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PRACTICE/PROCESS: Artist Interview with Mariana Baertl

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

Can you briefly describe what your studio practice looks like? Walk us through what goes into making a single piece.

I'm a fiber artist, and I create embroidered pieces that simulate woven and textured creations. I started my journey as a fiber artist some years ago exploring loom weaving and then ventured into embroidery. I loved the volume and organic textures you can achieve through weaving on a loom, but felt a little creatively staggered, just because when you weave you usually have to go row by row, so you have to plan ahead. I then tried embroidery but felt textures were too flat. So I decided to mix the two techniques together and try to recreate a woven piece's volume by the way of embroidering, and that's how I came about my style and craft.

When I make a new piece, I usually start with an idea in mind, sometimes it’s a texture that inspired me or a color scheme that I imagined. I do a very light sketch, just to figure out proportions and the general movement of the piece. After I’ve selected the materials (usually more than I’ll use) I start playing with them over the canvas to see how they mix and blend. Once I like the combination, I’ll start on one side of the canvas, with the most dominant feature of my design or the texture that I’m most certain about. Then I jump from side to side embroidering different parts, and trying to figure out the composition. That’s just how ideas come to my mind, the freedom of the technique is what makes me more creative. The fact that I don’t have a set of steps I have to follow, is what makes my process very flexible, changing and modifying things as I go. Then I’ll keep on working and embroidering using different stitches to create interesting textures. I usually stop several times in the process to look at the piece from afar to check proportions and overall design.

Can you tell us about a piece that didn’t go according to plan and how you handled it?

I’ve had a couple of pieces that didn’t go according to plan. I always start with an idea, a sketch or concept in my mind, but they don't always translate to reality the way I envisioned them. Especially when you are working with fibers and textiles, you are not only creating composition and color, but you have to have in mind texture and volume as well. Sometimes a texture overpowers the whole composition, so you have to take out.

In those situations I just take everything down and start over with the parts of the piece that I liked. The good thing about my craft, is that if you make a mistake or want to change something you can do it at any time in the process without having to through everything away. I’ve even had several pieces that I’ve completely finished and then redone entirely.

What is your favorite part of your artistic process?

I think my favorite part of the whole process would be when I’m imagining a new piece. I daydream of creating textures and forms and start building a concept in my mind, where everything is possible. Also selecting the materials I’ll use in the piece, I love touching and feeling the materials and let them talk to me. And of course, I love the manual process of making the piece. Working the materials on the canvas is so soothing and relaxing. I tend to favor the artistic process over the administration side of my trade, to the point that I have to make myself to set a piece aside and concentrate on some computer work.

What is your least favorite part of your artistic process?

I would say the least favorite part of my artistic process is sketching. I usually only do a very vague sketch, with a black pen and no color. I try to sketch general feel and movement of the piece, they work almost like a guide. I usually get too excited to start working on the actual piece that I never completely finish a sketch

What do you consider your most successful work and why?

I think success is very subjective, it can mean a lot of things, the meaning changes depending on the perspective. To me, the most successful work that I create, are the pieces that I think look the best, the ones that I want to keep on staring at. I prefer to think of the pieces that made me the proudest, the pieces that entailed more dedication, the work that made me get out of my comfort zone. That to me is a success, because you not only create something new, but you learned in the process.

Lately, the piece that I've felt the proudest about is a hand-tufted rug I created for an interior design exhibition. It was the first time using a hand tufting gun and creating a piece with it. I learned a lot about the technique and the rug came out beautiful!

Find more of Mariana's work here:

IG/Facebook: @LivingFibers

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