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In 2010, the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès forged links between craftsmanship and contemporary art, with four residencies for French-speaking artists in each of the Hermès workshops. Mentored by artist Susanna Fritscher, Elisabeth Clark worked with leather artisans at the Maroquinerie de Sayat.
A graduate of London's Slade School of Fine Art (2008), Elisabeth Clark explores time, interstitial space and the graphic use of sound in her work. On arrival at Sayat in June 2010, she was immediately struck by the actions of the artisans at work, and their relationship to dance movements and primal gestures: a language of their own, co-existing alongside the workshop's day-to-day output and activities. In particular, she focused on the circular gestures of expert craftworkers practising the art of saddle stitch.
Close observation of the artisans at work inspired the creation of an upright circle of wood, four metres in diameter, sheathed in white leather. Like a suspended eye, or a circus ring, the empty disc frames the scenes played out in the workshop. A single line drawn across the space guides the viewer's gaze: 'I wanted to highlight the importance of the hand and its movement […]. The installation serves as a kind of doorway.' Clark's work focuses on the manual dexterity required to execute the stitcing movements: a gesture highlighting the importance of gesture.
The Maroquinerie de Sayat is a centre for fine craftsmanship at every stage of the leatherworking process: an ideal setting for cross-disciplinary experimentation and exchange, key aims of the Foundation's programme of artists in residence.