Saskia Saunders: Light from the loom

The art of Saskia Saunders is pared back and minimalist, allowing the viewer to focus on texture and detail of her sculptures.

Woven linen, work in progress 2018
Weaving is such a methodical and meditative process, I love how it slows and calms me down. But the most exciting and challenging part will come once the piece is off the loom and is manipulated into shape.
Woven and knotted linen, work in progress 2018

weaving as contemporary art

My work is a calm pause, a deep breath, a moment of contemplation in our busy world. 

I seek to explore light and space, simplicity, and quiet ephemeral moments in nature. As I am redefining the ancient craft of weaving as a contemporary artist, my work crosses the fields of fine art, textile sculpture and handweaving. 

Woven Vessels

Using domestic materials such as parchment paper, linens, string and plant-based yarns, I sensitively weave, wrap and manipulate to construct my works. I try to highlight the materials’ functional, minimal aesthetic and tactile qualities.

Woven parchment paper and koyari paper yarn 2018
Woven and knotted parchment paper and koyari paper yarn

Inspired by my travels in Japan, the concepts of negative space (Ma 間), and embracing transience and imperfections (Wabi-sabi 侘寂) are currently integral to my work. 

Woven parchment paper and koyari yarn

I am also inspired by a huge variety of artists, some of my current favourites include Soojin Kang, Igshaan Adams, El Anatsui, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Hanne Friis, Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney, Tara Donovan, Cheryl Ann Thomas and Cecil Kemperink.

Studio wall 2018

In 2017 and 2018 I was invited to exhibit in a wide range of group shows, including Leftovers with Procreate Project at 198 Gallery in London, Et tu Arte Brute at Andrew Edlin Gallery in New York and KPP Prize for Art and Architecture at Sunny Bank Mills in Leeds.

In 2019 I have been primarily working on my first solo show to be held at Art Signé Gallery in Munich.

And I have started a new collaboration with Amelie Maison D’art, a beautiful contemporary art gallery in Paris.

Influences on Art + Life

I was born in Buckinghamshire in England in 1984. I spent my childhood wandering through woodlands with my family and dog, and painting, drawing and sculpting with my artist mother.

I studied Fine Art at school with a wonderfully supportive and open minded teacher, Mrs. Roberts. I then took my Foundation Art Course at Buckinghamshire New University and there the tutors guided me towards textiles, which suited the tactile, exploratory way in which I worked. I applied to study Fashion Design with Business at the University of Brighton and luckily was rejected and offered a place on their Textile Design course. At Brighton, I specialised in Weave and enjoyed constructing my own yarns and weaving experimental textiles. I spent my third year in industry, living and working in New York, China and London.

I have always been fascinated with the Japanese culture, art and craft. After University I spent six weeks travelling in Japan, and the trip still inspires my current work.  A second six week trip to Japan was planned for 2011 but had to be cancelled due to the devastating tsunami. A few years followed where I worked for corporate and charitable organisations and took a year out travelling around the world with my husband. This year proved to me I needed to refocus on making art integral to my life. I started a daily art project with my artist mum, which led to me creating woven art works and subsequent commissions from across the globe. 

Saskia Saunders in her studio 2018

But it wasn’t until I lost my mum very suddenly to cancer in 2015, when she was only 55 years old, that I realised I needed to focus solely on my career as an artist. Our first child was born less than a year after my mum Julie died. I didn’t return to my former job and embarked upon a new journey.  

Sivers 1, cotton, latex yarn and canvas, 2018
As an artist I make work that manifests the concepts of calmness, ordinary beauty in nature and a gentle Wabi Sabi approach to imperfection and transience.

Peaceful Sanctuary

Garden studio in the Chiltern Hills

We live in a little cottage in the Chiltern Hills, which has a large garden so we decided to have a garden studio built, tucked away in the trees at the end of the garden. This is now my peaceful sanctuary, my oasis of calm, where I work as often as I can. I find the physical separation from our home helps me to step away from domestic life, but also allows me to snatch moments here and there and even work with my son in the studio at times. 

Saskia Saunders weaving in her studio 2018

From this studio I share my work through Instagram which has brought me the most wonderful connections and opportunities. I have been approached by, and now work with, galleries from Europe and America, interior designers in London, and private clients from across the world. I have also connected with some incredibly inspiring artists, cultural commentators and organisations, and am finding my place in the global art community.

creative process

I work in a fairly structured way, starting a new body of work with fresh inspiration and sketchbook. Often travelling to a new place really sparks something in me. Last summer we spent three weeks travelling through Norway, Sweden and Denmark and I took hundreds of photos, sketched and collaged in my sketchbook and wrote a lot about my observations and feelings.

Woven nettle yarn on frame loom

Next I continue to write, collage, print out photos, play with materials and generally explore an idea in my sketchbook and the idea will usually evolve, until it crystallizes in my mind. I find words and the process of writing very powerful, and the title or words that describe the project are very important to me. As a voracious reader, often I find quotes, text or poems that become part of my work.

From here is a period of play. I experiment with materials, usually domestic materials such as parchment paper, string, household linens and also plant based yarns such as hemp, linen and paper yarns. These might be free-form 2D/3D manipulations or woven using my sample handloom, which is made from a tiny old picture frame and some nails.

Experimental paper works 2018

I regularly evaluate my work and consider what direction it is taking. It will also be influenced by its end purpose, for example a particular gallery it is headed for, a commission for a client, whether it is part of a series and whether I have any requirements such as the size of a piece. This part can be the hardest to balance out with my desire to remain as free and as experimental as possible in my work, with the constraints such as a deadline or client specifications. However these can often also be helpful to push my work to new places, or conclusion.

Woven and knotted linen yarn, canvas board

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