JUSTINE DENNIS – Fiber Artist
For an artist, evolution is a way of life. Mine has been more through metamorphoses brought on by environmental developments rather than any simple survival of the fittest. I learned to sew at grandma’s knee, I began professional artisanship as a potter and I served my time as a production weaver. These three elements combined to help me develop an entirely original craft technique I call ‘torsion sewing’.
My work is not to be confused with either ceramics or weaving but it has elements of both. Instead of a loom, I use an antique Singer sewing machine. Using long, crocheted, cords of repurposed yarn, as the ‘warp’, not laid out straight but worked into a tight coil, and with the sewing thread acting as the weft. Without the restrictions of the shape of the loom, I am able to send the stitchery in all directions back and forth across the yarn. The internal forces within the fibers cause the structure to curve into a bowl shape as I sew, in much the same way as a potter manipulates clay into a bowl. By varying the tensions I can configure the piece as I am creating it. There again, I sometimes get the distinct feeling, it is me who is being manipulated. Only once finished, do some pieces reveal their true identity to me.
When the mood takes me, the structural strength produced by the miles of sewing thread in each piece enables me to cut a piece up and reassemble it into more advanced structures. What began, many years ago, as simple bowl shapes have now mutated into the sculptural wall pieces, stand alone objects, such as hats and animals and pieces that work just as well in either location.
I enjoy the fact that much of my materials are reclaimed, recycled or ‘found’. Satisfaction comes from taking someone’s discarded sweater and finding the sculptural figure it was, perhaps, intended to change into. My pleasure is enhanced upon hearing how “very unique’ the work is. My wicked streak is pandered to whenever I get to listen in as people attempt an explanation of how my work is made. It’s not weaving, it’s not knitting, it’s not painting by thread. It’s Torsion sewing and it’s my own invention.