Here is what she had to say about herself:-
Alena Donely, Salford University Graduate – Hand Tufted Degree Show Design .
(Photo with kind permission Craig Tattersall)
My name is Alena Ruth Donely, and I am a tufting artist based in Salford. I’m a recent graduate of BA Hons Visual Arts (now Fine Arts) from the University of Salford, where I was introduced to the tufting gun. I have used the equipment almost daily for 2 years and am now in the process of getting my own tufting gun. Over the next year I am going to run tufting tutorials and workshops in my studio space at Islington Mill.
My artwork is large, colourful and fluffy. I create bold geometric designs that often talk about personal experiences. This physical art form acts as my own art therapy, as the textured results are comforting and remind me of home. I am often inspired by old fabrics owned by my grandmother, as I grew up around her sewing and tapestries. The end appearance of my vibrant tufting may seem feminine in it softness, but the process behind the artwork is anything but. Shooting yarn through a powerful, masculine, air-compressed gun requires energy and easily makes me sweat. As a petite woman, I had to have a step built for me at university so I could reach the top of the tufting frame. Having a strong, durable piece of artwork at the end rewards the physical and mental endurance of a full day of tufting.
What I love about tufting is its warmth and familiarity of a domestic rug, but you’re not meant to touch it because it’s art. Though I break that rule, and let most people touch my artwork because it’s a frequent request. Young children have been scolded once or twice by parents for touching my artwork, but I told them it was fine and was secretly happy that their instincts told them to do it! I’m interested in exploring interactive artwork further. My artwork draws people in because it is whimsical, a spectrum of bright colours.
The different needles and fluidity of movement of the tufting gun allow me to create dimensional ‘paintings’, with different lengths of yarn as my ‘brushstrokes’. One of my favourite pieces so far has been my tufted ‘Self-Portrait’, which was 57x126cm & mounted on a hardboard canvas, to fully present tufting as a painting tool. It was so heavy I couldn’t lift it by myself. I like to push the boundaries of the tufting gun, proven in my Degree Show piece which was 28ft in length.
A lot of my own personality is narrated through the patterns I tuft. I enjoy working spontaneously, with simple line drawings to follow on the back. My colour palettes are always chosen on the spot, and I try to pair yarn in unusual combinations. Fluorescent yellow is my favourite to use out of my rainbow collection of yarn. I also don’t use animal products in my artwork, so my favourites are some of the softest yarn choices – cotton, linen, polyester and acrylic. I love testing how different thicknesses of yarn interact when put through the tufting gun together, particularly mixtures of thin and chunky yarn. This exploration-based method often yields unpredictable results, but I keep most of the long misfired yarn as part of the artwork.
What made me decide to pursue being a tufting artist as a career, was a project with Ruth Barker and Castlefield Gallery in early 2018. I got such an overwhelming positive response for tufting in contemporary art, that I couldn’t give it up after university. Since then I have achieved a Scholarship, a commission and a contribution towards my own tufting gun! I’m incredibly excited about what the next year has to offer and how my career will progress. If you have any questions about tufting as contemporary art, you can contact me on alenaruthdonely.com via the contact form.
Photos with kind permission of Craig Tattersall