When people talk about enjoying the 'simple things in life', they usually refer to wholesome activities like hiking in nature, gazing at the stars or doing a good turn for others. All very admirable, of course.
But let's be honest: some of the best things in life are less praiseworthy, yet still very important to us, both personally and societally. And so artist Alexandra Lucas' latest project celebrates something to which the art world has not traditionally paid much attention: crisps.
Alexandra is a weaver and artist based in North London who weaves tapestries and rugs on an ancient backstrap loom strapped onto her body. Half-Polish, half-British, she's fascinated with the fact that weaving is a practice that connects us all as humans across history and cultures. And now she's bringing the discipline bang up to date by releasing a new collection of handwoven crisp packets, all woven on a backstrap loom.
This playful project celebrates our all-time favourite salty snacks by weaving "wonky" crisp packets in a textile form. Each piece is made with traditional techniques for the modern context, made to last and be cherished for years to come.
"Eating crisps is a pastime that connects us all," she points out. "In fact, consuming a simple packet of crisps is so delicious and addictive that we're all quite opinionated about which crisp brand is our favourite.
"When weaving my CRISPS collection, I noticed that people's emotions around the subject matter were high," she continues. "Not only was there instant laughter and a warm affection for my work, but people around me simply had to make sure I knew which crisp packet to weave next."
The collection comprises five wall hangings depicting crisp packets, including Monster Munch, Wotsits, Pringles, Cheetos and Walkers Salt & Vinegar. She also includes a Skips tote bag, as well as a more subdued rug made of sewn-together panels depicting the outlines of popular crisp-bag shapes.
Alexandra's journey with backstrap weaving started when she struggled to continue her practice after graduating. She was faced with two main constraints: money and space. Her limitations made her reconsider her practice, and that's when she found backstrap weaving.
This involves weaving on a backstrap loom that she operates by attaching it to her body. The loom wouldn't work without it. Whenever as a weaver, she moves forwards or backwards, the loom changes and morphs into what she needs it to be. "The process is physically demanding," she says, "but surprisingly meditative."
When making, Lucas embraces the imperfections, the 'wonkiness' of the warp threads and looks forward to the result of each piece, which never turns out the way she expects. "Every woven tapestry or rug ends up being unique," she explains.
She embraces this in this collection, where the crisp packets are instantly recognisable, despite being slightly abstracted. She enjoys the fact that a branding that's so clean, utilitarian and usually printed on a plastic sleeve ends up taking on more character when made into a soft fabric.
And the original inspiration for the project is not hard to find. "If you ask anyone who knows me, I have an insatiable desire for crisps," she enthuses. "The texture, the flavour, the salt. It's one of the joys of life – if you ask me. I know I'm not alone. I hope that with this collection, I'll be able to bring humour into usually thematically serious woven wall hangings and that this work will be a celebration of a snack that brings us all together."
Alexandra's crisp bags will be available for sale from the 26th of November. Sign up for the newsletter on her website to be the first to hear when the collection will be launched.
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