Les Petits Bonheurs - April Rivers Locke
I am so so happy to introduce this weeks inspiration for 'Les Petits Bonheurs', textile artist, April Rivers Locke. Just as the summer was winding down, I invited a friend over for a long overdue aperitif in our home, she asked if it would be okay to bring a friend, and this friend was April, by the end of the night I never wanted her to leave Lacoste - ever!
April is someone who is so incredibly generous of spirit and open and honest that it must be impossible not to fall in love with her. I had one of the most fun days in a very long time when I took her and her husband Taylor out treasure hunting for bits of lace and antique treasures. April was searching for black lace and textiles for a new piece she was working on and Taylor was attracted to anything and everything brown - he took home two beautiful old leather bags. Every few metres they would stop and admire different objects - always thinking of a friend back home in the U.S. who would love this as a present. I think it said a lot about them when they bought more presents for friends than they did for themselves. This is a couple that loves and are loved!
April is a textile artist and Taylor a writer and together they also run a beautiful natural cosmetics company called Humble Love.
What was the first piece of history that made your heart sing?
"The FIRST piece?!?! Oh Goodness, my heart has been singing for longer than I can remember! If I had to dig, go way back and really dig, I would say my heart first sang its love of vintage when I was a little girl, maybe in 1st grade or so. I would walk home with my best friend, Jeanette, and as soon as we got home we would promptly change into dress up clothes. These ‘dress up clothes’ were vintage slips and nightgowns with their chiffon capes and silky long robes, complete with gloves, hats and shoes.
We became women in those moments, we were whoever we wanted to be in those moments. The silky texture, the fit of the glove, the way you could totally transform yourself with just the tilt of a hat. It was magical. Vintage transformed my imagination, it sculpted my dreams. Since then I have loved the nostalgia you find in collecting vintage. It questions your subconscious. Why do I have a connection to this? Where does it come from? Why did it choose me?"
What do you look for when you are sourcing materials?
"I seem to always work in shades of creamy whites. I am always looking for lace and embroidered textiles. I love finding pieces with tears or rips, with stains and moth bites - they have the most story, the most character. I look for unusual shapes and unique patterns in lacemaking. Florals are so predominant in lace and I appreciate them very much, but when you find a piece of lace that has a more tribal or masculine feel, that’s a great find."
Is there anything that you can not imagine parting with?
"There are a few things; some of my grandmothers clothes, some family quilts. I can’t part with my collection of art from my friends and travels. I love seeing the pieces around the house because it reminds me of them and the experiences we’ve had growing and learning together. One time I was rummaging through a shop in Savannah, Ga and found an old sewing box full of all white and cream colored materials! It was like I found a sewing box belonging to one of my past lives. I displayed the content of the sewing box in this old coca cola crate."
How long do you 'live' with your lace pieces before you start working with them?
"I store all the lace that I am ‘actively’ using in an old 2x3 foot cardboard box that is covered in beautiful paper covered with orange and yellow Indian-esque patterns. The box was given to me years and years ago from a dear friend who filled it with birthday gifts. I carry it with me wherever I travel to or wherever I decide to work. The edges are beautifully torn up and one side is peeling back. It is glorious. Inside the box I have wrapped my ribbon lace around old tarot cards that file in a perfect fit of 4 rows across the bottom. I then layered an old ‘Trader Joes’ brown paper bag on top to create a second layer. This layer is piled with folded pieces of lace, like scraps from an old dress or veil and larger pieces of ribbon lace, like chunky crochet pieces.
Sometimes these pieces sit in this box for months being untouched, I just haven’t come across the perfect shape for it to lend its curves too, and sometimes I quickly use up a specific kind really quick! Sometimes I just can’t bare to use up all of one kind of lace I have because I love it so much, so I use it, but very sparingly and you can see it linger from bone to bone. Sometimes I use up all of one kind of lace on a bone because the bone was made for this lace and there is no better way to celebrate its beauty that right here, right now. Some pieces stay with me for years, others get used up faster than I can keep up with. I tend to use the more common pieces more generously, sort of knowing I will be able to attain them again.
This box is everything to me, it is my heart and soul. "
Where do you do your making?
"Currently I work in a corner of our living room, I have my desk and big red book shelf that holds all I need. My husband shares this space with me, he has his own desk with his books, pens, and computers, he is a writer."
"We live in a happy little home but really the whole thing is a working studio. Our kitchen is completely taken over by our business, HumbleLove. We make all natural soaps, sprays and candles and other body products using essential oils and natural vegetable oils. So really our ‘house’ is a studio, in all forms. With two desks in the living room we only have room for two old chairs given to me by my grandparents, a little settee and a coffee table. We don’t have a couch, or a TV or even a dining room table.
We love it this way! We are always creating or working towards a goal."
Making soap in the kitchen. Image courtesy of Love Savannah
Who inspires you?
