From the time Kari Lonning was little, she always knew that all she wanted to do was to make things. Instead of running and jumping in leaves, she was raking piles of them into floor plans.
She originally trained in ceramics at college in the 1970s, with a minor in textiles (weaving) and a passion for architecture. After graduating, she started showing her weavings at craft fairs. But then, “one of my loom-woven pieces was bought by the Smithsonian
, and that day I experimented with weaving rattan. I haven’t stopped since.” (Wow, if my work was bought by the Smithsonian, I’d take that as an indication that I should keep going too!)
Although she works in many mediums, Kari believes her whole output comes from one indivisible creative force that drives it all. “I work at whatever I do with the idea that it is all related. All of my training before and during college has fed into what I do now. It’s all about color, space, and design. I make baskets, but I am also a photographer, gardener, color and design junkie and mother to 2 four-legged beasts. I believe that it is important to see how everything impacts everything else, from fine craft to architecture and ecology.”
Her Norwegian heritage feeds into her work and finds expression. Kari’s grandparents were Norwegian, living on the tiny island of Hesnesoy on the southeast coast, and she spent many summer holidays visiting there as a child. She continues to travel from her home in Connecticut to visit Hesnesoy regularly, taking hundreds of photos of the textures, shapes and colours she sees there – the buildings, the boats, the land and the water – and new pieces are inspired by both the landscape and journey. She loves the Scandinavian regard for clean lines and respect for quality in the functional, and she also loves Japanese architecture and design for the similarity of aesthetic.
Kari loves her life, despite the insecurity of an artist’s fluctuating income. “I enjoy being able to choose how I spend my days: immersed in the passions and serenity of color and creating, surrounded by nature and accompanied by Emma and Kitt (my dog and cat). I live in the country, with my gardens and interesting architecture. I can open the windows and hear birds and bugs, wind and rain.”
And her best piece of advice? “I’ve always been quietly self motivated. So when when people say “just do it,” it resonated. I would tell people to follow their passions, but to be realistic as well.”
You can find more of Kari’s work on her website, her Facebook page, and her blog.
With thanks to Kari for sharing her images and words.
Rachel Bending is the creative force behind Bird Textiles, and is a pioneer in environmentally conscious and sustainable work practices. Originally from the UK, she studied textile design at the famous Glasgow School of Art in the 1990s, and then emigrated to Australia in 2001.
Rachel first established herself with a business called Slingfings in 2002, which used recycled and reclaimed vintage fabrics, and was powered using solar panels and an old car battery. Slingfings was recognised in 2004 as Australia’s first climate neutral business.
Rachel then went on to establish Bird Textiles in 2006, which has as one of its core values to use the most up to date environmental practices and materials as possible. It currently uses all solar power, and has a 100% climate neutral business practice. Besides the energy they consume in-house, they also take into account the energy used in areas outside the business, such as fuel used in inward freight of raw materials and the distribution of the finished products, and negate this by purchasing renewable energy in wind farms and solar plants.
man on the lake
All the textiles for Bird are designed in Byron Bay and handprinted using water-based dyes on certified organic cotton. They now also produce a range of garments, homewares, and giftwares, and these products are all handmade using solar power. And earlier this year, Little Bird, Little Bird was launched, which makes bespoke and limited edition organic children’s wear.
Besides her businesses, Rachel Bending is also an educator, giving seminars, studio visits, and guest speaking on numerous panels and symposiums. And she became a new mum last year, AND has built her own straw bale house in Byron Bay. Phew!
Notably, garments from Slingfings and Bird Textiles were purchased by the Powerhouse Museum for their permanent collection in 2006. Bird was also selected by Austrade to represent Australia at event G’Day USA in 2007.
Rachel and her businesses have had significant media attention over several years, including Time Magazine, Marie Claire, and Home Beautiful. It is utterly deserved and I congratulate her on her amazing achievements.
You can find out more about Bird Textiles on their website here. You can also check out her stunning house here.