I am obsessed with work, labour and time – the development, evolution and expansion of concepts, and I am captivated by the process of making – the testing of materials and ideas.
This mysterious and complex network of influences, observations, experiments and reflections that artists call ‘practice’ goes on largely unseen – we present seemingly resolved concepts and objects to our audiences.
For my MA show I migrated my studio into the exhibition space and continued with my work – I wanted to give the audience the opportunity to engage with my ‘practice’ in its evolution.
“In terms of practice, there is no art without craft; the idea of a painting is not a painting.”
– Richard Sennet1
I make objects with fabric and stitch.
The majority of techniques and processes used in embroidery can only be executed by human hands, the range of precise physical motions and tacit reaction to the materials would be impossible to replicate mechanically.
I currently work predominantly in Blackwork embroidery, a technique of counted thread embroidery that became popular in England in the 16th century, and am fascinated by the repeating geometric patterns that utilise the regular grid structure of even-weave fabric.
The almost infinite variation of pattern and the breakdown of this into components, 64 variations of horizontal, vertical and diagonal line combinations on a single square, is akin to a code such as the Banbury Sheets or computer programming.
In this technique I have found a parallel between embroidery and the digital/mechanical and it is here I draw inspiration for my work; the building of complex structures through small repetitive components, an obsessive attention to detail and the constant evolution of process and product.
From the informed perspective of a reflective practitioner I develop insights only possible from experiential, ‘tacit’ knowledge. I’m interested in the experimental, the limits of the materials and revealing that which is usually hidden – the process of making.
In ‘The Craftsman’, Richard Sennet makes an extensive case for thinking through process, “all skills, even the most abstract, begin as bodily practices… technical understanding develops through the power of imagination.”2. It is from this theoretical framework, based upon Martin Heidegger’s concept of tool-use and fore-structure, and the ideas of John Dewey on the primacy of experience for both artist and audience, that my work develops.
Within my work, the testing, failures and the struggle to grapple with the unfamiliar are within themselves worthy of attention. I present the act of making and the process of development, blurring the boundary between the artists studio, a private place of experimentation, with that of the exhibition space, a public place for the presentation of resolved ideas.
The act of opening up my working practice by using the exhibition space as a working environment expands the notion Nicolas Bourriard discussed in his 2013 Royal Academy lecture of “thinking in public”.
Here, I am creating a space for working, testing, making and thinking; presenting, not an end product to be contemplated but a moment in the flux of my working practice to be engaged with and be absorbed in.
1Richard Sennet, (2009) The Craftsman, Harmondsworth: Penguin, p. 65
 Toni Buckby
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