Artist Interview: APRIL CAMLIN

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APRIL CAMLIN

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

We bring you another amazing artist associated with the Baltimore art/comedy group Wham City, April Camlin. She’s somewhere between a fashion or textile designer and fine artist, and onced played Lex Murphy in a small stage production of “Jurassic Park”. Her current black and white textile series is so eye-catching we needed to ask her all about it.

 

SW: How long does it take you to come up with the designs and then create a piece?

AC: Well, I think that’d be the planning. I like to start out with an idea, at times it’s like an arsenal of techniques that are influencing the composition and I like to kind of intuitively work, so I think that the execution takes a really long time. Because I have that space, I can kind of change things as they go along. If I don’t like the way that something is working, I can undo it and then start over again. I definitely think that I spend a lot more time in the execution. I did an installation in August and I spent about 200 hours stitching. The design of it, maybe, I spent like a couple days just laying it out. I’ve been doing more with digital fabric printing. That definitely involves a bit more planning ahead and doing more design work on the computer. It’s been like a new thing for me, but I’ve been really excited about it. That stuff is a little bit more time consuming I suppose.

SW: You use like Illustrator, or something?

AC: I use Photoshop. I’m so technologically illiterate, but I’m probably using it in an incredibly inefficient way. [Laughs] So it probably makes it take longer. Every time I’m making work, I’m kind of like ‘I know there must be a better way to do this,’ but I’m very connected to the labor.

SW: So you’ve got needlepoint, weaving and digital printing? Is there anything else in the series?

AC: No, not at the moment. I’m drawn to working on anything that involves a grid. Mostly those three right now.

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SW: I see actually one piece that’s an infinity sweater, it says machine knit.

AC: Yeah, I kind of started out with this series of ideas that I’m working on now, with the idea of super exaggerated or forced perspective, sort of tricking the eye. Then it moved into something a little bit different. I was doing some stuff on the knitting machines, but not quite so much anymore.

SW: Where do you get your fabric printed?

AC: I’m very fortunate, I have it printed at school. We have a really nice fiber reactive printer, which means that it’s printing the ink. The dye, it’s penetrating the fabric instead of sort of just sitting on top and not being extremely durable. It’s a really high quality image that’s getting printed. It’s a great resource.

SW: Wow yeah, so the nylon is like this sheer black color? Is that what it is? Then it’s printing the white?

AC: Oh no, the opposite, it’s white then I’m printing the black.

SW: Wait, whaaaat?

AC: [Laughs]

SW: How? What??

AC: Crepe Georgette is the material and it’s backed, it has a paper backing when it’s going though the printer. When you remove the fabric adhered to the paper backing before you steam it.

SW: That’s amazing.

AC: Yeah, digital printing on fabric is so cool. I feel like because I’ve been very connected to these very labor intensive processes, like the needle point and the weaving, it’s kind of forced my scale to be a certain size. Digital printing really allows me to think about things on a larger scale than I have before.

SW: With all of these designs, are you thinking more like a designer or thinking more like a fine artist that’s putting practical use to these? I can’t tell, some of the closeups are so nice on their own, but obviously they make great patterns to use. What was the original intention?

AC: That’s a good question. [Laughs] I feel like I’m informed and interested, both in the fine arts and also in more of an industrial fabrication. I think ideally, when I see myself in the future, I think about working in some kind of industry where I’m working with fabrication and having that be something that informs my fine art. I think that for me, the two are inextricably linked.

SW: Why black and white?

AC: I think that black and white kind of triggers this vibration almost, with my eyes and my mind, that’s very appealing to me. For me, they are the two colors that have the highest contrast. I was at Haystack this summer in Maine, it’s like a residential Art School. You do, like, two week sessions. I was looking at the ecosystem that was around me and the relationship of all these natural elements to each other. Somehow, one thing led to another, I started doing research on all of the plants in the area. It seems kind of weird, but it kind of led me towards this binary relationship between the eyes and the mind that exists in Op Art, and how that’s its own little ecosystem. So I started doing more research into Op Art. There’s always been something about black and white to me that I’ve really responded to it. I feel like I kind of understood why as I was doing more research over the summer.

SW: Are there any other artistic or cultural inspirations? You said binary and I can see that perfectly, but are there any other cultures that are involved or influencing this?

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AC: Totally, I’m looking a lot at Kuba Cloth, which is this embroidered pile which is made of Raffia which comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Sub-Saharan Africa. I’ve just been really inspired by the way that the people, the women who are embroidering these designs, they’re kind of working with this really complex structure, but there’s also this kind of play on the structure. It’s really appealing to me, really interesting to me.

