Meet Toni Brogan, the woven art and soft sculpture artist behind The Catskill Kiwi.
Toni is originally from New Zealand, but has lived in the USA for the past 25 years. She splits her time between an apartment on the Lower East Side in NYC and her art studio in Roxbury, New York - where the beautiful Catskill Mountains are her backdrop. Hence the name, The Catskill Kiwi!
Read more about Toni Brogan (The Catskill Kiwi) in our Q&A below:
Tell us a little about you and your fiber art!
I was a professional Food Stylist in NYC for 17 years. I have always worked with my hands - composing in one way or another, but a few years ago I switched playing with food to playing with fiber full time! Before I made this leap, I spent most of my weaving time experimenting and creating my own personal style. I create heavily textured abstract woven wall hangings and larger chunkier sculptural works.
What is your preferred medium?
I have always loved textiles. Warmth and wool are some of my earliest childhood memories. I love the texture of fiber, and the tactile nature of how various fibers feel and react when manipulated. This is what initially drew me to this woven medium. It has limitless possibilities, and I love the free form style that I can apply during my creative process.
Do you have a favorite type of material you like to work with?
I am always on the lookout for new materials to work with. I want the materials to dictate how & when I use them in my pieces, with my objective being to coax and create as much texture as I can from each piece.
What is your design inspiration?
My materials. These are most important to me. I spend a lot of time curating and collecting vintage/recycled yarns that will add another layer of uniqueness and personality to my work.
Who is a design icon that you look up to?
I greatly admire the early fiber artists of the Mid-Twentieth Century. In particular: Francoise Grossen, Magdelena Abakanowicz, and Josep Grau-Garriga. Their wildly bold large-scale creations blazed the trail in this medium, and they are a true inspiration to me & my current work!
Describe your personal style:
I channel my fiber forebears (mentioned above) as I develop my own language and techniques in my free form style of weaving to make unique fiber creations.
This past year has sparked a new series of sculptural works I refer to as "Organized Chaos". Like an explosion, the interlocking threads, entwined joints and spine-like pieces created by wrapping, binding and knotting which develop into a larger sculptural work that captures the dynamic, organic nature of the fiber itself are like the disjointed lives of displaced people and of a family that was pulled apart in all directions.
What is your favorite knot or technique?
I love free form crochet using my hands and no needle where i can use it like a lattice to connect individual sculptural elements together. I also like to use twinning to make tubular elements, most of my sculptures will feature at least one of these in a piece.
If you could make a piece for anyone in the world, who would it be and what would it look like?
SOLANGE! I absolutely love her as an artist/creative genius, and any type of collaboration or stage backdrop would be amazing!
What is the last great book/podcast that you read/listened to?
I was riveted by Trevor Noah’s audiobook “Born a Crime" - I listened to the entire book in one long studio session. I couldn’t stop listening, and I couldn’t stop working whilst I listened, so needless to say it was a very productive day. After that I dove into Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” (also an audiobook), which is about her life journey, and how she became the person she is today.
Any advice for up and coming artists?
Learn your craft, experiment and be first and foremost ORIGINAL! Go with your gut and create what you're passionate about. My work isn’t necessarily commercial, but it's mine, and I can't make anything other than what my passion is.
(Photos taken by Paul Lowe)
Toni loves to use big chunky rope, similar to our 12mm option, in a variety of colors and textures (shop by color)!
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