Conversation with Lorna Crane

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Lorna Crane is a true Australian Contemporary Artist living on the beautiful Sapphire Coast of NSW.

Lorna came to teach at Fibre Arts Australia after I saw an ABC documentary about her retreat on Bruny Island in Tasmania… her work was innovative and exciting and the brushes that Lorna made had never been done at a Fibre Arts event before… so how could I resist not asking her!!

Lorna’s live workshops with Fibre Arts Australia are very popular and sell out fast!

Well known as being “The Brushmaker” Lorna sources materials from her natural environment including driftwood, bamboo, organic fibres along with found objects making unique rudimental and utilitarian brushes in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Below we have a chat to Lorna and learn a little more about her life as an abstract artist and her love for Fibre Art.

What does it mean to be an abstract artist? 

There’s something really special in not knowing what you’re going to make and to just be instinctual about it. I love the gestures in abstract art. It just relates to me so much.

I could always do a more realistic drawing but it never really punched me in the gut, as if ‘this was wonderful to make’   It wasn’t until I went to TAFE in the early 70’s that a teacher said, I was a natural abstractionist because I could turn a painting around and around and see something in it all of the different angles. It just excites me because abstraction tells a different story everytime and I can tell my story more by working in this way.

Do you have a dedicated studio space? 

Yes. In fact when I walk into my studio I walk into me.  My studio gives me permission to explore and investigate without being judged by anyone else around me. I can make mistakes without judgement, then stand back and look at my work. My studio is a special place that defines who I am as an artist.

If I didn’t have a studio I don’t think I would have a soul. It is my spirit place, the place where I make. I draw inspiration from other places but this is where the real stuff happens. This studio is where I store my memories and materials.  It represents my past but also the defines the potential in the future as well.

What is your art a reflection of?

It’s a reflection of the places I’ve inhabited. Memories of where I’ve been, landscape inspired. There are a lot of metaphoric aspects in my work, driven by emotion, but there is always a reference to the landscape. The places where I have stayed for a period of time then distill into my work.

 Where does your love of fibre art come from?

Fibre art has always been a part of me. As a youngster I couldn’t follow any rules, my sisters could knit and sew really well but I couldn’t follow a pattern and would often get into trouble at school for not being able to stitch a straight line.

I wanted to set myself a challenge when I went to art school so I majored in painting with printmaking and textiles as my secondary subjects. I met some wonderful teachers there including, Joan Chapple, Liz Jeneid, Karin Eden and Morley Grainger. There was one incident with a particular exercise where they said to me: “Lorna, we know you are a painter, why are you so sacred?” I replied that I just wanted to make it right, they just said “Lorna, just wash a background in and use your needle and thread as you would a pencil and start stitching!” This was a pivotal moment in my life where I realized that I was able to follow my own rules and I’ve never looked back.

I just love fibre, it’s been a big part of my life for so long now. After I finish having an exhibition or a project I always pick up something fibre piece and stitch then just ‘make’. It is my form of meditation. I’m probably more of a fibre artist now than I’ve ever been, I’m just obsessed with it at the moment and I’m proud of that.

What do you love about teaching? 

I’ve taught all ages and abilities. I love teaching. If I wasn’t an artist I would have been a school teacher.

As a tutor you have this responsibility of guiding students and it’s a privilege to teach and share what I have learnt over my career, guiding my students through every step of the way.

Seeing my students dipping their own brushes in the ink for the very first time is very rewarding. I love to see what my students make and encourage and support them in their journey of discovery. Seeing the growth in my students is so rewarding.

I have been teaching for years now and I thought at one stage recently that I should stop as I was getting tired, but after this past 6 months break I realise how much I miss it.

What advice do you give your students?

I don’t follow rules and I want my students to think about not following rules as well. Be true to yourself and be honest in what you do. By being true to yourself you bring out your integrity as an artist.  Uniqueness is a strength that should be cherished. Don’t doubt yourself.

Giving you permission to find your own voice is my gift and strength as a tutor.

I don’t expect anything to be totally perfect,  I want my students to feel proud and say this is what I’ve made, this represents who I am and where I’ve come from. I’m not looking for perfection.

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Lorna Crane is a beloved tutor of Fibre Arts Australia. She has also recently created her very first online course with our friends at Fibre Arts Take Two which is launching very soon.

You can learn more about her online course Perfectly Imperfect – Discovering Your Own Visual Language and join the waiting list here:

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