My own math skills tend to be limited to mathematics that have a visible component. Geometry is wonderful. Trigonometry is fun too. Calculus gets a bit dicey and I remain perennially confused about logarithms. I was delighted when I discovered that a crocheter has used her talents to create previously un-creatable mathematical shapes.
"For thousands of years mathematicians believed there were just 2 types of geometry, the plane and the sphere. But another more aberrant structure lurks beneath the surface of Euclid's laws - one that has been illuminated through the art of crochet." Institute for Figuring
" The crinkled edges of a lettuce leaf curve and expand in a shape that has perplexed mathematicians for centuries. Those curves -- an example of a high-level geometry concept called the hyperbolic plane -- were not even defined by geometry theorists until the 19th century. And in the almost 200 years following, mathematicians struggled to find a way to model the complex shape known as the geometric opposite of the sphere. Then mathematician Daina Taimina picked up her crochet needles and some synthetic yarn, and the problem was solved. In 1997, Taimina, of Cornell University, found a way to crochet her way into 'hyperbolic space.' Her woolen creations, which resemble crenulated flowers and hair scrunchies, became the first physical models of the hyperbolic plane." All Things Considered
When asked how she decided to crochet hyperbolic planes, Taimina explains:
"Many students and mathematicians... wanted to have a more direct experience of hyperbolic geometry - an experience similar to handling a physical sphere. In 1868, the Italian mathematician Eugenio Beltrami ... made a version of his model by taping together long skinny triangles - the same principle behind the flared gored skirts some folk dancers wear. In the 1970s the American geometer William Thurston had described a model of hyperbolic space that could be made by taping together a series of paper annuli, or thin circular strips. All these models were time-consuming to make and hard to handle; they are fragile and they tear easily. I realized that Thurston's construction could be made with knitting or crochet - basically all you'd have to do is increase the number of stitches in each row. I grew up in Latvia doing these handicrafts and I decided to try and make one. At first I tried knitting, but after a while you had so many stitches on the needles it became impossible to handle. I realized that crochet was the best method." Cabinet Magazine
"A life sized rendering of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper constructed from 20,736 spools of thread strung onto aluminum ball chain. When seen with the aid of optical devices, the spools of thread coalesce into realistic images of Christ and his disciples..
When seen with the naked eye, the spools of thread appear as an abstract arrangement of multi-colored blocks/3D pixels, further abstracted by the fact that The Last Supper imagery is upside down and backwards. The clear acrylic viewing spheres rotate the imagery 180 degrees back to the correct orientation and condense the individual pixels/spools of thread into recognizable images. In addition, the spheres offer monocular views of the work, accentuating the illusion of 3 dimension as it exists in flat paintings. Leonardo da Vinci understood that the illusion of 3D in paintings was derived from monocular, not binocular, vision." This is the description of After The Last Supper, 2005. The work measures 85"h x 29'w. Yes, 29 feet wide.
"The imagery is derived from photographs, which I digitally manipulate and translate into low-tech pixels," says Sperber. "I am interested in the effects of digital technology on issues such as what constitutes reality, the effects of scale on perception and how the eyes prioritize. While many contemporary artists utilize digital technology to create high-tech works, I strive to 'dumb-down' technology by utilizing mundane materials and low-tech, labor-intensive assembly processes."
..."I often install the work so that viewers cannot back up sufficiently to see the photographic images directly," she says. "The photo-realistic imagery is only visible when seen reflected in strategically-placed convex or cylindrical mirrors, through reversed binoculars or viewing spheres. This shift in perception functions as a dramatic mechanism to present the idea that there is no one truth or reality, emphasizing subjective reality versus absolute truth."
Her inspiration for doing this manipulation? From The Wichita Eagle:
"Sperber got the idea of using spools of thread to make art in 1999 after seeing paintings by Chuck Close at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Close is famous for large portraits which are created by painting a grid of hundreds of small color-filled squares.
Sperber fed an image of a lake into her computer, then blew it up 1600 percent so that the image became a series of tiny, separate blocks of color, or pixels.
She then matched each of those pixels to a shade of sewing thread made by the Coats & Clark company, ordered 5,760 spools in the various shades, and then strung them on plastic tubing to recreate the original picture.
She discovered the reverse binoculars reduced the scale of the 6-foot by 10-foot curtain of spools when she was trying to determine if she had strung the colors in the right order. Just like the gallery at the Ulrich, her New York studio was confined; she could not get far enough away to let the picture come into focus.
"I couldn't tell if it was working and this was the first piece, so I was getting a little concerned," Sperber said. "Did I now own 5,760 spools of thread that I should now be selling at the flea market? And there was a pair of binoculars in the studio and I picked them up and flipped them around just to see if I could see, and I literally went, 'Wow!' "
Sperber has documented all of this magic on her web site. Her works are not limited to thread, but include compositions of marker caps, map tacks and chenille stems.
Thanks to Kim LaPolla and the quiltart mailing list for citing this artist!
"Have you ever wanted to ride an Electrolux motorcycle? Or wear a dress made out of bicycle tires? Discover how east coast artists are crafting everyday trash into extraordinary works of art in Trashformations East. New England thrift is taken to a new extreme in this exhibition featuring work by 112 artists who use found objects or recycled materials in unique ways. These artists find creative uses for other people’s garbage, making lingerie out of soda cans, jewelry from expired coupons and furniture out of everything from skis to lawn mowers. "
Curator Lloyd Herman, founding director of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, comments on art made from trash: "Why do artists choose the cast-offs of others with which to make art? Some are attracted to the colorful patterning of grocery store packaging, or magazine photos, or playing cards. Others like the texture of old shingles or chromed car trim. And some will see in the form of pencils, bedpans or clock hands new possibilities for them in art. Sometimes a shape will remind them of something else, but almost all makers like found objects for their art because such discards are usually free.
There are long traditions in America, and elsewhere, of castoffs in both mainstream sculpture and in folk art. We need think only of the uses that Louise Nevelson made of ten pins, wood shoe forms, and other familiar wood shapes in her wall assemblages. Or the witty toys made from coffee can tins for which Alexander Calder was revered. The creative re-use that Robert Rauschenberg, John Chamberlain, and Mark DiSuvero brought to refuse also come to mind."
