Your woven sculptures are strangely totemic, do you have a spirit animal?
Not exactly, but maybe. I think horses were my anti-spirit animal for a little while, but lately the horse symbolism has stopped tormenting me, possibly since the year of the horse ended. My zodiac sign is the rat which is apparently the horse's number one enemy. I did a spirit guide meditation at a festival about a year ago but it didn't really work right away. I'd been watching a lot of The Face with my housemates at the time and so the next morning at a yoga class I really wanted to come out of downward dog because my arms were sore, Naomi Campbell popped into my head, yelling at me, so I figured it must have been a delayed response to the meditation, obviously. So Maybe Naomi Campbell is my spirit guide. Also maybe it's a goat, and I also had a recent obsession with manatees and dugongs. A lot of the forms I make come from collages and abstractions of animal pelts, rather than living animals. I don't eat meat, but I really like fur. I don't really buy it under normal circumstances, but I have friends who probably wouldn't leave me alone with their pets because I might have made a passing comment that my friend's long-haired guinea pig would make a really great shoe or that another friend's dog's fur would be a good texture to weave with.
What music do you listen to while you weave?
I am the worst repeat listener in the entire world. For the last year I have almost exclusively listened to Cocteau Twins while I work. I think it's started to feed into the work a little bit, I ended up making all of these videos with blue yetis jumping through portals. Sometimes I'll switch to Cibo Matto if I need to lighten the mood a little bit or if things are getting too serious. In my early work that was really dark and theatrical The Cure was my work music. Apparently I only listen to bands beginning with C when I work.
What do you write in the "occupation" box, weaver or artist?
It really depends on the situation, but more often than not it would be artist. Sometimes unemployed, sometimes waiter. Student was the most common answer for about 8 years. I make a lot of video work, maybe as much as I weave and lately I've been having a little bit of a break from weaving and making works on paper, so I would probably say artist as a generalisation, rather than locking myself into one discipline. Weaving's probably still my favourite though, it was the first discipline I ever really invested time in.
Who are your favourite textile artists?
This is a tough one. There are so many. He's not a textile artist, but I'm really into the work of the Thai director and video installation artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The costumes in his film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives were great. Ernesto Neto's suspended soft sculptures are an old favourite too, I was pretty happy when one of his works came to the NGV. She's not a textile artist, but I was really into the lily pad soft sculptures you could recline on in Pipilotti Rist's show at ACCA a couple of years ago, I Packed the Postcard in My Suitcase. I also have a little bit of an art crush on Dani Marti, I have a soft spot for Tracy Emin's textile work, I have massive respect for everything that Anni Albers and Sheila Hicks did for textiles as an artform. Anna Batbeze's work is pretty awesome, although she destroys textiles rather than makes them, I kind of wish her art was my art sometimes, it looks like it'd be fun to make. When I was studying drawing I was really into this book called Beyond Craft: The Art Fabric, if you haven't looked at it I'd really recommend it, it's a survey on a wide range of 1970s textile artists and it's incredible, there's a lot of amazing artists like Ritzi and Peter Jacobi, Peter Collingwood and Magdalena Abakanowicz. Also, more of a textile engineer than an artist, but Junichi Arai's textiles are so innovative and a little bit mind blowing. Also not a textile artist, but I like Mike Kelley's soft toy installations, More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid might be one of my favourite titles for an artwork. And the last one I wanted to mention isn't a textile artist in any way, but I've been thinking about Pierre Huyghe's work a lot for the last year or so, his practice is nothing like mine, but I really like the way he deals with temporality. He's having his first retrospective in Australia at Tarrawarra Museum next month which will definitely be worth seeing.
John is showing his woven sculptures at Pop Craft Studio this Friday to Sunday 1-5pm.
All photos courtesy of Monica Ramirez