Will Cruickshank finds inspiration as much from his environment as the materials he works with. The artist creates his pastel-hued sculptures in wood, concrete and thread revelling in the tensions that arise in the interactions between rigid and soft, airy and dense. In conversation, Cruickshank shares his daily routine, influences and the excitement of pushing the limits of materiality, while finding joy in the unexpected discoveries to be found in an experiential and process-led approach.
A studio is a very personal space for an artist and in your case you chose to build your own. How did that come about?
Generally my past studios have been in disused or derelict spaces. If I can find out who the landlord is, they are usually happy to have something fixed up and receive rent for it. This usually means a lower rent for a larger space. Most disused spaces in London seem to be up for development so moving out to farm buildings was a good option. These spaces are a blank canvas and I work in them alone, so generally I can do what I want with them.
What is your daily routine in the studio?
At the moment it’s…put the kettle on and light the fire as it’s pretty cold in the silo. After that, it’s a case of following on from the day before with the machines, processes, and materials.
You use machinery to create your pieces which are themselves artworks as you build them yourself. How did you adopt this way of working and how does this affect the way you create?
In the past, exhibited work often had kinetic or mechanical elements in it. More recently that side of the work has become part of a more private production of objects. Rather than making for a specific project or context, the silos have allowed a studio practice where the machines, processes and objects can evolve over months and years. This gives me time to investigate and learn from them.
Your work employs materials that are associated with both craft and industrial processes: wool and thread as well as concrete, plaster and paint. How has your relationship with materials evolved?
I think I’ve ended up using a lot of these materials because of their cost and accessibility. Building materials tend to be relatively cheap and thread is also easy to get hold of in the local market. The (low) cost means I can experiment more freely.
Your pieces can appear very tactile with layers employed in the woven pieces. It is a tantalising invitation to touch, even though it would be discouraged in a gallery environment. How would you like people to engage with your work?
The works do have a very tactile quality. The sculptures made from plaster and thread seem both hard and soft, warm and cold. They are nice to touch, but hopefully some of this is also apparent though exploring the surfaces. I also want to touch things when I visit galleries.
I remain open to what is going on in front of me - the incidental lessons, breakages and tangles. It’s through this that I learn more about the materials, processes and their possibilities
What inspires you and what do you think has most influenced your artistic approach?
I think the fact that I am firmly engaged in a studio practice is what drives the work. I try to remain open to what is going on in front of me – the incidental lessons, the breakages and tangles. It’s through this that I learn more about the materials, processes and their possibilities. It gives the work a direction that I cannot predict, though that can be as unsettling as it is exciting.
How does the location you’ve chosen to work in affect your creative process?
Weather and temperature do steer me in a certain direction sometimes; only one silo has any heating, so one winter I did a lot of printmaking. The plaster doesn’t like the frost, and my water freezes up quite often. All these things are part of the process and there are always other things to explore. I think the combination of privacy and space has allowed me to immerse myself in the work. Being situated on a busy industrial farm, but surrounded by countryside offers spaciousness and anonymity.
What are you working on at the moment?
This week I’ve been trying to join two different mixes of coloured plaster and thread, though the pigments aren’t quite behaving as I expected. I’m also experimenting with different ways of cutting wound threads.