Garage Residency Artists

Alice-Marie Archer

5 Sept – 2 October 2022


Knitting Nature

Alice-Marie ArcherI am an interdisciplinary artist-researcher working across architecture, textiles and ecology. Currently I am writing a PhD at the University of Portsmouth. This residency was an element of my wider research which has the working title: Knitting Cultivation Forms for the Soilless Farm. I am recipient of the UK Textile Society’s Professional Development Award, and participated with this research in the Bio Inspired Textiles Maker Collaboration in 2021. I am a founding member of the Living Textiles Collective – a practitioner-led group focused on generative collaboration and knowledge sharing around rethinking habitable spaces as hybrid mediums for coexistence and the cognification of interacting with other species. In a past life I ran community scale experiments in sustainable food production and worked as a researcher at the Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems. I bring this varied background to my practice which enables me to interweave art, science, design and engineering.

360 view of the Knitting Nature Exhibition can be viewed here


On Knitting Nature

Reflecting on my time At The Garage- working predominantly from home through the pandemic led to plenty of opportunity to work at a domestic scale in my practice. At The Garage first of all provided me with an opportunity to expand my view outwards to contemplate my practice at the scale of the interior and beyond. This enabled me to untangle myself from my domestic life and enabled focussed work – free from distractions.  My work literally grows, so I needed a longer residency in order to enable the work to be more fully expressed. With 4 weeks ahead of me At The Garage I set out with the intention to fulfil my aspirations to make a larger scale of work. During the residency I had some bad news and the time became really a place for my practice to take on the role of self care. Whilst I was making, I felt transported, and was very productive as a result! In that sense the space ‘held’ me – there was something really containing about the room with its view out to the lane beyond.

I worked solidly for a fortnight and finding myself surrounded by my living works- works that needed the space to be possible. I took the opportunity to organise an inpromptu exhibition ‘Knitting Nature’ to fall at the end of my stay. I’m so glad I did as through the act of talking with people about the work, I learned unanticipated things about my practice.

The residency had a generative feeling to it. The first element of this was the relationship with the space, and the forms I made in response to it. This in turn influenced the seeds and their placements. The space also provided the locus for new / developing relationships with the other people that interacted with me during residency and influenced the work. In particular Annie Davies of Joey Pods who lent me a pod for the residency and helped me to think about my work in terms of ‘skins’ in interior architecture settings; and former residency holder Lou Baker who sat with me for 2 days and collaborated on a piece during the residency. Lou seemed to tease things out of me that I hadn’t been aware of and has a vast knowledge of the discourse around practice- so our conversations were so helpful. I felt very held somehow by her presence too! I was glad too that the residency created opportunity for new connections with those in the city and surrounding areas whose work had common threads – much better to let the practice speak for me!

Following an intuitive process of thinking-through-making, I knitted swatches and larger cultivation artefacts by hand and machine with support from computer aided design. I painstakingly seeded and germinated these, then tended them as they germinated, transformed as the plants take over the textiles. Rhythms and rituals began to occupy the space as the artefacts emerged. I wayfared from object to object, make, seed, tend – and then making my way around the room, watering all the growing seeds twice a day. So a new way of moving and interacting accompanied the artefacts that was unique to the space.

The artefacts I made involved increasing the technical sophistication of their making – so starting from hand felting seeds into sheep fleece and working purely by hand through to commissioning bespoke yarns from a wool mill in Dorset and working with a knitting machine and CAD. The space lent itself to a deconstructed making, working with the rawest of materials. Raw daggy fleece rich in ammonia – welcome here. I trod it into felt on a tarpaulin on the floor. Dripping works were accommodated by the epoxy floor. In this way the space enables so much more than I could have attempted at home where my works are confined to ‘over-the-bath’.

At the point of opening the doors of the space up to welcome visitors to the exhibition, I appreciated how great the lighting is and how little effort I needed to put into casting the artefacts in a ‘good light’. Given my work photosynthesises this can’t be under spoken! Practically speaking everything was there that I needed to suspend the work and to host guests. The space took different forms depending on the task at hand. Fold out chairs held us in conversation. Day and night created different feelings. So the space moved from studio to gallery seamlessly.

My gratitude to Helen for sharing this space and for the generous amount of time I was able to work there – long enough to really experience the fullness of my practice. I am looking forward to continuing the conversations I started with Helen which feel like little seeds waiting to grow. This was the first time I had the opportunity to work my practice in this way (in an undirected residency space that was to use as I pleased). It is already opening doors and has given me a taste for this way of working and I hope that I can continue!


Click and drag below to view the studio as a panorama. Select the menu icon to view other panoramas of Alice’s residency: