Watch the eyes of those on your gift list sparkle, when you choose one of these glimmering sculptures or wall works by artists from the US and abroad.
In my morning check of e-mail in early September, I was happily reconnected with Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine by a message from Meghan Price, asking “Flexible Minds!” to share her memorable photographs of Haystack 2013. Meghan is a textile artist from Toronto who assisted me in the basketry workshop I presented there this summer. The workshop, Strong Materials and Flexible Minds, ran from August 11th to 23rd. It was my fourth workshop at Haystack and my second with Meghan’s assistance.
In this summer’s workshop there were fourteen people working hard in a spacious woodshop overlooking a Maine spruce forest and bay; twelve participants from Canada, Japan, Israel, Denmark and the US. The class members were diverse in nationality, age, professional career and skill level, but homogeneous in other ways – all female, flexible minded, friendly and diligent. I enjoyed working with them greatly and I appreciated that Haystack gave us such an enjoyable temporary community of art. It is wonderful that Haystack has retained for many years its beautiful location, thoughtful management and sustainable considerations for the environment, along with a highly stimulating artistic atmosphere. I admire even more the numberless individuals and groups whose innovative effort and contributions have enabled Haystack to remain unchanged for its long history.
I have designed my workshops as very experimental as well as hands-on. I assign a small number of basic problems of basketmaking that participants are expected to explore by themselves. I expect participants to encounter additional problems and challenges unique to each of them in the process of seeking a resolution to the problem assigned. I entitled the workshop at Haystack this summer Strong Materials and Flexible Minds, in order to convey clearly my intent to encourage participants to re-conceive basketmaking in terms of the relationship of a maker to the materials. Participants would re-evaluate already acquired techniques and common ideas while taking a fresh look at the materials domain as well as nonmaterial factors such as negative space. From alternative viewpoints, we reviewed familiar tools/devices. In short, the workshop was to help one learn again or “un-learn” what one thinks one knows.
The group photograph shows the happy class after finishing an improvised installation with various pieces plaited in paper tapes cut from old Haystack posters. The layout on the table reads “H-A-Y-S-T-A-C-K.” Why are they happy? Because they have gained confidence: “I can make any form in plaiting by myself!”
The exercise involved an exploration of plaiting. I taught them only how to make a square with three strands and left it to them to find from there how to make various forms. Some did so very easily. Some struggled. But I waited until each had mastered it herself. The next morning, I discussed the outcome, bringing attention to various resolutions that could achieve the same form. and explained that their development would lead to further differences. Everyone was amazed that the same form had emerged, but had not always been accomplished in the same way. That is, everyone realized that each could create in her own way if not taught to apply only a single method by a teacher. Everyone came to feel her own way – not only worth her patience but also more meaningful to her. The photograph shows the joy of achieving a challenge, on students’ part as well as a teacher’s.
You have several weeks yet to visit Cloth & Memory(2), dramatic, site-specific exhibition located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Salts Mill, Saltaire Yorkshire UK. Cloth & Memory(2) takes place in the original Spinning Room (known as The Lobby), which when first built was thought to be the largest industrial room in the world. The extraordinary internal architecture, with its peeling walls and floors still retain the marks and smells of its original use. All the works engage with the palpable history of place that is evident at Salts Mill and The Lobby in particular, and range from large scale interventions in space to highly intimate placings within the fabric of the building.
The exhibition’s curator is bga contributor Professor Lesley Millar of the University of Creative Arts. Informed by the knowledge that “cloth holds the memory of our time and connects us with the memories of other times and other places…,” the exhibition features 23 artists drawn from Europe, Japan and the UK.
Among the participants is Caroline Bartlett (UK), whose work involves a number of large embroidery hoops within one of the wall bays. Each stretched, stitched, woolen cloth piece will be inset with a small porcelain round, imprinted with an impression taken from a fragment of textiles. Bartlett has long been interested in the indications of other histories being formed through textiles and the journey that they take.
Bartlett’s Listening In, for example, builds on a previous work of hers entitled Conversation pieces, commissioned by the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, UK. These works evolved from observation and dialogue with the archivist and conservators who work with the Whitworth textile collection and generously shared with the artist some of the procedures and practices with which they are involved. “While an interest in the museological processes of collecting, archiving, storing and conserving guided my explorations,” Bartlett explains, “it was a random search through the accession cards[at the Whitworth] that provided the stimulus and gave focus to the work. It was these that bore witness to the health and state of each item, to the work undertaken to preserve and stabilize each artifact, to endeavors to fill in gaps in the history and making of the object across time and space.” Stilled, Bartlett’s work in Cloth & Memory(2), continues these explorations: ”I think of skin, bone, membrane; a layered dermis, and of networks of social, industrial, public and private relations, processes and materiality connecting the building itself with the idea of cloth as silent witness to the intimacies and routines of daily lives.”
