Mary Little artist talk

Mary Little artist talk



this show came about with not knowing at the time necessarily how much furniture we were gonna be able to show of Marius earlier career and so we were thrilled to get to include a piece of the earlier work in this show but since moving to Los Angeles and you're probably talking about this she's shifted gears to really focus on cloth and on fabric strictly and in terms of the wall work that you're looking at she did create the piece that's in the window for this show which was a tremendous piece well I just want to say it's really phenomenal to get the opportunity to show a solo show in Los Angeles it's a pretty unusual great thing to have the opportunity to have so my background is in I was born in Northern Ireland moved to London and when I was 21 and studied at the Royal College of Art in furniture design grad and undergrad so for all of my life until about three years ago I thought it was a furniture designer and I always worked at the periphery but I still always thought that I was a furniture designer until a couple of really outspoken and honest people in Los Angeles told me that I just had to stop I just I'm an artist and I had to stop one of them is in the room like Eufaula and it's three people I can think of and that's nice that one of them is here and so and I I am not alone for the last 21 years I have been in partnership with Peter wheeler who's a kind of background kind of person he's actually hi and he will be really annoyed with me that I've brought his name into the conversation but it would be totally dishonest of me if I didn't so Peter trained as a furniture designer as well so once I'd realized that I wasn't a designer but what do you do with that I realized that I was a sculptor in my sculpture I was really fascinated by comfort I designed a lot of chairs where I was really fascinated by how people felt when they sat in the chairs and got a real kind of sensual pleasure from sitting in the chairs no one thought I was concerned with with function or with comfort because they could see the textile they could see the sculptural form akin but the comfort element was always at the core of what I was doing so the thing that's left when there's no function is how does somebody feel when they're in the presence of the work and that's really the key thing for me is people's reactions when they see it for the first time maybe if you want to live with it I want to create a powerful impression and it's really exciting to create a powerful impression from something that's white so now I want to show you some furniture that shows you my background and what's led up to what you see in the walls I'm not going to talk about this unless you ask me questions but I'm going to talk about the furniture and if I can start I did a lot of commissioned work and the Commission's were I really love the Commission process I loved getting involved with the clients and here and what they what they like about my work because everybody likes something different and I like trying to understand how they're going to use it so this is a chair for a client who wanted some very rich deep colors and and texture and and he was a guy most of the people that have commissioned me have been women and most of my clients are women but this is a guy and he was going to put this room this chair in the middle of his bedroom that had mirrors on all the two sides it's gonna sit in the middle so I knew that it would be a really great opportunity to do something that was really special so the metalwork is three-dimensional it's very sculptural very special and the sea itself is symmetrical but the two arms are asymmetric so he wanted to sit in this reading the paper and so it's got a long sleep seat and it's got a nice trick to this seat and this is the piece I've called analyse or analyse and after a Dutch friend again I'm really really interested here in the in the function you know if you sit on the chair people are all shapes and sizes and so for somebody that's small they can there's a gas strut underneath which is what you have for office chair so you can put the seat down low or you can kind of write right up high so it fits different people's Heights but also it it spins around and that means that you can have the table on the right hand side or the left hand side so just thinking about how people would put it in their homes sometimes the table on the left works better in your home or in your particular room or it could just be your right hand or left handed so I like that kind of opportunity of doing something where people had a choice I named after unleased because she was pregnant at the time and I loved the idea I'm similar an extra thing I've had to say that word and this is a client in Florida in Palm Beach and she wants it to chair to sit on while she was reading a newspaper so this was commissioned in 97 she wants to play cards she wanted to be on the phone then she wanted to do needlepoint and she's a big collector of studio arts so when I was with her I thought I would win she also wanted white she wanted a white seats so really white for a chair is not so practical if it's supported so I proposed at the initial conversation that it was quoted which she absolutely loved and she said a phrase that just keeps on coming back to me and she said I'd love that and has got to have a shot of something terrific and terrific is not word that I use but just I loved what it's invoked in my mind so I had a very rich purple emerald green and bright orange as threads for the quilt I'm stitching so she could sit on this it became a shows long she can sit on this with her legs of strides and she can Lehren news live right in front when she had this her husband Ben also wanted to commission a piece and that has happened to me again in the game where one person in a couple of wants to Commission something the other loves the process and this fascinated by what I'm doing then they feel it's completely unexpected and then they want something as well and so it hasn't got something completely different where he could fling his left leg over it and he wouldn't read in the paper but more like like this with it one leg flung over and the Missis work of a circular she and 1991 I spent a couple of years in Milan working for different design