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Interview by John Hopper
Interview released in Inspirational Plus Issue, 2016

Why fiber/textiles and not another discipline?

I guess it would be from a very young age watching my mother on her sewing machine. Fascinated by this fine, shiny needle, piercing the fabric. So fascinated that I stuck my finger under the needle. Bitten, pricking my finger, I was given the bug that would come out at a later stage. One of my grandmother’s was a weaver, and used to pull old knitted sweaters apart for the wool to reconstruct them into large striped blankets. My mother was also a seamstress, so textiles surrounded me. I never got the opportunity to try weaving back then, though that came later studying my degree in constructed textiles, specialising in woven tapestry.

I cannot say that woven tapestry is my one and only discipline, but one of many that occupy my practice. I have a tendency to combine elements, all depending on the nature of a project and how it wants to dictate and influence the materials that I use. Some works may display or incorporate etching or laid over collage for instance. Other times it will be an object or sculptural in its character. Rarely would it be a purely woven or constructed piece, and the occasions that it is it will have a kink in it somewhere! Curiousity takes over.

Woven Tapestry is one of the oldest forms of woven textiles and is my preferred method for weaving. Although the techniques have remained the same for centuries, I always look to new ways of using this versatile and handsome medium. I was attracted to its adaptability, locating itself somewhere between fine art and craft. I could see a number of possibilities, taking it out of its stuffy persona and look upon it with fresh eyes. I always thought that there must be more to woven tapestry than boring flat woolly wall hangings.

What does it mean to you personally, being a man?

I am trying really hard not to fall into any category here. Just ‘being’, with a good dose of ambiguity is enough for me!

What does it mean to you being a man in the fiber/textiles field?

A rare, and unique beast of an ancient art, or at least one of them! I like to think that I bring a diverse perceptive to textiles. A dear friend and mentor of mine observed the way I work and go about things, describing it as ‘seeing with my hands’. It is my way of searching my work, in a tactile manner. The handling of textiles and fibres is part and parcel of the process.

How do you think that your gender influences your work as an artist?

My work revolves around the themes of the male body, self, identity and sexuality. So yes. I guess that my gender does contribute to the way I shape and present my wares. In my early days of coming out, the body was a mere suggestion, where sex and sexuality were used in a rather organic and crude, yet humorous way. My very first tapestry sculpture was a constructed codpiece inspired by carnivorous plants. I made comparisons to the plant’s nature of enticing to that of sexual enticement, the codpiece being the allure. I called it ‘Sexual Carnivore’. My lecturers were not amused, which completely surprised me! I think they were scared of my boldness and didn’t understand my work. That didn’t matter, as it was shortlisted for the Simon Jersey Tapestry Award the same year, so someone got the humour! There is a fine thread that links these themes throughout my work, something that is part of me. My work evolves as I evolve.

What do you think that you have brought with you to the fiber/textiles discipline, by being a man?

A sense that textiles inhabit neither one sex nor the other. Although unique to each creator, it is a universal language, that has it’s own dialect that you have developed, yet is understood by others of a similar tongue.

Do you express your gender through fiber/textiles in a general, or more personal level?

It is very much on a personal level. I play around with my gender, inserting that ambiguity and making people think, connect, relate perhaps.

Would you encourage more men to enter the fiber/textiles world, and if so, why?

Most definitely. There have always been men in the fiber/textiles field, but there is plenty of room for more. I have always wondered what would happen if you gathered male textile artist to collaborate on a large project or installation, just to see the type of energy and imagery that would be generated. A proposal for the future…?

What next for Cos?

Well, I shall be showing my work at The Knitting & Stitching Shows later this year for the first time as a solo artist. I received the Theo Moorman Trust For Weavers Award which will go towards funding the work. For the near future, there are lots of personal projects and ideas that I have yet to explore. I shall also be working towards a one-man exhibition in 2017 at Forty Hall Estate, a Jacobean manor house on the edge of north London. The exhibition will[i] be on for three months, making it my longest and largest exhibition to date!

Image: Cos Ahmet 'Mutatis Mutandis, 2012 (detail) Photograph by The Artist