Boston.com has a slide show of a few of the objects on display. The textile / fiber art works include:
Curator Lloyd Herman comments on a few of the fiber artworks:
"Lace-trimmed handkerchiefs may remind us of our grandmothers, setting us up for wistful references to a suggested past....
Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch's "Trashy Lingerie" -skimpy undergarments woven of soft drink can strips-would be pretty uncomfortable to wear. While revealing and sexually provocative, this underwear would also function as an impenetrable chastity belt. The mixed message seems to say "desire me, but don't touch me!" Perhaps these undergarments would be worn under Katherine Cobey's "Danger Dress" made of plastic warning tapes used by firemen and police. Another form of "protection" shown here is Diane Savona's "Domestic Armor," a garment made of oven mitts and pot holders.
Alyce Santoro has woven fabric from used music cassette tapes, and has fashioned from it garments that can not only be worn, but played-and have been, by Phish percussionist Jon Fishman, using recordings of his own music and that which has inspired him.
How about clothing a tree? Sarah Hollis Perry has knitted sweaters from recycled plastic bags to give trees a dash of style (if not warmth) with water-repellent color."
The Trashformations East exhibit was inspired by the original 1998 Trashformations show at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington. The 1998 exhibit lives on in book form (upper right). See your local library for a copy; its unfortunately been out of print for years.
Croque choux is a blog by an anonymous woman who reportedly was born in LA and lives in the suburbs of Paris. Well, since she complains about Paris traffic and picking her kid up from school, it seems real enough.
What caught my eye was her dragonfly done with free motion embroidery. Beginning with water soluble plastic and tulle, she built up the stitching until the charming dragon fly emerged. Another dragonfly is made of bead and angelina fiber wings.
Croque choux's fiber arts archive has lots of witty inspiration and links to resources available in Europe. You can find fabric postcards and a needle-felted bear. The Japanese section is not near large enough, but covers the beautiful fabrics and quirky animation that my daughters and I find so addictive. A final ink sends me on to her favorite museum: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
There appear to be at least two main varieties of light reactive yarn. Retroglo is a reflective yarn. "Retroglo® has 50,000 minute glass beads to the square inch, reflecting light back to a light source, such as a car's headlights. The driver sitting behind the headlights, immediately sees the reflected light and is alerted to the wearer ahead."
Uni-Glo is a phosphorescent yarn. Exposure to a bright light for 10 minutes causes the phosphorescent yarn to glow for hours. The yarn creates a work that changes with exposure to light, to the current lighting conditions and over time, as the light-emitting charge in the yarn slowly discharges. The possibilities for expression and exploration using this medium seem quite broad and not fully explored by fiber artists (needle-felters take note!). Antoinette Carrier and Christine Keller are two artists who created works using the light emitting yarn.
From a 1999 review by Jennifer Dudley of Antoinette Carrier's contemporary tapestry works: "Like ghosts, the works exhibited are semi-transparent, having a luminosity and glow achieved by the weaving materials used - shiny polypropylene twine, clear cling-wrap, silk, shredded silver-gelatine on paper, phosphorescent yarn, light - everything which encourages our perceptions of the insubstantial, of a shifting reflexivity, the ever elusive quality of memory, of things which are, and then are not. Where we stand determines what we see. Notations appear as text panels for a story-cloth, suspended slightly in front of the woven cloth surface, whose structure is also its dominant texture and contains in its weave the marks of its images."
For a presentation at Australia's 2004 Space Between conference, Christine Keller writes: "...these pieces respond to light in unexpected and unknown ways. The viewer will experience a space where images appear and disappear on the structures through illuminations of various kinds. Due to the properties of Retroglo yarns two layers of visual appearance are integrated in one fabric, alternately visible.
The phosphorescent pigment will store the projection in a ‘magic’ way and let go of it slowly. Layering of images is possible. This constructed textile surface has the potential to memorize the traces of light it is exposed to. A fabric is created which can carry various motifs. New high tech materials are being placed in the realm of contemporary art. The potential exists to expand these applications to performance, theatre and dance etc."
Image above by Christine Keller. Keller will be teaching a workshop at the 2005 Surface Design Conference, Uncovering the Surface.
Jean Hicks is a Seattle artist who works in three dimensional felt. For the practical, she makes felt hats. For the visionary, Hicks creates felt renditions of ordinary household objects: phones, chairs, and irons.
At Penland, Hicks began a hat project that melded political philosophy and sculpture into a felted hat. "... The impulse came from her desire to utilize the gesture that wearing a hat entails. "Just putting on a hat signals some intention. The red hats I made at this time are deliberately extreme shapes, because I wanted to give them a spirit of real animation. I wanted them to be about speaking up and speaking out.
"The project," she says, "came out of my emotions about the politics of that moment. In the face of warmongering, hatred and the curtailing of rights, people simply were not speaking up as much as they should."
Invited to participate in a fashion show at the Seattle Arts Festival, Bumbershoot, artists were required to complete the sentence, "Fashion is". Hicks' statement read: "Fashion is Facism: Style is Self-Defense". "...the hats were modeled by women who performed kajukenbo - an eclectic style of kung-fu that blends five distinct traditions."
For the production of Far Away, a play by Caryl Churchill, Hicks created all of the hats and coached the actors on the art of hat making. Image from the play above.
Hicks' work can be seen in person at some of the American Craft Council shows.
update: Friday Feb 25, 2005
Even more Gates humor: The Crackers. "Gift to the City — is it Art or for the Birds?"
Credit is shared with The Snack Project: Austin Quality Cheese Crackers & Creamy Peanut Butter, which also defines the color as "safety cone orange", not saffron.
It's here!! Christo - Gates humor!!
"Often Hargo's The Somerville Gates has been compared with Christo's "The Gates", Central Park, New York City. These comparisons have been unfair; sometimes the media has exaggerated -- even lied -- about the similarities. Differences abound ... The gates are not for sale. Neither is the cat.
And don't let anybody sell you tickets to these gates: it is free!"
The oooos and ahhs have subsided a bit - now we are getting to the critical (and even the catty) on Christo's gates in Central Park - and down to the money: who has the right to sell postcards of the Gates?
