Grace Gladdish is a busy Mum of five, who runs a flower farm and produces a range of art from her heavenly hideaway in the Tasmanian Peninsula. With all that on her schedule I reckon she’s lucky she has time at all to see the trees4thewood!!!
But she has and that is the wonderful name of her art and jewellery business.
Iced Vovo spoke with Grace about her design background, how flowers have become such an inspirational part of her life and about her future plans for trees4thewood:
Q: What was your primary focus of study at Art School and how has this influenced your work today?
A: At art school, I didn’t seem to fit in either of the two big studios, painting or sculpture, so I ended up in the fibre studio. It was an eclectic mix of people like myself who experimented with lots of different media so it became a very creative close knit group. I was exposed to many techniques there too, from book binding to oxy-acelylene welding, shibori indigo dying to wax encaustic painting, plaster casting and carving to traditional weaving. In the end, my major works ended up being sculpture and a mix of painting/collage. The fibre studio was right next to the printing room, so I also learnt etching, lithographic and lino printing techniques using the proper printing presses. I guess what this left me with was a tendency to go with the idea and choose the medium to suit it, rather than limit myself to a narrow form of technical expression. A nice way of saying, “jack of all trades”.
Q: The art works are a lovely mix of lino prints and collages – what do you love about working in these mediums?
A: Lino prints and collages are two ways of working that fit well with my current family situation. I have 5 kids and live on a flower farm. My youngest is almost 2 and has significant health issues. I get little bite sized pieces of time, and these mediums seem to work well – I can do a lino print in lots of little stages. When I paint, I seem to waste a lot – put paint on the palette and then get interrupted and come back to find it dry.
Q: The ‘fabulous frocks’ range, along with the giclee prints have a real nod back to the 1950s – what is it about that era that you wanted to reflect in these pieces?
A: The 1950s is an era that I have explored a lot over the years. I have a huge collection of 1950s women’s magazines that I began collecting about 15 years ago. My mum was married in the 50s. We don’t have the closest of relationships – I think I’m drawn to the 50s as a way of trying to understand her or get to know her better. It’s a fascinating period in terms of feminism. I’ve always been interested in womens issues, and I find that looking at the roles of women in different historical periods can put contemporary issues in sharper focus – a kind of compare and contrast. Also, who doesn’t love a good frock?!
Q: There is a strong influence or reflection of the natural world such as birds, the beach, rolling hills etc – how or why does nature inspire you as an artist?
A: I have lived most of my life in the city. My husband and I woke up one day in Brisbane and asked, “Why do we live here?” so we decided to move. Initially it was just going to be acreage, but we went the whole hog and bought a flower farm in southern Tasmania. The wildness and the vastness and the beauty of being surrounded by nature was almost overwhelming at first. It has made a huge impact on me. I think most of my life I longed for space and now I have it, I want to explore it in every way, and to make the most of it. Also, I find natural things are great metaphors for exploring ideas about metaphysical things.
Q: How much has being a flower producer influenced your works?
A: I love being a flower grower. I have learnt so much! I love the cyclic nature of the plants as they do their thing throughout the seasons. I think there are two major things that have impacted on my life and work from my farming experience. The first is not to be overwhelmed by a large task. To pick 1000 stems, one must begin with picking 1. Sounds very philosophical, but flower picking can be very meditative! And I have often found for e.g. in my collages, that many tiny pieces make up a whole – it’s the same meditative process. The second thing is that every season has a purpose. Even when it seems nothing is happening, something always is, even if it’s below the surface. I used to be very stressed if I wasn’t producing work – now I know that the seasons in life are all productive, and that even though I might not be producing things, ideas are incubating below the surface. Visually, I love the rows and multiples, and the slightly askew patterns that a mass planting on an uneven hillside make. The beauty of the flower farming is more than just the flowers.
Q: The brooches and pendants are different again to the art works and cards in your collection – how did your venture in to jewellery making come about?
A: I have always loved big unusual statement jewellery. I have a large collection of things I wear and almost all of it is made from non-precious materials like plastic, wood etc. When I was in art college, I wanted jewellery but either couldn’t find stuff I liked or couldn’t afford it, so I made it. I used to sell it here and there to help fund myself. It’s just been something I’ve always done. I guess it looks strange next to the cards and linoprints in the shop, but it’s a part of me. The collage brooches and pendants are all just like miniature wearable art works to me. I have trouble photographing them – I think they’re much nicer in real life. The 50s ladies were an idea I had to try and bridge the gap between the collage work and the jewellery in my shop, and they’re cute too. They all come with their own unique collaged card made with original 50s clips from my magazine collection.
Q: There are also the newspaper pendants and collage brooches – what was you aim in the design, and perhaps message, of these pieces?
A: The collage and newspaper pendants, as with my other collage work, stem from the joy I have of making things of value out of things that are usually thrown away. I just love the paradox of using “rubbish” to create something beautiful.
Q: The photography on your blog at swallosnestfarm is delightful and obviously shows another passion of yours. What do you love about photography and what influences does photography play in your artworks?
A: I love taking photos – it’s just another way of visually expressing things as I see them. I am really keen on Instagram, an iphone app that I use. It’s like Facebook for non-verbal/visual people. I take photos every day. It helps me find something beautiful about the day – a mental health thing that really helped me through a really bad time after my baby came home from 4 months in hospital. It helps me to remember to appreciate my surroundings. About a year or so ago, I had the idea to start using some of my Instagram shots as the basis for linoprints. All the Instagram photos are in a square format, so the linoprints followed that. I think all the prints in my shop started life as an Instagram photo! I’m a collector at heart, and photography is just a way of being a collector images that interest me.
Q: What prompted you to set up an Etsy shop? And is this the best place for people to buy your works?
A: I set up my Esty shop on 2nd Jan 2012 – a new years resolution that I didn’t waste time on! I had been making christmas cards for friends and family with lino prints of local birds on them. I ended up with stock left over and decided to start the shop. After moving from Brisbane to Tasmania 4 years ago, I lost all my contacts and gallery affiliations. I needed to do something to present my work to the world, so to speak. The online shop was achieveable with the family situation and the remoteness of our home. Art work is meant to be seen – that is its end purpose. If you make work and nobody sees it, it’s not finished! At the moment some of the card designs are available at the Tasmanian Design Centre in Launceston and I am in discussions with a few other Tasmanian retail outlets to sell my work.
Q: What are you plans for 2013?
A: This really follows my last response very well as my plans for 2013 are to find some retail outlets to sell my trees4thewood work. Watch this space! My other goal is to have an exhibition this year – not quite sure when or where but I’m finishing off the work in readiness!