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Lorna Crane: The shared journey

Textile artist Lorna Crane shares tips for beginner artists and talks about the importance of sharing your experience with others. 

Lorna’s Friday Feature Artist Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.

Lorna Crane has been developing her signature style of uniquely abstract paintings and mixed media work for over 14 years. She has been involved with many artist-run initiatives and community Arts projects, and was awarded the prestigious Sir William Keys Churchill fellowship, researching community arts and mental health in 2002. 

Setting herself a personal goal to exhibit at least once a year, Lorna has contributed to countless solo exhibitions and group exhibitions, and her work can be found in private and public collections all over the world, including at the National Irish Visual Arts Library in Dublin, and the Bundanoon Trust in New South Wales. 

Both bold and courageous, and yet one of the kindest, most generous people you will ever meet, Lorna took some time out to chat with Fibre Arts Take Two.

Since her studies in the mid-80s, Lorna has been deeply involved in the art world. Recently, she found herself sifting through her life thanks to a termite infestation in her studio. 

“There are 40 years of paintings and prints and all sorts of things in the studio. It was a really interesting process for me to actually go through all of my documents and I suddenly realised that I had a really common thread going through my work and my artist statements back from 1988 still resonate with what I’m doing today,” says Lorna.

“Going through the journals and letters that I kept was hard, but it was also so confirming as well, that my life has just been this incredible journey, collaborating with poets and going on my residencies and all of those letters.”

2020 for Lorna Crane

2020 was a productive and significant year for Lorna. For one thing, she was a finalist for the 2020 Basil Sellers Art Prize with her piece The Earth Speaks. Her work “was all about the fragility of our earth. I’m a maker and I’m a shaper so I have specific colours and specific shapes that I have recurring in my work and there might be a few little bits and pieces that might come in and out again and there might be stepping stones into something else but this was a very special thing to have happened to me. To be a finalist in an enterprise like that prestigious award was just incredible.”

Not one to rest on her laurels, Lorna had also been working on the collaborative Mona Hessing Tribute Project, Shimmering

This was “an amazing two and a half years. I had 21 vessels that I handmade out of sisal and tarlatan and wool. It was a great experience. We only had 10 days of showing because another lockdown happened. And then luckily, you (Fibre Arts Take Two) were able to take a video as well, which was incredible.” 

You can see the video on Lorna’s webpage as well as finding out when and where the show will be held next.

Letting go of perfection

For aspiring artists, Lorna advises letting go of perfection.

“We try to strive for perfection.” she says, but “without the little stumbling blocks, you’re not going to get where you want to be, and to find your own voice. And that’s what I’ve learned and what I want to share with people as well. Everything being imperfect is all about that Wabi Sabi kind of feeling.” Because, she says, just like the Japanese aesthetic school of Wabi Sabi teaches “beauty in imperfection.”

Once you master your fear of imperfection, Lorna’s advice to aspiring artists and students is to “trust the process. And go at your own pace, and try not to compare yourself to others either. Some people like to take their time and do it slowly, and other people will run through it.” 

Finally, Lorna recommends newbie artists always make the most out of group opportunities and classes, “You know that the gift of all that is that it’s a shared journey. And you can learn from other people’s failures. And telling stories and sharing those stories, I think, is really important.”

Brushmaking

Lately Lorna has turned her skills to teaching brushmaking. “When I was teaching in Venice, back in 2014, I met up with Alison Bay Cork and we challenged each other to make our own brushes before I started teaching it to a few other people. They would get attached to their brushes that they didn’t want to dip them into the ink. But we just ease them out of that by saying, ‘Well, you know, you can put those aside, if you like, then you can make more’. And not long after that they just let go and have fun.”

Through all of this, Lorna loves to help others to grow just as she has. “I found my voice, I’ve got a much stronger voice, and I can share my failures, and my failures have been the best gift that I’ve ever had.” 

And finally, Lorna shared a poem that eloquently sums up her words to Australian artists:

“When the sky meets the earth, 

In this ancient land, 

There becomes an otherness at the edge of dawn with a shimmering horizon, 

There is stillness that calms the soul. 

Breathe in, breathe out. 

Those places that resonate with a subliminal force from deep within, 

Delivers the gift of clarity.”

About the artist

Since February 2015 she has been teaching brush making workshops within NSW, Victoria, ACT and QLD. Known as The Brushmaker, she sources materials from her natural environment including driftwood, bamboo, organic fibres along with found objects making unique rudimental and utilitarian brushes in a variety of shapes and sizes.

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