From the Washington Post: " There's not much tension between nature and man-made in this project, since Central Park is about as unnatural a bit of landscape as you could ever come across. The artists' gates just add an extra bit of decorative artifice to spaces that are pretty artificial, and decorative, anyway ...
...The gates are often said to be a classic "saffron" color, but to my eyes that's a much warmer, more flamboyant hue than what's now hanging in Central Park -- "saffron" ought to be the color of paella at midnight in Valencia or of the robes on an Eastern divine. Central Park's PVC archways, it seems to me, are an almost perfect, very modern, slightly pinkish "hazard orange."
Who owns the Gates images on postcards, posters and photographs?
Image rights may emerge as the one of the most interesting aspects of this installation. In January 2002, "Artist Christo has won the rights to images of Germany's Reichstag building, which he and his wife shrink-wrapped as an art project. The couple covered the parliament building in metallic silver fabric in 1995. Christo took legal action against a photographic agency which wanted to sell postcards with the image on. But Germany's Constitutional Court, the country's highest, has ruled the pictures can only be sold with the permission of Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude."
Robert Lederman, a New York arts activist, has reportedly been circulating an email claiming that a similar action is taking place in New York: "Christo's publisher claims a vast new degree of copyright and trademark protection. They claim they will prosecute anyone who sells their own original photos of The Gates; who makes and sells a drawing of The Gates or who even uses the words, The Gates, without their permission. They claim to have copyrighted the words, The Gates. They also claim to have an agreement with the media that media sources may only use news photos of the gates for the period the installation is up. That after that the media will only be allowed to use "official" photos of The Gates." An interesting discussion of copyright of public art on the blog Stay Free.
Photo above is by Nathan Blaney.
I got curious about his funding and financial gains from doing these huge scale projects. I found a couple of article that I would like to share. It does much to dispell thought #2 regarding boundless self-promotion.
"The fact that Christo and Jeanne-Claude pay for their projects with their own money is also an aesthetic decision, they want to work in total freedom, and is why they accept no sponsors, so that they can do: what they want, how they want, where they want, but of course, not always WHEN they want because it took them 24 years to get the permit for the Wrapped Reichstag, and ten years for The Pont Neuf Wrapped.
... There can be no money back on the expenses because they do not charge admission and they do not accept any commercial offers. The Christos have never received a cent for posters, postcards, books, films, etc. Most Artists receive grants, foundation money and produce commissioned works of art for an art patron -- the Christos do not accept those. They have never accepted sponsorship of any kind, and they never will, because they value their freedom most of all. Also they never accept to create a work in collaboration with other artists, nor the ideas of others for the choice of a site for their work. The search for freedom is the reason why Christo escaped from his native country Bulgaria, at age 21, while it was under Communist rule. Christo and Jeanne-Claude will never allow any kind of "strings attached." They refuse all commercial involvement -- at any price. They refused a ONE Million dollar fee for a 60 second commercial on Japanese television, in 1988. The Christos have lived at the same address since 1964 when they emigrated to the USA -- Christo's studio is on the 5th floor -- there is no elevator. This is their one and only home. Christo has never had an assistant. He works alone in his studio. He even does his own framing. Because the Christos work with so many hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people at the sites of projects, Christo's studio is the only place where he can be by himself, so that he can create the drawings which show their ideas of what a temporary work of art will look like. " from the Presidential Lecture Series at Stanford University
CNN's comments on the financial gains for the city of New York from the Gates project:
"The city's estimate of 90,000 additional visitors is based on attendance at other recent cultural events...But those numbers include New Yorkers -- not just tourists -- and officials don't know what portion were from out of town, so the figures are difficult to compare.
More tourists, along with the money spent on the project itself, could generate $2.4 million in additional tax revenue for the city, according to the city's economic development agency. "
How 'bout that? This is simply a wonderful gesture (and piece of art) to a city and to every person who partakes via photos or any other way. I can now lay aside my concerns and just enjoy it. It really is pretty cool - check out the NY Times slide show:
(click to "SKIP THIS AD" skip the ad)
There are many more images and in-depth information on the project at the site of Wolfgang Volz, their official photographer.
Michael Brennand-Wood is a textile artist working in the U.K., whose work focuses on patterns and the exploration of "meta-patterns, patterns that connect, reveal much in anthropological terms, about our spiritual, cultural and sociological history." His works all incorporate fabric, in some manner, but never in the traditional way. For one exhibition, Brennand-Wood's made 'lace' out of wood and fabric, blowing up the details to a giant scale and bringing a new meaning to the delicate, intricate work: "The pattern is inspired by pieces of Italian sixteenth-century lace, but Brennand-Wood diverts this from its original and expected use. Traditionally women made lace on a small and delicate scale. "It is an obvious symbol of femininity...As a man who works in textiles what I was really trying to do was to reclaim lace fabric for men...change people's appreciation of something they normally see as very small fragments." In order to change the connotation of the lace pattern, Brennand-Wood blows it up. It is a big work, 3.5m wide by 1.2m high. An interior and essentially domesticated construct thus becomes an architectural piece whose shape is reminiscent of stained glass."
Brennand-Wood's connection to fabric is the stuff of childhood: "'When I went to Art school, I thought 'I'm going to be a painter or a sculptor' and I got interested in using cloth as well, but in an expressive way,' explains Brennand-Wood.1 He finally hit what was, for him, the right track: "I didn't want to make dresses or to make furnishings...I would hopefully make art out of cloth. "It was an old family story. 'My grand-mother on my mother's side was a weaver in a cotton mill...North of England used to be a big weaving-cotton area...when I was a little boy I used to play a lot with fabric.'"
Drumcroon Gallery offers this description of Brennand-Wood's art and of the artistic process, in particular: "He was born and raised in Bury, Lancashire, (once a centre for the spinning and weaving of cotton) into a family who had worked in the mills. He remembers visiting the mill as a child and being fascinated by 'its amazing machinery with threads speeding backwards and forwards'. Fabric was a familiar childhood toy. His grandmother taught him to knit and sew, and he played with sheets of calico, cotton and bed linens which he inherited when she died. 'Field of Centres' uses fabric from this source. He also watched his grandfather at work with wood in the shed, and so the two materials with which Michael has formed his own visual language - textiles and wood - have grown out of a deep-rooted personal significance.
