Weaver Carol Irving presents her nature-inspired designs and talks about the challenges and rewards of being an artist.
ABI: Please share your background and what inspires you to create nature-based handwoven designs.
CI: Detroit born, I moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at the age of 24. Before this move to the Upper Peninsula I had earned a degree in Botany, lived in New Mexico and then Oregon, and always had a love for art, particularly fiber arts. Driven by a love for the materials I employ, I have been weaving bright and stimulating images into my rugs and wall hangings.
In my work I seek to convey my passion for fiber, color, and design brought together in excellent craftsmanship. Each handwoven piece is a totally unique piece of American craft. My background in botany and love of nature has helped to shape my style of organic shapes and images. My love of nature is an important inspiration for my work, but I also enjoy very contemporary and geometric images and have a line of work expressing this more contemporary style.
ABI: Tell us about your design technique.
CI: My design process begins on paper, and I take that final drawing or design rendering to the loom as my guide as I’m weaving. Over the years, my design process has changed. Many years ago I would begin my design process with colored pencils and graph paper. I then shifted to Excel spreadsheets, which enhanced the design process. I am now using software created for fiber artists. The software allows me to use many color palettes, play with a design element by changing its size, inverting it or instantly changing its location. These shifts in design tools have allowed me to create more designs and spend more time weaving.
One of the advantages of the weaving technique that I use is that the rug or wall hanging is often reversible, resulting in a light side and a dark side. I often have a preference on what I consider to be the front or back, but of course that is up to the owner or collector of the work.
ABI: What have you found to be the most effective way to sell your handweaving?
CI: I’ve been exploring various modes of marketing my work. I spent many years doing weekend fine art festivals, and although very labor intensive, these were very effective. I was able to talk to potential customers, make a connection and tell them my story. I think that one-to-one relationship is a very important part of the marketing process.
ABI: What events do you participate in to exhibit and share your art?
CI: I’ve been participating in many juried fine art group exhibits, some of these generating awards. Most recently, exhibiting in Grand Rapids, Michigan at ArtPrize, which is a radically open international art competition decided by public vote and expert jury. I was able to spend many days during this show talking to people about my work, my inspirations, and my process. People really appreciated the ability to talk to the artists onsite.
One of my goals is to amass enough work to have a solo exhibit. Another goal is to be represented by a gallery. I also use Facebook as a marketing tool to get the word out about my work.