Cloth and Memory(2) runs through November 3, 2013. There are curator, coordinator and artist tours each Saturday through the exhibition’s closing. If you can’t visit Yorkshire in time, be sure to visit to exhibition’s website at: http://www.clothandmemory.com. There are images, a video tour, narrated by Lesley Millar and an order form for the comprehensive catalog.
A few more interesting books and catalogs arrived in our mailbox over the last couple of months. First up, the truly luscious Textiles of the Islamic World by John Gillow (Thames & Hudson). A dealer in Asian folk textiles, Gillow has been traveling to Asia and the Middle East for 40 years. The oversized book, with more than 600 color images of cloth of cotton, hemp, velvet and silk knitted, quilted, felted and hand woven, aptly succeeds in its aim “to supply a broad survey of the textiles produced today and in the past in the Islamic world, putting them in their social and historical context.” Another interesting survey is Grethe Wittrock’s small color catalog, Grethe Wittrock: Works 2006 – 2012. The book includes images of her paper wall hangings and her recent work with sails. We received two catalogs from recent exhibitions featuring work by Gali Cnaani. The first, Gali Cnaani/Oslo XXL, includes images of woven works and wallscapes of stacked books, The second is the catalog for Gale Cnaani: Sleeves, the exhibition currently at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel. In this exhibition, Cnaani has created “a new anthology of weaving” by dismantling parts of second-hand clothes that have been unraveled and re-assembled to form hybrid textiles. In doing so, the Museum says, “Cnaani subverts the dichotomy between the garment and the deconstructed structure and pattern, between industry and craft, between garments and cloth.” The catalog contains images of these provocative works, informative essays and interviews with the artists. You can also watch an online tour of the exhibition, narrated by the artist in English at: Cnaani is a 2013 recipient of the Andrea M. Bronfman prize for Contemporary Crafts (the Andy Prize) awarded annually to an Israeli decorative artist for excellence in ceramics, jewelry, textile, glass or fashion. The exhibition runs through December 14, 2013 in The Agnes and Beny Steinmetz Wing for Architecture and Design, Galleries 1 and 2, Herta and Paul Amir Building, http://www.tamuseum.com/about-the-exhibition/gali-cnaani.
In 2012, the Musashino Art University Museum & Library, Tokyo, Japan hosted, Hideho Tanaka Retrospective: Vanishing and Emerging, an exhibition commemorating the retirement of craft and industrial design professor, Hideho Tanaka. The exhibition featured Tanaka’s signature sculptures made of industrial fibers. In 1985, Tanaka reformulated his notions about the nature of fiber.
Since then, he explained, as part of the Beyond the Surface: Japanese Style of Making Things, he shifted his form of expression “from a longing for eternity to an embracing of things born of relationships that incessantly change and develop.” Why cloth and fiber? Tanaka explains that, “in those days I was constantly inquiring into the nature of material attractions and the necessities of expression. I then became interested in creative forms peculiar to fiber materials, which emerge in time and space and yet which also metamorphose and disappear. This was also part of my realization that there was a kind of fascination in the hierarchy that places accidentals beneath conscious things. The creation of a contrast between what vanishes and what remains, and the moving of this indoors, allows me certain special kinds of expression.
These have developed into experiments in the intervention of fire into a combination of stainless steel wire (a contemporary inorganic material), and linen (an organic material).” The exhibition was accompanied by a 91-page catalog, Hideho Tanaka Retrospective: Vanishing and Emerging, which is available of $39.95 from browngrotta arts.
Earlier this year, the Embassy of Sweden in Tokyo presented Artfully Connected, a look at Sweden through the eyes of an exciting group of artists from Japan, Korea, Sweden and the US, curated by artist
Lisa VERSHBOW, USA (Metalsmith – jewelry). Click the links on each name and you can read a brief “story” about the artists and the influence Sweden had on their works.
