Threadstories is a visual artist based in Kilkenny who produces contemporary art masks. Using photography and film, Threadstories captures the art objects in motion, where their forms are realised as they are activated by the wearer. Using materials ranging from wool to synthetic hair, the masks are constantly repurposed creating new and unique works of art.
Where did you spend lockdown?
Kilkenny City, Ireland
Did you have access to a studio during this time? If not, how did you continue to create work?
I did and I didn’t have access. My studio space is in my home so I could still access physical space, tools and materials. A barrier I encountered was access to both formal and informal childcare, so even though I had the studio close to hand I could not spend extended periods of time in there. I snatched a couple of hours here and there across each week.
Can you talk through your art making process?
My process always starts with yarn, a hook and a vague idea. I look through my materials, which ranges from natural wool to neon synthetic hair, make a choice based on colour or texture then start to crochet a balaclava. The techniques I employ in the making process are always the same, crochet and hand tufting. I am intuitively building, adding, subtracting and chasing a chance encounter with a form I could not have envisioned in advance. Each new mask form is a critique of a previous mask.
I don’t know how a mask will look or behave until I put it on and start to play with movement and manipulating the material, preening the mask in front of the camera, performing to the camera. Sculpting the pliable form is creatively very satisfying as I am always surprised by the outcome. I use photography and film to capture the form or movement, as once the mask is removed the form is lost.
Once a mask is photographed or filmed that exploration of form and movement is finished for me and the physical mask is ready to be deconstructed and reconstructed. Responding to the materials experimentally by reworking the same mask over and over allows me to push ideas forward at a faster pace. I do not keep masks, they are always in a state of flux, the photograph or mask on film is the record of the piece.
Did you experiment with any new materials or methodologies?
I did experiment with different methods of building form with thread, I purged my mind of ideas that had been floating around for ages. On reflection it only served to reaffirm what I don’t want to do, reminding me that interesting ideas come in the making, outcomes that I could not have imagined in advance. I did find it valuable however to experiment and I know those techniques will manifest somewhere in the future, just not now.
Given the limitations and restrictions of the last few months, did your art making process change at all? If so, do you think this will continue to change how you will make art going forward?
The only change I encountered was an inability to finish anything. I hopped from one piece to the next unable to make decisions. I put this down to low lying stress caused by worrying about the pandemic.
Did you have any projects during this time that went ahead?
No. The opportunities I had lined up were postponed.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I was invited to present at PICTOPLASMA in Berlin which is a week-long character design festival. As part of this year’s festival they had gathered together academics, theorists, activists and artists for a symposium on masks, titled The Mask in Contemporary Visual Culture, exploring the mask’s varied meanings in the fields of performance, fine art, fashion, anti-surveillance, political activism, and beyond and all of this was organised pre-Covid. Instead of going to Berlin in May of this year I will now do this as a live broadcast, which people can tune into for free on September 18th and 19th.
All images were provided by Threadstories unless otherwise stated. To see more of Threadstories’ work visit their Instagram.