Burke Residency 3: K'era Morgan•
Posted on November 01 2019
K'era Morgan, Artist
Emma: Hi K’era! Thank you so much for sitting down to answer my questions. Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your artistic practice?
K'era: I'm K'era Morgan and I'm a mixed-media artist and textile designer based in Los Angeles. My studio practice has evolved since I decided to take this whole artist-thing seriously however, one thing continues to remain the same in that my process is very much an intuitive one. When I roll into my studio to begin working on a piece, I usually don't have a clear cut plan in mind outside of following my gut. This allows me to play with different media without inhibition and it also directs the color palette I end up using. I'm letting what I feel flow into on the paper without judgement. It's somewhat meditative as I can easily be engulfed in what I'm working on and lose track of time but in those moments I am probably the most present in my body than I am at any other time. There is a quote by Barbara Hepworth that I love and sums up how I approach my work: "I rarely draw what I see. I draw what I feel in my body."
E: I’m so curious about your journey of launching a photographic derived textile company and then returning to making art by hand without the aid of digital tools. Could you tell us a little more about what inspired that return and what making art by hand offers that a more high-tech process does not?
K: To put it simply, photography wasn’t tactile enough. Although I respect it as an art form and those that have mastered it, I personally didn’t feel the same spark or connection when holding a camera versus a paintbrush. I had also spent more than a decade in a traditional corporate job that required I use a computer and having to use more digital tools and programs to finalize images felt like I was returning to the type of work I desperately wanted to leave behind. The process of simply mixing colors or hearing the crunch of paper as I cut shapes for collages or the physicality that comes into creating a piece ( I crouch, I paint standing up or on the floor, walk around my pieces as I’m working on them) allows me to tap into a variety of senses and it also feels like I’m pouring myself into my work.
It’s no surprise because I’ve always been fascinated by people that make things with their hands. My dad has the ability to take almost anything apart and put it back together. I would help him when he was tinkering on one of the many vintage cars he liked restoring, passing wrenches and what not. My mom sewed and I have a very vivid memories of her hands sliding across the table as she used shears to cut fabric or feed it through her sewing machine. Construction workers are like magicians to me. I love a good hardware store… all the tools and bits that can be screwed and hammered together to make something is really thrilling to me.
E: In your artist statement, you talk a lot about the connection between collage and reshaping the narratives we live by—I love the idea that we create new storylines through the repurposing and reframing the old stories we tell ourselves. It’s beautiful to envision the artistic process as a practice in this kind of essential inner personal work. I think both on a personal and on a global scale we are seeing how unsustainable it is to only focus on the new; it’s becoming absolutely necessary to rework and work with what already exists. Do questions of sustainability enter into your work at all or is there a way you could see your artistic practice in dialog with these concerns?
K: Initially, the question of sustainability wasn’t a focus of my work but a positive by-product of it as I tend to directly focus on themes that dig into more spiritual and psychological themes as an intuitive painter. However, I can see the correlation between the two and have received inquiries about my work as it relates to the environmental topic of sustainability and consumption. That’s the wonderful thing about art, everyone brings their own perspective to it and at times raise questions that even the artist may not have considered or intended yet adds another dimension to the work.
I do think sustainability is a very natural human thing to do or at least historically it was and is more prevalent in communities where the constant consuming of newness isn’t an option nor is it revered. From the beginning of time, art has been crafted from materials that already existed-- from natural pigments used to make cave paintings and geoglyphs made from piles of rocks to contemporary assemblage art. You can also look at the culture of quilting or the use of grasses and reeds for baskets…. We all know the term hand-me-downs and some of us love ‘thrifting’ and antiquing or have family heirlooms that are adored. Therefore, reusing found paper in a certain instance was just a normal and obvious choice.
E: Could you tell us a little more about the mill you work with and how they help translate your art into textiles? What is it about textiles in particular that moves you?
K: The family owned and run mill with whom I work is based in the hill country of the Carolinas. I’m one of many artists and brands with whom they work but probably one of the smallest businesses they service. I say that because as a one-woman-show, it wasn’t easy finding a manufacturing partner that cared about what I was trying to create and were willing to work with me to bring my ideas to life. They are actually responsible for the weaving my designs which are based off of my original artworks into the throw blankets and pillows that I offer. However, before it gets to the mill, I have to digitize my work and ensure everything from resolution to dimensions and colors are in line with the specs the loom requires to translate the digital file into a woven piece. However, despite all the prep the end result is always a surprise which I love. The weave always translates the 2-D design into a lovely iteration of the original.
As for my love of textiles, I think it’s because it represents the perfect blend between the decorative and function realm of art and craft. No matter where you go in the world there is always an interesting tradition as it relates to textiles and there is so much that can be gleaned from textiles that include information about a specific culture, their spiritual belief systems, customs but also tells the history and evolution of science and human innovation from simple techniques to more advanced techniques that modern day systems rely upon to create the fabrics we use in our day to day lives.
E: We have something in common… I read on your website that learning to upholster is one of your secret interests and I too have fanciful ambitions to learn the craft! Do you have a favorite piece of furniture you could share a story about?
K: I have three pieces of furniture that I’ve loved throughout my lifetime:
- A Thonet-style bentwood and cane rocking chair. As a toddler, I spent a lot of time rocking myself in one and recently discovered one in the home of a friend. Hers came from her childhood home having grown up with it in her parent’s house. I forgot about it until I saw hers and remembered how much I loved it as a child. I’m definitely getting one to add to my home.
- The first couch I ever owned was given to me by my aunt for my first apartment. It was a sofa bed. The shape was very modern yet, I thought it was a little hideous at the time as it was a dark forest green and had this sparse marigold and white floral pattern on the fabric. I desperately wanted it to change the cover and this must have been when my interest in upholstery first popped in my head. Looking back on it, that sofa and the upholstery fabric would totally be in-style right now!
- The extra long 10 foot sofa that I bought when my husband and I moved into our new home in January. He wanted an L-shaped sofa which he had in the past but I wanted something a little more original. Low and behold I found the coziest and biggest yet stylish sofa ever at this great shop called the Hangar in Santa Monica. It’s so large you can comfortably seat 5 adults on it!
E: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Any deep dark secrets or funny personal quarks you feel inclined to reveal?
K: When I launched my initial collection of blankets, Maggie was one of the first boutiques that expressed interest in carrying them. At the time she was just setting up shop in her first retail location. It was inspiring to connect with new business owner at the time and one that found my work compelling. It's heartwarming to see how our businesses have grown respectively and the relationship we have since that first email exchange.
E: Thank you so much, again, and I can’t wait to see more of your beautiful art at Burke!