Imogen Di Sapia is a British weaver and exhibiting artist, focusing her artworks on storytelling, folklore and heritage crafts. Sustainability is also a major consideration in her designs, tracing the supply chain of the wool she uses straight to the source. Imogen first stepped foot in Copperdollar Studios a few years ago to photograph her designs for an exhibition of her work. We caught up with her and how she has been maintaining an artistic mindset over the past couple of months during the pandemic.
Hello! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your art.
I’m Imogen and I’m a weaver and founder of Bright Moon Weaving Studio. I work with local rescue wool and I get my inspiration from the Southdown land-and-sea scapes, the tones and textures of the chalk and flint, and nautical folklore. I make studio batch textile for the home, mainly blankets and fireside rugs, and wearable wraps for the colder weather or meditation practice.
When did you first start weaving and what attracted you to this form of art practice?
I first started weaving in 2016 after the birth of my second child; I felt a deep need to get back to craft and making after maternity. I had a previous career as a couture pattern cutter and theatre costume designer, and motherhood gave me a pause to realise how stressful that world had been for me, so I went back to basics and learnt how to blend wool, spin and weave my own work by hand. I loved learning a new set of skills and finding calm in heritage crafts that haven’t really changed since humans first started weaving cloth.
How do you bring a narrative element into your weaving and textile work?
I studied arts therapy before having my first child, and through that I was introduced to storytelling and folklore as really powerful healing tools, working with symbols and archetypes from the collective unconscious. I did a lot of personal processes and connected with certain mythic symbols – the key one was the selkie seal-women. I committed about 18 months to create my first body of weaving exploring my maternal mental health and this specific folk story and exhibited it at ONCA gallery in 2018. The book to accompany the exhibition features a set of photographs taken at Copperdollar Studios, further exploring the symbols in the story combined with my textiles.
Sustainability is a huge part of your work – is it easy to maintain an environmentally-friendly artistic process?
Yes, that’s a good question; because I came to weaving fairly recently, the sustainability issue was really a priority and I could plan it in from the start. Coming to weaving in parallel to my own therapeutic process, I was able to be really clear about what I needed my studio approach to be. Honouring materials, time and motherhood, making works that I wanted to make without any trend-led pressure or throw-away culture, allowing the materials to show me what they wanted… This last point works so well, I just get out of the way and let it happen. My main wool is rescue fleece from a local sheep sanctuary just over the border in Kent (Sheep Ahoy).
Also with the realisation of environmental sustainability, I’m a passionate advocate for maker mental health and self-sustainability. There is so much pressure to be “successful” by unrealistic, unhelpful standards. I was invited to give a talk by craft consultant Melody Vaughan at Makers & Tools in Oxford last year, and my main message to makers was; review your practice to see where you are most stressed and constantly chasing your own tail, is it self imposed? Take a couple of weeks to redefine your work and play with your materials again. Refocus to amplify the reasons you love your work, and do more of that.
How has the lockdown impacted your creativity – has it motivated you or hindered your art in any way?
The lockdown has been a real challenge. I’ve had to take a while to mentally readjust and then get practical. I’m homeschooling my two little boys so work has to fit in around them, and I can’t always access my studio at The Open Market, so I’ve moved a loom back into the bedroom and set my electric spinning wheel up in the kitchen – where it all started for me. I have a list of client commissions and they are all being very patient, so I’m having to plan months ahead instead of weeks ahead. That being said, I’m giving myself that permission I just spoke of, and developing some new yarn blends and spinning, and even making myself a blanket; creative self-care.
Has the lockdown encouraged you to try a new challenge or something you have wanted to do for a long time?
It’s brought me to a still point of actually appreciating my home and my little garden more deeply. I’ve started growing vegetables in rubble sacks as a way to process this lockdown time. Giving myself permission to not always be busy has been a really good reality check.
Do you have any recommendations or advice for someone looking to start a new textiles skill?
I think a good research mission into YouTube goes a long way, there are so many tutorials and helpers. I taught myself to weave and spin this way, at home with a newborn baby (much like this lockdown!). When I was assembling my first loom, I found there’s always someone who had the same issue with tension or warping. In terms of style and techniques, there’s so much to learn from historical techniques. Have a good dig around in the history of textiles and find a thread that you can pull at that speaks to you. Then there’s tools and equipment to consider. There is a loom for every budget and technique, and I’d always advise to throw yourself in and learn as you go; the best way to skill-up and get a feel for the craft is with hands-on experience.
Thanks so much for this blog series, it’s great to connect with the creative women in the community and feel inspired! Take care everyone! Imogen x
Featured image by Michaela Meadow and Lisa Jahovic, taken at Copperdollar Studios