Paul Klee compared the artist to a tree, the roots are symbolic of what the artist gathers in, the trunk is the artist through which ideas eventually blossom. I feel that at the core of who I am today are the interests and influences of who I was as a child. Successive ideas drawn from experience build up in layers around the core, layers of references,each one accessible if you cut through to the next.'"
Some of Brennard-Wood's recent works are investigations into the floral patterns of textiles, but as a twist, Brennand-Wood creates patterns using live flowers and beads arranged on a fabric background. The final art piece is the photograph is the event. He has also created this same fascination with floral pattern using elaborate overlays of fabrics flowers, embroidery and stitch.
Last year at an antiques auction, I saw a footstool with circular wool patterns on it. I had to leave before the bidding for that item, but it has lingered in my mind. From my research, I have discovered that these are called 'penny rugs', though they are neither the traditional floor rugs, nor use pennies. One definition of the object: "Penny rugs are not actual rugs for the floor, but decorative coverings for beds, tables and mantles. They were even used as wall hangings. They seemed to have started around the time of the civil war in the United States. They are made out of felted wool scraps that are appliquéd with a blanket stitch to a wool background. Some designs feature circles (or pennies). Coins such as pennies were used as templates for the circle appliqués, thus the name penny rug." The current state of this craft is somewhat sad. Through the marketing efforts of craft suppliers, it would seem that 'penny rug' has come to mean any felt decorative object that is intended to lie flat. ick.
Rug Collector, R. John Howe has some wonderful illustrations of penny rugs, and an illustrated explanation of the process: "Here is, roughly speaking, how Penny rugs are made. First one selects some wool felt in various colors for the circles (the “pennies”). One then cuts circles from the felt in three sizes and sews the smaller ones (in a concentric way) onto the larger ones, being careful to combine colors attractively.
Finally, one sews the larger felt circles onto a cotton or linen backing, again arranging colors in ways that seem pleasing. The rows of circles are usually alternated with each subsequent row positioned in between the previous one."
A bit more information on the history of the penny rug: "In the 1800s, women would use scraps of wool or wool felt from old clothing and hats to create designs for mats or rugs. They would make circles using coins as a template. Each piece was then stitched in blanket stitch fashion. Sometimes, the mats or rugs were backed with old burlap bags or feed sacks. And to make the piece lie flat, a penny was stitched under one of the circles to weigh it down. Coins were so valuable then, that in today's world, if you are fortunate to find an antique piece containing one, you would have a very rare piece. Nineteenth century women were very creative and not wasteful. Thinking back to my own amazing grandmother, she was able to work her nimble fingers to the fullest whether in the kitchen or in the sewing room. How blessed I feel to have inherited her talents!"
"Anni approached textiles almost like a sculptor. She was of the opinion that "the thread should speak for itself, that somehow the hand of the artist, the hand of the craftsperson, the hand of the weaver wasn't going to interfere with how the thread wanted to be seen," says Matilda McQuaid, a Cooper-Hewitt curator. So significant were Anni's contributions that in 1949 she became the first woman textile artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art.
Interestingly, Anni had not wanted to take up weaving. As progressive as the Bauhaus was, its directors still had limited ideas of what women could do. But once herded into the textile workshop, Anni eventually took the process to new heights. She was known for experimenting with the new materials - combining more traditional linen and cotton with metallic and plastic fibers." from The first couple of modern design
Josef and Anni Albers were Bauhaus thinkers and designers, creating Europe's new world vision, based on the promise that high quality design of everyday objects could improve the lives of every person. These aspirations led the Albers to become refugees from the Nazis in Germany, to flee to New York. They were allowed to follow their vision as some of the fist professors at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. A decade after Anni ALbers' death, she is the subject of a retrospective at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York.
image: Anni Albers. Design for Wall Hanging. 1926. © The Joseph and Anni Albers Foundation
In late September 2004, a Columbus, Ohio fiber artist, Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, received a MacArthur Fellows Grant. These grants provide $500,000 to "talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction."
"Aminah Robinson uses fabric, needlepoint, paint, ink, charcoal, clay, and found objects to create signature works on canvas and in three-dimensional construction. Folk artist, storyteller, and visual historian, Robinson celebrates and memorializes the neighborhood of her childhood Poindexter Village in Columbus, Ohio, and her journeys to and from her home. In drawings, paintings, sculpture, puppetry, and music boxes, she reflects on themes of family and ancestry, and on the grandeur of simple objects and everyday tasks. Her works are both freestanding monuments and fractional components of an ongoing odyssey. Robinson is a master of assemblage; her elegant collages are Homeric in content, quantity, and scale (some canvases are 20 feet or larger) and many of her exhibited pieces are works-in-progress, several years in the making." 2004 MacArthur Fellows Biography
The Columbus Enquirer newspaper describes Robinson's work, "The RagGonNon for the Freedom Center is on a long table in the basement. She rolls it up on both ends to work on its intricate surface. "There's a lot of work to do," she says, shaking her head. "It's a lot of work to do in a year." She's not sure how long this portion is. She has never seen it unraveled. When the other half of the piece was about to go to the Columbus Museum of Art, curators brought it to a large room at the museum to unfurl and see in its entirety."
Robinson doesn't limit her work to strictly fiber. Capital University has a collage on fig leaf by Robinson. That same collection also includes a Figure Study Triptych, done in watercolor and ink. From her constant creativity, Robinson has also illustrated several children's books, including Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas, The Shaking Bag and A Street Called Home.
Kay Kahn creates quilted vessels that combine fiber, drawing, 3 dimensional space and line in symbolic containers. Thirteen Moons Gallery writes about Kahn's work: "The grid, stitched into all of her vessels, suggests order and mapping of an archeological site. Kay says 'The landscape conjures a visual stream of consciousness, things that I relate to each element…. the landscape as a place that holds secrets and hidden histories.'" Click on the images to see details of each piece.
