Friday, 13 February 2009

Introducing... Melinda Young

Today may be Friday the 13th, but fret not superstitious ones, CLOG is here to turn that Black Friday into a Pink Friday! This week, current Gallery 3 exhibitor Melinda Young divulges to us stories of inspiration, daily life and of course, the colour pink.
Take A Ball of Thread... will be on display until 7 March so there is plenty of time left to come have a browse. There is a lovely catalogue that accompanies the exhibition containing essays by Debbie Pryor and Amber McCulloch.
A happy Friday to everyone!

Could you please tell us about the beginnings of Take a Ball of Thread..., which came first, the thread or the idea; where did you find the thread; and were the rules made up to challenge or to structure?
The jewellery project Take a ball of thread... came about in September 2007 when I was at home recuperating from an operation. I was feeling very stuck, both at home and in my practice, so I started to look around me at all the things I had hoarded away in my studio, up in the attic. I kept coming back to the great big ball of pink thread that was left over at the end of Yuka Oyama's Schmuck Quickies project that I had been helping out with during Sydney Design 07 in August. I really wasn't sure why I was attracted to it in the first place - I have never really been a pink kind of girl, but there was something about it... and it became a display item in my studio.

Ball of thread at the start of the project, 2007

So, needing a challenge and some structure for this, I decided to set myself a project with some basic rules. There were other things I wanted to achieve as well as pushing myself along in my making and they were learning to blog and practicing my photography - so these were factored into the rules as well. I guess the idea came first, although the thread was already there, but only very recently and it was initially collected without purpose, just as a strange, pretty thing.

My exhibition work has always used found objects and recycled materials so it seemed natural to use the thread – I knew too that as it was such a big ball of thread that the project would last a long time and really challenge me and force me way beyond my comfort zone. The colour too seemed ripe for conceptual exploration.

Colour seems to play a very important part in your work and a lot of your objects tend to be monochromatic. Is this a conscious decision or something you find yourself subconsciously inclined towards?
That monochromatic use of colour must be very much something that I am subconsciously drawn to, as I have never really thought about it as being characteristic of my work. Although, having said this, all my collections of found objects are colour coded and some even grouped separately, in little zip-lock bags waiting to be assembled into jewellery.

Melinda Young, Amsterdam group, 2003, Found objects, zip lock bag.

Melinda Young, Collected found objects - Europe '03, 2003, Found objects.
I am also a big fan of bright clashing colours all together, as anyone who has seen my lunch bag will attest, but this just doesn't seem to appear in my exhibition work - except for my production range of acrylic rings which invite wearers to make their own colour combinations - I wear these every day and they satisfy my love of combining colours, so maybe this is why my other work is more about single colours and tones.

Melinda Young, Rings: Ice Dot, Purple Wig, Ultramarine Bird of Paradise, 2008, Hand cut and finished Acrylic.
I did try to bring other colours into the pink project, but found that it really didn’t work for me – aesthetically or conceptually. The colour variations that are present amongst the works in Take a ball of thread... are quite subtle and deliberate.

While the work in Take a Ball of Thread... is deliciously 3D, your production work is mostly 2D. Do you differentiate between each practice or approach them differently?
I do have a different approach. The production work mostly comes from my drawings and my absolute love of sawing - I like to draw with my saw! Whereas my exhibition work, which is very much centred around materials, evolves from those materials. It comes from experimentation and play with the material and the ideas that start to bubble to the surface during this play. Take a ball of thread... really shows that process from start to finish - if you look at the blog the early pieces are quite timid (and small), really just playing with the material itself and even then not much of the thread was used in the early work. Then once I started with the wax and really stopped to think about what I was making and why, the project really started to take flight along with the conceptual ideas that now form the undercurrent for the project. Once I have hit my stride with exhibition work I then start to draw and design new pieces, whereas the production work tends to start with the drawing/design process rather than the material/concept.

Melinda Young, Sketches for Take a ball of thread, 2009, Acrylic paint, coloured pencil and ink on brown paper.
Melinda Young, Sketch book page showing designs for Take a ball of thread, 2009, Acrylic paint, coloured pencil, ink, envelope.

That said, pretty much all my production work has come from exhibition pieces - it's like a filtration process - drawing and re-drawing, simplifying and breaking down the elements until they exist as stand alone pieces and also as part of a family or range. The rings that form part of my production range for example have become much ‘bubblier’ since I started working with wax.

Melinda Young, Sketch book page with designs for production range of rings, c.2003-4, Biro.

After all this, can you stand to look at another spool of bubble-gum pink thread again?
Ask me again when I have finished... there is still at least 1/3 of the ball left!

I recently made some neckpieces with black thread for an exhibition at Pablo Fanque in Sydney and found that working with a different colour made me feel very different. Although I do have moments when I stop loving the pink, there is something about looking at and being with the pink all the time that is comforting and warm, like an embrace, I will miss it when it is finished.

What achievement are you most proud of to date?
Winning the JMGA NSW Profile award for an established artist in 2008 with pieces from this project and having the opportunity to show this body of work in solo exhibitions at Pablo Fanque, Craft Victoria and Zu Design.

What is a day in the life of Melinda Young like?
I have all kinds of different days, and I am currently on holiday from my ‘day job’ so I am going to describe what has been a typical summers day in the lead up to my exhibition at Craft Victoria: A nice sleep in, a coffee & potter in the garden, then house stuff or off to the beach for a swim or for a walk with my partner. Back home for lunch and then when he heads off to work at 3 in the afternoon, it's up the ladder to my attic studio to commence work for the day.

Melinda Young, Studio, 2009.
This is usually split into a little bit of papery/computery and production work and then into the pink! Back downstairs for a glass of red wine and chats when my partner returns home around 1.30am and so to bed.

And last of all, what is the best piece of advice someone ever told you?
When I was a student, my wonderful and inspiring teacher Margaret West, used to tell us to make ‘compost’, to cover our benches with it and out of that something will grow.

Melinda Young, Spill, 2009, NYC Pink Wax, Plastic Necklace, 925 silver, Cotton Thread.

Spill, Melinda's current favourite work.

Melinda is also one of CLOG's favourite bloggers. Do visit her blog to view some fantastic documentation of one of the most exciting projects in recent times!

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