The intricate and old-world craft of quilting represents everything we love about the art of making - it encourages the maker (and viewer) to slow down and appreciate every hand-stitch. Lauren MacDonald has a gentle love for the history and culture of textiles and this is richly represented in her quilting practice Working Cloth. Her stitched creations are imbued with time and patience, and her colour palettes are subtle and calming. We are pretty much in love with everything she makes.
We interview Lauren to find out more about her practice...
Can you tell us a little about your self and your practice?
I am a quilt maker and designer and am currently based in Sydney. I am Canadian, and have spent the last 5 years living and working in London before moving to Australia this past March. I make, study and teach all things textiles. I have experimented with wholesaling and retailing my work, however prefer to work on commission. I enjoy working with a client to ensure I am making something they will love forever, or working on a self indulgent project in which I don’t have to worry about a piece’s commercial end.
When and how did you first get started in textiles?
I started sewing when I was 15 or 16 - and just made really naff hoodies for all of my friends and family with flannelette pockets. I continued sewing through my teens and ended up transferring out of a bioscience degree to study Human Ecology - I focused on material culture studies and textile science. I moved to London for an internship in fashion after my degree.
Can you describe those early days?
I was working as a studio manager and then as a production coordinator for different fashion labels in London. I learned an amazing amount from the designers and pattern makers I worked under - from admin and management skills, to practical sewing and construction techniques, to conceptual design and colour choice. I didn’t have time for a formal design practice of my own at the time. It was a few years of intense learning.
What has the journey been like since those early days?
I never expected to be doing Working Cloth. I quit working in fashion last year - which up until that point had been a huge part of my identity. I was visiting Australia with my partner at the time and felt really lost, confused and unsure what to do next. Working Cloth began from me trying to address some of those feelings. I wanted to focus on the cultural and historical aspects which I had always loved about textiles and fashion, and to use a process I felt ethically comfortable with and could maintain long term. Working Cloth has gone through many manifestations but ultimately it has given me a platform to work on projects which I love.
Can you give us some insight into your creative process and where you draw inspiration?
I usually start by mood boarding and then sketching. I have many files devoted to a particular texture or colour - a mood I would like to capture. I also have a load of vintage quilting books that I use as references for patterns and techniques. Sometimes I’ll find a textile I love and feel the need to include it and I just sort of go from there.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I am a bit of a night owl at the moment and end up sleeping until 8 or 9. I’ll make a coffee and a bit of toast and do a bit of reading, then get ready to work. I live in a one bedroom apartment and my studio is my lounge room. I have a few collaborative projects on the go at the moment, volunteer work, and another job, so Working Cloth functions as a restorative practice. I focus on it a few hours each day and keep up a consistent pace. I try to go for a walk or a swim everyday - it clears my head and helps me keep things in perspective. I find getting in the ocean is a pretty good cure-all for any extra stress or anxieties.
What are you…
reading? In Defense of Lost Causes by Slavoj Zizek
listening to? Ribbons by Lazy Day
watching? Cosmos - Carl Sagan’s 1980 mini series. I’ve already rewatched the 2015 ones with Neil deGrasse Tyson earlier this year and thought I should get into the original.
Can you tell us the first thing that pops into your mind when we mention the word …
What’s one thing you can’t live without at the moment?
The numerous friends and family members constantly being called and sound boarded off of and who are very patient with me.
Any advice or words of wisdom for other makers out there?
Document your process. It doesn’t have to be public or structured, and it doesn’t come naturally to me, but it is an incredible feeling looking back at where you’ve come from and how your practice has grown.
We are really excited about your upcoming workshop at Guild, can you tell us a bit about it?
I am running a quilted coin pocket workshop. It’s my second workshop at the Guild and I am very excited to be back. We’ll be making up little zip pockets using the fundamentals of Hitomezashi (one stitch) sashiko - a method of visible mending and embroidery that dates back to the Edo period.
Any other projects or news you want to share?
Yes! I have an exhibition coming up next month for part of the inaugural Sydney Craft Week. It’s at blank_space gallery in Surry Hills from October 7-13. It’s a multimedia exhibition featuring a soundscape by the incredibly talented Alyx Dennison. I am also working on a project called Electrocraft, with Laura Walsh of Sydney Makerspace Bobbin and Ink. The idea is to introduce basic scientific concepts in a very simple craft project. For our first workshop we’re doing some circuitry in the form of light up LED cards and badges. The aesthetic is a bit 70’s sci fi - it’s very different than Working Cloth and a wonderful challenge in its own way.
You can follow Lauren on Instagram.