In 2003, FiberScene for an exhibition of Kahn's vessels, described her work: "Kay Kahn's work recalls ancient Greek faience. Her multi-layered images create a traveling landscape. Memories of childhood, wandering thoughts and fleeting moments grace the surface of her vessels."
The construction of Kahn's work is highlighted in a Simply Quilts episode, " By heavily stitching the fabric, Kay forms stiff panels that she "sculpts" into three-dimensional objects. Kay describes her technique as 'stitching with a lot of layers.'" There is also an image of the artist on this site.
Hibberd McGrath Gallery has more images in large format.
Mary Cozens-Walker was featured in LoM last December. At that time, there were few web images available of her painterly-sculptural fiber work. This past summer, Fiberart Gallery had a show of her work and has archived several of the images online.
Boundary Gallery offers this insight into Cozens-Walker's work: "Mary Cozens-Walker draws strength from her memories of seemingly trivial events shared with her husband, Anthony Green, and their daughters - meals, attending church, visiting aunts, walking the dog etc. She introduces these subjects in a combination of her chosen media - painting, sculpting with papier-mâché and plaster, stitching, collaging.
Her pieces require a high level of skill though she is careful that we should not be distracted from the theme. Her boxes are not unlike doll's houses but with character and great humour including the smell of mothballs used, for instance, for Marjorie's Bungalow - an affectionate recollection faithfully reproduced of a member of the family frequently visited in her old-fashioned surroundings. Most recently, she has sculpted plaster heads, stuck on tall metal rods which are simple and erect, in total contrast to the delectable and ornate, folk-loric rendition of a scent bottle, Parfum Oil Seed Rape. Her Family Tree pays homage to three generations of one family, closely observed and then re-interpreted - her own way. Whatever she chooses to portray, her own ideas and style always prevail. As one title of her work says: I am what I am."
Twisted Thread offers a slide show of the Cozen-Walker and Anthony Green's work from the 2002 Knitting and Stitching Show. The couple has been married and working collaboratively since 1957.
Luisa Cevese creates "Fossilized Textiles" out of industry waste: "large blocks of unusable end pieces, damaged fabric, yarns and threads, salvages, small pieces of uneven cloth, cuts from garments... Riedizioni doesn't discriminate between natural or man made fibres, the only criteria is to select the textile which enables us to produce a constant design out of a discontinuous element."
From this, she creates a variety of practical household and fashion items. An article in Metropolis magazine explains Cevese's process: "The company is just one of many that supplies Cevese with silk and tie remnants for her Riedizioni line. She fixes these leftovers in large sheets of resin then cuts them into handbags, change purses, floor mats, place mats, and blinds."
Recently Cevese received some antique fabrics and a new concept was launched. "Getting that textile was purely accidental, but something clicked,” Cevese says. “I decided that if I cut it into a bag it would be a nice decoration, but fixing it in resin as a whole expresses the history of the object much more strongly." These works are carried by the US Store, Moss. Their internet catalog describes one work: "'Tappeti da Tavolo', or table runners, are mosaics created from vintage table laces, cottons, linens, and embroideries, each worn from personal use, but now 'fossilized' in polyurethane."
Examples of Cevese's fossilized textiles:
mosaics from vintage tablecloths
Pages from the textile archive, discolored by age, eaten by worms and insects and filled with hand written notations.
Recontextualized wool prayer rugs from various parts of the former Soviet Union.
Embellisher part II. We don't have a lot of resources for the embellisher in the US; nor seemingly in any of the English-speaking countries. However Babylock (I believe) is a Japanese company and they seem to have had the machine over there for more years and in Eastern Europe as well. There is a group in Russia going by the name Yaga who appears to be turning Embellisher-crafted items into art fabric available in commercial quantities. It is amazing to sift through their website and revel in the imagination, beauty and productivity.
Their explanation of what they are doing (note the parallels to the embellisher):
"Yaga-fabric is a joining into one whole cloth of various fabrics, yarns, threads, fibers in any combination without seams, stitches, glue, and other auxiliary means. By analogy with metallurgy it is a fusion of textile materials.
Yaga-fabric is distinguished by its great patterns, plasticity, depth and texture effects which can not be achieved in other technologies.
Yaga-fabric is not only primary cloth for further work but they can be also referred to a handmade art-object unique due to its origin. The figurative row of Yaga-fabrics is endless"
Some of the links are in Russian and some in English. You choose a language at the front door. There appear to be different images, possibly catering to the differing markets.
brightly colored shawls
shawls - wallhangings
and more dresses
more window coverings
and more sofa throws
Earlier this summer, I purchased a new machine made by Babylock called the embellisher. Babylock is marketing it as a threadless sewing machine and showing it with a variety of 'crafty' objects. This really does not do justice to the machine. The embellisher is designed using "the European art of machine needle felting. The Embellisher meshes fibers together, using... 7 Special barbed needles" to create surface embellishments. Unlike traditional felting, you can use most any fibers. My current favorite technique is felting silk onto a dark rayon velvet. Since the fabric tends to move and gather in unexpected ways, the techniques lends itself most easily to abstract imagery, though realism is possible, as well.
Babylock is finally realizing the artistic potential of the embellisher and has a site with a flash movie showing a variety of items made using the embellisher. Unfortunately, there is no commentary, just photos. I can tell you that the gold fabric with the gorgeous texture is created by running a flexible fabric, such as a silk dupoini, under the embellishers' needle, using a grid pattern. Needless to say, the embellisher can be combined with tradition quilting, embroidery or art fiber techniques to create visually rich art works.
There are at least two silk painters guilds that I found on the internet - one in the U.S. and one in the U.K. Information about the U.K. Silk Painters Guild first: They appear to be a fairly active lot with a quarterly journal, an online gallery ("The website features more than 200 paintings by over sixty painters from around the world."), a well written and illustrated section of projects, events and classes (mostly in the U.K.) and a well organized links section of international artists and resources.
The site's founder and president Mandy Southan, has an extensive background in textile design: "Mandy Southan worked as a textile designer before setting up her own studio producing hand-printed and painted fabrics. She then taught painting and drawing and silk-painting at Hastings College for over ten years ... She has produced four books for silk painters" Southern offers one o one tutorials in silk painting from her studio in Hastings, England.
