Designer Q&A: Fiber Artist Jacqueline Fink

Jacqui Fink is a fiber artist based in Sydney, Australia, who works with high-grade and naturally colored merino wool from Australia and New Zealand. Jacqui’s focus is on creating installations and textiles extreme in both their scale and the physical challenge they represent for one pair of hands. Each piece is as much a feat of endurance as it is a loving creative expression.

—Sara Dudek

What does it mean to you to be a maker?

My work is as much my salvation as it is my vocation. I could not now envisage living my life in any other way. The very humble and time-honored notion of “making” is as fundamental to my well-being as breathing. I am grateful that I have found my place in the creative sphere and revel in the mysterious exchange that I experience with the universe.

What got you started in this field?

My mum taught me how to knit as a child, but I never committed to learning the language of knitting, so my skills remained very basic.

Fast-forward to the early years of my adulthood. With a law degree under my belt, I found myself completely disillusioned with my chosen career. Life as a lawyer just did not suit. I left the law to work in my husband’s high-end fashion retail business.

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Knitted and Knotted Wall Hanging, 2015, private commission. Photo Credit | Jacqui Fink

By the time I was thirty-five I realized I needed to dig myself out of the hole I had inadvertently dug for myself. At that age, I knew myself well enough to know that I need to work creatively with my hands in some way. That same year, my mum was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease.

In the days following my mum’s transplant, I found myself occupying a very heightened and surreal state. It was during this time that I had a vision that transformed my life. While I was asleep, a big loud booming voice said to me, “You have to knit, and it needs to be big.” The command was as terrifying as it was profound, and it woke me from my sleep. But I had asked for guidance from the universe for so long that I didn’t dare question my vision.

By the end of 2011, I had amassed a small collection of throws and blankets that I felt were commercially ready to bring to the market, so I did just that when I launched Little Dandelion in April 2012.

fiber artist

Solace No. 1 created for Sea Art: an aesthetic convergence with Lara Hutton. Photo Credit | Sharyn Cairns

Where does your inspiration come from?

It comes from the divine. An idea will come to me as a picture through my subconscious. I will make the piece in my imagination first and problem solve as I go. When I feel like the piece is well resolved in my mind, I will then go about making it. This process can take a few short weeks or months. At other times, I can live with an idea for a couple of years before I have the right context in which to give it life. Overall, I am inspired by the beauty of wool, natural fibers, texture, and scale.

How do you maintain a creative life?

Living a creative life is purely a way of being for me. It’s not a choice, and the maintenance of it is not really an issue. However, trying to make a living out of a creative practice is a huge commitment of time and energy. It is by no means a soft option: courage, faith in your creative ability, and a large capacity for hard work are essential.

How have you made a public persona out of craft?

Whatever the nature of a maker’s output, there will be an audience attracted to it. Social media has given makers like me an incredible global platform from which we can find that audience. In my experience, this has allowed me to build a relationship with them based on a mutual love and appreciation for all things handmade.

From the beginning, I have been very open about my story and the hardships it has entailed. It’s just who I am: heart on my sleeve and very comfortable discussing the trickier aspects of life with anyone at any time. The critical factor is that my story could be anyone’s, and I have received countless emails from other women recognizing something of themselves in it. People have connected with it like I could never have imagined. Simply by being vulnerable and sharing my journey, others have been encouraged to make changes in their own lives, and that’s pure gold.

What do you want people to get from your work?

I hope they experience immense comfort and joy. Every piece I make, whether it is a large-scale bespoke wall hanging or a throw, is an extension of me and is imbued with a great deal of love and care. I also hope that my work challenges the often rigidly held notions of what constitutes art. Many relegate knitting and wool to “craft” and, as a result, assign to it a different value, and I think that is not only a shame but also a misnomer. Hopefully the pendulum is swinging toward a broader and more inclusive view on this count.

Header Image: Extreme Knitting Workshop, New York 2015 | Photo Credit: Brooke Holm

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