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Be INspired - Mette Sofie Roche

It is evident from Mette’s interview that she loves what she does. Taking inspiration from her Norwegian heritage and the many years she has been living in Ireland, she continually looks for new ways to work, exploring her materials, processes, and techniques. Her calm approach allows her to ‘listen’ to the fabrics and textiles she uses, letting them dictate how her artworks evolve. Her collaboration with other artists helps her to make connections outside her studio, giving her inspiration, feedback, and new ideas as a visual artist and maker.

Read her interview and Be INspired by her artistic approach and desire to reuse materials that you may find around your home.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I have been living in Co. Meath for more than 40 years, but I grew up in the North of Norway.  Craft and then later art have been sustaining hobbies in my life.

In 2008, after 30 years as a social worker, I retired and attended a PLC (Post Leaving Certificate) college completing FETAC Level 5 and 6 courses in art. I was then accepted into  NCAD (National College of Art and Design) where I graduated with a Diploma in Art and Design in 2011.

What area of the arts do you work in?

I am a maker. The process of making has always excited me.

I have been a practising visual artist since I graduated and have a purpose-built studio in my back garden.  My art practice has evolved through experimentation with materials, media, different expressions, and collaboration with other artists.

How long have you been working in this area of the arts?

Although I have described myself as a process based, multidisciplinary artist, which means I combine different types of artforms, creating both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional art works using a variety of media; over the past 4 or 5 years I have found myself drawn more and more towards fibre and textile art. 

I have created a number of soft sculptures, 3-dimensional forms made from fibre and cloth. I often use traditional craft techniques like felting, knitting or crochet in the process. I have also created single artworks and installations of multiple wall mounted textile pieces. 

What materials do you use to make your artwork?

I am currently using fibre and textiles in my art practice, preferably recycled or salvaged materials. I try to tread lightly on this earth by using textile waste and cloth, old clothes and I upcycle where I can. However, I still use drawing, painting, mono printing, and cyanotype printing in a process. (Cyanotype printing is the first form of photography using the sunlight and light-sensitive paper).

'Thews and Sinews', 13-piece wall installation

I use wool and cotton fibres which I unravel or pull apart, cut, or tear from recycled cloth and synthetic materials which can be manipulated or changed with heat. Once I have prepared the fibre, I begin to put it together on a canvas to create a textured 2D artwork. I also use other materials like wax, wood, wire mesh or plaster with soft fibre materials to create 3D forms.

I layer and manipulate the materials until they are unrecognisable from their original purpose, totally changing their value to express my idea or theme and putting them into a contemporary artistic context.

What or who inspires you?

My inspirations are a combination of influences and interests.

A core theme of my art practice from the very beginning has been research into my ancestors, the Samé people of the northern hemisphere; their cultural, political and economic life as well as the harsh climatic conditions they live in. Stories from my family history and cultural traditions as well as the colours and textures of the environment in Norway greatly inspire my work.

Alongside these core interests, I love collaborating with other artists on common themes and I am a member of a number of art groups both locally and in Dublin. Working collaboratively is an enriching experience which can have far reaching benefits. Running an art practice can be a very solitary and isolating existence, working on your own for long periods of time so and it is important to seek out like minded artists to work with and be inspired by.

While still in college I was inspired by American artists like Eva Hesse and Lynda Benglis who introduced me to the 3-dimensional forms using unusual materials, particularly wax. Later, when fabrics and textile became an important material for me, the work of Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz, French artist Simone Pheulpin and American artist Sheila Hicks had a profound effect on me in terms of experimental textile sculpture art.

‘Rhapsody in Blue’, detail by Mette Roche

Inspired by the Slow Stitch movement, that encourages you to slow down and be creative through sewing, I have discovered the simple repetitive hand stitch, which can be combined with other recycled and layered textiles to create character, texture, and colour. It is also a meditative and therapeutic process which I believe has positive benefits for both the maker and viewer of the work.  The English artist Richard McVetis was an important source of inspiration in this area.

How do you start a new piece of work or explore a new theme?

Picking a theme

My research into the lives of my ancestors has given me many ideas and themes, their turbulent and difficult history, the symbolic meaning of colours in their cultural traditions, nature’s extreme expressions and personal family memories.


