What was your artistic background?
Initially, I was trained as a weaver.
I did a foundation course in Newcastle College, Newcastle Upon Tyne and I went on to do my Honours Degree in Constructed Textiles at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, University of Dundee.
How did you discover weaving?
I clearly remember making 2-dimensional people and shapes in plasticine as a very young child and this continued into different crafts as I got older. I have many memories of sewing and knitting as a young child.
My dad got me involved in pantomimes in Portrush where I grew up. First, dancing and acting as an extra and eventually I ended up being behind the scenes, creating scenery, painting and being on the stage team. We loved this and were really involved for years. We looked forward to the annual pantomime because it was a great way to keep active during the cold and windy winter months and there was a great collective community atmosphere built around creating fairy tales in Portrush Town Hall. Weaving was something that grew out of all of those activities.
You then go on to do a university course in the area of art and design?
After doing my foundation art and design in Newcastle, I moved to Dundee to my degree course in constructed textiles.
That sounds much more technical?
Well, technical in the sense of designing, threading a loom and building a fabric, for example. In some ways, I think it is an important element of what I do now as a peacebuilder. There was a sense of construction, building: using textiles or fabric, layer on layer, sometimes paring back in order to find some new surface that works- for a while.
In a similar way, the process of using materials to construct a design doesn’t always flow smoothly. Sometimes you might have to develop the process in a different direction than you first expected. There is an element of that process which I think transfers to the fundamentals of peacebuilding.
And this connects to peacebuilding using the arts?
That is like peacebuilding, which is seldom a linear process. Sometimes the conclusion isn’t where you expected it might end up, but nevertheless I am always aiming towards some sort of transformation towards something different.
Part two of this interview is here