When she is not making woven and embroidered artworks or stitching together garments, Cape Town-based creative Andie Reeves is studying towards a degree in Early Childhood Development. “After high school I spent a year working as a dressmaker’s apprentice but other than that I am self-taught, learning through online tutorials, books and trial and error – lots of error,” she says.
Inspired by pop culture, Andie’s needlework pays homage to internet memes. “The contrast of old-fashioned practices with modern imagery makes my work more interesting but I’m not consciously doing that or making a statement; I just think it looks cool and somewhat unique.”
We recently interviewed the the designer-maker about her passion for traditional crafts.
You have such a broad practice. What do you perceive as the best form to express your ideas?
It depends on the idea I have, but probably embroidery right now. My ideas are usually an image, colour combination, shape or word I find interesting or funny and embroidery allows you to literally make a picture or stitch words. I also love it because it’s versatile; it can be added to clothing or just stand alone as an artwork.
When I make clothes it’s because I’ve thought of something that I can’t find in a shop (or think I can make better or for less money than buying it) and I really value having something that no one else has. My weaving at the moment is purely decorative and what I do when my idea is more just a bunch of colours that I think would look nice together.
Who or what are the main sources of inspiration behind your work?
I’m inspired by pop culture, combining modern elements with old-fashioned methods, and just materials in general. I’ll always go to the fabric store with one idea and leave with fabric for 5 totally different projects. Right now I’m really into wool and the different colours and textures that you can get it in and create with it, which is why I started weaving.
Gender has a profound impact on how different crafts are categorised, valued, displayed and taught both inside and outside the art world. Does your gender affect your practice? Should it?I am drawn to elements and methods that are considered feminine: fibre arts, soft colours, flowers, romantic imagery and so on. My upbringing was very stereotypically ‘girly’ – ballet classes, long hair, lots of pretty dresses, Barbies – which I embraced and I’m sure that played a part in attracting me to the classically female practice of sewing but I don’t think that anything should be limited to a specific gender. I do really like the notion of women reclaiming sewing, and what was previously seen as ‘women’s work’ being recognised as a form of art that is valuable and requires skill.Why is it important to maintain a highly tactile practice in today’s digital age?
I have a really short attention span, as with most young people today, and making things is the only process I am happy to spend hours at a time doing. With everything else I do I find myself checking my phone every five minutes and when I’m sewing I don’t find that happening so I think it’s a healthy practice.
I think handcrafts are something that will never be replaced by technology. Making something with my hands makes me feel powerful and is tangible proof of my creativity, which I find helpful to motivate myself when I’m feeling uninspired. The feeling of taking a weave off the loom or turning a really complicated jacket inside out for the first time after sewing it is really satisfying and I can’t think of a non-tactile replacement except maybe watching all the decks of cards explode after you win a game of Solitaire on your computer.
In which direction do you see your work going in future?
I don’t have any big plans other than to keep making stuff that I like. I’d like to make a one-off clothing range every now and then, get better at my crafts in general and take up new skills. Right now I’m thinking quilting. I made one once and it was really fun and the quilters’ community on Instagram all look like they’re having the time of their lives sewing patches together.
To see more of Andie’s work, visit Instagram