The gallery reveals the diversity that is possible in silk painting, featuring "more than 200 paintings by over sixty painters from around the world." Even better, the guild has an open invitation for silk painters to display their work whether they are members or not: "We would like to remind silk painters, wherever you are, that our gallery of work is open to all. You do not have to be a member of the Guild to have work featured in the Gallery. It is there to show the range and diversity of styles and techniques and to be an inspiration to everyone." As a result, the gallery offers a panoramic shot of contemporary silk painting. The work ranges from representational (with a level of incredible detail) to abstract.
Debbie Lucas creates dreamy impressionist landscapes using layers of wool. She descrbes the process: "Felt has a hidden magic by taking fleece wetting it and rolling it a new and interesting fabric is made often with surprising results.
All my pieces are hand rolled using mainly merino wool. I hand dye the fleece this gives me a rich pallet of colour to work with.
The inspiration for my work comes from the ever changing Cumbrian landscape. My pictures are made by building up layers of fleece which I card well to create a variety of colours and shades. I often cut back through the layers of felt to reveal hidden colours beneath, giving my work a 3 dimensional effect".
The Courtyard Gallery offers more views of Lucas'landscapes; landscapes created directly with fiber - no stitching added.
Picture, narrative images, abstract images created entirely of fiber with no stitching - this is both challenging and intriguing. America seems to lag way behind the rest of the world as far as felting goes. Here we seem to mostly make dolls, hats, or booties -and some of these are gorgeous, but there are so many more possibilities! Other parts of the world are going wild with the sculptural, painterly possibilities opened by creating directly with the fibers.
The International Feltmakers Association is a great introduction to a media that is inspiring the rest of the world. They produce Echoes, a journal on felting, and a list of international felt exhibitions. And of course, lots of links to members sites, such as Felt Hungary, which has a Symposium of Traditional and Contemporary Felt Art.
I have a fetish for old buttons. I have several jars and tins and like to pour them out just to look at them with family on friends. I have been known to covetously browse the button auctions at ebay. Last night I came upon the most amazing piece. The description reads: "old button mosaic depicting a church with steeple, grass on the lawn and brown road at the bottom. Also in this scene is a sunrise or sunset and the outline of what looks to be a large palm tree. As you can see the mosaic is quite large it measures 23" X 48" and indeed is heavy weighing in at almost 10 lbs.!!" A label on the back reads "2280 buttons, Nora Musser, June 16, 1955."
I think the pictures speak for themselves. And, if you are wondering, the final price was $127.50!!
In the world of small miracles, I discovered that one of my former students, Charles LeDray, has become famous! Not just slightly famous, but really, really famous - "Venice Biennale, Chelsea gallery and traveling museum retrospective" type of famous. Best of all, I still find his work as delightful and funny as when he was a charmingly sneering 15 year old at Queen Anne High in Seattle (he once grew tired of the requisite realistic drawing of a soda cracker and so he posted his final work: the actual cracker glued to his drawing paper.)
Charles works in miniature in a variety of materials, but the works that caught my interest are the sewn pieces. The Seattle arts community has embraced him as a genius son, after LeDray's New York success. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote of his 2003 show: "Hungering to own one of Seattle artist Michelle Clise's antique teddy bears, he decided to make his own fake antique teddies. Thus he jumped the gate from blocked painter to magical conjurer of craft-based art objects... After getting a job as art handler at the Jack Tilton Gallery, he showed the director, Jenine Cirincione, one of his jackets for a teddy bear ("Mourning Piece," 1989). She hung it in a group show hours before it opened.
After that, his career took off. Instead of being the undereducated innocent he appeared to be in his hometown, he turned out to be a sophisticated innovator capable of making history in New York. He represents the revenge of the handmade, the triumph of domestic skill over costly corporate spectacle, the raw over the cooked, the heartfelt over the glossy.
"S.A.M." from 1994 is a replica of his museum-guard suit, slightly bigger than his hand. It's what he wore when no one was asking him anything more taxing than directions to the bathroom. Hanging on the wall on a hanger he made, it carries its own madcap narrative with it, a rumpled, lived-in story of the born to be overlooked.
"What I hide by my language, my body utters," wrote Roland Barthes in "A Lover's Discourse." LeDray's suits of clothes are bodies, really, unable to conceal the meaning of their lives. "Becoming Mr. Man" from 1992 tells the tale of desperate intellectual, pockets stuffed with poems and lapels unfashionably wide, the bulk of its frustrated desires battering the fabric."
Excerpts from an ArtForum review reminds me that LeDray's high school years occurred when Linda Barry was the reigning queen of Seattle angst: "What makes him more than just a highly skilled maker of miniatures is the density of personal and cultural anxieties and elations that he puts into his best work...public eroticism, the power of the handmade in a machine-made world... a gothic display of pain, guilt and anger, the wonder of a cosmos without a providential deity--all of these things are part of our moment," and, Taplin says, "LeDray is packing them into his objects."" I think the moral here is that workmanship counts, but it's all pointless without the emotion behind it.
For the true fans, Charles even has his own retrospective book out.
"Visual artist Janet Olivia Henry is a born storyteller. Her work includes words and phrases spelled out as exquisite or eye-popping garlands of unique beads; or photographic installations of dolls accompanied by life narratives which are eerily familiar." This is movement and energy in beading as I have never known it; beading unleashed, unfurling it's wild potential. The colors are richly evocative.
"Since 1978 Janet Henry has been perfecting her unique visual language by literally collecting bits and pieces of the society she observes. Henry builds major works by accumulation and the assemblage of smaller components. Her finished works are social commentaries and reactions to the city and the people that have drawn her attention." This statement was from her 2002 show at PPOW. Henry's work consisted of beads and artifacts strung and looped into words. Another exhibit had an installation of beaded words strung down the hallway. And then there is "Oh just shut up!" - an installation of beads, paint and writings.
"I've been influenced by Yoruba dance costumes, rural Japanese packaging, West Indian carnival costumes and European sculpture, painting and drawing," says Henry. "I like to think that my work chronicles the lives of the people and situations that get my attention. I'm curious about the ways in which culture manifests itself physically. I'm fascinated by the things that people use to symbolize themselves."