When I have selected a theme for a project or collaboration, I start by looking through my expansive collection of materials gathered over many years.  I mainly work intuitively with each artwork, not having a definite end result in mind. I let the materials direct the process as well as my own creative instinct and aesthetic sense.  The qualities of the medium inspire the form and the expression I create. Researching other artists who work with similar materials can be inspirational and this is where my own experimentation and exploration starts. The process is what drives me and gives me energy, not the thought of a finished artwork.


Throughout the process I keep writing down ideas about what I want to express, and this again may influence the direction of a project or be an inspiration for a new project.

Taking photographs of the artwork throughout the process is an important tool and creates a record for future use, maybe in another project. Often one project may inspire another and so on.


Exploring other artists’ work, either in art books or online, or visiting exhibitions are invaluable and can give new energy and impetus to a project.  Textile art has become a more important part of the contemporary art scene in recent years, if not yet of equal value to traditional art forms such as painting and sculpture, this means that it is easier to access written material and online sources on the subject.

Exploration and experimentation of the materials is key. Pushing beyond what you think is the limit is exciting as well as combining unusual materials to create a form or add texture and colour.

Collaborating with other artists on a common theme is extremely rewarding. It gives you feedback on your own artwork and other artists stories and expressions can be inspirational.  In a group exhibition, close collaboration and influences can be evident in individual artists finished artwork.


The eternal question is: when is a work of art finished?

I would say, when I feel there is an aesthetic balance and I get a certain buzz from looking at it.  Except the process is often ongoing. I may start a drawing of a sculpture I have just made, to give it a different expression; to create an installation of many drawings; use a photo of the art work in a cyanotype printing process or use the surface texture in a mono printing process.  It is like taking the artwork on a new journey.


Do you have any advice for our young creators and artists?

To any aspiring young artist out there, do not let any preconceived limitations stop you. By this I mean, follow your instincts and not what you think will work, keep experimenting. Always be open to change. I respond to themes and concepts through collaborations with art groups and to materials I find or are presented to me. Materials do not have to cost a lot of money. Use what you find around you, everyday materials which can be recycled or upcycled are sustainable and experimentation and exploration is the key. The possibilities are endless.

Today the opportunities for pursuing a formal education in art is so much better than when I was young.  After retiring I took advantage of these opportunities to the full and I have not looked back.  If you have a strong interest in art, research the educational opportunities near you and go for it!

<h4>Crafty Creatures</h4>

<p>Mette creates soft sculptures, 3-dimensional forms made from fibre and cloth.</p>

<p>Here we have made one of our cheeky cats Pebbles from tin foil and wool, things you may have at home. You can make real or imaginary creatures, abstract shapes, or things you see around you. Have a go at making some of your own.</p>

<p><strong>You will need a roll of tin foil and coloured wool, elastic bands, glue, googly eyes or small bits of paper, ribbon, buttons, or pipe cleaners to make eyes or antennae (optional).</strong></p>

<p><strong>Step 1:</strong> Cut some large pieces of tin foil, maybe 3 or 4 to start. The tin foil is going to create the head, body, legs, or arms of your creature. Make the main part or body first, loosely in your hands, but do not squeeze too hard.</p>

<p><strong>Step 2:</strong> Once you have the main shape, fold another piece of tin foil over this and begin shaping the legs, ears, or arms. If your creature has four legs, make the front two together first in one long piece, draping them over the body to either side and then the back legs. Play around with the shapes.</p>

<p><strong>Step 3:</strong> When you have created the finished shape, begin to cover the whole thing with wool. Wrap the wool around the foil until it is completely covered, and you cannot see the tin foil anymore. You may need help from an adult for this as it can be tricky. Our wool was very fluffy, so it did not take too long. Here is a tip - we used two elastic bands to hold the wool in place at the base of the ears.</p>

<p><img class="leftAlone ss-htmleditorfield-file image" title="Untitled 1a" src="/assets/Mette/Untitled-1a.png" width="1000" height="314" data-id="300" data-shortcode="image" /></p>


<p><strong>Step 4:</strong> Add the eyes, mouth etc. that you want. A clever way to make curly pipe cleaner antennae is to twist it around a pencil first. You can then fold this in half to make both together. You will need to glue the eyes and buttons on and add any decorations you like.</p>


<h4>Is Paper Flat?</h4>

<p>Mette spends a lot of time gathering and preparing her materials. She also explores the qualities and new ways of working with them.</p>

