Hannah Haworth – Contemporary Visual Artist

Hannah Haworth is a Contemporary Visual Artist from Queens, NYC www.hannahhaworth.com She has agreed to share some of her art and ideas with us. So here are her responses to the questions I posed recently. Enjoy…


Hannah with “The hunt”

What are you currently working on

I am currently working on a life size (10ft) beluga whale constructed from a very basic armature on the interior and a hand knitted exterior using purely natural fibres. This will be shown at the Vogue knitting LIVE event in the Manhattan Hilton from January 21-23, and I am exhibiting it shortly after from February 5 along with a range of other works at my upcoming solo show in Gitana Rosa gallery, Williamsburg.


What or who inspires your art?

Folk art has had quite an influence. The first time I visited in the US I found out about folk or ‘outsider’ art and got into it in a big way I was completely intrigued by these off beat monuments such as The Corn Palace in South Dakota, the home of the real Rhinestone Cowboy, Grandma Prisby’s bottle village, etc. At the time, it really felt like I was discovering these almost spiritual hearts of America. I really admire the sheer passion that goes into these often-unintentional attractions, and the total honesty present in the work. I think it’s very pure, and that is such an inspiration to me.

Animals are clearly an inspiration too, they are also such a symbol of purity. They act solely on basic instinct, and that is a beautiful thing to consider.


What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I think at the root of my choice to knit my work is from my childhood. I grew up in a minute tribal community on an island in the Philippines, craft was a real core to the culture, and so it became an important part of my life too. I did a lot of beadwork with the girls mainly as a social thing but also because I loved making wee bits and pieces.  After moving back to Scotland as a teen I lost interest in craft, but maintained my artistic side mostly with cringy drawings of rockstars!

I wound up in art school down in Edinburgh and my creative tendencies slowly veered back towards craft, I started doing a little weaving, casting textiles and some bronze work too. Towards my final year I met Ysolda (www.ysolda.com), who was (and still does) run her own knitwear business. She really got me interested in knitting and I liked that it was very traditional to Scotland, I did bits of knitting related work for her here and there then I really got the bug and wanted to do nothing but, so I spent the rest of my time at ECA trying to include knitting into my various briefs and make it look like sculpture as was necessary to complete my degree! This turned out to be more fun than I had expected and I haven’t looked back since.



Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?

It’s horrible! When I first get the news that someone wants to show my work I feel fantastic, I really celebrate and start coming up with all kinds of insane things I want to make, then I get started and I often lose momentum here and there and then the deadline really gets its teeth into me and I find myself knitting in a cold sweat as fast as possible (often with techno on, this really makes my needles fly) right up to the moment before the opening. It really is not a pleasant feeling knowing that you can’t take any shortcuts and you have to submit a sled-full of larger than life dogs in 2 weeks, or else….


What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?

I used to work a lot from sketching and painting and doing the kinds of things I thought I should be doing as artistic research. But eventually the boredom kind of got to me and I started being a little more intuitive with it. Now I play with/watch animals constantly, read a lot, take too many photographs, blog, travel and watch films. I really Google a lot too.


“The Sleep of Reason”

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?

This I change my mind about a lot. Usually when I am making something I think a lot about the viewer, I want people to be able to get a kick out of my work, not in a deep or edgy way just in a simple appreciation, like you would feel trying on a perfect dress. Sometimes I like to try and make people laugh too. But once my work is finished and on display, I stop thinking about how people feel towards it so much, I think because I also disconnect from it once it’s away from my hands. And then, very occasionally I’m completely the other way around, and I spend my entire show chatting to people 24/7 about their thoughts on my work.



Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?

It can be, recently I had a bit of a slump, I just lost interest in knitting completely, I was bored with it. So with a looming deadline, I decided to knit the first thing I ever knitted, which was this fake fox stole. It made me remember why I took it up and enjoy it all over again.


Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

I recently read Leviathan by Phillip Hoare, it is a non-fiction text on whales, and I would really recommend it to anyone, even those that aren’t into whales. The information and the great use of illustration and photographs throughout really helped inspire my current beluga project.