studios and I came back to London and wanted to make a new body of work and I felt that nobody knew me after I graduated from college and they needed to do something to tell people where I was at at that point in time and I taught myself upholstery I've never done upholstery before I taught myself some techniques for carving and shaping and building up with foam and I've done a little bit of dress making as a kid and I had a good soil machine so I developed this and so what I did with my furniture is I always use furniture as a way to I used to function and how people sit and relate to a chair as a way to bring out a character in the chair so for example with this seats when you sit down and you've got every such a slight gap in the middle of your legs so I have a support underneath that area so that was my rationale so okay let's let's carve that away and this in with the back and I've done a couple of chairs with with hard wooden box and also upholstered where there's a slit in the back because you don't actually need any support right where your spine is you need either side so this is this is divided into two and here I was working very much developing a character that was nothing to do with function and but making it very functional in the back even has a lumbar support in that so when people sit sign on that they're expecting something totally whimsical on Sirius and they sit on it and their body just tells them something else and that's what I really loved it by making making furniture this chair was bought by the V&A museum Victoria & Albert Museum and and it was a very funny because the curator had seen it in the show um he came to my apartment and he he chose the one night of collection of chairs that he wanted and I put it in a cloth bag and he picked it up and he went down the elevator and he called the cab and he took the taxi to the VNA with this and in the chair in the cab with him and so that's funny but so it was in a display case at the VNA for maybe three months as a new acquisition and this woman from Boston just called Bobby she was a docent there her husband was working in London at the time and it was pre Emil and she she contacted the curators at the VNA and said I want to contact the woman that made this I'd like to commission a piece so they wrote to me I put on paper by the mail and said we have someone who wants one of the few chairs do you mind if I introduce you to that to her and so that's how it was in the old days so anyway Bobby commissioned the chair based on this and I did several sketches for her she chose one she went back to Boston for the summer and came back and I had created the chair this is actually the chair that I created for her but this is it reupholstered 20 years later and so the original one had blue velvet and patterns and silk so the syllabus on the back and this and the fronts and the velvet was on the seat Bobby came and she saw the chair and she was I was getting ready to receive a check for the balance and and I was actually going to go on a three-week trip to California where I've never been here before and the night before she came to pick up the chair and she looked at it she was very very cool and she had this big red patch on her neck and I said to her you're not happy are you and she said actually Mary the chair that you have in the VNA reminds me of my younger self and what you have here in front of me not today so she was a woman of you know she had two children and she was another and she was just feeling like this just represented her as a more voluptuous woman and I said well please take the chair don't pay for it and I'll call you in three weeks time when I come back absolutely 100% that she would love it and I did I called Yerba four weeks later and said so how do you feel about the chair and she said Mary we absolutely love it the kids we we all love it so uh I got the check it's very important getting shows and really similar chair I wanted to show you and this was a commission that I had when I moved to Los Angeles so it's from a big collector in Washington DC she and her husband collected a lot of wood art they gave it away to a museum and our place was empty he died and then she was beginning to build her own collection make a residential museum and so I was commissioned to do to these two chairs plus another and it wasn't a very very tight timeframe I was able to do it so I proposed that I did it's similar to the previous one but she chose these really exciting plans this this is actually pink so it's it's woven jacquard very very old French technique from a French mill and then this plastic punched cloth from from Hiram and so embossed so it's just really lovely combination if they're very very old and they're very new and and then so Peter and I moved to California to San Francisco to teach CCA and in 2001 2005 we moved to Connecticut so we gave up teaching and we started to design for manufacturing companies and this is one of the chair ranges are seating ranges that came out at that tiny so it's for two people to sit on each of these benches throw up a little still and you've got the table in the middle to have a kind of casual meeting so it's like in a kind of startup kind of company where you want to have a couple of these pieces out in the main area and have a very brief meeting and not stay too long and so all of them for maken-ki might have are the kind of planning of that they might have that kind of functionality but the form making is my for making it it's soft its welcoming I'm kind of detailed upholstery detailing and this is really interesting because this we worked with a female and design director on this and it wasn't for her it wouldn't have this would not have gone in the market when you work with furniture manufacturers typically you're working with guys and it's just so really a huge relief to work with a female design director maybe appreciate some other kind of sensibility and this is enough another office chair that Pete Pete Peter and I design both of these and so and I really wanted to show you this because it's just so different from this but with this chair this is a conference chair and so it was around boyfriend tables and it's available as a high-back i think that's the high back in the low back and the manufacturers upholster them in whatever fabric