Hisako Sekijima, for example, describes the map of Sweden she found on the internet as influencing, SE, the basket she created for the exhibition. Hikaru Cho’s Every Thing Is Not As it Seems speaks to discrimination.”We always bear prejudice and a sense of discrimination somewhere inside,” says the artist in her story. “Often, we don’t even notice it. I have experienced it many times while living in Japan with Chinese nationality. People differentiate the own ethnic group from others in order to strengthen the solidarity.” You can read more about Cho, in the Asahi Shimbun article, “Japan-born artist turns her eye to discrimination,” by Louis Templado, June 14, 2013, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/people/AJ201306140011. The Embassy also teamed up with well-known Swedish cameramaker Hasselblad to create a behind-the-scenes video, filmed by Eric Micotto, that you can view here: http://vimeo.com/65644600.
browngrotta arts lost a close friend and the world an influential designer last month, with the passing of Niels Diffrient. With an academic foundation in design and architecture and a degree from Cranbrook Academy, Diffrient channeled his knowledge of engineering, architecture and human factors into the creation of highly functional and aesthetically timeless designs, including the Freedom, Liberty and World chairs for the company Humanscale. His three-volume reference work, Humanscale 1/2/3, Humanscale 4/5/6, and Humanscale 7/8/9 explored the relationship of spine to chair and contributed to the quest for the totally comfortable place to sit down. In 2002, he told TED audiences about his early design inspirations — aircraft and aviators in the 1930s — and much more. You can watch him at:
Diffrient’s was an interesting personal story, which he covered in a memoir last year, Confessions of a Generalist. He was refreshingly forthright, in a way that those of us from the Midwest recognize and appreciate. Born on a farm in Star, Mississippi in 1928, his family moved to Detroit in search of work. Diffrient attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Wayne State University and completed a BFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield, Michigan. At Cranbrook, he worked with Eero Saarinen on contemporary chairs for Knoll. After graduation, traveled to Italy on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1954 and worked on the award-winning Borletti sewing machine. Returning to the US, he joined Henry Dreyfuss Associates and worked on products for, among others, John Deere, Polaroid and Bell Telephone. He taught at UCLA and Yale. He moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut with his wife, textile artist, Helena Hernmarck, in the early 80s and founded Niels Diffrient Product Design, where the couple shared a design and tapestry studio until his death. Diffrient spoke to Martin C. Pedersen of Metropolis in February about linkage in his life, work and philosophy http://www.metropolismag.com/Point-of-View/June-2013/Niels-Diffrient-A-Tribute-in-Conversation. “Your new book seems like a different thing. It’s part memoir, part philosophy of design,” Pedersen observed. “I can’t separate those things,” Diffrient responded. “I don’t go to work and become a different person. I live exactly what I preach. My own life is guided by the same principles. So I can’t separate them. I didn’t really think about it, but in a way it helps to make this sort of thing personal. I think it gives it life.” He will be greatly missed.
Japanese artist Mutsumi Iwasaki passed away on April 11, 2013. browngrotta arts has promoted Mutsumi’s meticulously constructed forms since 2006. After working as a textile artist for nearly two decades, in 1998, Iwasaki began making both baskets and her own paper. In 2000, her new work was included in the influential In Our Hands Exhibition, in Nagoya, Japan. “I make works in which elements are “piled,” she explained in our 2011 catalog, Stimulus: Art and Its Inception. “They are like small boxes of air and a record of the everyday. I use washi paper that I make myself as the main material. When I use commercial paper I feel the difference in the material.” An illustrated interview with Iwasaki in Japanese appears at: http://www.isogaya.co.jp/artist/iwasaki-mutsumi/iwasaki-m-rireki.htm. With the help of an online translator, you can learn a bit more about her approach, which included adding paraffin to paper made of Japanese mulberry to create thickness. “I liked that the experiment changed the look of the material,” Iwasaki told interviewer, Jinnai Ritsuko in 2008.
We had reason to visit my old high school haunts in Scottsdale, Arizona earlier this month. It was a picturesque and delicious trip replete with stirring desert vistas and intriguing art and architecture site-ings.
Among them, the mid-century modern Hotel Valley Ho. The Hotel Valley Ho opened in 1956 and was a hideaway for Hollywood stars including Zsa Zsa Gabor, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis and Bing Crosby. It also hosted Robert Wagner and Natalie Woods’ 1957 wedding reception. The hotel was saved from the wrecking ball in 2003 and re-opened in 2005 after an $80 million restoration, which Chicago reporter Hoekstra noted retained the original “Jetsons-in-the-desert flavor”. We had a terrific lunch outside the pop-colored, revamped bar area. We saw similar splashes of lime and aqua and orange that people have added to adobe and concrete facades throughout the city — a lively change from the olive that predominated in the 70s.