Other than that, I really enjoy National Geographic magazine, it’s something I’ve read since I was a child, and how I learned about the arctic in the first place. I used to save all the cold animal pictures and make scrapbooks dedicated to specific species, full of notes I had picked up from the article. And technically, I think Alice Starmore’s ‘Fair Isle Knitting’ is one of the best texts out there on its subject.



Is your work process fast or slow?

So slow! There are really no valid shortcuts with knitting, and most of the time I knit something about 4 or 5 times over before I’m happy with it. This can get frustrating but most of the time I kind of appreciate the slowness and monotony, its something I enjoy about knitting as opposed to many other forms of sculpture. I can really let my mind wander while I’m doing it; I can watch films, listen to audio books, I often work on the subway too. It’s mostly relaxing, kind of therapeutic; except for when I have to rip back weeks of work.



Do the seasons affect your work or work habits?

Winter makes me knit more because it just feels right. Knitting is really a wintery hobby, and I love the cold, its so invigorating to me, it keeps my mind awake and ticking with ideas and subsequently my needles start clicking. Also, I think advertising has a lot to do with it. During the winter all these ads pop up all over the place packed with knitwear, snowy scenes, arctic animals, etc. These definitely seep in to my subconscious and make me want to be around yarn all day making my own snow-scapes and working on my responses to the cold.

What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you, which might be connected to your art?

Animals, always. Growing up I spent a lot of time following cats, exploring the lives they live parallel to us and examining their relationships with their environments. This encouraged me to examine my own also and the core of my work is based around my thoughts on what being a human is and my connections with other species and the land itself. When I build a large scale installation, I want it to feel similar (for the viewer) to following a cat in some ways. I try to encourage curiosity and also a little healthy introspection. Nowadays, I often go exploring with my dog Cocoa to stay in touch with that.

Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination or some other method?

Occasionally from life, but mostly from my imagination, I use photographs sometimes when I need to check out a certain detail of some animal or other. When I was building the Qamutiq (Inuit sled) for The Hunt, I wrote to a lot of mushers and sled makers to ask about how I should make it, everyone was so kind and some sent me plans and how-to’s I totally Frankensteined my favourite parts from each to make my final with my brother (he is a carpenter), I was pleased with how that one turned out.

I like to make miniatures too before I make the real thing too, this helps me visualise the final and make any adjustments early before it becomes a huge job to change anything.

What do you love/hate about being an artist?

The money: you have none then you have loads and then this repeats and repeats until you stop being an artist. You need to be able to deal with that. I cant, I am terrible with money, when I get it I spend it too fast and its gone again. Then of course it’s starvation until the next sale.

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?

I visit places and travel a lot of the time for my work, but I wouldn’t necessarily describe those trips as pilgrimages. I’d say I have only had one true pilgrimage; it was a few years ago, I think 2007, I became really fascinated by the mythological Centaur. They started appearing in my dreams, then they began to pop up in my art too and as I tried to read more and more about these strange creatures it kind of grew into an obsession. After months of studying I decided I needed to go back to Greece and visit Mount Pelion, which according to mythology is the home of the centaur.

I was living in Scotland at the time so it wasn’t so far to go; it all seemed perfectly reasonable. I had a project lined up for when I was there I was planning to carve parts of fossilized centaur remains into the numerous rock faces on the mountain. So after 3 weeks (of many detours and stops) of travelling by train, bus, ferry, hitchhiking and walking I arrived at Mt Pelion with not much other than a set of chisels, my passport, a book called ‘A geological companion to the Agean’ and a tent. Of course the first day I spent on the beautiful beaches at the foot of the mountain and had a much-needed shower at a kind local farm. Then the second day I started to climb, I was there a week in total and I never did finish that project!

It just didn’t feel like the right thing to do while I was there, and when I did force myself to start carving I got bitten by a wee snake about 30 mins in. I took that as a sign to stop and instead I spent the time hiking, riding a mule (ha! pretending I was a centaur) taking photos and interviewing locals on centaurs (‘eh…? Why you care about such things? Lets go to bar’). That was the first and last artistic pilgrimage I went on, I think it might be difficult for me to top…

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One Response to “Hannah Haworth – Contemporary Visual Artist”

  1. Visual Artist » Hannah Haworth – Contemporary Visual Artist | Art Re-Source on December 28th, 2010 4:31 pm

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