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Hand-woven hangings by Justine Ashbee

Using fibers from around the world and a process that was used by the ancient Egyptians, Justine creates hangings adorned with gold and metallic threads.


What a better way to celebrate the art of craft by putting a spotlight on artist and weaver Justine Ashbee, alias Nativeline. Since we came across her wonderful designs on instagram we’re obsessed. Justine is able to create amazing 3-D forms and fringe within the weaving that you can’t image your walls without it. The different effects of geometry, pattern and shine are simply gorgeous to look at. Same goes for her mural drawings that marked her career as an artist with a strong intuitive visual language.


Justine, is there a direct link between the woven pieces and your previous mural drawings?

Not a direct one, no. At least, not one that I am consciously yet aware of. I do know that the processes of creating them are quite similar: intuitive, formed in the moment, repetitive, and aesthetically oriented. The drawings I did, I realized only later, were illustrations of the weavings. In a way, I was exploring line and pattern, but felt more at home once returning to the weaving.


I see a lot of ethnic references in your work, do you travel a lot?

 Yes, I do like to travel, but I also use the library a lot and the internet is a great resource for inspiring imagery nowadays. I have had some incredible opportunities and initiatory experiences whilst traveling. I have had the privilege of working with some incredible people, both artisans and healers alike and have spent time with powerful mentors at different times in my life. The 'ethnic' references for me are inspired by the architecture, fashion, and style from places rich with mystery and myth. I tend to be drawn to places that have ancient landmarks with secrets and legends, places that have a potent kind of 'presence' in the land and that have, over time, infused into the cultures, through ceremony and daily life.


What about nature, is that a source of inspiration too?

In many ways I think ritual and costume made from natural elements, like feathers, leather, flowers, straw, pigment body painting, are a source of inspiration. Those ornamental practices that are in a way more directly linked to play with nature, and living in harmony with the natural world, and its processes are romantic to me. For example the symbolism of a Snake 'shedding skin' - an initiatory transformation that many go through in life, whether it be heartache, new achievements, breaking free of old habits and creating new life opportunities. These kinds of things, that can transmute forms create something new through some kind of ritualistic acknowledgement. When I read about ceremonial body painting, they describe it as a very group engagement, as they aren't using mirrors to adorn and look glamorous - they are creating myth and story through their costuming, to share and live their vision together. These are active practices, gauged by the reactions of one another, pulled from materials in nature, whether chalk, rock pigment, cochineal bugs, leopard skins…nowadays with synthetic dyes and plastic products, the costumes can become quite psychedelic and outrageous!


Where did you learn the craft of weaving?

My first weaving class was with Susan Sklarek, in the Textiles Program at the Rhode Island School of Design. The weaving room there was stunning. Large looms spread out amidst shelves of all different sorts of cones of fibers, textures, colors & large old-fashioned east-coast factory windows. It was a very stimulating environment if you find fibers and textiles inspiring as I do. One of our first assignments was to choose an environment that you were drawn to and weave it. I chose rolling desert sand dunes and developed a way of weaving metal wire into a fiber warp, as a double-woven tube. When it came off the loom, I was surprised by the shapes and forms it took on. It was at once opaque & transparent, had soft yet rigid surfaces and would collapse into a molten slump, or stretch out in undulating curves, much like a horizon of sand dunes. This is when I first began weaving, and have been exploring variations of these forms and techniques ever since.


Where does the name Native Line come from or what does it refer to?

Native Line emerged when I wanted to focus on exploring craft, ritual, line work and ornamentation found in indigenous ceremonial arts. Cultures that are ancient or are more directly linked to the land, living more in sync with nature. At the time when I returned to weaving and developed the Native Line collection, I wanted a break from the line drawings work that I had been doing. Both practices were similar in approach, starting with a plan, and allowing intuitive flow to guide the piece. I wanted to return to something simpler, return to our roots so to speak, or a simpler way or living and creating, perhaps something 'Native'. As the work develops I forget why I started, it just seems so natural to be doing it. I once had a sense that our bodies of work are all part of the same spiral, we will ultimately get to the source of what we are working at.

What do you consider the epitome of happiness?

Sun. I like to be warm out in Nature. Preferably palm trees and sand, but also the sage of the high desert can be just as beautiful. Now that I have found my life love, I can't imagine being anywhere without him for too long. Having just recently moved to the UK from Seattle, I am excited to have access to explore Africa and parts of Western Europe that are much easier to get to now. There are so many beautiful rugged coast lines to explore and a rich blend of cultures right on top of each other. These lands have ancient history and a lot nomadic textile arts  and practices to discover. I dream of having a home and a workshop in a warm desert climate near the coast. Imagining that walk from the house to the sea, listening to the breeze, that is the epitome of happiness for me. It is simple, calm, direct and peaceful.
Words: Magali Elali
Photo's: Native Line 

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