In the past few months I’ve often gotten the question: “Alex, love all your stuff online… but why crisps?”
To be honest, it’s a great question. So let’s rewind a little.
As I covered in my previous newsletter, ever since graduating from weaving at Central Saint Martins I ended up taking on backstrap weaving as it was the perfect solution to carrying on my practice in a small flat with not enough money for a big loom. Needless to say, I fell in love with the process and I’ve been weaving in one way or another since then.
During the pandemic when I was put on furlough, I was commissioned to weave panels made out of recycled tents for the fashion designer Chloe Baines (hey Chloe!). It was so enjoyable collaborating and making such great work and seeing my weaving displayed at Selfridges and Adidas gave me more confidence in knowing that my work still mattered. It was also a really useful learning curve for me. It made me realise how weaving as a one-woman team on a backstrap loom is not a speedy process. It’s not made for a high-volume outcome but rather a slower, smaller way of working.
So began a journey of trial and error. Being furloughed meant more time to weave, but lockdown made me feel less energetic and more negative. Whenever I opened my phone I saw all of these makers on social media who were thriving during the pandemic, and I felt like I was faced with this absolutely mountainous task. How do I build something from scratch?
And over time I realised I just had to make a first step.
My ideas all start with drawing. I drew from family photographs of Warsaw, from family portraits, I even drew my nails as I love getting them done and missed manicures during lockdown. I then got into art based on food. Old soviet style food pictures intrigued me. Food has been a comfort blanket for me and it’s been a much needed escapism lately, with things not feeling quite right and uncertain.
After a lot of drawing, I started experimenting on the backstrap loom. Some samples worked, some didn’t. There was an attempt at a cushion which failed (my warp strings were very fragile, all I managed was a little sample).
One day, when feeling particularly frustrated, I just listed a few ideas off the top of my head. One of them was crisps.
Back when I was about 10 or so, I always felt like a total rebel when I used my pocket money to buy a packet of cheesy Cheetos after school. I was actively discouraged from eating such chemical-filled snacks by my caring Polish mother, and gobbling down on something so salty and MSG-based felt like heaven.
I have a distinct memory from around the same time of my mum’s friend telling me when I was mid-Cheetos-eating “you know what, right now you won’t be able to see the effects of eating such rubbish, but you’ll see, the fat you just consumed will come back to haunt you and show up on your body when you're older.”
I am all for eating healthy, but maybe my obsession with crisps is a bit of a middle finger up to comments like that. The salt, the MSG… it’s just tasty and that’s ok. By all means, we definitely shouldn’t eat crisps all day but it’s fine to reward yourself from time to time.
To be completely honest, when I started weaving my crisp packets I wasn’t really thinking of the subject matter that deeply. For me it’s simple. I love crisps. I love that everyone I know has an opinion about which crisps are their favourite. I enjoy how I can weave something that is very familiar and using branding that’s usually printed on a plastic sleeve and see it take on its own character as a soft fabric.
I really hope that this collection will be a celebration of a snack that brings us all together and will bring some humour into our lives at a time when I think we all need it!
So, bring on the 26th of November! I’m excited to share this work with you. If you know of anyone who would enjoy my work and would be up for having a woven crisp piece, I would be so grateful if you could pass on my website or Instagram!
Until next time!
Thanks so much for reading and hope you’re having a great weekend,