We also found two art installations sponsored by Scottsdale’s Public Art Project. The first was Randy Walker’s Entanglement, his installation of solution-dyed acrylic braid at Scottsdale’s Bell Tower, which we knew about and made a point of finding and photographing.
With Entanglement, Randy Walker asks “What if the boundary of container and contained was blurred?” The other was Rachel Bowditch’s Memory Room, which we stumbled upon on Marshall Way, one of two art sites set up in empty storefronts, in the greatly diminished gallery area of old Scottsdale. Loosely inspired by Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and the concept of a “memory palace’” first attributed to the Greek poet Simonides (556-468 BC) and further developed by Giulio Camillo (1480-1544) , Memory Room is a durational multi-media performance installation that investigates the relationship between women, writing and memory.
A “memory palace” is a mnemonic system to spatially organize memories using specific ‘loci’ or spatial locations organized along a predetermined path. When items need to be remembered, one walks along the path to recall one memory at a time. Memory Room layers a series of “memory palaces” of women writers—Emily Dickenson, Zelda Fitzgerald, Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Audre Lorde, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath among many others—all women who made an indelible mark on the world of literature. There are live performances that are documented by video cameras, but the storefront site includes some exquisite textiles on which memories are written and women are memorialized in photos. We did a bit of memory walking in the area ourselves, happy to see the Sugar Bowl still holds its own on Scottsdale Road and even better, that the cheese crisp and Gaudi-esque decor at Los Olivios are just as good as we remembered.
More than 60 years since it opened, the restaurant is still family-owned and the tortillas and salsas are still homey and handmade.
In April, Mary Giles received the Master of the Medium Award for Fiber from the James Renwick Alliance. In receiving the award, Giles spoke of her process and her sources of inspiration:
“I have always been influenced by place and especially the natural world in those places. In the early 80’s, having taken up scuba diving, I did a series based on sea life called “walking tentacles.” Later, during many trips to New Mexico, I discovered mesa forms as well as Native American kivas and petroglyphs. Those sources dominated my work for over 10 years. Most recently the changing light, colors, and patterns seen from our retirement home on the banks of the St. Croix River in Minnesota have informed by work. My ideas are an accumulation, my sources most often from nature and my pallet is drawn from the colors of earth, water, wood and stone.
I’ve been drawn to the woods most of my life, from childhood summers at a log cabin in northern Minnesota, to the redwoods of northern California, to the tropical jungles of Costa Rica, and now at our current home on the banks of the St. Croix River. From the St. Croix shore I have photographed many sunrises, reflections, shadows and moonlit nights. These scenes continually change throughout the day, from day to day, and season to season.
The materials I use on the surface of the coiled forms are often individually hammered pieces of twelve- to eighteen-gauge wire made of copper, tinned copper, iron, lead or brass. In addition I use waxed-linen thread and fine wire. By torching the metals I am able to alter the colors in varying degrees enabling me to blend them from darks to brights. I use this blending to interpret the colors, textures and light that I see in the natural settings.
I became particularly excited about rocks ten years ago when my husband and I decided to build an addition to what was to become our retirement home. Because this home is on a river in an old glacial landscape, the dozer unearthed a mountain of boulders. Philip Johnson, the architect, said, “I never met anyone who can talk about a pile of rocks.” Well, I never met Philip Johnson. I have photographed rocks in many parts of the world. I’m interested in all sorts of rocks: broken rocks, large rocks, pebbles and boulders. I love their surfaces aged by wear or accumulations. I find many forms in their crevices and shadows.
In the winter we often go to a relatively remote Pacific location in Costa Rica. I spend hours walking the beach photographing yet more rocks, driftwood, and wave and animal patterns in the sand. On the walks I always carry two bags, one for trash and one for treasure.
In my studio I begin a new idea with a sketch. Most recently I have been building clay models. The models have helped me work through details and attempt more complex forms. I’m often asked how long it takes to complete a vessel. I don’t usually keep track but I do remember my first basket from the late 1970’s, three inches high, took twelve hours. My most recent piece, which is fifty inches long, took five months.
Six years ago I started doing wall panels that dealt with my concerns about population. They are not baskets but the men they incorporate have been on my vessels for nearly thirty years. The first expression of this theme was directly on a 10 X 30-foot gallery wall. It was composed of hundreds of torched copper wire men arranged outwardly from dense to sparse. I am still working with these ideas of overpopulation, density and boundaries.
The architect Le Corbusier said “creation is a patient search.” I so enjoy this peaceful experience. I feel fortunate to have found this work for myself. I am very grateful for your generous support. Thank you. “
Mary Giles – April 2013