Artist Feature : Mackenzie Westra
For Mackenzie, we specifically selected pieces with durability and functionality: highlighting our organic denim coveralls and everything linen with pockets for storing tools…something that she could work in!
Mackenzie is authentic, creative, and inspires us with how she shows up for her craft every day. Influenced by natural elements and colors- her original work encompasses a familiar and handmade aesthetic. She spends her days in a beautiful studio as a maker: weaving onto driftwood and firing her pottery. We snuck in to her space to see her at work and marveled at her creations (and her amazing plants.)
Tell us a little bit about your story - how did you get where you are today?
I grew up in a really small town in Middleville Mi, my parents raised us on a small hobby farm. Raising animals gave me a large principle to get up everyday and show up with work ethic. I went to Kendall College of Art and Design for my BFA in Sculpture and Functional Art, my focus in my program was very much towards clay but I self guided my work in a completely different area such as fibers. After college I started networking and here I am today, a working artist, making a career out of something I love.
What does a typical day in the life look like?
A typical day would include slow mornings on the couch with my partner. Then making my way into the studio. Filling wholesale orders, visiting local shops, stocking shelves. Then returning home to work on weaving goods, set aside time to cook and hang out with my little family. I have two dachshunds (Ramsey & Evie, and our Sphynx (Lord).
Where do you get your inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from being outside, my partner and I love to just jump in the car on our days off with the dogs to go sight seeing. I draw inspiration from just being aware of my surroundings and sourcing my materials locally and from nature.
Tell us about your craft. What tools do you use? What is your process? How long does it take to complete a piece?
With weaving my tools are: Loom, Tapestry needle, Cotton Warp string, and all of the yarns that I use are all natural yarns. My favorite yarn to use is a 100% Wool Roving yarn, normally in a natural color or ivory. Just because I can match it with any accented color. My process with picking my wool roving that I felt on top is- I throw it all out on the floor and start color matching. Picking what goes best with what and what color schemes are the best for the rainbows or moons I’m working on. When completing a piece I don’t know they all range on how long they take me. Some days it takes me like an entire day for a 12” x 24” – but on a good day I can finish 3 or 4 of them.
Clay- my tools are my slab roller, rubber kidney rib, needle tool, exacto blade, and the list goes on. My process is normally rolling out a slab letting it dry for a while then start cutting into it. After I cut the shapes out of it I start working with each one until I get them the shape I want by pinching the sides and rotating it constantly so I can see what it looks like at every angle. After that let them dry for a few days. Then in the kiln they go, after they are bisque they then will be glazed and fired then fired once more for the gold luster. It takes quite a while to complete 1 piece. I would say the overall turn around of one item is 1- 1.5 weeks.
Describe your space? How does it work for you? Are there any challenges?
My studio is an old south Grand Rapids building currently transitioned into artist studio spaces. I like my space- it’s not ideal, but where I am in my career it’s a transitional space to where I would like to eventually end up. My ideal space is to have a studio in an outbuilding at my home, or a storefront where I can teach classes and host other artist’s work. I love my space though; I was able to customize anything I wanted with it. The only challenge with it I would say is that the walls are super thin, and you can hear people walking upstairs. But other than that it’s pretty great.
What do you usually wear to work on your craft? What makes a garment function well for you? How do you interact with your clothes while working?
Normally when I am working I like to be comfortable so I will throw on a pair of linen pants and a hand knit sweater with an apron. Or in the summertime I will just wear linen dresses with an apron. When working with clay I am constantly covered in it so having an apron on is a must.
As you know, Conscious Clothing is all about being conscious about our consumption and how we interact with the earth. How do incorporate eco or sustainability practices into your life?
I use a lot of natural body care products, buy locally from farmers in my area, and buy from local natural shops, and I love thrifting. In my art practice, I’m constantly using natural fibers, and clay. All of the driftwood I use for my weavings is sourced out west where my Grandmother resides, in Cody WY.
You are a fellow West Michigander; do you have any favorite places or things to do in Michigan?
I grew up in Michigan, so Michigan summers are the best summers. But my partner and I have plans to move west. We love the openness of the mountains and how no matter where you turn there is always something beautiful to look at. But I do consider Michigan home because we have our family and friends here.
What are your favorite pieces in the Conscious Clothing collection?
My absolute favorite piece from the collection is the backyard jumpsuit. Its so versatile, and so easy to wear I could wear it out to dinner or to weaving in my studio.
All images by the fabulous Leigh Ann Cobb