‘Hiedra’ translates from Spanish to English as ‘ivy’ – which is a plant that keeps on growing, covering the landscape and touching everything in its path. Hiedra is also the brand of Argentinian artist Sofia Salazar, who lives and works in the United Kingdom. Like the definition of her brand's name, Salazar is growing and gaining visibility through her own artistic exploration. Her work moves between the worlds of art and design – exploring craftsmanship through finding beauty in the distorted and the fluid.
We talk to her about her fascination with the in-between, developing a self-discipline, finding the courage to follow your own path, and being open to the inspiration that is always around us – we just have to tune in to it, and keep on being curious.
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 1.jpg
Can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing and how you got into art? You studied Textile design, right? How did your visual language develop since your education?
I studied fashion and textile design but with the years I started gravitating towards something that may be closer to art. I don’t know, I still feel I’m somewhere in between those two worlds.
Both my parents were art students when they had me and I was brought up in a very small apartment surrounded by pens and pencils and brushes. There was a lot of drawing and experimenting, any art related activity was encouraged and I also think I used that excuse to have my parents attention.
About the development of a visual language… I guess some people may be so special that they have it inside, but for me it is just a question of non stop research and trying. A daily mix of looking for inspiration and experimenting with my own versions.
The meaning of your brand Hiedra, translates from Spanish to English as 'ivy.' Can you tell us how you came up with this word and how it defines your brand-identity?
I think it defines me personally more so than it defines my brand. A plant that takes over.
I found the shift between art school and ‘the real world’ incredibly though. And I know lots of graduates struggle with this. You leave the safe bubble of art school, and suddenly have to row your own boat! How did you experience this change? Was it gradual for you? Do you have any advice?
Actually, I moved to England right after I graduated (literally a week later), partly because I knew I didn’t want to face that void of being in Buenos Aires ‘the day after.’ From one day to the next you stop from being a student to just being unemployed. I decided it was the perfect moment to change my whole context at once, and start over.
It took me some time to adjust, and even longer to actually make money. At the beginning I would do freelance pattern designs while researching and trying to figure out what I could make on my own. I wanted to build a portfolio, I wanted to have something to show. It was definitely a time of uncertainty and insecurity, I remember feeling everybody else was on a better place professionally and that I would be left behind if I didn’t act fast.
At the same time, I was quite confident in what I could achieve. I just didn’t know what shape it would have. I think the only advice I can sincerely give, is to keep on making until you hit something. It takes time to build your confidence, and to figure it out, but it gets easier the more you work at it. I never ended up having a formal job in a big company, but I remember I was rather afraid of that idea.
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 8.jpg
In our world, the concept of ‘home’ has become increasingly fluid and multiple. How did you end up in the UK? How important are your Argentinian roots and heritage to you on a personal and professional level? Do you think we can feel home in many different places?
I believe you can feel home in different places, yes. I also feel there’s always one place you’re missing at least a bit. That’s how I feel about buenos Aires. It still is the city where my friends are and a place I wish I could visit a few times a year. I still find myself daydreaming about being there from time to time. I like the idea of fluidity when it comes to many things, but especially the place where you choose to live.
We moved to the UK because my partner had a job offer and we didn’t have enough money to visit Europe as tourists; it just felt like the way to do it. But I never lost contact with Argentina, I don’t know if it’s about roots, but there’s definitely a lot of me that has to do with a lifestyle and a culture that isn’t the one of the place I currently live in. I’m for sure louder and more physical than the people who live here, but I’ve also taken a lot from them, every place has its thing and I enjoy absorbing from that. I feel I’ll keep on changing places a few more times in my lifetime. We’ll see.
Your work feels very intuitive and playful. How would you describe your work process? Do you have a set plan? Or does your process take you towards completely unknown places?
Well, while there’s for sure enjoyment and pleasure in the process, there’s also some structure that I need to put in place in order to organise my work. I wish I could work only when I’m inspired but the truth is I need to be able to work even when I’m not.
So, there are two main ways of working for me. Either I’m in one of those moments when I find something that starts me up and I can’t stop sketching and everything flows and without me knowing what I’ll be doing with it, or it's one of those moments when I start by deciding what kind of project or what technique I’ll be working on (will I make a woodcut print or a sculpture or an embroidery or a tapestry?). And then I start thinking according to that, and decide a theme or an art period to research or I start looking through the pile of old sketches and unfinished projects to find something I can now use for this purpose.
I try to sketch every time I can, I try to do it even when I think the result is disappointing, even if I can only get one drawing out of a whole afternoon. I try no to put too much pressure on them, try not think ahead, because even when I think they won’t work, those ideas end up making sense later, when I least suspect it. I trust that a lot.
How does inspiration play into this? Is it something you pick up in your daily life, that builds upon the process?
I think I’m prepared to observe my surroundings all the time, looking for something I can use and transform. It can be second hand art books or a Pinterest board, an exhibition, a set of tools, a documentary, watching someone work on instagram or a film. I love films and they inspire me in a way that’s more indirect than, say, a painting. Films can inspire me because of its colour scheme, music or just the general mood, settings or characters, it is more unpredictable. In that lack of control I feel there’s something surprising and very interesting.
“I always find that what I consider to be the most beautiful is something in-between, in-between what’s supposed to ugly and beautiful, what’s properly made and what looks like an accident and what’s feminine or masculine, if those terms still mean something. I’m waiting for the day we finally get rid of this gender binarism that I think is to blame for a lot.”
Mental health is becoming increasingly problematic, especially during current times with COVID-19. Do you think art and especially craftsmanship, can play a therapeutic role in dealing with staying sane during lockdown?
