I’m writing this special blog post from a tiny coffee shop in Nevada City today. The air is crisp with autumn here and rain is on the horizon. I finally have a moment to pause and reflect on today’s Maker, my weaving ally and friend, Neil Goss.
Neil and I have been friends on social media for quite sometime and last summer in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of spending an evening with him. We wrapped over fancy cocktails and spoke of fiber arts, business and our perspective on the woven future ahead. He has such an amiable presence and kindness that makes it easy to get lost in conversation. There is a softness to his presence as well as this wildness that I relate to his work. His giant installations vary in nature from 15 foot hemp giants to panels woven to resemble birch wood. His emphasis is on all natural and naturally dyed, educating like minds to the conscious resurgence of hemp and being a maker of the handmade revolution. He has been teaching backstrap weaving and natural dying alike for sometime and now that he is relocating to the West Coast, there a will plenty more opportunities for many to learn his ways. As a male weaver, I really respect his role within the modern weaving movement and his respect towards all his weaving sisters who are leading the way. Below is his interview.
What is your brand/name:
Live and Dye Naturally/Neil Goss
What is your heritage?
Irish, German, French
What are 3 reference points of inspiration for your work: (philosophy/culture):
Biocentrism has been a core influence in my work since 2010. That is the belief that everything (humans, animals, insects, plant Earth, etc.) possesses inherent value despite what a human being believes or sees as valuable. I employ that as a life way and train of thought.
Ephemerality plays a huge part in my work as well. I strive to make work with materials and processes that don't hurt the Earth. A lot of my work is made with the intention of decomposing being made from Earth materials and offered back to Earth in a different form. In a sense, giving the materials a second life and form before returning to where it came from. I also make work that is intended to be preserved in homes, galleries, businesses, etc. However, I know that if the work is discarded or the world ends or something similar that it will smoothly return to the Earth. I am a maker and I try to be conscious to make work that isn't going to weigh down negatively on our home planet.
Indigenous tribes of all continents also inspire my work greatly. I highly respect the ways in which all of these peoples live with the Earth and hold it in high regard. Every aspect of the many different indigenous cultures of the Earth has great significance and meaning. For example, their clothing, traditions, food, rituals, ceremonies, community, tools, housing, etc. Their use of Earth materials and abilities to repurpose them into elaborate, textured, functional, technological masterpieces inspires me deeply.
What are 3 skills you've learned in representing yourself as an artist:
Proposals! Probably 75% of the work and opportunities that I have attained has been from proposals. I'll reach out to certain organizations, institutions, individuals, etc. and propose a project of sorts. In this way, I am offering my abilities and services to those who I think would be interested in the work that I am doing.
Community building is very important. Even if you are representing yourself as a solo artist, you can't do it alone. We all need help and we all have strengths and weaknesses. I believe it is important to be involved in your community, support one another and give back as much as possible.
Developing a "specialty" that can be offered to the world. There are so many artists out there now a day and you have to have something special to offer. This can be a skill, craft, trade, knowledge, talent, process, concept, etc. Somehow, make yourself standout. Don't just be an "artist" a "weaver" a "painter" etc. Have something unique to offer.
What are 3 skills you believe are a necessity to be an independent artist/designer?
Self motivation is a huge one, especially if you are on the journey solo. No one else is going to be pushing you to get your tasks done. You have to light and sustain your fire. At times support will come along to help fire the kiln but outside of those times I've got to keep myself moving forward.
Persistance/drive is vital to being an independent artist. There is such a small percentage of successful artisans in the world who get "discovered" or become "successful" at a young age. Many aren't respected or accepted until later on in a career. We can't give up or we will never get anywhere. Feeling inadequate, like you aren't going anywhere or that the art life is too challenging/not reliable enough are thoughts I have all the time. Then I say screw it, this is the only thing I meant to do. Hard times come and hard times go. Good times come and good times go. We just have to keep having the times.
Entrepreneurship is an obvious necessity being an independent professional artist/designer. If one wants to solely be an artist/designer, you unfortunately have to think about your work as a business. This doesn't have to be negative and one doesn't have to "sell out." But bills, rent, debts, medical expenses, food and all other expenses are not going away and we have to make income doing what we do or it simply won't work this day in age. Having multiple revenue streams is a great idea too to make this more tangible.
