Molly Barnes’ practice has been centered around textile and fabric, as in her recent series of gold-leaf quilts, which literally enhance the value of these everyday objects that we associate with family, comfort, and home. Make sure to look out for more at her website and Instagram below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I’m currently on the move from Tennessee to Arkansas. I was recently in Chicago where I got my MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago right after getting my BFA at Mississippi State. My art is conceptually really reflective of where I’m living, so moving around over the past few years has kept me on my toes artistically. For example, in Tennessee, I had 6 acres of land and tried to have a little garden, but I kinda failed at it. So instead I made some quilts about the plants I was trying to grow.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I have always been pretty creative and got my first sewing machine when I was 10, but it was late in high school before I found out “artist” could be a career and much later that I realized that “artist” didn’t have to mean someone who puts paint on a canvas. I spent all my extra time in the art room, so I thought I’d start with art as a major in college. It felt really natural, and I’ve been making stuff regularly ever since.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
My work is focused on monumentalizing aspects of the everyday domestic space. I think about everything I do as part of my artistic practice, including doing the dishes, grocery shopping, and pulling weeds. If the hierarchies of domestic labor are removed, then I think we can place more value on them and look at the home as a place of constant generative creativity. The quilt is the main canvas for my recent work. I started by monumentalizing the quilt itself and now have started to use it as a surface for domestic imagery.
What is your process like?
There are a lot of processes involved in making the quilts. I usually dye the fabric myself with a natural dye such as indigo or madder. Then I sew the fabric into a quilt and stitch the imagery or pattern into it. Finally the glue and gold leaf is applied to reveal the final composition. There is lots of planing, but mostly in to do lists rather than drawings. I usually only work on one at a time, because they take up so much space in my studio.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
A professor of mine repeated this constantly: “Notice what you notice”. I try to be aware of the things that interest me or make me look twice. Add it all up and maybe you can make some art out of it.
What is your studio like?
I’m currently packing up my studio which is a detached garage in the woods next to a fast running creek in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. There’s no WiFi, cell service or even trash pick up. But I’m moving to Northwest Arkansas and will have a studio somewhere in our house there.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
I love being an artist, and I feel super lucky that I get to make stuff. But it is really hard to spend a lot of time and money on making this work, and sometimes no one sees it and rarely do I get a monetary return on that time and money I spent. My advise is to never put pressure on your art to make you a living, but it is hard to feel successful if your career costs you more money than it makes you.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Gold, home, quilts
What are you working on right now?
I’m starting to work on an artists book about the dyes I use and the histories of quilts. I currently have a solo show up, so I’m digesting all of that right now as well.