I find that working with my hands and being busy helps me with my anxiety; when I’m busy and excited about a project I seem to be able to focus for longer periods of time. Usually I can’t even read because my mind can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes. I like how I can suddenly become very patient if I’m embroidering one stitch at a time or if I’m carving away a piece of linoleum. That being said, whenever I’m really struggling, not even that works, so: yes, I think it can help keeping the mind at ease but I still think we should all consider getting professional help when It becomes too much to handle.
How has this period of confinement been for your mental health in relation to your work?
I was very lucky to be used to working from home already, so 2020 was a very productive year for me. I managed to work a lot, but of course I struggled with confinement as everybody else, especially with the uncertainty and the impossibility of seeing my friends and family even when the rules in Europe relaxed a bit. I spent the whole year without knowing if I would be able to travel back home and see my family (that I usually see only once a year already). It was a very lonely year and to be honest, I’m still worried about this year; I don’t have that many friends in England and I used to rely a lot on travelling for my social life. It has been challenging, no doubts about it.
This tendency of more and more artists reaching towards slower, more mindful ways of producing work might be a counter-reaction to the craziness of our world. Do you think this shift is necessary to create a more united and conscious future?
I think, in a way, that shift has to do with first world countries being used to having access enormous quantities of products and waste they didn’t really need or want, for too long. Finally we’re realising that we don’t need to own ten pairs of jeans and, more importantly we’re finally accepting that clothing cannot cost the same as, I don’t know, a lunch menu. At least I hope we are. I think we may be finally realising that there’s power in choosing where to spend your money and what companies or activities shouldn’t get your support.
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 16.jpg
The nude female body is depicted in numerous ways in your imagery. You turn art history on its head – as a woman taking charge of the female body, instead of from the male gaze. Does your work aim to start a dialogue? To shed the boundaries of how we perceive the female body, gender fluidity, taboos on sex and Western beauty ideals?
I don’t think I’m consciously trying to start a debate or a conversation about it, but these are definitely themes that live in my head constantly, things I think a lot about, things I obsess about a little. They exist in my work because they exist in my life, daily. Particularly the concept of beauty. I revolve around the idea of beauty a lot. And gender and beauty standards. What we’re supposed to find beautiful in contrast to what we actually find beautiful or exciting or arousing. Who are we supposed to feel attracted to.
I like playing with what can sometimes be considered ‘ugly’ or distorted, out of proportion, mixed, confusing, exaggerated. I like exploring what I find seduces me, moves me and what I find exciting. I always find that what I consider to be the most beautiful is something in-between, in-between what’s supposed to ugly and beautiful, what’s properly made and what looks like an accident and what’s feminine or masculine, if those terms still mean something. I’m waiting for the day we finally get rid of this gender binarism that I think is to blame for a lot.
With a growing community on Instagram, how do you use the platform in a healthy way? To balance the digital and exposed with the analogue and introspective aspect of your work?
I’m not sure I use it in such a healthy way! I do depend on it a bunch, consume and spend way more time on it than I would like to. But I’m getting better at it, I think. Especially now that I definitely don’t understand anymore what’s supposed to work for the algorithm, it made me relax (after a lot of stressing about it). It made me understand finally that the only way I have to achieve something through it, is by keep on making, my own distinctive work, taking as long as I need to.
I can’t create content daily, because I have to actually produce it, research, reach conclusions, try it and finally decide if it works or not. You can’t do that daily, or at least I can’t. So I decided to give myself the time and make something that’s worth the waiting.
I may not be viral anymore, but I’m happier with my current work than I was with whatever it was I made before that used to get all the likes. Maybe I’m wrong in my approach, but that’s how I’m dealing with it at the moment.
You use a lot of different printing and textile techniques. Do you think it's important to keep challenging yourself with new techniques? Are there any other mediums or techniques you would love to explore and implement in your practice?
My curiosity has a lot to do with who I am, it is simply a part of how I function, how I work, how I relate with the world and with others. If I get curious about something, especially about how something is made, then I’ll put all of my energy in trying to understand the process and then give it a try.
I think I keep on exploring techniques because I really do find pleasure in knowing how things are made and how things work. I’m always curious to know if I can make my own version of whatever I’m looking at. I would love to work with sculpture, furniture, ceramics, metalwork, woodwork, lights, and rugs.
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 4.jpg
I really appreciate how you completely follow your own path, regardless of what other people think. That’s strong! How important is it for you to keep your business small and personal? What are some non-negotiables, you don’t want to compromise on when developing your business?
Thank you! I don’t know if I’m purposely trying to keep it small, but I’m cautious about the collaborations I decide to accept. I ended up rejecting offers to work in collaboration with very big companies partly because I couldn’t really be 100% sure about the promised production conditions and also because I felt I was going to be producing an unnecessary amount of waste that made me feel very uneasy about the whole thing. I want to try to make this work without having to step on another person to do so.
I’m ambitious but I really don’t want to be greedy, or do something solely for the money. I consider myself to be very lucky, I have the job and the lifestyle I always wanted, I try to keep that in mind when having to take these decisions that aren’t always easy. I’m also still learning, it’s definitely a daily process.
Lastly, which female artists inspire you?
Blanca Miro Skoudy, Paloma Wool, Dai Ruiz, Claire Pony, Hilary Hahn, Erin M. Riley, Sara Andreasson, Le Raclet and Maria Luque.
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 20.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 21.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 11.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 12.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 19.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 23.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 22.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 14.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 7.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 24.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 26.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 15.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 10.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 17.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 18.jpg
Sofia Salazar Metalmagazine 25.jpg