Nicola Henley creates contemporary textiles through surface manipulation and stitching. An online exhibition describes Henley's surface manipulations: "Nicola Henley's textile pieces are made by a combination of dying, painting, and screen-printing cotton calico and texturing the surface with various materials stitched into the cloth."
A past issue of Fiberarts magazine offers an interview with Nicola Henley, entitled Free to Fly. Henley describes how she came to be fascinated by her subject matter of sea birds in flight, 'In college, Henley was intrigued by space and movement; she came to birds by chance. Stranded at a bird center by a storm while on holiday in Ireland, she started observing a peregrine falcon that came there each day, and she ended up being captivated by the "small jewel of being in all that space around it.' Henley has both studied and photographed birds and still watches them, but she is now more interested in the movement of sea and sky. She wants to capture the 'essence of the bird without making it about the bird.'"
Jenny Balfour-Paul has written two books on indigo blue, dying and the dyer's history. Unlike, mauve, indigo is an ancient and natural dye. A book review by The British-Yemeni Society describes the traditional method of getting blue-jean blue:
"The natural indigo dye vat was, in fact, somewhat obnoxious, containing as it did a fermentation of indigo plants tempered by alkaline additions such as urine, camel dung, dogs’ turds and dates, coated with scum and set as often as not in a dark, airless room where the dyer sat and stirred for days on end." (ick!)
In spite of this, Balfour-Paul fell in love with indigo and it's possibilities. Bluenote website presents a photo documentary of her explorations in indigo. There are also some fascinating photos of the dying process: "When the fabric strips are lifted from the vat of greeny-brown liquid, they change colour to blue as they come in contact with the air." In the photo, you can see the chemical reaction creeping up the strips of fabric. "Indigo is insoluble, it's the oxygen that causes the chemical reaction that turns the items blue as you pull them out of the liquid."
She also discusses woad, the older English blue dye, which was supplanted by indigo. "Woad was grown widely in Europe in the Middle Ages until the arrival of tropical indigo in the 17th century - woad merchants were wealthy men as woad was needed not only for the familiar blue, but also for green, purple and black in combination with other natural dyes."
Uses for indigo? In an interview Balfour-Paul answers the most unusual use that she's come across for indigo: "Probably for dyeing the hair, eyebrows and beard in China and the Middle East - hence the legend of Bluebeard". As far as fiber art, Isabella Whitworth's web site features indigo dyeing and shibori inspired by a lecture on indigo given by Jenny Balfour-Paul at the Crafts Council in London.
The future for indigo blue looks good with new research supporting the natural indigo process: "SPINDIGO aims to enable growers to supply natural indigo with a purity greater than 90% to a significant proportion of the European market. Three species of indigo producing crops are currently being grown in Finland, UK, Germany, Italy and Spain to demonstrate their potential as commercial crops throughout Europe. Each crop is being assessed for its suitability to the different climatic conditions met across Europe."
First disclaimer: I do not practice Voodoo, nor do I know or understand much about it. But the flags that I came across on the web struck me as very beautiful and evocative symbolic communications, worthy of some reflection. Raw Vision gives an explanation of the flags that suggests that they are an outgrowth of Catholic icons, combined with the pain and anger of slavery. "Created one sequin and bead at a time, each stitch is a silent prayer. The finished flag is an emblem of spiritual resolve within a fabric and beaded skin which presents a constellation of beauty and brilliance."
ElCoqui Galleries describes the flags this way:"Unique to Haiti, Voodoo Flag or Drapo Voodoo is the most elegant and profound sequin art. Flag art originally started as a praying cloth in honor to the Iwa (spirits). The art is both complex and intricate, starting with the 18K-20K sequin and glass beads that are needed to complete a piece. Each Iwa is an abstract diagram called a veve that serves as a symbol. Spirits can also be represented in animals, objects or human figures having particular attributes. The iconography of voodoo is extensive and complicated. Voodoo artists need to have a good understanding of it and the color scheme for each spirit. The new generation of artists combine spiritual devotion with artistic ambition, appealing both to the art market as well as religious devouts." An exhibit, Sequined Surfaces: Haitian Vodoun Flags, that travelled the country a few years back, but this seems to be a largely ignored folk art medium(?).
Recent economics have given a new position to voodoo flags as secular art objects created by artists for collectors. Many of the newer works feature more mythological themes such as mermaids or stylized designs It is hard to find much history or documentation on the internet about voodoo flags, but just browsing the gallery offerings is fun:
Electric Gallery (15 pages of flags)
Haitian Art Co.
image: Flag (drapo) for Baron by Antoine Oleyant
Asheville is the Southeast's answer to the need for art and beauty in every day life. I just spent three days there. It is not possible to see all of the wonderful things there in just three days. "Upholstered Fine Art" chairs by Robert A. Harman had to be the most innovative and refreshing art on view last week.
The chairs were on display at New Morning Gallery, in Biltmore Village (scroll down). Photos do not do justice to these works. The texture and colors play together so gracefully. For an exhibit at the Furniture Society web site, Harman lists his materials as "wood, velvets, jacquards, silk on wood frame" - note the painted feet.
Harman has the barest website up - here's hoping that it grows! Maybe even with some photos of the construction process.
In a minute ago has been launched by sharon b. After I wrote about her stitch dictionary, we began emailing each other about blogging and lamenting the lack of non-knitting-textile-blogging (not that I don't like knitting, mind you. I just can't do it!). Sharon has a long history of exploring technology and stitching. She maintains an archive of digital-fiber explorations that she has been producing since 1996. It also turns out that her stitch dictionary barely scratches the depth of her knowledge on the subject. She has documented about 1200 different embroidery stitches and hopefully will be adding them via her blog, as time allows.
Stop by her blog now and make it a regular stop. She's down in Australia, a long ways from North Carolina (U.S.A), where I am, so her thoughts and perspectives will be literally a world away. And email me if you know any other good non-knitting-fiber blogs!
Ardyth Davis has been included in the Quilt National at least six times and won their Award of Excellence in 1985, but Davis does not call her work "quilts", but rather goes for the more general term: "fiber constructions". Davis work features lush color and sensual textures, which come together to create a surface that is hypnotic and inviting.
