MA Creative Practice alumna Alice Fox is an artist based in West Yorkshire, UK. Her practice is centred on personal engagement with landscape and has sustainability at its heart. She works with natural dyes and uses grown, gathered and found materials. Alice exhibits, lectures and teaches workshops nationally and internationally and is a member of the Textile Study Group and the Society of Designer Craftsmen. Her work features in several publications including INSIGHTS, a reflection on creative practice in textile art, published in September 2020.
Here Alice speaks to us about her practice, her experience of studying for the MA and how her background in conservation underpins her work:
Your work is very much rooted in landscape and the natural environment, was this always an interest?
I have always been passionate about the natural world and my first degree was in physical geography. I then worked in nature conservations for a few years. That environmental background completely underpins the way that I work now, and I am always striving to make my practice as low impact as possible. I was interested in natural dyes during my textiles BA, although there wasn’t really time to delve deep into their possibilities. Once I was working as a full time artist, I was able to explore ways of using natural processes within my work. I was artist in residence at Spurn Point National Nature Reserve in 2012, a project that allowed me to really establish using found objects and natural staining within my practice. I haven’t looked back since.
Image: Alice Fox, freshly gathered bramble fibre © Alice Fox.
Image: Alice Fox, mapping with inks © Alice Fox.
Could you tell us a little about your inspirations and process?
I am inspired by items and materials that I find and see these as tangible links to place, retaining a record of my experience of the location where I found them. From plastic rubbish picked up on a beach, a handful of leaves or seeds on a woodland walk or a discarded cardboard scrap found on a pavement – these can all get me started creatively. I relish the technical challenges of working with such materials, learning about possibilities and boundaries as I work with them. Each material is different or requires slightly different handling. Even the same type of material worked with repeatedly may have nuances that only become apparent as I work.
Was there anything that you really enjoyed about your time studying on the MA?
I enjoyed getting together with the other people in my cohort, all working in different media. We were a really supportive group and have remained in touch since. The MA gave me a chance to focus my practice on using only materials from one place: my allotment.
Image: Alice Fox, flax in flower © Alice Fox.
Image: Alice Fox, cordage coils © Alice Fox.
I explored ideas of self-sufficiency in art materials, something I was aiming towards anyway, but this helped underpin and examine the way I wanted to work. It gave me the space to find that focus in my practice, which was difficult while I was juggling teaching and other work commitments. I continued to juggle those things too during the MA, but the structure and support of the course kept me dedicated to the enquiry. I made inks with plants from the plot, using these to draw other objects found there. I made botanical contact prints, creating a record of the plot each week for a year. I used plant fibres and other materials to make cordage and then 3D structures and objects, bringing different materials together using weave, stitch and soft basketry techniques. These samples and experiments formed a starting point for work made since finishing the MA. I recently published a book telling the story of how I engage with my allotment, which is available through my website.
Do you have any tips or advice for current students or recent graduates wanting to work in your field?
Don’t hang around waiting for things to come to you. You have to create your own opportunities to show and share your work early on. Things might come your way later on, and when they do, grab them!