Harriet Watts is a designer, craftsperson and academic based in Newcastle. Focused on the sense of “holding”, Harriet’s journal explores the grounding energy and inspiration from nature. Harriet reflects on her living environment and the surrounding landscape through texts and photographs.
“How do we hold
The things that are precious
This rock, and that leaf
The way the strings are strummed
And fill the room
The words that need to be said
And the gentle ear that catches them.”
We asked Harriet three questions about her experience of isolation, completing this journal and her hope for the future. These are her responses:
Describe the experience of the period of isolation for you.
Isolation has been many things, often contradictory; a relief, challenging, a slowing down, settling, quiet, connecting, informative, lonely, playful, turbulent, a stable time, disturbing, inspiring, engaging, abundant, flowing with creativity, a time of present curiosity, a time for sitting with, and time for doing.
What does your book represent and how did you approach the challenge?
This time has been an intermingling of public and private time, space, and ideas, and I found it difficult to find ways I could share with others in this format. I developed some mediums that felt relevant, representative and safe – poems, lists, photographs and sketches. I also allowed myself to come back through to redact, hide, or take attention away from what felt too revealing, while leaving its essence there, underneath. I tried to share both everyday activities (what I did with my time), as well as some of the undercurrents of thoughts and reckonings. I used basic limited materials and almost no colour to represent the restriction of the time.
What do you hope will change in Australia as a result of the pandemic?
My hopes have been high, numerous and changing. Some include; a more transparent, cohesive, and direct politics, policy change on significant issues, a more prominent recognition of the way natural and human systems and interact, lesser desire to travel internationally, an increased appreciation of and engagement with our own country and culture, a better appreciation for clean air and unpolluted environments, stronger and more active local communities.
Harriet is a designer, craftsperson and academic based in Newcastle, NSW. Her practice frequently engages with sustainable design theory and wider ecological thought, including ideas around material value, material use-life, ephemerality and change. Her work often explores less material intense ways of living, including questioning the notion that durability equals sustainability. Her practice also encompasses developing adaptable objects to meet the changing physical and emotional environments of the contemporary world.
Harriet is a Sessional Academic and Research Assistant at UNSW Art & Design. She was a founding director and designer at The Fortynine Studio throughout its operation from 2010-2018. She has professional experience working across object, textile and exhibition design, creative thinking and conceptual design. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including at the Australian Design Centre, the National Gallery of Victoria, and at Milan Design Week.
View Harriet Watts' journal here:
Image: Harriet Watts, Design/Isolate Journal (detail), 2020.