In the art world there seems to be an accepted line between craft and art, and for some people crossing that line takes time and a certain maturity of exploration and skill development.
For many years Martha Cloudesley considered herself a basket maker, more of a crafts person than an artist.
Cloudesley says she is mainly self taught in the art of basket making and it wasn’t until 2009 when one of her pieces was accepted as part of the Central Interior Regional Arts Council travelling show that she realized she was an artist.
She says the penny finally dropped that “I am an artist” when she heard the comments from the jurors, other artists and the public praising her as an artist.
“This realization made me think, ‘I want to share this incredible journey with others by having a show showing the evolution of my work,’” Cloudesley says.
Her show at the Station House Gallery this month is called From Basket Maker to Artist.
“I wanted to share with people how one grows as an artist. For a long time I didn’t feel like an artist and now I do,” Cloudesley says.
In addition to traditional weaving materials such as grasses and her own homespun yarns, Cloudesley experiments with materials not typically associated with weaving such as clay, wool, wire, grape vines, fronds of different types of tropical plants.
For the past few years the 100 Mile artist has been spending winters in Arizona where she has been experimenting with material from desert plants.
“I love the desert as much as the area around here,” Cloudesley says.
“I use anything I can get my hands on — natural materials, grape vines, cut up banners, wire, garden material, my own homespun yarns,” Cloudesley says. “There isn’t anything I won’t try.”
She points out that the sculptures she creates are all “manipulated” using the material of choice, with no frames inside to hold them in place.
She says she no longer experiments with clay but one of the fun exhibits in the retrospective show is a series of clay masks she created and incorporated woven wire and natural materials for the hair.
“I like to try all different mediums because it gives you more insight into your work and yourself. You learn something from each medium you play around with,” Cloudesley says. “My question to myself is always what if? What if I did it this way or that way?”
Many of the sculptural pieces in the show are abstract female forms.
“The female form and emotions are very evident in my work,” Cloudesley says. “Growing up in a female-dominated family and being female myself I feel it’s just natural to focus mainly on female issues.”
Reflecting her experimental nature, Cloudesley also has some beautifully crafted two-dimensional “paintings” in the show that employ natural materials such as felted wool.
In the upstairs gallery at the Station House there is an art exchange happening, where people have put some of the art work they are ready to part with up for sale. Some of the work includes pieces by artists Cory Lund and Sonia Cornwall.