"Other artists really inspire me. I love talking with them about how their brains work and why they do things the way they do, it fascinates me. Once you learn about how and why a piece was created you can form such a deeper connection with it. Everyone is always working through something, it’s usually deeper than we think. This helps me develop techniques too; emotions can drive you to figuring out all kinds of new ways to create/convey a feeling. Music is a big part of our lives too, there is always something playing in the back ground."
Do you ever get creative block, what are your tips on moving through it ?
"Yes, but I have learned the best thing to do is to just keep going. You have to push through and keep moving forward with some part of your piece. If you don’t, you could be stuck in your block forever waiting for that oh-so-perfect next move. I feel like a bit of a perfectionist at times and so this is a good way for me to release my precise expectations and let the piece be what it wants to be. This allows more room for chance to lead the way and beautiful things begin to happen, things I never would have thought of. It’s really important for an artist to be in their studio space every day.
Making studio hours for yourself is a good way to stay on track and keep pushing forward. Even if you simply go to your studio and just sit there, that’s the best thing you can do. It’s only a matter of time before you start moving things around or pick something up and start creating with it. Maybe you just sit there and make a list of things you need to do, or maybe you end up cleaning up your whole space, whatever you do, at least you were productive in your studio."
Where is your favourite place for sourcing materials?
"I love going to antique shops and markets. I live in a part of Texas where there are a ton of great antique shops and there is nothing better than wandering around and stumbling upon someone’s old sewing basket or pile of discarded lace remnants. I also enjoy going online and searching through etsy. I have found wonderful little pieces from people putting together grab bags. This is also another way for me to ‘lose control’ and allow new shapes to leak into my collection. I may buy a grab bag for one or two specific pieces of lace I see but I get the whole thing and most of the time there are pieces included I never would have purchased on their own but now am using all the time or have found a perfect curve to rest on."
Where are you happiest?
"I am happiest in two places and they are complete opposites of each other. Sometimes I am happiest sitting in my home, at my desk or on the porch working on a project being silent and thoughtful. Other times I am happiest exploring a new part of the world, or just our backyard, with my husband, Taylor. Adventures are the best way for me to rejuvenate my creative soul. Seeing something new, experiencing new feelings, talking about new ideas, it’s all so revitalizing. I love getting out with him, I love the way he thinks and I love the way he makes me think about the world and that is what keeps my art interesting. I keep wanting to show people new ways of looking at things, take the old and discarded and celebrate it, see it in a new way, the unobvious."
How do you sell your work?
"Right now, I am mostly a free-lance artist for the Savannah College of Art and Design, the university my husband and I graduated from. This opportunity to work with them has opened up many pathways (like meeting you!) and has lead me on a creative journey I never would have dreamed of going. They have pushed me in ways that have made me a more confident and a professional artist. They have helped teach me my self-worth and that I too can make a difference in this world with my art.
Now, with HumbleLove, we do have an etsy shop and we do sell in market place. We attend a farmers market or craft show here or there, we sell at various shops around the states and we sell online. We love working markets because we get to meet and engage with the people. Our packaging only has to do half the work, because we are there to smile and chat with you about how important you are and how much your body deserves to be taken care of! We get to give people an experience and we get to learn from them too. When selling online, you have to explain everything with written word and image. You can’t touch the materials, you can’t ask questions and get immediate answers, and most of all, you can’t engage with the maker and form a bond with their product. Tricky stuff.
On the other hand, the best part of selling online is that you reach people from all over the world, not just the little town you live in. You never know who is going to see your product and pass it along or share your link, you never know where you will end up."
On their beautiful natural cosmetics company called Humble Love.
"When I am not working on Lacebones or other installations, I am working with my husband at HumbleLove. As I mentioned before we focus on all natural, mostly all organic body products. Taylor and I have always been passionate about health and wellness and he has become an expert on the properties of essential oils and so we were looking for a way to spread the knowledge and passion that we both share. We quickly learned that we craved a natural way to take care of ourselves and so we started making products we needed, like shampoo, deodorant and bug spray. Soap was a great way to get out on the market place because well, everyone needs soap! He started making salves, sprays, perfumes, candles and really, whatever you need, he’s on it! I work mostly on the presentation and packaging of the product even though we both contribute to both sides of the business."
What is your favourite corner in your house?
"As much as I love our studio/living room, I really love the wall behind my dresser in our bedroom. I have a collection of vintage women and my old ballet shoes hanging, my grandmothers mirror with some other sweet memories hanging around it. It’s the space that is completely feminine and serene. "
Do you collect anything other than antique textiles?
"I collect so many things. Vintage fans, vintage books, vintage clothes just to name a few. I love collecting original art and old blue bottles but my favorite thing to collect is handwriting. Whether it is old postcards or letters, even old school books, I am so fascinated with handwriting, especially cursive. I think it is so beautiful and such a true expression of self."
What is your favorite place to seek inspiration?
"Nature! A beach, a mountain, a lake, the woods, anywhere outside where I can breathe the fresh air and experience natural pattern making and texture. I love collecting beautiful sticks, leaves and whatever you come across, you never know how they will make it into your work or inspire you later."