Interview With Jeff McCann

Jeff McCann works with repurposed cardboard, allowing him to further his boundaries of creative form.  His works extend from wearable and functional designs, from handbags and jewellery, to meticulous, geometric yet psychedelic pieces of hanging wall art. Jeff McCann CANN-do just about anything. His transition into the field of jewellery and costume pieces has seen the production of authentic works that explore his yearn for unabridged consumption. His works allow for a desire to be consumed by more than just the eye and, instead, become extensions of the body. They complement rugged timber surfaces and lustrous, green succulents. Jeff McCann’s stunning, unique artworks highlight his ability to upcycle and transpire cardboard ‘trash’ into beautiful, detailed works of treasure.

How long have you been making art?
I have always been creative but it wasn’t until I finished university that I started to really focus on what kind of work I wanted to make. Spending time exploring and experimenting with different processes and projects.

What do you do for a living? Or are you a full time artist?
I currently work full time as a visual merchandiser in retail. Creating window displays and store set-ups. When I am not there I am at home working on my creative practice. Hopefully soon I can take the leap into being a full time artist.

What is your general art making practice?
I am a maker of things. Over the past three years I have worked on wearable and functioning objects/designs, starting with Flute Bags (handbags, backpacks and clutches). Now I have begun moving into jewellery and costume pieces, (brooches, earrings, necklaces, head pieces, chokers and glasses.) I want to make work that can be worn. So my work is not just passive and viewed.

What role does material play in your works? How important is the material you use to you?
My material plays a large part in my practice as I use repurposed cardboard. The cardboard for me helps to be more playful and experimental. I am not afraid of making a mistake because there is always more cardboard for me to collection from local shops.

Do your works have a deeper than face meaning?
For me I want my work to always embody an element of fun. I want my work to be approachable for my audience, so they can look at it and see how it was made and hopefully it sparks something creative in them. I also definitely connect to being more environmentally aware with my practice. To showcase how we can take what is considered rubbish and turn it into something of function and worth again.

What is the reason for your hanging style works?
My hanging work takes on two forms. The first is my tapestry style artworks, which are inspired by textiles and rugs. The other style is where I make my own cardboard canvases and paint onto them.  I like to create my hanging style works this way as it means I am involved in the whole process of the work. So by the time I start drawing/painting I am already comfortable with the “canvas”. The brown colour of the paper and cardboard also helps me avoid that ‘empty white canvas’ fear. Just paining onto a store purchased canvas just doesn’t feel natural for me.

Are you still working on your label ‘Cardigan Threads Collective’? What does the label explore & create?
Yes. Cardigan Threads Collective is simply the larger umbrella that my projects all come under. As I work on different types of projects and see myself venturing into more products and services work. I wanted a way to create different projects but still have them sit under one identity. So whether I am painting a mural, designing costumes, doing a market stall or face painting at an event, it can all lead back to one place.

What is the art making process for your invention titled ‘flute bags’?
Flute Bags have now evolved into the next stage of collaboration. For 5 years I spent designing and launching the cardboard bags. Now I want to collaborate with other artists in creating capsule collections. Last year I completed the first collaboration with Sydney artist Ruby&Wolf. Where I created the bags and Ruby painted on them. We held and exhibition and all bags were for sale. It was a huge success and I want to continue doing this as I love to collaborate and bring more people into my creative world.

What are you most proud of thus far in your artistic life?
I am extremely proud of my persistence and commitment. There have been times where I get tired and miss out on opportunities. But I then remember how much I love to be creative and it sparks my fire again. I am proud of how I have grown as an artist.

Where do you see yourself, as an artist, in the future and what do you hope to achieve?
I see myself working full time as a creative. I will be working on multiple projects with lots of collaboration. My main goal is to be working closely with musicians on onstage costumes, stage design, music videos and art direction.

As an ‘artrepreneur’ what projects have you worked on? And what did that involve?
Most recently I worked on creating sculptures for a music festival in Dubbo. I create three large pyramid sculptures that were assembled in the festival grounds and afterwards relocated to the local cultural centre.

I also completed a mural at Gaffa gallery in Sydney (CBD). It was painted in the foyer of the gallery.

How would you define your works in three words?
Playful, inventive, colourful.

Are you working on any new series or individual pieces currently?
At the moment I have a few projects coming together. I am working with a photographer on getting some of my costume pieces documented so I can start pitching to musicians. I have some live art and face painting ideas I want to flesh out and planning for the second Flute Bags collaboration is underway. So stay tuned.

Do you have any shows coming up?
Nothing as yet, but check out my instagram to stay in the loop @jeffmccan

Lap up some of that good Jeff McCann stuff here.

Words: Lotte Thomson-Vock