SW: Yeah, it’s really cool.

AC: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s kind of mind-blowing/boggling.

SW: What’s your process like? I can’t tell if this is something where you have to be really focused or can kind of have Netflix on and zone out? It seems like you do once wrong stitch and you’ve made a new pattern.

AC: Well, that’s kind of something that I’m interested in exploring too. The way that a pattern can be manipulated and be caused to interrupt itself. Those moments where it collides with itself, that’s kind of something that’s really interesting to me. I think it’s for different things. I listen to a lot of audio books, it is kind of this weird involuntary focus. It feels very natural to me to be working this way. It is highly focused work, but I don’t feel like I have to devote every iota of my mental processing to execute the design. Know what I mean?

SW: Mmhmm.

AC: I do enjoy some Netflix from time to time as I’m embroidering. I’ll admit it. [Laughs]

SW: Did you design this jumpsuit or did someone else design the jumpsuit?

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AC: That’s a pre-made pattern I got from a website that sells patterns. I didn’t design the pattern just the print on the fabric that goes with it.

SW: Also, where the seams would meet, you picked all that and everything too.

AC: Yeah, it’s known as engineered print so you’re kind of working with a pattern shape and designing the fabric to fit specifically into that shape and then you can do things like orchestrate where the pattern matches up on the seams and things like that.

SW: Oh wait, did this design come first or second? How did that overlap? Did you pick the jumpsuit first and then you were like, ‘I need to make a pattern for this jumpsuit’?

AC: Yes

SW: Ah okay, very cool.

AC: I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to do, I knew that it had to be a jumpsuit and so I kind of just looked for jumpsuit patterns.

SW: This back little piece, the dart or whatever that is, the fold, that came out excellent.

AC: Thank you! [Laughs] That fabric was… not fun to work with.

SW: It doesn’t look fun to work with, but it’s fun to look at.

AC: The funny thing about it, I kind of, like, smudged. You can see there’s some weird warping happening with the design, and that was something that I did intentionally, but as it was coming out of the fabric printer, the printer tech was like ‘Oh no! There’s a problem with the printer!’ I was like, ‘Haha! No I fooled you!’ That’s just my print! [Laughs] When things like that happen it’s really exciting to me. You’re tricking your mind. I’m really interested in the way that feels.

SW: Do you have any more big plans for this series or are you just kind of letting it go? Not go, but stop…

AC: I feel like I’m going to keep working in this series until it doesn’t feel right anymore. I don’t think too far ahead, I like to just focus on what’s happening and kind of let the work go where it wants to go. I try not to place too many restrictions on the direction. Sometimes these happy accidents happen and sometimes they can be just as inspiring as months of dedicated research, so I try not to impose too many time restrictions on it. It feels like a progression to me. I’m going to keep working within these parameters for awhile.

SW: I hope you do! It’s so fun to look at. Something about the way you worded something right now reminds me of this quote I wrote down the other day from ‘The Simpsons’.

AC: [Laughs]

SW: Officer Wiggum said, ‘Don’t censor me, it’s what stifles creativity.’ Something like that.

AC: Officer Wiggum said that? [Laughs]

SW: Yeah, he drew his gun and said something really bizarre. The other officer was like ‘…Chief?’ And then he said that. I thought it was kind of profound. [Laughs]

AC: [Laughs]

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SW: One last question, just random. What kind of vending machine do you think needs to be invented?

AC: This is something that already exists, but I don’t think there are enough coffee vending machines in this country. [Laughs] Probably not a cool enough answer.

SW: No! Bring them back! They had those in the 70s and 80s, they were kind of dying in the 90s. We need those back. [Laughs] That’s a great answer.

AC: It’d be pretty cool if there was a vending machine that just sold thread. That’s the thing that I’m always running out of and I’m always running out of it late at night. There’s nowhere to get it, when I’m working at night I’m like ‘what do I need to unravel to get these colors…’ [Laughs]

SW: Oh man, I would love that.

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Artist Interview: NATALIE FRAGOLA

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NATALIE FRAGOLA

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

For CLAW CLAW’s last Artist Interview of 2013, we took a departure from paper, pixels, and canvas to spotlight the beautiful dyed fabrics of Natalie Fragola, a textile designer currently based out of Brooklyn. She’s jokingly described her colorful dye jobs as a rainbow that threw up, and while for some pieces this delightfully rings true, there’s a much more sophisticated nature to her work. Her pieces are earthy and abstract, and sometimes you feel like you’re looking at a little sliver of the universe, like stellar Nebulae or the yin yang-esque meeting place of the sea and sand. Read on to learn about the brain and hands behind OBRA OBSCURA.

