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GSL LOVES - LOCAL TEXTILE ARTISTS

GSL LOVES - LOCAL TEXTILE ARTISTS

Philip Clarke, writer and craft expert, talks to Auckland based full-time weaver Christopher Duncan

Christopher Duncan is a contemporary practitioner specialising in hand-weaving textiles.

 

Early Career and Introduction to Textiles

"I went to Fashion School at Massey University and then worked for Lela Jacobs, a New Zealand designer committed to local manufacturing and sustainable practices. Lela loved linen and used a lot of natural silk and linen, which wasn’t very fashionable in 2008. When I learned pattern-making and construction, there was barely any consideration given to the suitability of fabric for a design or our intuitive feeling for the materiality of fabric. Most fashion training focuses on design rather than skills; it’s a ‘let’s design a skyscraper before building a garden shed’ approach.

Transition from Fashion to Weaving

I moved to Australia and worked in high fashion, then went to India in 2011, where I saw lots of cotton and rug weaving. When I returned to Melbourne, I realised I needed to move on from fashion. I spent some time trying to divine my future and ended up moving to Wye River, a very small town near Melbourne. I got a good job in a café; the rent was cheap, and my sister gave me a loom. I taught myself to weave using the internet. It wasn’t very sophisticated! I made small items like scarves and set up a rug site. After a year, I moved back to New Zealand in 2013.

I bought a floor loom and wove lots of scarves, shawls, and wall hangings. I worked in hospitality and for Lela, who by this time had The Keep on K Road. In 2016, I cut back my paid work hours to weave full-time at TUR, the gallery that Joseph Yen and I opened. TUR presents handmade ceramics, jewelry, metalwork, and textiles. Full-time weaving gave me the time to solve problems, 'iron out the creases,' and learn patience.

Meeting and getting to know who wore my work was rewarding. Weaving created connectivity and community. But as my work progressed, constant visitors made concentration difficult. By 2018, after four years on K Rd, I felt hemmed in by the noise. I needed peace, quiet, and time for reflection. I was offered my own place on a friend’s rural property, so I moved. It was good for a time because my weaving changed. Without interruptions, I had the headspace to go deeper into weaving. I ordered some single-ply linen yarn from India in 2017, and weaving linen helped me find my own voice. Stripping everything back to natural and black linen, I used the structure I created as my language.

Reflection and Moving Forward

Reflecting on the experience, having your hands in the soil, and watching the trees turn red is cathartic. But living in the country wasn’t a long-term option, and I moved back to Auckland just before the pandemic hit. I’ve been in my private studio on Cross St for some years now, and it is good. I’m still making scarves, shawls, and garments by commission, which go to exhibitions, TUR, and boutiques in Antwerp, Santa Fe, and Japan. I’m also working with interior designers making throws and cushion covers.

photos courtesy of Tur Studio and Christopher Duncan

 

For me, there is a spiritual dimension to weaving. I’m not a Buddhist, but my journey with weaving has been influenced by Buddhist and Taoist philosophies. I’ve learned that there is another approach to textile making, that of the local independent weaver."

Philip Clarke

 

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