What moved you to make with your hands:
I've always been a maker. My mom kept a ton of my art work from when I was young which I now have. Without the support, love and care of my parents I wouldn't be an artist. They believe in everything I do and it has helped immensely. I knew I wanted to be an artist "professionally" from middle school on, probably 6th grade. I knew that I was going to do textiles from early in high school. My brother had recommended me to take the home ec sewing class (he had taken it) to meet cute girls. I didn't meet any cute girls or fall in love with any girls but I fell in love with textiles and sewing in the form of quilts and clothing. I have since shifted what it is I do with textiles after being exposed to weaving and dyeing in college.
If you could travel anywhere today, where would you travel and why:
Peru. I've wanted to go to Peru ever since I found out about backstrap weaving. In my subjective opinion, they are the best backstrap weavers out there. I would love to go and study with them and watch their mastery first hand. I was supposed to go on a study abroad trip there during college but the program was cancelled due to questionable reasons. I did have the opportunity to later take a workshop with Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez, the founder of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco. We connected during the workshop and I plan to go there as soon as I can.
3 Favorite songs at the moment:
Anything from Cat Stevens has been feeling right recently. One song that I've been really vibing to is "Pop Star." I'm not concerned with being a pop star or being on TV or famous or any of that but I can really relate to how he is speaking to his to mother and essentially trying to make her proud of him. My father passed when I was 15 and my mom has been so strong and amazing through out the 13 years that he has been gone. I am currently living and working to get to a point where I can support not only myself, my wife and future children but also my mother. She deserves only the best in the world. I know that she hurts and struggles but she rarely shows it. She is such a source of inspiration for me. She has supported me and given me so much. It hurts when I think about all that she has gone through yet it is uplifting to see how she has handles so many different challenges. She has worked so hard her whole life I want to give her a huge break so she can relax and focus on herself for once. I love you mom, thank you for everything you have done. You are amazing.
Can I Kick It? and/or We the People from A Tribe Called Quest. I've been blasting "Can I Kick It?" because I've been in solitude a lot lately and have been craving social interaction when around people so its kind of my pitty party song of, "hey, can I hang out?" We the People is one of my favorite tracks released in the past few years. It is so heavy and on point and a musical masterpiece. Also, when I first heard it I was writing a show proposal called "We the People" so it just felt right.
Losing You from Solange. My wife has been playing a lot of Solange in the past few months and when I first heard "Losing You," my mind was blown. I honestly couldn't comprehend my love for it. It is such an attractive song, soft and yet powerful. It is probably my current favorite song that I could solely listen to for the next month or two.
What advice would you offer your fellow female makers? What business advice?
Establish a tax ID either as a sole-proprietor or an LLC (I have an LLC so that the business can live after I die). Keep all receipts, write of all expenses like materials, mileage, utilities, research purchases, business travel, show apps/proposal fees, etc. Don't be ashamed to do crowdfunding, it is a good opportunity to fund an unusual or large project. Be ambitious, don't take any shit, follow your dreams. Its not easy going down the path of a professional artist, but easy is boring and easy is giving in. Life is all about fighting. Despite our current political climate, the future is female. My favorite artists and humans are females and I believe that if you pursue your dreams with everything you've got, you can't fail. I understand the patriarchy is against females but we are going to smash that shit. So many people all over the world are in process of smashing the patriarchy and you can't stop the numbers.
What advice would your 65 year old self to you today?
I hope that I live to be 65. I honestly don't see that happening. But if it does, I assume that my 65 year old self would tell me take better care of myself so that I can be a better citizen to my fellow human beings. And you know what, I'm going to listen starting today.
What change would you most like to see in the world?
Human beings uniting through respect for the Earth. I want all humans to treat and be treated with respect and love no matter their skin color, sexual orientation, gender identification, religion, language, ethnic origin or class with the hopeful result of equity. I would also like to see hemp legalized and grown on an industrial scale once again to aid in saving humans, animals, soils, the environment, and the planet.
Any additional thoughts on the importance of artisanal/handmade goods in a fast pace Western World?
Artisanal/handmade goods are so important in the face of the modern Western World where technology is taking over. I mean, we are soon no longer going to have to drive our cars! Humans are becoming useless. We have to continue making and doing but I also believe it is important to put your money into businesses and materials that support humans and the Earth. I think that all makers should questions their material and process choices. Handmade goods are obviously more expensive but I think that we should attempt to live with less and put money into the hands of individuals and not corporations. Support living artists.
You can find Neil here.