ESTHER SANDLER - KEEPSAKE


Craft: The title of your show at Craft is ‘Keepsake’ and I wanted to ask you about this idea of the memento/keepsake more generally and in the context of your body of work. Traditionally, keepsakes (more often than not), are inanimate objects  – a locket, a coin, maybe a remnant of something living like a shell or a lock of hair and so on… What does this concept of ‘the keepsake’ hold for you and was there something deliberate in this idea of capturing and translating living material through your painterly style into a memento for nature?

ES: For me, a keepsake is anything - generally a physical object – that holds a special significance, be it for a specific memory, a time, a place, a moment. I see myself as a bit of a collector of things, often picking up little things from nature as I go for a walk or when I am travelling. The leaf or rock that I am drawn to for some reason or another, perhaps a curious shape or colour, is begging me to look at it, to consider it and be present in that specific moment in time. These little keepsakes from nature often find themselves onto windowsills and shelves in my house, reminding me of these moments of clarity and connection found amidst the routine of everyday life. The Keepsake collection is a tribute to these moments spent in nature, giving a new life of significance to the otherwise ordinary. This sort of philosophy also extends itself to the exhibition pieces themselves, within my approach to handmade making and consideration of materials. It is my hope that these garments, textiles and ceramics will be treasured for more than just their physicality and may perhaps become keepsakes in the eyes of their owners.

 

Craft: You talk about the difference in your introduction between overgrown foliage and carefully manicured garden – how did your decision to explore this binary and juxtapose both in your collection come about?

ES: Exploring this contrast between wild and curated foliage is a reflection on the way nature appears to me in my daily life. I’m obsessed with nature in its natural state but also curious about our interpretation of nature in a domestic setting - the way that we tame it and curate it and the reasons why we do this.
 

Craft: The garments you’ve created for this show represent a further step towards a Togetherness clothing line – how have you found this process of creating and adapting your illustration for the body?

ES: The main difference for me has been in the scale of my designs, being that I am able to have a much larger canvas to explore compared with my previous products such as bags and cushions. It has been challenging and exciting to be able to play with the size and position of motifs, to explore what is happening on the front versus the reverse of a garment, the shoulder versus the hem.
 

Craft: Favourite plant scene/s in a work of literature or cinema?

ES: I’ve found this question hard to answer, mainly because I have a terrible memory and cannot think of anything specific! The first thing that came to mind were the books of my favourite childhood author Enid Blyton. I remember being so captivated and enthralled with descriptions of forests, rivers and plants and came away from these with a sense of adventure and exploration. I wanted to feel this captivation by nature! 

 

Craft: You’ve worked with many major labels collaboratively, creating textiles and packaging for various objects and contexts. How has this experience of working with larger organisations and companies influenced your smaller personal practice?

ES: I feel my experience with larger brands has allowed me to gain the knowledge to be able to pick and choose elements that are important to my label. Practically speaking, when working with a specific brief for a client there is always a particular target market and product outcome in mind and this may not always be something I connect with. There is no time for exploration and play. So this exploration becomes an important part of my practice and I try to embrace the unknowns of an idea and see where it takes me. My experience has also made me aware of the many facets that go into creating a product from start to finish. I try to give equal importance and consideration to all of these aspects when creating, from the textile design to the object design, the quality of the materials, craftsmanship, functionality, branding etc.

 

Craft: Does time in the garden, or time in the wilderness, nourish your knowledge of foliage and help you to find nuances that make plant life recognisable within your work?

ES: Yes definitely! Spending time in nature is very important to me to both nourish me and inspire my creativity. As I become more and more obsessed with gardening I’ve gain a bit more knowledge of specific plants and these do make their way into my work but are often more abstract interpretations. I’m not trying to create a botanically accurate depiction of nature by any means, but these nuances of plant life are recognisable to me!

 

Craft: The designs in your work are very painterly and hand drawn, at what stage does the design process for you exist on paper? Is the hand drawn always a component of your work?

ES: I always try to create by hand within my own work for Togetherness Design as time rarely permits this within commercial work. I feel the hand drawn adds an element of warmth and authenticity to my work that is impossible to reproduce by digital drawing methods. My prints all begin life as ink, gouache, watercolour or pencil and are often painted in layers which are then arranged and repeated on the computer.