Conversation with Eszter Bornemisza

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Conversation with the Maker(CWTM) Did you always envision a life as an artist?
Eszter Bornemisza (EB) No, absolutely not. I graduated in mathematics, made my Ph.d, and worked nearly twenty years in the field.

CWTM What was your first experience with making art?
EB I started making quilts in the mid nineties following my own experimental ways. I realised how much I need to learn both in technical ways and in expressing ideas.
The first part was more straightforward: I already had some sewing skills that could be improved. But learning how to make good art was a complex task. Lacking other possibilities I started consulting art books trying to put it in words for myself what makes me feel intrigued by certain artworks. With this process it has slowly cleared up for me what I am striving for in making quilts. This has certainly changed and evolved during the many years of practice.
CWTM Do you have a dedicated studio?
EB Yes, I am very fortunate to have a studio in our apartment.

CWTM Can you describe a typical day?
EB I usually run to my studio right after morning coffee to see with fresh eyes what I have done the day before. If I’m lucky, I can spend the whole day working, but often I need to do some paperwork of family suff in the afternoon or go to gym.
CWTM Would you consider your art making to be more about the process than the outcome?
EB I always think that concept and technique are playing ping-pong when new idea is developing. When thinking about how to realise an idea technical tools are coming up some of which open up new ways to refine the concept that needs an other process etc. At the end it is always about the outcome, at least that is most important for me. With all the processes I’m striving for better outcome .

CWTM Do you agree that a small element of uncertainty about the finished look is what makes the process of creating so enticing?
EB Yes, absolutely. Sometimes it works perfectly, but more often I feel that accident wasn’t so happy and it has destroyed my work. Than lots of thinking is needed how to turn it to my advantage. It is difficult, because concept has to be changed sometimes, but it is always challenging.

CWTM Any indispensable tools or equipment?
EB Binoculars.
CWTM Do your pieces start with a planned course of action or are they more spontaneous?
EB It varies depending on the type of work. If at all, I just make raw sketches to feel proportions and emphases and I dive into it. Often my experimental samples inspire new work and I just start pinning bits to collage on my design wall.

CWTM How do you know when to “stop” – when do you consider a piece actually finished?
EB This is the most difficult thing. The hesitation takes days sometimes. I usually feel that a piece was finished when I can’t take down anything anymore.
CWTM Your greatest source of inspiration is….
EB Art itself. Seeing art in exhibitions, books, on the internet… Also I am a member of the Quilt Art group ( ) where we have the chance to to show our recent or unfinished pieces, and discuss ideas, and concerns about our work on our week-end meetings.  I always get home inspired from these with my head full with fresh ideas.

CWTM Favorite quote?
EB Just recently head a quote of Faulkner: sometimes you have to kill your little darlings…
CWTM When do you do your best creative thinking?
EB Before falling asleep.

CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?
EB The whole thing… but probably the planning part is the most exciting.
CWTM Best advice you’ve ever received?
EB If you don’t create, there is nothing to reflect on. It is as important to keep on working in ups as in downs.

CWTM Who would be 6 people that you would invite to dinner?
EB Anselm Kiefer, Ann Hamilton, Erzsebet Vojnich, Beili Liu, Antoni Tapies, Chiharu Shiota, Magdalena Abakanowicz.
CWTM What inspires your creativity?
EB Usually my own experimental samples. Sometimes I am in the mood of trying new materials with new processes, but find no theme to use them for. Than later with a new visual idea in my head, I am looking for ways of realisation, and than I go through my samples.

CWTM What are you excited about right now in the world of textile art?
EB The diversity of ideas and concepts, and of new and recycled materials used for the expression.
CWTM You’d be lost without…
EB Sewing machine.

CWTM What would you do with a few extra hours each day?
EB I would probably spend more time in the studio.
CWTM Your favorite luxury in life?
EB Measureless time in my studio.

CWTM Has the advancement of computers and technology impacted your work?
EB Yes, it has. I have experimented and learned a little bit to work with Photoshop. When I have the feeling that a piece is not coming out really well, and even slight changes would be very time consuming, I take a photo and try to adjust it on the computer to figure out what would make it look better. I can try many options in a relatively short time, and then adjust my real piece according how it looked the best on the computer.
Also I use sometimes Photoshop adjusted images in my work. I often print distorted back and white images of old maps on newspaper before I rip them up for bigger scale layouts.

CWTM Is it important for us to be recognized by the art world and if so, how can we help affect that change?
EB I think, what we can do is to show our work as widely as possible. Applying to judged shows and seeking for solo venues are time consuming and often discouraging processes, but the only way to show the world that fiber art has relevant place in the art field.

CWTM What is next for you?

EB After my last book, Bornemisza 2010 (which is still available), I am preparing a new book about my recent work. I am working together with a wonderful graphic designer, taking photos of the best advantage of the pieces and finding the thread through my own work with him is a real challenge. It is planned to be a summing up of new directions taken in the last years with all the dimensional, transparent and installation projects. I hope to launch the book this autumn.

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