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Interview with Laura Mabbutt Textile Artist

Specialising in sculptural wet felt techniques and mixed media, Laura utilises the properties of wool creating seamless objects without using adhesives or stitching. Laura favours a natural colour palette allowing her to concentrate on form unless colour is vital to the work.

Laura is currently exhibiting alongside 5 Lincolnshire based Design-Nation members in their exhibition ‘Equality?’ celebrating 100 years since some women got to vote.

Design-Nation asked: Can you tell us about your practice and how your business began?

Laura Mabbutt: Since graduating 11 years ago my practice has been focused on handmade felt objects. In recent years, I have moved from more retail-able work such as functional domestic items and jewellery, to a more conceptual way of working that is more project based. This way of working suits me better as I feel freer to express my ideas, but can still involve the public in my work through socially engaged projects which explore the ideas of others.

DN: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?

LM: The person who had a huge influence on my creativity was my Pop. Although he would not have called himself an artist or designer, he was a very creative person, crafting his own eccentric objects for the world around him and was always fixing things. Looking back now, I believe that wondering around his garden and watching him work during school holidays as a child encouraged a fascination with handmade objects and making to grow within me.

DN: What inspires you and your work?

LM: My work always has and always will be focused around the making process, whatever medium I choose to work in. In recent years my work has become more influenced by issues surrounding me after spending many years making work purely for retail. Recent work has been inspired by themes such as personal history, human rights and mental health and I plan to work with the public more in future projects.

DN: Can you tell us a bit about your design process?

LM: I have always been a ‘3D thinker’ and am excited by forms rather than decoration. Therefore, my design process involves getting my hands on my materials as soon as possible. I will usually do a simple sketch of a form or shape beforehand, but find working with the materials that the end result will be made from is a natural way to explore ideas. Models and maquettes work as 3D sketches, working better for me than sketching in a traditional sense with pencil and paper.

DN: What is your work-space like?

LM: I have recently been made Associate Artist at Mansions of the Future, the new ACE funded space in Lincoln. As part of the project I have a studio space there for 1 year. It will be the first time I have been able to work in a space alongside other artists and I am very excited about the potential for collaboration and contributing to the public program there.

In terms of working practicalities, my work space is quite simple as there are not many tools or machines associated with making felt. This may change in future as I plan to use other media within my practice quite soon.

DN: Do you work hard on your PR or do you work with others on marketing?

LM: All of my marketing/PR is done by myself and those kind enough the share my work. I find social media an invaluable and cost effective tool. I also enjoy taking my making process on the road and find that practical making demos at events is a great way to market my work. I hope to mix these two in future by sharing films of my making process online.

DN: What are the main challenges in your practice?

LM: I imagine like most creatives, resource in the form of time and funds is always a challenge, but these challenges can sometimes be utilised to inspire work and project ideas. It is said ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.

DN: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?

LM: This year I will begin my MA during which I will be focusing on developing my practice and establishing a more socially engaged way of working. I hope that in 10 years time I be successfully running my own creative projects of this nature, creating large scale works and possibly working in other countries.

DN: If you could collaborate with someone who would you like that to be?

LM: I am very keen on collaborative working, and believe that creatives have so much to learn from and teach each other. I am currently in the process of developing 3 collaborative projects with artists I know well. I would like to, one day, work on a collaboration within a scientific environment or with technology, I like the idea of mixing ancient craft with cutting edge tech.

DN: If you weren’t a designer what would you be?

LM: If I hadn’t had a career in the creative industries, I imagine I would have gone into science or engineering. I believe the arts and science have many crossovers, as both art and science search for ways to explain the world around us.

DN: Why did you join Design Nation? What do you enjoy and find helpful from being a member?

LM: I was excited to join Design Nation for the networking opportunities and the advice given by DN staff at action plan meetings in recent years has been key to the progression of my practice. I am keen to work on collaborative projects with other members. It is also a major bonus to be associated with a well respected organisation such as Design Nation.

DN: Have you got any exhibitions, commission or event coming up you are taking part in?

LM: I am currently taking part in 2 exhibitions and also have some more coming up.

Currently you can see my work at Lincoln Drill Hall in the Equality? exhibition, celebrating 100 years since some women were granted the vote. This runs until 8th August.

My work is also on show at Gainsborough Old Hall’s Amazing Menageries exhibition until 30th November 2018.

Coming up, I will be showcasing my work and process at the WITA Showcase evening in Lincoln on 22nd November.

I will  be exhibiting at Sam Scorer Gallery in the Contemporary Crafts Network’s 30th anniversary exhibition from 14th – 26th August.

I will  have a piece of work in the 200 Fish exhibition, opening at the North Sea Observatory on 24th August – 3rd Sept.

During the month of December, my work can be seen at a CCN Group exhibition at the Yarrow Gallery in Peterborough.

Interview by Rhea Clements


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Clare Edwards


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