Being a weaver at VCA must be quite a novelty. How was the crossover into the “fine art” world?
The crossover was mostly smooth. One of my lecturers was actually trained as a tapestry weaver, and another has a lot of published writing about the boundaries between art, craft and design, so I had people who were familiar with my discipline. It was a bit strange being in a studio full of people, weaving all day and not having anybody who knew how to help put a warp on the loom or problem solve a complex draft, and separating art from design was a bit of a challenge too. Pretty much every creative course I’ve done, there’s this push from a lecturer to break you out of an aesthetic habit, and in a fine art context, my aesthetic was distracting from the overall work, and I think something beneficial came from that. It put a definite line between my art practice and my design work.
Boxes and foxes, what other obsessions?
I’m a little bit obsessed with mapping connections, various ways of categorising things/people/behaviour (which is where the boxes come from) and working with opposite ideas, trying to splice them together. I also have an obsession with mutation and evolution, which also relates back to categorising.
What ‘s your holy trinity of inspiration?
It seems to have become a ridiculous cliche, but I’m mostly inspired by nature. Not just the textures, shapes, and processes (although I’m pretty obsessed with growth and decay lately. I’ve been trying to make time lapses of things decaying “A Zed and Two Noughts” style, but my housemate’s cat keeps tampering with the subjects) found within nature, but also the definition of nature, and the suggestion that certain things are “unnatural,” human relationships with nature, particularly, as I’ve mentioned, the tendency to collect and categorise. I’m also interested in science/religion/spirituality, which also ties in with mortality and the (potential) afterlife, which is probably a condition from my catholic upbringing. Then there are rules, which I probably picked up somewhere from working to briefs in textile design. Every time I start a project, I like to set some parameters, usually in the form of a ban. For the first six months of the year, I wasn’t allowed to use or reference fur or animals, and this half of the year, I’ve banned weaving from my uni studio practice, which has actually forced me to think a lot more about the form and structure of my soft sculpture work.
What is John Brooks up to over the summer?
I’m hopefully going to find some balance between art and design over the summer. I thought that they’d just naturally feed into each other, and perhaps they will, but I haven’t really been able to find as much design time, so Looming has been on a bit of a hiatus. Ideally I’d like to design and weave a winter 2013 range for Looming, design some prints, make some clothing, dust off my knitting machine and teach myself to knit again, gather materials for the next semester and work through some ideas, and maybe do a ceramics course if there’s time. I also need to catch up on a lot of reading. So that’s basically my to do list. I’ll probably need to let a few of those things go.