Avi Jacob interviews Phillida Hargreaves


For local artist, Phillida Hargreaves, the world of art is “totally open.” She works in her home in a bright room with large bay windows overlooking lake and trees – full of life all year round. Phillida works with fabrics and wool to create scenes both imagined and witnessed.

Entering her work space I find myself face-to-face with narrow city sprawl hanging from the walls. I turn around and the world transforms into a serene river flowing across to the other side of the room.

“What draws me to fabrics is the texture… it’s all texture,” says Hargreaves.

She walks me through her process of travelling around the world to see beautiful scenes and returning home to mimic and twist them into her own creations. She tells me that some of her pieces may be recognizable to those who have visited the places themselves and others are all her own.

“It’s wonderfully unpredictable,” she says with a smile.

As she continues to walk me through her space she comes to a dresser on the edge of the room where she opens up what seems like an endless number of fabric filled drawers. She pulls felt in all shapes and sizes, fabrics patterned and plain, yarn and wool as far as the eye can see.

She shows me examples of different techniques used to manipulate fabrics in order to create the effects shown in her current work. She uses “Fulling,” the act of knitting wool into a shape and then washing and shrinking it, to fit extra texture into her pieces.

With her sewing machine currently out of commission she has been trying out some work with an Embellisher. The machine, which is traditionally used for felting, uses a series of up to seven needles to create texture by pulling the fibre back through itself. Hargreaves describes it as “a very mechanical look”.

As she sifts through her different materials she tells me that she dyes most of her fabrics herself to get exactly the effect she needs.

“It’s endless what you can do with a white piece of cloth and with this series I wanted to be a bit more careful. There was a lot of experimenting in order to find what was right.” says Hargreaves of her latest series ‘Narrow Spaces’, to be shown at Studio 22.

The series consists of fifteen pieces all of an urban nature with a tight and narrow quality. Taking in the work I feel as though I am walking through several cities and touring the most beautiful places all in one room.

As my tour comes to a close it becomes apparent that Hargreaves finds so much joy and delight in what she does. Her work is entirely her own and entirely experimental. She slowly works and reworks until she’s satisfied. The nature of fabrics allows the artist flexibility and unlimited opportunities to create.

“That’s the beauty of it. It might be done but if I don’t like it I’m just going to try it again.”

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