In March we met with one of our 2017 Creative Residents, Sarah Dahia, to see what she’s been creating at the Main St Studios as she reconnects with her artistic practice.
Tell us about what you are focusing on during this residency.
I only started to really draw again [last year] after the workshop Tia McIntyre organised at the Arts Centre [Artist Professional Development Series], so I am using this time to complete an in-depth course of drawing, painting, textile weaving and printmaking to brush up on my unused skills and really try to get into my comfort zone with those mediums.
You studied art, textiles and product design. How has this influenced your creative path?
I know it was a bit of an odd mixture, but the design process and working to deadline in product design has improved my art tremendously. I faff much less. I have never lost my love of textiles, and use of different leathers and textiles was an integral part of my work as shoe designer at Footwear Industries in Fiji. I am now desperately trying to remember what I did in my foundation year to repeat it in the studio.
What themes or ideas would you like to explore in future works?
I have always loved figure drawing. I would like to combine life drawings with my textile work, using the lines and shapes in my weaving, and sewing stitch and applique figures from life onto paper & fabric, combined with pencil, paint & printing.
Has having a dedicated studio impacted the kind of work you can make?
Yes, I was working at home in our cramped spare bedroom on small pieces of paper and really struggling. I lost so much confidence and was convinced my drawing was pants. I didn’t have the courage to try and paint. The studio is so big the first thing I did was go and buy the biggest roll of paper I could find, & try to fill the whole area. I am so content when working large. The only problem I have now is how to transport a larger drawing board to the studio – it won’t fit in the car! Oh, and sore arms!
You’re a mother and an artist, how do you find creativity in being a mother?
I think it would be very hard to be a mother if you didn’t approach the job creatively. To me creativity is a mixture of problem solving, artistry & love. Those are the three words I find most apt to describe motherhood. It doesn’t matter whether you are producing a drawing, producing a wall hanging, producing a meal, producing a confident & positive pre-schooler or producing a rounded & intelligent teenager – you are using the same parts of your brain. All those tasks can be done in a slapdash & unconsidered manner, or as part of a creative process with thought, attention to detail & a goal of constant learning to gain a higher standard of craftsmanship.
If you had any advice for a younger Sarah – what would it be?
That’s a hard one. No, got it. Gain less weight in pregnancy and try harder to lose it straight away!
By Sanki Tennakoon
Find Sarah on Instagram
Sarah Dahia, Main St Studios, 2017, photograph by Sanki Tennakoon