 


SHANON WELTMAN: Who is the most exciting client that has used your fabric designs/ dyes/ anything?

NATALIE FRAGOLA: Well, I guess when I got here I worked as a designer for a fashion label where we got nominated for the CFDA Award which is sponsored by CFDA and Vogue, and so a lot of the things we did leading up to the Award ceremony were these partnerships where they would introduce all the emerging designers that were accepted for that award. So, I started dying and doing embroidery work for these specialty pieces, which were essentially press pieces. Those were pooled for those campaigns that Vogue did. That was “Obedient Sons & Daughters”, which is no longer a label, they shuttered in 2009, but under that we got a lot of exposure through Vogue which is pretty much The fashion publication. They were obviously high profile models wearing it.

 

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SW: Is that what’s on your website?

NF: There’s a couple. Some were on my older website, the embroidered pieces are on there. Those were really exciting for me because I don’t know how many jobs I can find where somebody pays me a lot of money to just embroider a blazer and also give me complete creative control as far as what the embroidery states.

SW: Oh really? That’s one of my favorite pieces on there. I was jealous, that looks fun!

NF: The designers had the inspiration and visual references that I pooled from, but it was actually Hippie themed, that inspiration. Not to boil it down to those words… but, it had that feel. A lot of it was taken from the source family which was a cult from the 70s, by a guy who called himself Father Yod… and you have to look up those images, they’re awesome. Because I was called the resident hippie of the design studio, they let me do that. I also showed a big interest in that. I studied embroidery in Fibers [SCAD]. That was the beginning of a nice encouragement to kind of be like, ‘wow, any asshole can do this. Including me!’ [laughs]. Ever since then it’s been really nice working. For example, print design, I’ve always made prints on the computer, but you very rarely see them actually printed on physical fabric. The digital printing process is quite expensive. You can screen print your own stuff, but that can be very laborious especially if you have a lot of colors. When I did prints for Timo Wyland, I thought that that was really cool to actually see these bolts and bolts of fabric that I created and turned into a garment. I guess the list actually goes on. I feel very proud of each piece. I have smaller clients that have a limited budget, but anyone asking me to kind of take on some things — great. Usually when people find me, they find me and want to use me for a reason, so the project becomes very collaborative. Most of them tell me, ‘oh I don’t know how to make this weird… can you do that for me?’ [laughs] or you know, ‘I don’t know how this works, so I’m just going to let you mute it.’ Especially the dyeing for example.

 

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Natalie’s original patterns digitally printed on fabric

 


SW: What are your biggest inspirations when designing patterns?

NF: Prints? It’s weird. I don’t like to go on the internet that much for the prints, unless I need some kind of stock imagery to pull or trace like a rose or something. My patterns are more about an exploration, maybe from a trip I did upstate to just looking down on the ground when I’m walking around the city. I just kind of collect weird things. A lot of those things are usually from nature, so I’ll take those and scan them and play with them on Photoshop or something, or I’ll paint them or render them and just basically it starts from maybe some seaweed that I found in the ocean to something completely different. For me that process is like telling a story, it’s like a little narrative in my head. [Laughs] So like, no one is even going to know this story anyway, people are just going to like the print or not. In addition to that I do sometimes keep a visual library or some folders on my computer desktop of historic textiles. Just so I know when I’m creating something: where did that come from? Not everything is completely original, subconsciously you have a little bit of a database, just what you see everyday. So, I try to keep a good balance of that reference with the childlike nature of creating a motif.

SW: Who are your favorite artists and designers?

NF: That’s always a tough one! I feel like my mood changes and each week it goes up and down. Let’s start with fashion designers.
American Fashion Designers.. I’ve always liked Rodarte, even though they can be up and down on the scale of maybe technical abilities, but they have this really nice innocent way of playing with draping and their use of textiles is really fun. Back in their Spring 2009 collection, they had a lot of nice ombre dyed chiffons and just that use kind of inspired me to pursue dyeing whatever. Before that it was more about technical ability with dyeing, using it as a tool rather than a form of art. Obviously….Givenchy and Balmain. Gautier has a really great exhibit right now at the Brooklyn Museum, I’ve yet to see that. I need to go.
Now, Artists… Tauba Auerbach. When I saw her work at the 2010 Whitney Biennial, her use of light and color was really inspiring. She’s more of a recent artist who I’ve fallen in love with, and older one is Rauschenberg. The whole Black Mountain Movement and Fluxus and Bauhaus. It’s kind of weird, I bounce around between conceptual art with just really great visual artists, and Rauschenberg has a little bit of both.

