Andie Reeves’s textile art is modern textile craft without the twee factor
WORDS: CAYLEIGH BRIGHT
PHOTOGRAPHY: SITAARA STODEL
With a relentlessly self-deprecating sense of humour, Andie Reeves makes her career journey thus far sound like a comedy of errors. While she’d planned to be an actress, her move to expressing herself through textiles is more carefully crafted than you – or she – might think. As her first solo exhibition hangs at The Raptor Room in Cape Town, she explains why she’s intentional about her renderings of internet culture, how the waning popularity of markets led to finding her passion, and why it’s hard to accept the title of ‘artist’.
How did you get started working on crafts in general, and how did you find which ones best suited you?
I always watched a lot of Project Runway – classic – and then during my gap year, my granny gave me a sewing machine. My mom’s friend had a sewing class and I was like, “Oh, I’ll go,” and then “Oh, this is so fun!”. So, that completely changed the direction of my life! I started off making tote bags, because they’re so easy, and walked up to a shop in Long Street, really confident for some reason, and told them that they should sell these terrible bags. And they loved them. In retrospect they were really badly made – but they were quite creative.
Did you consider making a career out of sewing?
I found a job as an apprentice to a dressmaker, and on the first day she gave me a dress to sew, and I sewed the whole thing inside out. I made bridesmaids’ dresses, and wedding dresses, and that’s how I learnt everything. It was also The Time of the Market – as in, markets were really big then. And that was so much fun, and then that kind of… died. And so along with the death of ‘market culture’, I think my love for making fashion kind of halted, because florals were no longer in, and streetwear is not really my thing. That was when I realised that I wasn’t really interested in trends, and wanted to explore making artworks. I taught myself how to cross stitch, how to embroider, how to weave and how to quilt, with YouTube tutorials and lots of trial and error.
What medium do you currently work in most often?
At the moment I’m into embroidery and weaving – the things that look like bath mats, cross stitch, and I love quilting. And sewing, but I only sew clothes for me or presents. It depends on what I’m less bored of – after this exhibition, I don’t want to embroider.
Does your subject matter dictate your material, or vice versa?
Sometimes I’ll find some nice wool and want to weave, whereas with embroidery, it’s usually that I’ve thought of something that I think is interesting, or funny. Material plays a role in that when I shop for wool or fabric, what’s available can lead me to work on a different project than what I’ve planned – but I think often it’s idea first, and then finding what works best to express it.
How do you find a balance: making something not-twee, but avoiding going too far in the opposite direction with something that’s the worst Pinterest genre, try-hard edgy crafts?
I do find internet culture inspiring, and naturally, putting that in embroidery or cross-stitch is dangerous territory. But, with that said, for me there’s something extremely satisfying about something new being embroidered or cross-stitched. I think you’ve got to be intentional about what you’re doing: are you just trying to show people that you remember Hey Arnold!, or are you trying to create something by putting another layer on it? And that’s a matter of personal taste.
What inspired the collection of work currently hanging at The Raptor Room?
I didn’t know where to start, but I like working in blue and white and introduced pink, inspired by the space. I’d been wanting to do more dinosaurs, because I did the big raptor piece for them, and the restaurant’s sweets are Chappies… and what came together was pop culture meeting older media: emojis as scientific illustrations, dinosaur motifs as china plates, Seth Cohen as a classic thinker.
How would you describe the pieces?
I wanted to create something that’s entertaining yet aesthetic: I described it as a granny’s display cabinet in the year 2056. It’s the idea of an old lady in the future who’s collected these things.
How do you imagine your work displayed?
I get so excited when people buy my stuff and take it home. I’ll take screenshots of my weaves in the backgrounds of people’s Instagram stories. For my archives! It’s quite lame but I just find it really exciting, and I have a screenshot of everyone who’s ever taken a photo in front of my large dinosaur piece at The Raptor Room because I think it’s very flattering. So, I like to think that people hang the work in their homes, and smile to themselves every time they see it – or think of me, or both.
Could you speak a bit about the zine you made along with the exhibition?
There was a phase when I really liked Twitter, but it started feeling sad to me that everything was so disposable and transient – including some of my finest comedic work! Even taking a photo of my work and putting it on Instagram makes me think about how often it’s seen for a moment, and liked, and then never thought about again – and that goes for all artists. So I thought, you know what? Let’s be really self-indulgent, and print out things, and make them more permanent. And my mom loved it.
What’s next for you?
The Raptor Room are extending their space in about a month, and they’ve asked me to create an embroidered sculpture, so that’s exciting, and scary. What is heat-proof material? I’m also hosting an embroidery workshop with Veld + Sea. And then, I only accepted the title of ‘artist’ this year – it was my new year’s resolution. Before, it was just something I’d do on the side, but because I didn’t study art, there’s a temptation to say, “Oh, I just make some stuff.” I was part of a group exhibition earlier this year in Somerset West, and I’d love to be a part of more – just putting that out into the universe.