Monthly archives: September, 2018

Fiber Art Up and Comers

Paniers-liens III, Séphanie Jacques
carved wood (ash), white willow, hemp rope, red, wool, 21.25” to 43.25” x 15.5” x 17.75”,2011.
Paniers-liens II, Stéphanie Jacques
carved wood (ash), white willow, hemp, rope, red wool, 22” x 17.25” x 17.25”, 2011

Earlier this year, we compared Artsy‘s list of fiber art pioneers and ours (see also Craft in America’s Pioneering Women in Craft). In the years since contemporary fiber first gained international attention, a group of younger artists have continued to experiment. Numerous artists from a decade or two or three later are identified as continuing innovations in this field, including Rosemary Troeckel, Lesley Dill, and Ernesto Neto and more recently, Sophie Narrett and Orly Cogan.

Of the artists that work with browngrotta arts, we’d point to five who continue to redefine the practice. Stéphanie Jacques of Belgium, combines clay, wood, photography, knitting and basketmaking to create works that reveal what is unseen.

Macramé Black Shell n.1, Federica Luzzi, cotton cord, wax, graphite, 13” x 12” x 6.5”, 2008

Federica Luzzi of Italy, uses fiber to illustrate natural phenomena. Her current series of elegant macramés were born of conversations with researchers at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Frascati, Italy about concepts of dark matter, antimatter, nuclear, subnuclear physics and the particle accelerator.

Transición, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, alpaca; metallic yarns and silver leaf; moriche palm fiber, silk, 56" x 24.25”, 2018

Transición, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, alpaca; metallic yarns and silver leaf; moriche palm fiber, silk, 56″ x 24.25”, 2018

Eduardo Portillo and Maria Dávila from Venezuela take an experimental approach to all aspects of their work — sourcing, technique and materials. The artists spent several years in China and India studying sericulture, or silk farming, and since then their research has taken them worldwide. In Venezuela they established the entire process of silk manufacture: growing mulberry trees on the slopes of the Andes, rearing silkworms, obtaining threads from other locally sourced fibers, coloring them all with natural dyes and designing and weaving innovative textiles. This works include woven “mosaics” from their Indigo series. More recently, the couple has been incorporating copper and bronze into their work, using textiles as inspiration for works that are cast in bronze. The couple was awarded with a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in 2017. Sue Lawty from the UK, has used her prodigious weaving skills to weave lead, and for the last few years, has created assemblages comprised of literally thousands of tiny stones, a pixilated ‘cloth’ of sorts.


Women Artists Take on Heavy Metal

Mary Giles Lead Relief Detail

Mary Giles, Lead Relief Detail

The National Museum of Women in the Art’s new exhibition Heavy Metal comes to an end this Sunday, September 16th. Heavy Metal is the fifth installment of the NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, which seeks to increase the visibility of female artists who are working in innovative ways within a wide variety of creative communities.

Why metal? Well, because “metal is a material that is typically associated with the work of men,” points out associate curator Ginny Treanor. Metal is “a material that often requires physical strength and endurance to bend, shape and mold.” Nonetheless, women have a long history of working with metal. Additionally, metal is indispensable to our everyday lives, it holds up the buildings we live and work in, forms the frame of the cars we drive every day and adorns our bodies.

Life had turned around Detail by Carole Fréve

Life had turned around Detail by Carole Fréve

Women artists who work with browngrotta arts work in all manners of metal, including bronze, copper, steel and titanium. Kyoko Kumai is one of many browngrotta arts artists that use metal as their material. In making Blue/Green as a metaphor Kumai combined titanium tapes and stainless steel fibers to create a metal weaving. Kumai prefers using these materials because of their light, fade-resistant and hard properties which allows them to retain the image she gives them for many years.

Mary Giles preferred working with metals is because of their varying physical properties. Giles used a variety of metals in her work, including copper, tinned copper, iron, lead and brass. The malleability of these metals when heated allowed Giles to not only alter their shape but their color. Giles was able to alter the blend colors from dark to brights, which enabled her to recreate the natural gradients which she was seeing in real life.

Nancy Koenigsberg Current, coated copper wire

Nancy Koenigsberg, Current, coated copper wire

Metalworking has long been a family affair for Canadian artist Carol Fréve. Fréve followed in the steps of her grandfather, a blacksmith in Quebec in the early 1900s who forged shoes for the horses that pulled copper from mines. Over the years, Fréve has taken the traditional skills and methods her grandfather once used and experimented with them to create her own artistic process. When creating one of her wire sculptures, Fréve electro forms her copper wire knittings so they have a three-dimensional shape.

