Friday, September 1, 2017

An Interview with Ann Wood

Today I'm chatting with Ann Wood. Ann is an artist who works with fabric, paper, vintage and found items. Her creations are magical and melancholy and it's hard to sum up everything she does in just a couple sentences. I am delighted to have her here today sharing her story and her art.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, My Giant Strawberry

ab: As a self-taught artist who embraced the role of artist after years of thinking I couldn't, I am always curious about other artists' backgrounds. You say that you sew because you "come from sewing people" and that stitching is "a language [you've] spoken for a very long time". What other artistic training or background do you have? You are a painter as well as a stitcher. Did you go to art school? How has your journey led you to where you are today?

aw: I have almost no formal art education. I follow my curiosity. I grew up around creative adults - everybody was always making something, reading, exploring and talking about those interests. I loved to sew, and draw and paint and sculpt - with whatever I could get my hands on. Often what I could get my hands on was fabric and paper. I was and am interested in transformation - the possibilities of things.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, ship sculptures, My Giant Strawberry

And I have always loved fabric. I still sew from bags of scraps I had as a child. My mother was a sewer and a saver so there is tons. And she continued to collect and save antique and vintage fabric for me even during my obnoxious late adolescence when I abandoned sewing for a while. She was excellent at providing well timed inspiration - in books and music as well.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, fabric, thread, studio, work space, My Giant Strawberry

ab: You grew up in Massachusetts surrounded by the woods in an environment that fed your imagination and where the magic of nature helped to fuel your curiosity and play. Nature continues to be an inspiration in your work today, but now you live and create in Brooklyn. Do you find it difficult, creatively, living in the city?

aw: There are things I love about the city and things I put up with. I’ve gotten used to a way of life - having so much so close - a level of activity, sound, odd conveniences and inconveniences that I worry I’d feel lost without.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, fabric sculptures, sewn botanicals, botanical art, My Giant Strawberry

When I think about leaving, which I do think about more and more, I think about what I’ll miss and what I’d love to escape from. I fantasize about having a car, and a place to park it - crazy dreams like that.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, sewing, work space, My Giant Strawberry

Things I love: The libraries, particularly the picture archive in the Mid Manhattan Research Library, great fabric stores, and I love to explore the shore here - Far Rockaway, Dead Horse Bay and the dune system at Fort Tilden.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, work space, artist work space,  art dolls, My Giant Strawberry

ab: What are your favorite ways to feed your creativity and refill the well?

aw: The well feeds itself. Ideas are self perpetuating - one thing leads to another. Showing up keeps things flowing. Working, trying things, failing. Asking the second question and the third and so on. Wanting to see what’s around the next corner keeps me in motion. Curiosity is always my guiding and driving force.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, sewing, ants, bats, art dolls, My Giant Strawberry

And a lot of my inspiration is internal - exploring memories and moods and trying to express those things, trying to find my way deeper into my imagination, off the well lit path and express those ideas as completely as I can.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, rag dolls, art dolls, My Giant Strawberry

ab: Working in a sketchbook is a regular part of your creative expression. Can you share a bit about the role your sketchbook practice plays in your art? What led you to start a sketchbook? How did diving into your year-long daily sketchbook practice affect you as an artist?

aw: Watching myself work reveals things to me. When I show up everyday I learn more about my imagination, my patterns, my ruts and inclinations. It strengthens my idea building muscles. It is in simplest terms good exercise. Full disclosure - I do take breaks once in a while. Sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. The down side of the breaks is coming back to the rhythm of the daily practice. It’s much easier to keep going than start. The upside to the breaks is I begin to miss it. I feel the difference. I feel how much I benefit from it.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, sketchbooks, work space, My Giant Strawberry

ab: You've been blogging for over 11 years now. You are a prolific blogger and your blog is honest, open and thoughtful as well as being interesting and, of course, beautiful. How did you fall into blogging and what made you stick with it? How have changes in blogs and blogging affected you and the way you blog? How do you stay motivated and inspired to keep blogging?

aw: I started seeing blogs for the first time in 2005 and the idea was fascinating to me. At the same time for the first time in a very long time, I was making self determined, self directed work, on a regular basis. I had done freelance creative work most of my adult life, making things for various commercial purposes, mainly, objects and paintings for film and advertising and some illustration but there was a lack of purely self motivated and authored work.

In May of 2006 I gave myself a small, manageable assignment: to make a cardboard horse everyday (monday through friday) until I had 100. I did and exhibited the group at a gallery in Los Angeles about a year later in 2007. I also started my blog and posted each horse for some accountability and a record. There is lots of info about this here.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, horses, paper sculptures, My Giant Strawberry

Everything else flowed from those little horse experiments, that beginning. I got tons of ideas and became better at carving out time for my own creative work - and most importantly it got past the fear of starting. The blog became a part of my life and 11 years flew by somehow. The blogging situation, and the internet in general are a vastly different landscape now. And there is lots about those first years I’m nostalgic for. Everything is so much more complicated and expensive now.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, paper sculptures, horses, My Giant Strawberry

ab: You describe yourself as an introvert, as being "hermity". I think a lot of creative people are energized by solitude. I certainly am myself. On the blog post where you talked about being an introvert many people commented, relating to your feelings. Can you share a bit about how your thoughts on being an introvert have evolved over the years?

aw: Acceptance, peacefulness and comfort have come with age and experience. I don’t worry about it as much anymore. I don’t fight with my temperament.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, cat doll, My Giant Strawberry

And I try not to fight with anybody else’s - I love this quote from D.H. Lawrence:

“This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed.”

