English artist and designer Aby Mackie found her creative home in the heart of Barcelona. Her mixed media artwork goes beyond mere aesthetics; it delves into the very essence of our society, challenging us to reflect on our values and memories. Her art is a testament to the interconnectedness of themes such as materialism, consumerism, value, and memory.
Yet, what sets Aby apart is her deeply rooted connection to the people of Barcelona. Her creative process is intimately tied to the everyday lives of its residents, as she breathes new life into discarded objects and textiles, giving voice to the unnoticed and unsung stories of the city’s inhabitants.
Today we’re chatting with Aby about her inspirations and influences as well as her work-flow and future projects.
Hi Aby! To get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where you come from?
I was born in Leicester, studied in Nottingham (BA Hons Textile Design & MA Fine Art) and moved to BCN 15 years ago, pretty much on a whim!
How did you first start dedicating yourself to art professionally?
I already had several solo shows before finishing university and participated in various group shows with my textile art, so I had experience early on in selling my work via exhibitions. I also taught textile and art at a college in Derbyshire. But I felt something was missing. So I literally just left, randomly picked BCN with the idea of moving on to Mexico once I’d got my TEFL.
Yet life has a way of carrying us along, and I ended up meeting and marrying a guy here and starting a family. This led me to focus more on my design skills and creating a more marketable product. For almost 10 years we ran ‘Wild & Beautiful’ a successful design company creating unique baby products.
Four years ago when I divorced, it was an opportunity to reassess and try something new. I decided to open a vintage shop. I had a small workspace at the back where I worked on my art for a solo show. The solo show was a great success, the vintage shop was not! It was at that point that I decided to dedicate myself to art professionally, subsidising my income by teaching art in English to children. That was two years ago and both my own work and the classes have been very successful. I love what I do, and I am very passionate about both my own practice and teaching.
Your studio is located among the old industrial buildings in Poble Nou. Many of those old buildings have been turned into artistic spaces. Can you tell us about how you established yourself there and how you’re getting along in the 22@ district?
I love this district. The old factories and industrial spaces are amazing and beautiful. There is a real sense of an artistic community, and we regularly support and help one another. My studio is in an old bakery built around 1920. I actually rent directly from the owner who has lived and worked here her whole life, as had her family for three generations!
How does reusing / recycling / repurposing form a big part of your work?
The salvaging of old abandoned domestic artefacts are a cornerstone to my artistic practice. They are not only the materials that I use but the inspiration for my work.
What does a new idea feel like? Does it come fully-formed or bit-by-bit?
I generally follow a material led methodology. Ideas are usually generated by the materials, although occasionally I’ll have an idea and need to seek out the materials to realise it. Objects collected instinctively, can be in my studio for years before I know what to do with them! Ideas tend to evolve and happen bit by bit over time. I very rarely know what the final outcome will be, and stay open during the process to allow my initial ideas to develop and evolve into a unique and original outcome.
What are your favourite artistic themes and why?
I’m really interested in the poetry of objects. The rituals, symbolism and memories of domestic materials, such as bedding and clothes. How something worth no money can be priceless and treasured because of the memory it holds.
What are you working on at the moment?
I always work on multiple projects at once, usually either in a series of three or sometimes on-going. I’m creating work at the moment exploring historic figures through a mixed media approach of antique textiles, household paint and spray paint. I’m also working on a sculptural series that uses antique horse collars as the point of departure. My work tends to be varied and integrates a range of techniques from embroidery to print, spray paints to tapestry.
Alongside your career as an artist, you’re a mum, you run an online shop selling vintage clothing and you teach art classes in English to kids. That’s a lot! Can you tell us a bit more about these projects?
I find that everything feeds into everything else! The vintage shop is driven from the same passion that fuels my artistic work; my kids inspire and motivate me to create an exciting and engaging learning experience; the creative aspect of teaching children sparks passion for creating…
I’ll leave you with this fantastic quote from Helena Bonham Carter that really sums up how I feel;
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your work and experiences. We look forward to seeing your new projects!
Meet more makers in Barcelona!