Davis begining was in graphic design. A segment of Davis' artist statement reads: "I like color, particularly all the subtle gradations obtained when mixing and intermixing dyes and paints. I work with color gradations instead of color patterns because my primary interest is in texture, which is s likely to be obscured by patterning.
I began to make pleated silk quilts as a way of integrating color and texture in a larger format, one that would be faster to execute than knotting. The surface of my work has become more complex over the years, and my current work has a tightly pleated and manipulated surface, sometimes with stitching lines added before the pleating process."
image: detail; Reef 2/ Blue; Painted, Pleated, Stitched Silk by Ardyth Davis
Salley Mavor has combined a number of traditions and techniques to come up with a form of fiber illustration that it both warm and comforting. Her acorn dolls are reminiscent of the handicrafts traditions that Waldorf Schools around the world pursue with their students. But she has taken these simple dolls and used them to create story illustrations using what she has labelled "fabric relief technique".
image: Fabric Relief Illustration from "In the Heart" by Salley Mavor
Her page, Behind the Scenes: A Photo Album - Salley Mavor, at work reveals some of the creation process behind the dollmaking. Mavor describes the creation process, " To make a book, each picture starts as a clear, vivid scene in my head. I do not know exactly how the pictures will unfold and it will go through many steps to get from the imagined to the finished product. I start by working out a rough layout in small thumbnail sketches. They are blown up on a copier to full book size and made into a dummy to show the editor. She then checks to see that the content of the layout works with the text and that there is enough room for the type. After making any necessary changes to the layout, and with the trust of my editor, I start work on the fabric relief pictures. Each illustration requires about a month of hand sewing, so it takes more than a year to complete all of the pages. The original fabric relief pictures are then photographed and used as illustrations in the printed book."
Mavor recently published a book, Felt Wee Folk that describes the process of creating miniature felt images.
Anthony Green and Mary Cozens-Walker
are a British husband and wife artist team. They are both painters, at the simplest description, but then their work goes far beyond any categorization. Green makes three dimensional paintings. Cozens-Walker does multimedia creations that employ stitching, textiles, painting and lots more. Her approach involves a colorful energy to create portraits and tableaus of domesticity gone askew.
My favorite image on the web from the show is "Compact Lovers", a series of portraits created in found compact cases. Unfortunately no detail is given about the work - which artist created it - or what materials did they use. So, in my imagination, these are delicately stitched portraits of former lovers, now consigned to waxing away in some drawer full of forgotten letters. Maybe art is better on the web? Or at least it forces interactive imaginings.
More work mixed media work by Mary Cozens-Walker can be seen on the web at the Boundary Gallery.
image:Compact Lovers by Mary Cozens-Walker
Nancy Lee Wragg produces wonderfully textural felted pieces that she embellishes with embroidery. Her simplest works are Christmas (or everyday) ornaments. Her more elaborate pieces have intricate images created of wool, which is then felted and embroidered. Her color pallette is subdued, almost earthy colors, brightened with a periwinkle blue and stark black to provide contrast and interest. Her work makes belting appear to be the logical extension of art quilting - a medium where you can fully manipulate the fiber.
image: 'Tea Garden I' by Nancy Lee Wragg
Laura Breitman creates fantastically intricate photo-realistic collages using tiny snippets of fabric. This article by the Smithsonian Magazine describes her technique: "Breitman positions thousands of bits of cloth—from slivers to two-inch squares—onto her canvas, like so many overlapping brushstrokes. To get the variegated colors and graduated shades of light and dark just right, she often bleaches, dyes or block prints the fabric.... When a picture is complete, Breitman applies a matte varnish, which gives it a more uniform texture."
image: Green Path by Laura Breitman
Update: 11/23/04 - I received a note from Laura Breitman today. She simply says: "I am removed my presence from the internet because of a new direction I am taking." So, you can no longer view her work on the internet, but a new direction is always exciting.
Festive Felt Wallhangings
My Green Fantasy by Nicole Chazaud Telaar & Tom Telaar
Humorous, textural and extremely colorful felt creations. My favorites are the wall hangings, which move in and out of the flat plane or merely appear to move in and out because of the dynamic color combinations. The site is huge and can take a good while to explore - lots of layers here and very well organized. It appears to all be the work of a husband-wife team: Nicole Chazaud Telaar & Tom Telaar.
On how she creates, Nicole writes:"I have found that since moving here to New Hampshire three years ago, I dream about my gardens. I plan, expand, and grow. Winters are especially fun with all the white around. The void of color is very compelling for my creatively, and I reach within myself for color inspiration. During the growing seasons, I am constantly distracted by nature’s own color combinations."
Anne Kingsbury's art is described as 'quilted dreams'. Her media is leather, thread, beads, ceramic and fiber. The images are evocative of a long forgottten memory or half-known truth.
image by Anne Kingsbury
A review of her work, with quotes and more images can be found in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. An excerpt from this review: "Shift yet again and enter Kingsbury's realm, where materials, subject matter and labor-intensive process all speak to feminine issues of women's work and domesticity. Handsome, painstakingly assembled beaded pieces represent countless hours invested, as in "Beaded Woman," which contains the words "repetition" and "discipline" in its composition."
Fiber Show 2002 is a curated overview of what was going on in fiber in 2002. Most remarkable about this show is the variety and how far the term 'fiber' has been stretched. Incredible richness of color, imagery and abstraction. Texture of every variety. Be sure to use the links toward the bottom of the page: See the artists' work page 1 - page 2 - page 3 - page 4
Bruce Hoffman, curator, wrote about the show:" It is our purpose to show at least a small glimpse of what is currently happening in the fields of textile and fiber arts. As in the past two exhibitions, "Modus Operandi" and "Surface, Strength, Structure: Pertaining to Line", the use of traditional and non-traditional materials and techniques, the exploration of scale and the variety of forms and imagery are key."
A regularly updated series of journals on collaborations between British and Japanese fiber artists. One collaborator is experienced; one is emerging. The journal entries are illustrated with images of materials, sketchbook pages and finshed projects.
image: Jeanette Appleton - August journal page