You know how they say some people look like their dogs, well some people act like their dogs too. Luke Haynes, a current Charlotte Street Foundation studio resident, has the same warm and welcoming temperament as his 9-month old Irish Wolfhound Honey Dew. When I walked into the studios I noticed the 85-pound pup wander out of his corner office, wagging her tail and eager to meet a new friend. Luke followed quickly after with a smile and apologetic hello. “I hope you’re okay with dogs,” he said. Of course I was. I followed him back into his studio space, which was glowing with the mid-morning light pouring in through his two huge windows.
A ten-foot quilt hangs on one of his walls, taking up nearly the entire space. It shows Luke from another time, shorter hair, shorter beard. A couch in his space has a wedding dress strewn across it and there are stacks of fabrics across the room. From this view, Luke seems to be a quilter, apart from a fewer smaller paper works hanging on the walls. But our conversation leads us to new territory. Although Luke admits that his residency has been mostly dedicated to typing up loose ends, it promises a wave of brave, new work.[Autumn]: What has your art focused on in terms of themes and subject matter? [Luke]: It’s been really across the board. The themes and subject matter have really just been finishing up these ideas that have been floating around. I haven’t been making a particular body of work–just lots of different ideas to kind of get them out of my head, sort of like a sketch book of actual work if that makes sense. [Autumn]: In what ways has your artistic focus shifted or developed in the past year? [Luke]: I’ve been working with paper more, so that’s been interesting. I’ve been doing a couple of collaborations with paper artists. Really it’s been about moving into Kansas City because I’m new here and sort of seeing what that is and meeting other people. So sort of meeting Kansas City and finishing up old ideas so they’re kind of out and my brain is free to start the next project. [Autumn]: What can we look forward to seeing at the Open Studios? What have you been preparing for this event? [Luke]: Well I’ve been doing ceramics a lot this year, as well as quilting. So I’ll probably put up a shelf of ceramics. Part of my residency was to meet Kansas City and introduce myself around, so probably it will be like a small catalogue of works versus any particular thing, if that makes sense. Like just different examples of things that I do so that anyone who comes through is like, “Oh okay. Now I get him and his idea.” [Autumn]:In what ways does your medium influence the subject matter you choose? [Luke]: Lots of ways. I mean quilting versus painting versus photography versus performance, you know. I guess the medium has within it an existing history and story. Everyone comes to quilting with certain context, “Oh my grandma made it,” or “I’ve used a blanket before,” or “What does it mean that you’re using craft as a medium?” It’s just different. I think the difference with quilting is that people’s preconceptions are pretty loud. You have a context and a nostalgia that people are kind of working for and against and seeing the work unlike some kind of canvas media.
Haynes says his expansion into new mediums, especially ceramics, has been a way for him to explore art on a new scale.
“I prefer to make full-size quilts. If I’m making quilts as art I want them to be the size that works on the bed because that actually makes sense…so trying to scale down has been interesting because if I make it smaller, then it’s not a quilt in my mind—that’s my own opinion. Plenty of people make small ‘art quilts,’ which is what they call them. If I’m going to take it out of the context of being a quilt, then I have to reimagine everything else. Why is it fabric, why not paper? I’ve been working with paper and that’s kind of fun, but why not metal, why not three-dimensional? Why not make a building out of fabric and then call it a quilt? I’ve been really knocking my head against the wall for years trying to figure out how to do scale differently. I think ceramics is going to be the answer to that because ceramics is a different scale already and that makes sense to use a different medium to scale versus trying to force something into something that it is not.”
His new ceramics projects, although related to the quilts in some ways, are very much their own entity, bringing their own challenges and ideas.
“I made a thousand pieces in the first year and now that I’ve hit a thousand, I started a project called “A Hundred Red Cups.” I’m working on form all in the same color. I’m trying to do throwing, hand-building, shaping, you know just all the different ways I can make cups, but they’re all the same color so it’s all formal works versus decorative works. I mean they’re all vessels, they’re all cups, planters, bowls, things that I’ve made. There’s nothing sculptural because I love the utility of them. Same with quilts, like this [points to quilt hanging on wall] you could take it off, like I’ve used this on the bed. I mean it’s kind of goofy to have a big picture of yourself on the bed, but it still can be used and I think it’s kind of funny”
There was something about Luke: maybe it’s his welcoming nature, light sense of humor, or his ability to talk to you like an old friend. He was familiar and inviting like a warm quilt or your favorite coffee mug. Maybe it was the dog wagging around the studio, it kind of felt like home. Come check it out on April 20 at Open Studios and get to know Luke and his amazing work.