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In the studio with… Sheila Hicks

31 May 2021

The Nebraska-born artist Sheila Hicks started out in the 1950s as a painter, but today she is celebrated for her textile sculptures – ranging from small wall hangings to towering, room-filling installations. Inspired by ancient and contemporary weaving cultures from around the world, Hicks often collaborates with local craftspeople to create these sculptural explorations of fibre, colour and form. Ahead of a major survey at the Hepworth Wakefield, scheduled to open in 2022, an exhibition of new work is currently on view in ‘Sheila Hicks: Music to My Eyes’ at Alison Jacques in London (4 June–31 July).

Where is your studio?
Paris, in the ancient Cour de Rohan, near to the Cluny Museum and Jardin Luxembourg, Pont Neuf, Le Procope and Rue de Seine.

What do you like most about the space?
It is in a peaceful cobblestone courtyard, where I can divide my time between a collaborative working space on the ground floor and, upstairs, an isolated greenhouse with magnificent light.

What frustrates you about it?
The ceiling height is limited. I often work on tall vertical sculptures. When the weather permits, I can assemble and build works out in the courtyard.

Sheila Hicks in Cour de Rohan, Paris May 2021.

Sheila Hicks in Cour de Rohan, Paris, May 2021. Photo: Cristobal Zanartu

Do you work alone?
Part of every day and night I work alone. The other part I work with specialised craftsmen and women.

How messy is your studio?
Every thread, pin, needle, scissor, chalk, pencil, brush, paper and book has its established space and place.

What’s the weirdest object in there?
Alien and automated tools – like the iPad, computer, telephone, vacuum cleaner, fire extinguisher, Interphone.

Which artistic tool could you least do without?
Coloured crayons and pencils. An immense assortment of thread, yarn, string, fabric, papers, trims, paint.

Lianes Colsa (2020), Sheila Hicks.

Lianes Colsa (2020), Sheila Hicks. Courtesy Alison Jacques, London; © Sheila Hicks

What’s the most well-thumbed book in your studio?
Weaving as Metaphor [a monograph of Hicks’ work] and the catalogue of the archaeological Museo Amparo of Puebla, Mexico.

Do you cook in the studio?
Microwave for selective visitors. Or fruit platters, and frequent tea and coffee rounds.

What do you listen to while you’re working?
Radio: classical music channels and France Culture with news flashes.

Do you ever sleep in your studio?
When necessary.

Is anything (or anyone) banned from your studio?
Curiosity bums and non-stop talkers. Squatters, vendors, lost tourists, hustlers, unhinged wanderers. Moths, fleas, and mice.

‘Sheila Hicks: Music to My Eyes’ is at Alison Jacques, London, until 31 July.