the designers order them in so but but they do them in their own fabrics for for the showroom models and photography models so the manufacturers did this and black kind of stretchy fabric and this is a white leather so I had the choice over that it's it's that kind of thing as I have our hands but I really like this chair just because it is for the office environment and it's just still even though with all that restraint is still a kind of gentle for makin welcoming an office like chair I wanted to show this to you because it's another material so back in the UK we did a lot of commissions some of them were public art commissions and this one I really liked because it's um it's for a sculpture park and in the Highlands of Scotland surrounded by Heather's and really wild landscapes so it's totally hidden by snow in the winter and then kind of sandy colored vegetation and in the spring and it becomes green and that lovely Heather pretty how their color so we proposed three of these that just sit randomly well it appears random but it's very conscious so people are feeling like they're partly in the group but they can sit and look over the landscape so very carefully positioned to look at a beautiful scene and feet that's reinforced cement a glass reinforced cement that's the core so it's made on the mold and then it's in this cheap art so you can see a central scene there but then it's the color is where it's covered in the product called stove sto and you can get that in whatever color you want so and it's it's hard wearing it's meant to be for the outside buildings so it's this dough that you see and then the chorus breast reinforced in cement and it's got a central I'm Cora steel and the very deep foundation the interesting thing was hi to get it there and how you install it and we even looked into hiring a helicopter because it was near Aberdeen where all the oil fields are so yeah I think we got it in the quad bikes in the end remember and and then this one I like after immediately after they cement one because it's similar kind of for making kind of delicacy and it's like to two orbs melted in together and this is a brother of this that you can see when you when now we finished and you can see the kind of language of the same make and the seams are absolutely considered this seems you've got the same languages the forms zippers are part of the aesthetic and they you can look at the the base underneath afterwards where it's all kind of all folks together as a as a whole pillows when I was working up in the Bay Area we actually had a solo show up in the Bay Area with the gallery called – Sara I think middle of sculptural pillows and these benches this is definitely a connection between this and the piece there and piecing their window you know that kind of flamboyant for me for making with the fabric in this case I did it with I commissioned a fiber artist on to interpret my ideas and some of you might know her her name is Jean Casa Sato so she was a great person to work with I very often work with other artists or craftspeople I know that a lot of craftspeople when they they have periods where they're intensely working on the room work but there's periods where they're just completely spent and if you can catch them at that time and commissioned them to do some work with you you can get their technical expertise and they love doing it you know they it's invigorating to work with someone else and but they don't feel they have to put their own creative input into it but they want to put their technical input into it so I did that with the quilt it she has long that you saw earlier and this is with jeans so and I always work in series so this is one of one of three and a longer bench square stool and this try they're still and there this one this was yellow that was with its shibori technique and so it's tie-dyed what I got back from Eugene was a stack of squares that had been dyed with a kind of tied with a kind of spiral died and then flattened it– and I cut them into a spiral and then we open up a spiral it looks like this shibori this is pure authentic shibori made by master craftsmen from japan i'm commissioned by them to do some tea chairs for them for them to show people how shibori could be used in furniture and my payment was partly some length of shibori and i tried to find more from them but they couldn't price it they couldn't sell it because they didn't know how to price it and this you know I just love the whole sensuality have that the form bacon and then and the way the pattern goes when it's stretched over the body this is actually just in inches high so it's about 12 inches by 14 by inches high and some people use it as a little footstool and but I mentioned it as a little agile stole that you could have so it's completely covered in black belts you can see the black there but the whole thing is covered in foam and then the shibori is like a color all the way around and through it's not tight but just really snug this is a last chair that I'm going to show you it's was made for this same woman in Washington DC her name was flirt and I called the chair after her again she wants it something as a side chair she wanted something small I definitely wanted something that was going to be comfortable this was done just as we were beginning to pack up to move to Los Angeles so everything was really speedy and I literally did the back legs is just a squiggle with a soft pencil I met her several proposals and she chose the one with the squiggles for the legs and when she chose that I just thought how am I gonna make that so trial and error experimentation and this is made from strips that are cutting the biased and it's made from a fabric that is a kind of rust silk woven with a purplish cotton so it has this beautiful Sheen to it but when you see it in three dimensions it really picks up its really silvery lightly like an underwater fish Pippi and then there is the these little curves so that's that chair and then exactly the same technique was developed into this but rationalized a bit so the panels are almost it's the same way at the bottom as the top whereas with the legs on the chair they became narrow this is a screen in my in my room we we live and work in the huge loft a long time so this is just a room divider and it's made from