<blockquote><em>&lsquo;Recycled materials are especially exciting, material that has already had a life; a life that would have been purely functional or decorative and as far removed from art as you can imagine&rsquo;.&nbsp;</em></blockquote>


<p>Her artwork &lsquo;Thews and Sinews&rsquo; reminds us of the art of Quilling. This art form involves strips of paper that are rolled, shaped, and glued together to create decorative designs or objects. They make a flat piece of paper 3-dimensional by curling and standing it on its edge!</p>

<p><strong>You will need: Scissors, pencil, and any magazine pages you have left over from our previous activities or you can cut out more, lots more!</strong></p>

<p>When you have gathered some magazine pages, cut them into strips. The strips do not have to be straight and you can experiment with different thicknesses. This takes some time and practice and it may be fun to ask someone in your family to help as it is a great chance to sit and chat while cutting them out. When you have about 20 strips, start rolling them one at a time between your fingers, loosely and tightly and see what forms you can create. Alternatively, you can roll them around a pencil (we found this much easier). You will see that your flat pages have become 3-dimensional forms that can be placed or glued together to make shapes and patterns.</p>

<p><img class="leftAlone ss-htmleditorfield-file image" title="Untitled 1b" src="/assets/Mette/Untitled-1b.png" width="1000" height="314" data-id="301" data-shortcode="image" /></p>


<p>Look up Quilling on-line and you will see hundreds of ideas and things you can make with your paper swirls or design and build some of your own.</p>


<h4>The Art of Making &ndash; Nature sticks</h4>

<p>Mette is a process based artist. The time she takes to create a piece and the making process is part of her art work; drawing, gathering materials, manipulating, melting, dying, folding, pinning, stiching, brushing, painting and&nbsp;printing.</p>

<p>One of the artists who inspires Mette&rsquo;s work is American, Sheila Hicks who is known for her experimental weavings and sculptural textile art. She uses bright colours and natural materials, to express personal stories and thoughts. When we looked at Sheila&rsquo;s artwork, we were drawn to her large fibre wrapped sticks.</p>

<div class="captionImage leftAlone" style="width: 500px;"><img class="leftAlone ss-htmleditorfield-file image" title="Sheila Hicks fibre wrapped sticks" src="/assets/Mette/Sheila-Hicks-fibre-wrapped-sticks.jpg" width="500" height="282" data-id="296" data-shortcode="image" />

<p class="caption leftAlone">Sheila Hick&rsquo;s Fibre Wrapped Sticks</p>


<p>Mette and Sheila&rsquo;s process-based art remind us that nature also takes time to create, grow and bloom. Combining the art of making, natural materials and time, create some Nature Sticks. You can gather materials from your garden or if you can get out for a walk.</p>

<p><strong>You will need some sticks, any size you like but we have used ones that are between 20 and 30cm long, wool or loom bands, found natural objects.</strong></p>

<p>Choose wool you like and wrap it around different parts of your stick. Experiment with patterns and colourful lines. You can wrap the whole stick or just parts like we did. We also found some loom bands and used these instead of wool on one of sticks.</p>

<p>On your walk, choose things you like to add to your Nature Sticks. Our pink wool stick inspired us to gather pink and purple flowers. One feather was enough to decorate another, and we added yellow and green items to the third. We found a large leaf to go on our loom band stick and it became a spear, decorated with long leaves.</p>

<p><strong><img class="leftAlone ss-htmleditorfield-file image" title="Wool" src="/assets/Mette/Wool.png" width="1000" height="464" data-id="302" data-shortcode="image" /></strong></p>


<p>We included lavender, mint and thyme leaves and our nature sticks smell amazing.</p>

<p>See what you can add to yours and what will they inspire next.</p>

<p>Have you been inspired by Mette&rsquo;s interview? She likes to use traditional craft techniques like felting, knitting or crochet in the process. Maybe someone at home could teach you how to knit or crochet?</p>

<p>You could also explore some of the artists that inspire her or research your local history and see how these could influence some drawing, making, or experimenting with recycled materials. As Mette suggests, tread lightly on this earth by using textile waste and cloth, old clothes and upcycle where you can, giving new life to discarded materials that do not have to cost the earth.</p>

<p>Let us know how you have been INspired. Send in a photo of your artworks to <a href=""></a> with your first name and we can inspire each other on our creative journey and we look forward to seeing you all in Solstice again in the near future.</p>


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