Imogen Di Sapia, the lady behind the exhibition The Selkie; Weaving and The Wild Feminine gives us more information about her passion, her learning and what led to the creation of her new exhibition…
Yak: Reading your blog and website we have read about your time with fashion designers and costume making, does what you’re creating now feel very different to that, or are you still going through similar creative processes?
Imogen: I think that the motivation is the same – love of making and exploring a skilled craft – but my creative process now has a different perspective because I’ve gone back to the basics of material by actually spinning and weaving my own textiles, so I’m understanding the roots and origins of creating textiles by hand. My time spent in fashion studios gave me freedom to indulge my love of fabric and technically working to get the best out of a particular cloth; it’s drape and weight for example. I also got to work with very rare and beautiful luxury fabrics, which has been a huge inspiration ever since. Costume, as well as being an aesthetic art and creating a visual dimension on stage, also provides a narrative structure and adds to the development of characters. That’s where my love of storytelling comes from; that it’s possible to tell a story with fabric.
YAK: We love the stories of the mythological Selkie, and the idea of a second skin, when and why did you need to investigate this topic?
Imogen: The second skin motif has been with me for a long time, and I originally went down the path of creating dresses that could be custom dyed to match skin tone, as a celebration of diversity and the richness of skin colours, and I’m really happy to see this theme has been developed by some designers and is very current in discussions around ‘nude’ dance wear for example. My current work around the second skin with The Selkie is very much informed by my more recent experiences of childbirth and motherhood, about shifting identity and reclaiming some sense of my self after such a huge life change. The Selkie story is centred around a woman whose wild nature is taken from her, she becomes domesticated, and then it is her child who gives her back her freedom. I see this as the reality of my experience of motherhood, and it is through my children I have found a new (and better) way of working. Weaving is apparently very therapeutic!
YAK: Something striking about your work is how cleverly the yarn you have spun and created complements and sings in the finished piece. Do you create the yarn for a finished piece idea? Or get inspired by the yarn?
Imogen: That’s a tough one to answer, let me think; so the last year has been an experiment in researching, sourcing, sampling and commissioning spinners to see what we get. I had a creative basis in real world textures for this collection; chalky stones, weathered shells, driftwood, seagull feathers. So I had a colour and texture palette in mind, but I needed to work out what kinds of yarn I wanted; what works in weaving, what meets my aesthetic. I had to learn about different spins and ply, which was really exciting. All the yarn was custom blended on my kitchen table, and I really enjoyed that process, it was like cooking! I could add texture with linen, sheen with seaweed silk, lustre with wild silk, depth with Teeswater locks, all on a base of ethical South Downs from a rescue flock. I send the blended batts to my spinners and let them work their magic to get the best out of each blend, and because each spinner has a unique way of spinning, each skein has its own character and represents a different aspect of The Selkie theme. So this also means each batch of yarn is unique, there might only be 3 or 4 skeins of any one blend. So I think the short answer is that I create the yarn to match my idea, and refine it through sampling.
YAK: How do your source your raw material? What is your favourite type of yarn/fibres to work with?
Imogen: It’s really important to me that my work is ethical and traceable, so the base of all my yarns is a special flock of rescued South Downs; this means that the wool isn’t sent to compost, and that my customers know where their wool comes from. South Downs is wonderfully soft and textured, it adds lovely depth and a matte surface to add other fibres too. I really love adding linen to my blends as it stops the South Downs from being too stretchy, which isn’t very helpful for weaving! I also love shine and adding light with seaweed silk and wild harvested silk, both of which give a golden glow to the yarn. If I use dyed fibre I look for botanical dye in the first instance, and also dyers that works in a eco friendly way. I’ve also starting working with British alpaca, which is luxuriously soft. Most of my blending fibres are sourced through Etsy and Instagram contacts.
YAK: And finally, whats your most favourite thing about Brighton?
Imogen: So many favourite things! The light here is beautiful, and living by the sea is always very enchanting. But I think my favourite thing is walking through the Pavilion gardens listening to the two buskers who play steel drums and oboe together, that’s the spirit of Brighton to me; relaxed and happy!
Imogen of Bright Moon Yarns, and Louise Spong of South Down Yarns will be exhibiting and selling their wares at YAK on Saturday the 17th March.