artists canvas and this is this it's just like this and I put this up in the wall it was a bite and three years ago and it was someone else in the room here and it was it was it was kids dinner that evening and so I was sitting with my back to this piece and six people to dinner everybody was talking about this they mixing this up behind me saying you absolutely have to do something with this because they felt that it was so powerful and a new direction and everybody knew I was looking for and that was something that other than what I had been doing and so I spent about six months and developed began to develop work for the walls and what I feel now is that I'm just at the beginning and you know when you look at me I am definitely a mature artist but I just feel like I just really feel excited about the future then someone asked me this morning where do you see yourself in five years time thankfully she didn't wait for an answer because that's really a hard thing to do but I just feel excited when I think about five years time and so I have no idea where I'll be but it most certainly will be doing things that are working more intuitively and subjectively I'm trusting my judgment trust in my hunch being less rational you can be very rational in so many aspects of your life but with my work I just want to make work where I start and then a story unfolds when I'm making it and how that happens at the minute I have a piece of work that I develop or finished just this week and I started that about six weeks ago and I I made it hum it up didn't work it was nothing just no spirit whatsoever took it down left it lying around and then one day I just thought okay now I have to give this some time so I may be spent a couple of hours on it and made it into something bigger and it changed the orientation made it back to front and and it's just on Friday I finally hung it up and when I hung it up and gravity took control of it and it started to sink in the middle so and I have this new piece that has got a big slash in the middle with a big belly sinking in the middle and it's just I woke up yesterday and looked at that and just thought it's this is a joy to look at and so all of my work is totally emotion based you like it because your gut tells you you like it or you boom bye why don't you are how did you decide or come to find that the artists canvas was going to be your next material because founder cares you've used a wide range of yeah oh right yes yeah so in my chairs I've always developed the forms with Unleashed muslin so I've always worked with cotton but much finer and softer to develop the patterns for the chairs and with the artists canvas I work in a large I live in a large building where there's a lot of artists and I borrowed or I was given a scrap of canvas oh yeah client wanted some pattern on it some color on it so I just borrowed some canvas and and from that I just loved their stiffness I love stiff cloth I love making three-dimensional form I have a stiff cloth and I love working with relief so a lot of the fabrics in my furniture are very expensive like three hundred dollars a yard wholesale so that was why I always had to work with clients because I could never afford that myself and and I am the artist canvas is in abundance I can get it pretty easily I love the color I love the fact that it's not white I love this soft and ivory color to it but the main thing is the stiffness so the stiffness is the three is the quality that I that really appeals to me okay when I first graduated I made this chair and the chair I had I didn't name it I just thought the thing itself is important it didn't occur to me to name it but then it went on show and everybody was saying what's it called and I said it doesn't have a name so they were given names to my chair and then that got published and then I had to just go with a stupid name for from my chair that I loved because I have not named it so I've realized it's really important to name your friend your furniture or your art and I I'm not a technical person a lot of people in my past have said things like or they think they'll call their furniture and tea 7:43 or this is the famous 1gf for tea so those are just initials and numbers and I am really really bad at acronyms and numbers so I just have to have a name that I emotionally and connect with so the furniture has always been called by a first name so it's going to be male or female and sometimes I named it after a client but the better way that I prefer is if when it's finished I'll look at it and just think is that the other female and from that I'll flip one way or the other and then I'll try to think what what does it feel like so this one here is full and body very soft and heavy so I called it Douglas so you know it's a lightweight answer but it's really really effective and the most important thing is that usually when I'm doing a commission for somebody it's all finished it's just getting ready to go out the door and I'm having a cup of coffee and they suddenly think oh I've got to name it so ten minutes if I can just get names in ten minutes that is perfect so all of the work here is my the last names of people and all of this was influenced very much by the landscape when I grew up in the north of Ireland so the soft little hills seaweeds just all the kind of softness that I grow up in and so I call it after the last name so either in my family or neighboring farmers so this is Campbell my father my grandfather was Campbell and this is Bailey my favorite neighbor who I thought of as granny he was Bailey oh yes and I haven't I have a series of six pieces that were amp that were developed bite of iron sweaters or cable dip and I called all of those because they were inspired by my mum so I called all of those after the first names of female members of my family so this is Sheila and then there was Betty Angie and Ivy Marian it all has meaning to me and you literally do need in them as a label and so it's my prerogative to name them hi I wonder who she O'Neil after awhile I started looking wider and thought my family names in the neighborhood names of the neighbors are scots-irish so I started to just pull in scots-irish names and so this is a scots-irish last name thank you very much [Applause]

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