I'm not sure what to say to introduce my interview with Heather Martin of mono. Her work clearly speaks for itself, and to be in the same room with one of her pieces is quite an experience. Heather is a multi-talented woman, teacher, artist, and designer, whose creativity seems rather boundless. I am delighted to present just a fraction of that creativity here...
Before deciding to go to school for design, what made you start sewing and get interested in it enough to make it a career?
Creative urges. I bought my first sewing machine at a thrift store & taught myself how to sew by revamping vintage clothes - it all happened in unison. I decided to try to make a career out of it all when I realized that people were also interested in what I was making.
What is your most treasured piece of clothing?
I used to say my Trippen boots. I’ve replaced the soles & zipper both 2 times & then the laces countless times as well. I retired them as of last week – see how long that lasts, I am already pining for them. The pieces that I love, I wear a lot, nothing is too precious to me. Another piece that is in heavy rotation is my mono leather knotted necklace.
How did you come to teach at Vancouver Community College? What is your favorite aspect of teaching? Have your own designs changed in any way because of your teaching?
I teach 2 courses at VCC: Collection Manufacture, which is the final term garment construction course, as well as the Textile & Surface Design course. I was asked just after graduating to come on board to teach the Collection Manufacture course & encouraged the Department Head to let me develop the Textile Surface Design course.
My favorite aspect of teaching is to be a part of the progress & development of a student’s creative practice. I wouldn’t say that my work has changed since becoming a teacher, I try as best as I can to keep it all very separate. I have however acquired a deeper understanding for people & a greater level of patience.
Would you like to have your own brick-and-mortar shop someday, or do you prefer selling in a few boutiques and online?
It is all in the works... Come August, the first edition of the mono nomadic shop will open, in Vancouver. As long as everything goes as planned, the space will be open to the public for 4 weeks featuring work from the FLIGHT SERIES including several installation & 2 film works. A major overhaul of the space will happen & for the first two weeks of September a temporary showroom will be created for the new series, EQUILIBRIUM.
If all goes well, the plan is to take the nomadic shop to Toronto for September 2011, followed by New York, Los Angeles & then off to Europe.
The process of creating a new clothing series sounds quite elaborate, often beginning with an art installation. Can you give us a brief description of the progression that occurred to get to your current FLIGHT series and your use of Tyvek in my favorite piece, the Scarf Dress?
With each series comes a different process. Most begin with an art project. These projects can range from a simple illustration or collage, the research + development of a new textile technique, or to more elaborate installations or collaborations. These projects fuel the inspiration for the clothing & accessories.
Interlacing Opposing Thoughts was a play of harmony, bringing together opposing ideas + defining a balance between those conflicts. SHARD explores the depths of darkness, mood and fragmentation & FLIGHT is the restoration of light & calm. Within this group of series there is an exploration of balance, yet within FLIGHT & SHARD the metaphorical scale tips more favorably to one side. FLIGHT is the closing of a metaphorical trilogy.
In FLIGHT’s infancy I was researching historical modes of transportation as well as dated mechanics for flying (ie. hot air balloons, parachutes, sails, etc) & became immediately obsessed with the textiles used for these items & their airy characteristics. While dreaming of building a hot air balloon, jumping in & floating away, I decided that a kite would be a more practical object to start with. I moved on to kite-making. Within that research I came across Tyvek; it is a well-used material within that industry, so I thought that I should order some & try it out. When it arrived, I was instantly inspired to use it both for the kites & the clothes.
I put together a small group of hand-drawn kites & started designing the clothing.
Do you listen to music while you work, and what is your favorite?
Been listening to audio books & podcasts at the studio. There are two favorites right now. Stuff You Should Know & Pop Drones. All of us at studio have slight crushes on the guys who do stuff you should know & Pop Drones is a local college radio show.
If you weren't a designer, what do you think you would be doing for a career?
I would focus more on my visual art, textiles & sculpture. & I will at some point, maybe when I retire...
What is your favorite experience as a designer so far?
I am so very grateful for all of the people that I have met along the way.
If you could design a piece/outfit for anyone, who would it be?
Karin Dreijer Andersson, of The Knife & Fever Ray. I would love to get involved with the wardrobe team for one of her videos.
What is your favorite piece from your latest series?
I don’t really have favorites of anything but if I had to choose something it would have to be the kites. I am really into the idea of including more objects into the line & was even more impressed that my stores ordered a few.
And lastly, what's up next for mono clothing and Heather Martin in general?
Currently... I am working on another video project, the nomadic shop, a new series of clothing, the development of a more cohesive accessory line & have been asked to participate in the 2010 Art & Sole Project for PF Flyers. Lots to look forward to yet still heaps of work ahead of us.
Here is a link for the Art & Sole Project. This time around this event will be growing, with exhibitions in Vancouver, Toronto & Montreal!
Though you should have all of these bookmarked already, be sure to visit the mono NJAL page (where you can purchase a couple of the FLIGHT pieces), the mono website, and the monoshop (a wonderful place where my entire paycheque would like to vacation to one of these days). Anyone want to go on a road trip to Vancouver in August?