 

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SW: Where did you get the name Obra Obscura?

NF: It first started with wanting to have an entity that is bigger than me. Not just Natalie Fragola, because I wanted to give the essence that I’m bigger, for starters. That’s what you usually do if you want to start something. I wasn’t going to limit it to just one thing, like ‘oh I’m going to start a clothing line’, or ‘oh I’m going to start a textile line’, or something. It was like, okay, because a studio does a little bit of everything. Obviously it has to have a name and I wanted it to have a name that kind of represented both sides of who I was. The Argentine, or Spanish and the American side, so I decided to use a Spanish and English word. Obra means a work of art or masterpiece or just someone’s hard work, Obscura is just my way of describing what it is that I do. Because it’s quite obscure, the nichés I’ve carved out. With a studio, I also wanted to have collaborative projects with other friends of mine and have it be represented underneath that too. I have so many friends that do a wide variety of artistic and creative things that, I wanted that to be encapsulated in Obscura. It’s funny, I had a few names prior and it’s actually very hard. You kinda have to marry one. It’s like, ‘wait, did I just name that because it’s a trend??’ but yeah, it had a nice ring to it. It’s nice being married to it, we’re going well. [Laughs]

SW: What are your best sellers?


NF:
The Mood Rings are definitely consistently selling, without any kind of persuasion or instagramming. I feel like a lot of people always want one or ask about them. That project was really brought on by a combination of boredom and me being very picky. I wanted a mood ring that wasn’t shitty, I wanted one that was more of a classic design and I couldn’t find any online. I found an old one, I don’t know how old it was, but I found it on the sidewalk on my way home from work, and it reminded me. I started working with a caster on the side. There’s a caster down the street from where I used to work and I had never done jewelry design. With the exception of making stuff, but I’ve never done proper design like that. I was actually surprised to see how many people like it and want it.

SW: I want one. [Laughs]

 

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NF: Yeah! I would love to kind of branch out from that into jewelry. The nice thing about jewelry too is when you sell it online, people aren’t intimidated to buy it. Because it’s not a fit issue, you put in your size and you can see the way the length and measurements and how it lays on the model — super easy. Whereas, like, soft goods or clothing, it can be sometimes hard to show its fit or the way it falls or the colors on fabric. Especially with dyeing. Second to that, I guess people buy the scarves I make because a scarf is just really useful in many ways. I can have more fun with the design or the effects on it whereas certain garments you have to be conscious of what colors you use and where you put them.

SW: Mmhm.


NF:
Those are fun, but again this is an online store, where if I had my items in a physical store, maybe the tables would turn.

SW: What about the other day when you were at Silent Barn?

NF: Silent Barn, yeah, I actually sold sweaters. I did some hand dyed sweaters which haven’t been posted online. I think that’s just more of the timing and then you can try them on, obviously. After that it was the scarves and the mood rings again. I guess if it was up to me though, I’d design my own clothing and then dye it, or better yet dye the fabric and have it constructed, so you can edit really, really easily. Dyeing an already made garment is one shot… [laughs] and if it’s not good you dye it black. That’s my mentality.

SW: Alright, really hard question now… Favorite ice cream flavor? We always end these on a light note.

NF: Well, that’s so difficult, in NY we have all these Artisan flavors.

SW: Right? Actually a difficult question.

NF: I’m definitely a vanilla girl, anything mixed with vanilla is amazing. Cookies and Cream is a great classic combo. So… we can stick with that. Other than that, Dulce de Leche. Although, the real Dulce de Leche is… amazing. It’s kind of hard to get that good kind, but fortunately you can find it at most bodegas. I’m not even thinking about ice cream right now! [Laughs] Because it’s cold here.

SW: Bonus question. Silly question. Can you name all of Santa’s Reindeer?

NF: Probably not. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Cupid, Vixen… how many are there? Eight? Rudolph?

SW: Wait, I don’t even know. I think there’s nine? Eight or nine and Rudolph’s the ninth one. I can think of three more names.

NF: Yeah… I’m sorry, I’m not in the holiday spirit. At all. [Laughs] I’m just psyched about the smell of fresh pine and drinking Hot Toddys.
 

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