn’t resist), finding your craft through skip-diving, and the importance of creative community.
Nativen: How did growing up in Melbourne influence your choice to start doing weaving?
Maryanne: Melbourne is super creative… the last two governments ago, the state …put a huge funding into the arts. They created this enormous cultural center and anyone could get funding for whatever project they wanted to do. People were coming together in groups and they were making big installations and doing performances. People who were creative in many ways were coming up with all these new ideas.
It was amazing, and it still is. …Some of my favorite artists are coming out of Melbourne. It’s an exciting place to be, and it feels like anything is possible.
Nativen: When did you realize that you wanted to be a weaving artist? Was there a specific event in your life that influenced it?
Maryanne: I was looking for a craft, because I wanted to make things for my friends and family. I wanted to give them presents that were meaningful, that I’d made with my hands and not just bought from the shops.
I had all of these super-talented friends who were good at everything. I tried knitting and I was OK at knitting, but there was someone who was better at knitting. There was somebody who was better at crochet and someone who was better at basket weaving …none of them stuck.
I was an art teacher at the time… and at the new school there was no storeroom. The principal came and he got one of those big metal bins. We call them a skip…
He said, “Go get through the storeroom.” There’s a little row of cupboards at the new school, so you have to go through that classroom-sized room of junk, as he called it, and pretty much toss everything, if you can.
It depends on your personality whether you’re a keeper or a chucker, but it nearly killed me, having to throw away boxes of bottle tops that had been in there since the ’50s and big circles of raffia…As long as this school had been there, people had been donating things to the art room.
… I had done a lot of the organization, and it was nice to be able to go in there at the start of a semester and say, “Right, I’m going to figure out what I’m going to teach by using these items.” Rather than, “I want to teach this and this and I’m going to buy all this stuff,” which is expensive and not so great for the environment….it felt creative in that way. We were going through and got towards the back and under a big pile of newspapers, was this loom.
Nativen: That’s so fantastic.
Maryanne: … I’d done a little bit of work on a cardboard loom and I thought, “Maybe this is the thing. Maybe I can make this.” These were the first…I didn’t even have yarn. I had jute and some neon string, so that was the first thing that I made.
…In Australia there’s this idea called “tall poppy syndrome”. It’s like: don’t get too big for your boots, don’t put yourself out there because somebody’s going to come and chop your head off. You don’t want to say, “I’m making art,” because someone’s going to come and say, “No, you’re not.”
So… I’ll turn that into a zippered pouch, and it’s useful. This is utilitarian. You don’t need to find a space on your wall for this. I could give presents that were useful. And then I got better and better at it and I was like, “Maybe I can start hanging these on the wall”…”Just quietly”.
I was putting them on Instagram and it was this women’s circle where people were like, “Those are amazing!” and so encouraging. Some people who were weavers were saying, “You should try this thing and you should try this thing.” It was really empowering and exciting.
Nativen: Would you say that it was the introduction through the art school and then encouragement from other weaver women in your circle?
Maryanne: Yep, definitely.
Nativen: Now that you’re in Brooklyn, what do you love most about being in Brooklyn and how is that integral to your work? Or do you think it’s integral to your work?
Maryanne: I think it is. It feels really exciting. It feels like there [are] things happening here, there [are] people who do what I do here. Through Instagram I’ve been in contact with other weavers and we have Weavers-United drinks…Which is great. It’s really cute, and it’s that: making community and reaching out and…we’re not alone. Encouraging each other and helping. Giving advice about things. You have to be a businesswoman. You have to be all of those things now. Trying to be gentle and honest and at the same time getting your name out there and all of that stuff. Which can be tricky sometimes.
Nativen: In Brooklyn, what’s your favorite restaurant, if you had to pick one?
Maryanne: Talde is really nice.
Nativen: Do you have a favorite home goods store?
Maryanne: Etsy. [laughs]
Nativen: Is there one in Brooklyn…?
Maryanne: There is. There’s The Greenhouse. It’s really nice.
Nativen: Favorite park or outdoor space?
Maryanne: Prospect Park… It’s just there!
Nativen: Is there… a hidden gem in Brooklyn for you that maybe a lot of people don’t know about?…
Maryanne: I don’t know if we’ve been here long enough. Our house is really good. [laughs]
Nativen: That’s a good hidden gem…
Nativen: What do you think is the greatest resource to your work in Brooklyn?
Maryanne: Having those other weavers close by. I’m about to start teaching classes and they’ve both offered to come and assist…. They’ll learn something through the process as well, but yeah…The community.
Nativen: This question might be like asking you to pick the child that you love the most…but what is your favorite piece that you’ve made thus far?
