Conversations with my grandmother through crochet

Sosefina Andy is the first recipient of our Helen Hitchings scholarship for postgraduate fine art students. Here she explains the origins of her methodology and what inspires her work.

My art teacher in high school, Ms. Karanga, was my first art critic.

I started to slowly develop an interest in art-making by taking her sculpture classes. This initiated a series of works based on the notion of the everyday object.

Material such as old umbrellas that my mum had thrown away and aluminum trays from the Chinese takeaway place down the road were used to firstly challenge the limits of material function while anticipating the possibility of the object becoming something new.

Currently my desire to generate innovative viewings of a material through crafts such as knitting and crocheting stemmed from artefacts of my grandmother’s years of craft-making.

Sosefina

Sosefina at work. Photograph courtesy of the artist

The inspiration of memory

I remember watching my grandmother in her Samoan house, sitting at the treadle sewing machine, making my, and my cousin’s, school uniform. She also sewed all the pillow cases, blanket sheets, mattresses, curtains, and chair covers in her house.

Her home was infested with colours, from various elei (patterned printed fabric) that were draped over her couches to the bright leafy-green and white vinyl flooring that engulfed the wide space of her living room.

My memories of her were the starting point for a series of sculpture and installation works. These works were either a direct reiteration of an object in her house or an artefact of my attempt to re-live a past experience of being in her home.

From my memories of chairs and couches to the photographs of the picture shelf in her living room; these were research material I utilised to determine an approach to making.

They were also relevant in bridging a relational conversation between myself and my grandma across spaces and time.

Artworks

Artworks. Photograph courtesy of the artist

Crochet and connection

Nearing the end of my undergraduate studies (2016), I developed an interest in the method of crocheting and its potential to amplify my psychological connection to my grandmother and her home. I focused the works that followed on analysing the structure of chairs and couches in her living room. These were viewed as entities that held experience and traces of a person.

Graduating work

Sosefina’s graduating work. Photograph courtesy of the artist

Graduating work

Sosefina’s graduating work. Photograph courtesy of the artist

Nevertheless, the decorative fabrics that draped over them were more interesting to me. It led to a series of approximated measurements of the couches and chairs. I applied the technique of crocheting as a measuring tape. These collected data were then used to structure three-dimensional forms that referenced the original objects.

Being given the opportunity to work with the team at Te Papa would mean gaining new platforms to understand my art and ways of producing work.

It is also a chance to create respectable relationships with individuals who have been involved in the art community for some time; to work in a team and to learn from them in order to develop my thinking through conversation, while also contributing what I know and am able to offer the team.

Sosefina

Sosefina at work. Photograph courtesy of the artist

Helen Hitchings (1920-2002) was a visionary art dealer and lifetime supporter of innovative New Zealand artists and designers. In her will, she established an annual scholarship to support a postgraduate Fine Arts student who shows exceptional artistic promise. The award is made in association with Te Papa, where Helen Hitchings’ archives and collection are now based. Read more about Hitchings in the blog post, ‘The Gallery of Helen Hitchings – mixing the modern – art and design’.

3 Responses

  1. Chelsea Nichols

    Congratulations Sosefina! Your work is so interesting, and I can’t wait to see how you continue to develop as an artist.

    Reply
  2. Sonya

    Sosefina – I had the opportunity to see this work a few months back when I was in Auckland and loved it. It brought back a lot of memories in the bond I had with my Granma and Nana growing up. We were very blessed to have had Grandparents in our upbringing who not only played part in our household but also passed down their skills of craft and life lessons. Like you, my art teacher influenced me to push the boundaries of my textile skills passed on by my European granma and samoan nana. Manuia tele with your journey forward

    Reply
    • Sosefina Andy

      Hi Sonya, i completely agree. I didn’t realise how valuable the connections i made with people and especially the experiences i remember of observing my grandma’s craft-making until recently. But it was through Art making that this was possible. There’s something amazing about being an art practitioner that it enables me to think in diverse ways when articulating a particular topic. Thank you for sharing your experience with my work and as well your stories with your Grandma and Nana. Fa’afetai lava.

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