Lauren MacDonald, Petersham NSW
Words by Lauren Powell
Images by Sam Riles
Upon relocating to Australia last year after five years of working in London’s fashion industry, Canadian textile artist Lauren MacDonald stumbled upon a space in Sydney’s inner west to not only call home, but to evolve her new creative venture and textile company, Working Cloth. Launched in 2016 as a result of Lauren’s love for the cultural histories of textiles, Working Cloth aims to grow the appreciation and understanding of textile-based arts through educational workshops, artist collaborations and commissions.
Located in Petersham, Lauren shares the quaint one-bedroom apartment — that she describes as “a simple and functional rustic little jungle” — with her two tabby cats, aptly named Cat and Cat (often prefixed with an adjective depending on their behaviour).
Lauren admits the apartment’s parquetry floors and vast windows that stream an abundance of natural light were the features that, unsurprisingly, won her over. It’s here she retreats, makes quilts, sews her own clothes and where she dreams of helping fellow creatives gain an appreciation for the intricate and old-world craft of quilt making.
When you walk into the apartment what feelings does it evoke?
Being home makes me feel calm and happy. It’s a small space, but it’s mine, and after living in share houses for a few years it has felt like a real retreat.
What is your favourite item in your home and why?
I really love my ceramics, which I made with my friend Lucy of Salad Days Ceramics in exchange for quilting lessons. I am set to move twice this year, and they are objects that I can take with me and will make any place I am feel like home.
What inspires you and your textile creations?
I am inspired by history and the rich tradition that surrounds quilt making. As a technique it spans the globe and reaches back thousands of years. I have always had simultaneous and equal interests in both the physical processes of design and their philosophical and societal implications and this comes into play when I am trying to develop new work. Currently, this presents itself in my work through narrative and materials, though I am working this year to expand into more contemporary technologies -- creating art pieces using simple electronics in combination with my textiles. Perfect pairing: IN BED Dove Grey & Tobacco bedding
What do you do when you're feeling uninspired?
When I am feeling uninspired I'll usually go for a walk or a swim to clear my head and then sit down and try to get started on something anyway. I'll draw on grid paper, or go through my fabrics to try and get a refresh on it. Sometimes I look up work of artists that inspire me -- Agnes Martin, Constantin Brancusi, or one of the incredible quilters from Gee's Bend -- and that will kick start something for me. How does your home and studio environment impact your creativity?
It gives me the mental and physical space to do what I want with Working Cloth and with other projects. I work best in a place that is clean and calm with minimal interruption. It allows me to create a bit of chaos, drink excessive amounts of coffee without judgement, and take cat cuddle breaks throughout the day.
It allows me to create a bit of chaos, drink excessive amounts of coffee without judgement, and take cat cuddle breaks throughout the day.
What are your favourite types of products to create and why?
I love making quilts. As artefacts, I think quilts are very powerful, and often overlooked. They have a great narrative and cultural power as some of the most intimate objects in homes. I purposely choose slow and antique methods of production in my textile products and would like to reflect and understand on the relationship that builds between the maker and end product. My aim is to create heirlooms; objects which stand the test of time and which harbour stories of connection, emotion and kinship.
As artefacts, I think quilts are very powerful, and often overlooked. They have a great narrative and cultural power as some of the most intimate objects in homes.
What is the most special textile item you've ever created and why?
Many of the commissions I have done feel very special to me. I had a friend commission a birthday quilt for his wife, who is also a good friend. It was an all-white queen size that was designed to look like a series of broken tiles. It was Khadi silk, cotton satin and velvet, and was an absolute luxury to be able to do. Do you have a morning routine?
I roll out of bed and feed the cats, make myself a coffee and read the news online. I usually head to the pool for a few laps before coming home and making myself breakfast. Then I go through my emails and make a list of things I want to achieve by the end of the day. IN BED Tobacco Linen Duvet cover set featured in Lauren's home
What is your bedtime ritual?
It's a bit of havoc really. I am unfortunately not yet one of those people (and I am not sure if I ever will be) who has lovely crisp pyjamas and is diligent about their eye cream ritual. I've been trying to be a bit better about not falling asleep to Netflix in bed, but it has been a slow process.
What are you most looking forward to in 2018?
It feels like it's going to be a big year both personally and professionally. My online shop has just launched and I am working to develop it into an online resource with tools, guides and historical information. I am doing an artist residency at a school in Canada this spring and I am so excited about the challenges that will present. Then in the fall I am returning to the UK to start a Masters in Material and Visual Culture at University College London. Living in Sydney for the last year has helped me clarify the studio's direction and brought me into a wonderful new community of makers. I am excited to carry it forward into 2018.
See more from Lauren here.