Maryanne: It was a combination piece that I made in Brunswick, in Melbourne. We had a big loom made up, and I got to be in a beautiful florist’s. We had two stools, and we invited people to come and add to this big piece. I sat there for two weeks and wove. And people would come and sit, and we’d have a talk and a chat… It was creating community, creating a piece, and at the end we gave the piece to one of the people. They had to leave their name and number. We picked one out of the hat and gave the piece to somebody. It was so nice.
Nativen: All that collaboration is awesome.
What part of the process brings you the most joy?
Maryanne: Hanging. It has to be hanging. [laughs]
It used to be warping, and just thinking about what I was going to create, but I think the hanging…and the thinking about the person who it’s going to. I’m fortunate enough to still have that close contact with my clients that I know where it’s going.
Nativen: What part of your process do you think is the greatest struggle?
Maryanne: …It’s hard. I’ve had a couple graphic designer clients…My husband is a graphic designer, some of my best friends are graphic [laughs] designers, but people who have a really strong, particular vision that they’d like recreated is often tricky.
It’s easier if somebody gives a general vibe about something. That they like me and like my work enough, that they can let me go, let me run.
Nativen: What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet?
Maryanne: Wow… I’ve done a lot.
I didn’t get married and have a baby until my mid-30s so I had a lot of time doing whatever…I wanted… I traveled heaps. I’ve taken a lot of risks. I felt like when it was time to settle down, I was ready to settle down…I think the last thing that I hadn’t done that I wanted to do was get married and have a baby.
Nativen: And you did it!
Maryanne: And I did it. [laughs]
Nativen: That’s good. You’re living with no regrets. That’s fantastic!
If you weren’t a weaving artist….What do you think you would be?
Maryanne: I like being organized, and I really like filling out forms…Going in and helping people get organized with their stuff. I also really like talking to people, obviously, so something where I could help people organize their space. I don’t know if that’s a job.
Nativen: It’s totally a job. People do that. That’s great.
What destination do you want to travel to next and how do you think that might inspire or alter your work? Is that something you’re thinking about?
Maryanne: Central America. I haven’t been to Central America.
I’ve been to South America, but I was 19 at the time. Central America will be the next…big waterholes and tropical-y kind of swimming. Swimming is what I’m after next. [laughs].
Nativen: What song is currently heavily on rotation in your work? Do you listen to music when you work?
Maryanne: Yeah. I’ve been listening to mariachi.
[see below post for a sample of her favorites]
We went to the Etsy Talent Show, and there are seriously talented people there. It’s not just like, “Here’s someone juggling badly.” …there [are] seriously talented people, and they had a mariachi band. These two people, a guy and a girl were singing, and there were guitars, and shakers, and I just thought, “I don’t know this music at all,” and it seemed fun and exciting. I’ve been…exploring. There’s some of that.
Nativen: If you could find or choose three words to sum up your work, what would they be?
Nativen: “Color-ific.” I love that, I think that’s my new favorite word. I feel like that’s an onomatopoeia…
Nativen: Is there anything you do with your work to specifically connect with your community…?
Maryanne: I’m always looking for opportunities to get out there, so teaching classes… I’m making beginner loom kits now, so people who want to learn to weave but can’t get to wherever I am…I always tell the people, “Here’s my email address if you don’t have any…” because I want them to do this. It’s fun. It’s so much fun. It’s satisfying, and it makes you feel good. Then you have something to give to someone.
Nativen: It’s inspiring, just being around it, I have an urge to get on a loom.
Maryanne: Yeah…to do it.
Nativen: Where are you teaching classes?
Maryanne: Do you know The Old Stone House? The first ones I’m teaching there, and I’ve got a couple in LA with Designlovefest.
Nativen: What’s the most helpful advice you’ve received through your work?
Maryanne: Be honest and forgive others. Everyone’s on their own journey. Don’t judge them. Let that stuff go and just be true to yourself.
Nativen: Who’s your hero, or who’s someone who’s helped influence your work?
Maryanne: Jen [Griffiths]… I think she was one of the big influencers at the start, and she’s such an amazing woman. They’re living in New Zealand now, and it’s her partner who painted these paintings.
We’ve got a few of Jake’s paintings around and they’re just a super creative couple. She’s an architect, but she does beautiful ceramics. She does crochet. Whatever she lends her hand to is that level… She’s really inspiring. I keep saying to her, “I don’t know what you do, and I haven’t seen any of your architecture work, but you should just let that go…because you need to do more of these. [laughs] Forget about the architecture game.”
Nativen: What are five objects that you can’t live without?
- I guess my loom. It’s pretty important.
- My baby. He would have to come along even though he threw a tantrum this morning. [laughs]… and my husband!
- … I guess my phone. It’s awful but it’s true.
- Cast iron pot. I use that every day.
- My plants.
Nativen: That’s important for a good balanced life, more green in your space.
You can check out more of Maryanne’s work here!
Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler
This interview has been condensed & edited
all images copyright of Nativen