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, sewing, stitching, My Giant Strawberry

ab: You have an affinity for "less loved creatures". Mosquitos, bats, ants, pigeons... Your work resonates with many people, which makes it clear that "less loved creatures" have their enthusiasts. From where do you think your affinity stems? I especially adore your stylish ants in their miniature world. What have been your favorite "less loved creatures" to create?

aw: I like the contrast, dealing with reviled creatures in an affectionate way. And I have a life long attraction to melancholy things and a sort of fairytale darkness. That’s the sensibility I try to give those creatures.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, mosquitoes, art dolls, My Giant Strawberry

The ant project is one of my most favorite projects of all time- a collaboration with Fortuny. Nothing delights me more than creating a miniature world.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, ants, cosmopolitan ants, My Giant Strawberry

I made cosmopolitan ants and gave them art and mid century furniture. There is even a tiny feather duster and tiny ant rag doll. Later in the year I decorated their miniature apartment for Christmas. It was as much fun as a person can have.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, ants, cosmopolitan ants, art dolls, My Giant Strawberry

ab: You sew. You draw and paint. You blog. You create sewing patterns. You teach workshops. What's next on the creative horizon for you?

aw: Lots more sewing patterns are in the works. I love everything about creating them - especially the cover art and packaging.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, sewing pattern, birds,  My Giant Strawberry

I will also have kits available for the first time before the holidays. There are some new workshops in the beginning planning stages - there will be at least one in Europe and I’d love to do more.

Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, art dolls, toadstools, mushrooms, sculptures, My Giant Strawberry

I would also love to collaborate more - step out of my own creative bubble. Collaborations have been the beginning of some of my most significant periods of growth. I’d love to do more projects like the ant world - create a more fully formed narrative for some of my creatures. And paintings- before the end of this year I’m going to bust out of my sketchbook and create some larger works. That is my vow.


Ann Wood, artists, artist interview, sketchbook, painting, small paintings, art, My Giant Strawberry

Thank you, Ann, for sharing your art and your thoughts with us today!

Dear reader, I hope you enjoyed today's interview as much as I did. You can connect with Ann:



Want to read my other artist interviews? You can catch up here. And find more inspiration from the Sketchbook Conversations series of mini, sketchbook-related interviews, all of which can be accessed here.


*Photos in this post ©Ann Wood. Used with permission.

14 comments:

  1. Ann is one multi-talented lady, that's for sure. I do already follow her and absolutely adore all her creations.

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    1. So glad you enjoyed the interview, Tammy. She sure is inspiring, isn't she?!?

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  2. What a great interview!
    I liked the conversation about you being a bit of an introvert. It makes sense to me, I think it takes a certain amount of aloneness to feel comfortable and trust your instincts and imagination.

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    1. Hi, Carolyn. Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm so glad to know you enjoyed the interview. It's always interesting to hear about how other people approach thoughts of introversion and extroversion. I'm glad that part of the interview resonated with you.

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  3. Wonderful. I am completely smitten with the ant rag doll!

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    1. Yes, isn't it cute!

      Glad you enjoyed the interview, Simone!

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  4. so much to digest here!
    i have my eye on that sweet goat pattern...for a special little someone arriving this fall.
    thanks for this fabulous interview, Anne and Ann!
    xo

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    1. Thanks, Karen! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. And yes, that little goat would be a lovely gift for the special someone! :)

      xo

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  5. Great interview, Anne. Ann is certainly gifted. I love her creations and wonder if the photos are her studio or home? Or both. At any rate, I could live in that charming space. Thanks for introducing us to Ann. xo

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    1. Hi, Nancy. I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview. I think her home is also her studio. Isn't it a magical place!?!

      Thanks for being here.

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  6. I've admired Ann Wood's work for a long time, and this interview was so interesting to read. I love her birds - they are so charming! Thanks for sharing this, Anne!

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    1. Yes, she is certainly an inspiration and I'm so glad she was able to share her thoughts and art here. The birds are so sweet and she gives such personality to everything she makes!

      I'm glad you enjoyed the interview!

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  7. A great interview Anne!
    I am a recent follower of Ann's, after discovering her delightful Woebegone Trees.
    I love those ants, especially the ant rag doll!
    Thank you for sharing more about Ann.
    Barbara x

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    1. Hi, Barbara. Thanks for stopping by. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the interview. The ant rag doll is so sweet, you're right!

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