Lockdown presents many challenges for us all, and for creatives it can mean being denied access not only to markets but also the places where they work and usual sources of inspiration. Not so for Maxine Greer, who has been busy in recent months getting to know her neighbourhood.
Design-Nation: Please tell us about your practice, how your business began and what inspires you?
Maxine Greer: I have always drawn. The activity of drawing excites me, the process of creating images on paper helps me to not only relax but also to formulate new ideas. Drawing is the foundation of what I do – whether directly, out in the countryside or the everyday recording of moments in time: the breakfast table, a corner in a room, looking out of a window.
DN: In your work there is a very interesting mix of drawing, animation and stitched sculptural pieces such as your “Mini-Worlds”. We love the drawings in your recent “How I Met my Neighbours” blog post. Do you see these as separate or interrelated activities? How do they connect?
MG: These drawn moments feed into the different projects which might end up being an installation of birds, intricate embroidered mini-world sculptures or an animation. I enjoy creating characters and developing a story. I see the houses as individual characters conveying a story through their windows.
My mini-world sculptures speak about a fragile landscape, the changes in the seasons, the balance of nature. Installations of paper birds are of childhood memories and aim to communicate the child’s voice through the telling of stories.
I like to animate the inanimate, to bring an event or an experience to life. The daft stop-motion films I make are made sometimes over a day or two, sometimes over weeks. They intermingle with domestic life. Using materials found in the home, they are made on a fridge door, kitchen table or shelves in the spare room. They sketch out happiness, sadness and joy.
The resulting works might be an emotional response to a particular life event or situation.
“How I Met My Neighbours” was my response to the lockdown situation.
DN: The sculptural pieces use Japanese embroidery techniques. How did you learn these and what attracts you to their use?
MG: I have had a long standing fascination with all things Japanese. This may have started in a student house in the 90s, where an exchange student from Osaka came to stay. She dressed us in kimonos and we ate sticky rice from what looked like a crash helmet. When teaching in Edinburgh, on a trip to the National Museum of Scotland I discovered the work of Serizawa Keisuke (1895 -1984) master textile designer. His fluid textiles, so intricate, remain an inspiration today.
Repetition is a large part of my work. Whether it’s hundreds of folded paper birds, multiple stitched or cut lines or the repetitive actions made through stop motion animation, building up volume through repeated elements to create the whole.
Mini-worlds came from my response to drawing in the landscape. The ball, created from scraps of fabric, is built up with layer upon layer of thread, these are then stitched into and a moment drawn in the landscape is encapsulated into 3D. Through this activity I discovered the Japanese embroidery technique of temari and refined my ball making; although the surface of the mini worlds remain more drawn rather than the geometric patterning found in temari. Each small sculpture focuses on the detail, its volume developed with a succession of stitched marks.
DN: Your work is focused on the edges of agriculture, field margins and biodiversity. Please tell us more.
MG: Through working out in the countryside I became more inspired by the edges around fields, the hedgerows , the wildflower verges and their relationship with farming. I became more aware of the essential role that these habitats have on wildlife, agriculture and the food chain. Through creating the “Field Margin Studies” I wanted to highlight these environments and contribute to the global discussion on climate change.
DN: What’s next for you? Do you have any plans to take the neighbourhood drawing project further?
MG: From Cornwall to Scotland the neighbourhood project is growing. I’m currently working on requests to capture other homes and draw moments of lockdown for folk up and down the country.
Interview by Liz Cooper. All images courtesy of Maxine Greer and used with permission.