Artist Tia Ansell started weaving ‘properly’ in her first year of art school – where she also built her own loom.
‘You can essentially weave on anything – a frame, a fork, your fingers,’ Tia says. ‘Over the last year I have collected three looms of different sizes and builds (floor and table). I have done various weaving courses or visited weaving mills in Ecuador, Peru, India, Sri Lanka.’
‘Weaving is inherent to human material culture; it is a characteristic of being human. We dress in it, we sleep in it.’
Growing up in Auckland, Tia was exposed to Aotearoa’s rich weaving culture from a young age, but initially focused on painting, and came to Melbourne to study fine art at the prestigious Victorian College of the Arts.
‘I had always kept my weaving and painting practices separate,’ Tia says. ‘The ideas and contexts surrounding geography, architecture and psycho-geography have always been an interest for me, but the execution and process have evolved.’
She even dabbled in metal work and ceramic assemblages, alongside weaving and painted elements, before arriving to her current practice, which she calls ‘expanded painting’. The endless time for reflection during the pandemic triggered the ‘light-bulb moment’ to bring the two practices together.
Now working alongside other emerging artists in the Conners Conners Gallery, inside Fitzroy Town Hall, Tia has perfected the unique method behind her intricate pieces. She handcrafts every element of these works, from weaving of the base fabric, to the final painted artwork. She’s also represented by Lon Gallery.
These ‘weaving-paintings’ begin as drawings of Tia’s local surroundings and facades of buildings. Referencing architectural lines and patterns, the artist creates her own ‘code’ with corresponding colours and threads of cotton, linen, bamboo or silk. Hours of hand-weaving at her loom turns these into beautiful fabrics, that are then stretched and primed ready to be painted on. A small work can take around 12 hours to complete, while larger ones can take anywhere between a few weeks to months!
‘Each step is very important,’ Tia says. ‘If I’ve missed a weft thread or similar, I embrace it and rarely go back to fix it. I like this kind of mistake.’
It’s this meticulous process that makes the resulting artworks – encased in a striking silver frame – so distinctive and impressive.