“I feel like I get most of my inspiration from the theme of identity, especially feminine identity.”
I am Sarah Mosteller, an artist currently based in Charleston, SC. I grew up in Daphne, AL and moved here for college in 2011. I double majored in studio art and art history at the College of Charleston, graduating in 2015. My concentration for studio art was Sculpture.
You’ve taken the humble hobby of knitting to a whole new, bad ass level. What made you want to choose this technique?
I always have loved fiber arts since I was about 16, but stuck mostly to embroidery and sewing. Then going into my junior year of college I actually broke my back while I was working in Northern California. I was on bed rest for three months and needed to kill the time because books and TV were getting old at like two weeks into my healing process. I began to knit, and it is what I did everyday for about four months. Even when I was healed and back in school I still couldn’t stop knitting– it was very meditative and therapeutic for a few reasons.
By choosing metal, you’ve basically turned a craft into an art form. How did you come up that wild idea of steel wire?
When I got back to school, after being out for semester, I got straight back into the sculpture department. It wasn’t until I had to take Sculpture 3 during the summer, where I was the only student in that level. My professor, Herb Parker gave me a lot of freedom to come up with my own projects. I presented him with the idea and experimented with a ton of different wires, until I found the right one– braided steel wire, aka picture hanging wire.
The first thing I ever knitted in wire was a skull during that summer course.
What draws you to your subject matter? Your works often appear wearable, like an armor, is this intentional?
I call it glorified chain mail; however, I feel like I get most of my inspiration from the theme of identity, especially feminine identity. Fiber art is a seemingly “crafty” form of art. Being able to knit with metal wire and use these practices in the arena of fine art, I believe, has the potential to shape and broaden perspectives when it comes to feminine identity and what can be considered as fine art. Many of my pieces communicate this through the specific subject matter I choose, like the dress, the gloves and purses I have made, as well as through the process in which they are rendered.
How long does each work take you to create? Walk us through each step of your creative process; do you create templates for your three dimensional hands and dresses?
Every piece is so different, but essentially it takes a lot of trial and error. Depending on the dimensions desired, I first test out what size knitting needles to use, if I want a tighter knit–which is usually the case– or a looser one. Then I knit swatches of material and measure out how many “cast ons” make up a certain width of material. With the dress that process can be very direct, but with skull or even the gloves it can get very tricky. The gloves are pretty much the template for knitting normal gloves, except it has to be a bit more precise. How I start out is very important because if it is even a little off I will need to start over. The skull pieces I do is a lot of patchwork, and a lot of trial and error at first. The length of time for each piece differs, but are all fairly lengthy. For my piece ‘Gloves”‘, each hand took about 10 hours–depending on what issues I would run into– and there were five gloves. The skulls take about 22 hours. However, I do feel like I continue to get faster the longer I have been using and practicing this process.
As an artist, working with other creative people can really be a positive influence for a lot of reasons. What artists have you recently worked with and how has it affected you?
Yes. I worked for local artist Leigh Magar in the fall of 2014, assisting with her install at the Charleston Preservation Society. I learned about the process of indigo dying and the technique of rag quilting, which is a traditional Gullah fiber art practice that integrates ripped fabric and concentrically tying knots. It was very beneficial for me to see another strong female artist using fiber arts as her means of expression.
That same December, I began working for artist Vassiliki Falkehag closely. She had a large installation at Moore Farms for Artfields in April 2015. The installation incorporated fabric that we had knitted from a natural cord. We also planted dandelions, incorporating the cord throughout a section of the garden. We knitted together from December through about March, and worked on the install process off and on beginning in February. It was such a wonderful experience where I felt I could immerse myself in Vassi’s vision for the project. I gained a lot in terms of my creative process and how I approach a project now. Vassi is a mentor and friend who has really given me so many artistic tools, and has encouraged me greatly.
Being able to learn from more experienced artists has been one of my greatest aids in the pursuit of an artistic career.
What is coming up for you in the near future?
Recently I have worked for artist Jill Hooper. And though we work in different mediums, her abilities as a classical painter have showed me so much about what it takes to be a professional artist. I will be assisting her on a project in Jerusalem at some point this year, where she will be painting a fresco in the Old City. I’m very excited about working with her more.
I have my first solo show coming up in November of 2016 at Harper Smith Studio in Mobile, AL. My work will be on display there for about a month.
I am also in contact with some galleries in New Orleans and will hopefully be showing work there in the fall as well.