Linked copper and stainless steel wire are the materials of choice for sculptor
Tsuruko Tanikawa and weaver Nancy Koenigsberg. When placed in light, the lace-like layers of wire in Koenigsberg’s Solitary Path, create an array of shadows and space. The open, yet connected nature, of the metals aid Tanikawa and Koenigsberg in exploring space, shade and light. “I  am interested both in a part in light and in a part in shadow,” explains Tanikawa.“The shape of my work is made by deleting a part from a complete form.”

Tamiko Kawata White City, saftey pins, acrylic on canvas

Tamiko Kawata, White City, saftey pins, acrylic on canvas

Artist Tamiko Kawata collects discarded metal materials, such as safety pins, when creating her assemblage inspired pieces. Kawata’s use of discarded safety pins as her sole material elevates the pins’ “prosaic object-roles and endows them with elegance and grandeur.” Just as Kawata breaks the utilitarian role of safety pins by using them as a material to create fine art, women are altering the masculine narrative associated with metalworking.

Heavy Metal will be on display at NMWA through Sunday, September 16th. For more information on the exhibition and the museum’s hours of operation click HERE.


Behind the Scenes: Drop Off at Helena Hernmarck’s

We recently took a trip up to Helena Hernmarck’s studio to loan back a few pieces for her upcoming solo exhibition Helena Hernmarck: Weaving In Progress at the Aldrich Museum. Located in Ridgefield, Connecticut, Helena’s studio is only a few miles from browngrotta arts.

A perfectly organized wall of color expands the entire length of the south side of Hernmarck’s studio. The wall acts as a storage for skeins of wool Hernmarck uses in her tapestries. The different skeins are precisely organized by their unique colors and tones, making it easier for Hernmarck to find a specific color when needed. Hernmarck is very particular about the quality of the materials she uses in her work. All the wool she uses is
rya wool, sourced from a specific breed of heirloom sheep in Sweden. The wool is also custom-dyed and spun to her specifications at a family-run spinning mill in Sweden, the place Hernmarck called home before emigrating to Canada, the UK and then settling in the US. Hernmarck has worked with browngrotta arts for more than 20 years, her work is included in 11 of browngrotta arts’ catalogs, including Helena Hernmarck and Markku Kosonen from 1994. Her commissions are found in dozens of corporations, museums and private collections.

Watching Hernmarck work leaves one in awe. Using a technique of her own invention, she is able to conjure details from our visual world, such as sunlight on waters and sails swelling in the wind. Every one of Hernmarck’s tapestries begin with an image, which is then blown up into her desired weaving size. From there, Hermarck plots her working plan on graph paper and produces a certain number of linear inches or feet per day so her commissions are completed on time. This technique allows Hermarck to capture even the smallest details in her weavings. Hernmarck’s attention to detail and her ability to portray subtle color variations, reflections and shadows are extraordinary. From a distance, Hermarck’s weavings look as if they are a single printed blown up photograph. On closer inspection, however, the thousands of strings of wool dissolve into interlaced pieces of warp and weft.


While visiting her studio, we also discussed her upcoming solo exhibition at the Aldrich Museum. Hernmarck never expected the Aldrich Museum’s invitation. “I did not expect to hear from them, after 38 years in town,” explains Hernmarck. “It was so positive that they were interested to show a textile artist in action. Things are changing…”Textiles have gained tremendous notoriety in the art world in recent years. Collectors, museums and art-lovers are becoming more aware of their allure.

Weaving In Progress will be the first solo exhibition of Hernmarck’s work in the United States since 2012. Given that the Aldrich is in Hernmarck’s hometown makes the exhibition all the more special. To be recognized for her accomplishments there is significant for Hernmarck. “It has been said that you can never be a prophet in your own land,” she explains.

In addition to presenting a variety of her work, Hernmarck herself will also be a part of the exhibition. During the exhibition, Hernmarck and her assistant Mae Colburn will create a work in situ, weaving three days a week in the exhibition space. The final work will be 55 inches wide and 40 inches tall, created on a five-foot-wide loom.“My assistant will be weaving with me as she is still in the learning curve,” Hernmarck says. Hernmarck’s aim for the exhibition is simple and direct. She hopes that “visitors will be inspired to do things with their hands and to get away from their computers” in this increasingly technology-focused world.