5 minutes with Catriona Pollard

By Maria Kyriacou

Image: Catriona Pollard
Image: Catriona Pollard
Traditional crafts have seen a resurgence, often appearing in innovative, modern forms. Catriona Pollard's upcoming solo art exhibition Love.Honour.Cherish, is a collection of beautifully woven pieces that honour and worship the earth beneath our feet and the new growth that can emerge from it.


MF – What inspired you to take up basket weaving?

I have a very busy, and at times, stressful role running a PR Agency.  A few years ago I realised that I wasn’t spending enough time simply creating. I had done a lot of craft previously, but I was drawn to basketry. I booked into a week-long basketry class, picked up a vine to weave, and was hooked. For me it’s about the combination of nature, imagination and beauty that attracts me to sculptural basketry.

MF – There has been a noticeable resurgence in creating traditional crafts, often in innovative ways, and at the same time as we connect more than ever to technology. Why do you think this is?

I think it’s the combination of how virtual our lives have become –how busy we all seem to be has resulted in people looking for arts and craft that reconnects them with slower, traditional creative experiences. For basketry, the craft originated from traditional methods with specific utilitarian uses such as a basket to carry wood. Now, we can use the traditional techniques simply to explore, play and create.

In fact, I also use my art to comment our society’s current disconnection with nature. Walking down the street with your only view being the piece of glass in your hand checking Facebook means that you’re missing the moments in time that nature gifts us; a beautiful sunset, the sun through the trees or leaf drifting by in the breeze.

MF – How do you feel when you weave? Does it take you to a calm, magic place?

The type of art I do isn’t about perfection; it’s about exploration and play. For me, it’s about being still, and letting the beauty emerge. I use materials to tell my stories and they represent every facet of me. I use nature and basketry as a way to connect with people that goes beyond physical beauty, but really touches them in a personal and profound way.

Nature is my main inspiration as this is where I find beauty, peace and energy. For me, the power of natural beauty energises me; it makes my soul sing.

Growing up in country NSW with summers at the beach and every other school holidays camping and walking through National Parks has resulted in a deep connection with the natural world around me.

As I walk through the bush tracks around Sydney Harbour, inspiration presents itself. I see a fallen tree with the roots exposed, and an idea for a sculpture is illuminated. Or as I wade through the rock pools at Balmoral, the shape of the water against the rocks becomes an idea for a sculpture. It’s pure joy to pick up a vine, stick and seed pod and imagine what they could be.

MF – Do you have a favourite creation?

For my upcoming solo exhibition I have several I really love. One is called Cherish. It’s about holding dear the moments, the breaths, dreams and souls around you. It is 44 spiral stitched baskets made from watsonia, stitched using saris my mother brought back from India when we travelled there when I was young. The watsonia was gifted to me from a wonderful weaver who recently passed. I was having trouble figuring out the connection the 44 baskets had with each other. Then my father visited and moved them around a bit (in only 2 minutes – when I had spent hours in various shapes!) and the shape came together instantly. I had to stitch them together hunched over it on the floor so I didn’t lose the shape. Sometimes, organic material can be difficult to work with as it is prickly and volatile, so I always have cuts and scratches over my hands – my blood is literally in this piece. I cherish it, as I do the people who helped me create it (directly and indirectly).

MF – Are there any new trends emerging in weaving?

What I love about weaving is that you can give 10 people the same materials and teach them the same technique and you will get 10 different baskets. We are seeing more and more people interested in learning basketry, and they take the knowledge and skills they learn and use it in their own way. Sadly, a lot of techniques are being lost as the old masters pass away, particularly in Europe and the UK.

MF – What would you like to tell the world about your chosen art?

No two pieces are the same. Even if I’m using the same material and technique – they will be different. That’s because weaving using organic material is about listening to what it wants to be. I may have an idea about what I’m going to create, and then I’ll pick up the material and start the sculpture and the material decides what it wants to become.

Also, my work adds a contemporary layer to the ancient art form of weaving, which is often dismissed as functional craft. My work forces the viewer to review their assumptions about craft and its potential in art. When they see my work, it forces them to see beyond their concept of basketry

MF – You’ve exhibited quite a lot. Do you have upcoming shows planned?

I’ve had my works featured in collaborative exhibitions with other very talented artists, but this is the first time that I will be holding a solo exhibition, and I’m very excited and proud.

Love.Honour.Cherish is an emotionally-charged, nature-based sculptural exhibition which explores the connection and relationship we have with our environment and the beauty it shares with us.


Pollard’s exhibition runs from 7 – 19 October at Gallery Lane Cove.


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