Category: Lectures

Summer Stock: Artist Lectures, Classes, Workshops and Walkthroughs

Have some spare time on your hands this summer? Here is a list of opportunities browngrotta arts artists are offering to help you channel your creativity:

Calculus, Sue Lawty, natural stones on gesso, 78.75" x 118", 2010

Calculus, Sue Lawty, natural stones on gesso, 78.75″ x 118″, 2010. Photo by Tom Grotta

Sue Lawty

June 16, 11-5pm
The Artworkers Guild, 6 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, London
Woven Tapestry with Sue Lawty”


Susie Gillespie

June 17-21
Yalberton Farm House, Yalberton Road, Paignton, Devon, UK
Field to Fabric with Susie Gillespie”

Susie Gillespie Detail

July 30-August 2
South Devon, UK
“Textile Art Techniques: Weaving, Stitching and Dying with Alice Fox and Susie Gillespie”


 New Nebula, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila , silk,alpaca, moriche palm fiber dyed with Indigo, rumex spp., onion,eucalyptus, acid dyes, copper and metallic yarns, 74” x 49.25”, 2017

New Nebula, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, silk,alpaca, moriche palm fiber dyed with Indigo, rumex spp., onion,eucalyptus, acid dyes, copper and metallic yarns, 74” x 49.25”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Maria and Eduardo Portillo

June 24-July 6
Penland School of Crafts – Textiles Summer Session Three, Bakersville, NC
Weaving Ideas”


Carolina Yrarrázaval

July 2
Tama Art Museum, 11th International Shibori Symposium, Tokyo
Talk: “Modern Art Museum Exhibition, Chile”


Tim Johnson's Keeping Time Baskets

Tim Johnson’s Keeping Time Baskets. Photo by Tim Johnson

Tim Johnson

July 3-4
Järvsö, Sweden
Finding Fibres – basketmaking with soft materials”

July 16-17, 10-5pm
FlechtSommer – Basketmaking Summer School, Korbmacher-Museum, Dalhausen, Germany
“Looping Techniques with Soft Materials”


July 22 – 27
West Dean College, near Chichester, England
Flexible basketry structures – looping, netting and knotting


Gizella Warburton

July 6 – 8
Hawkwood College, UK
Presence and Absense”

Caroline Bartlett

July 16-18, 10:30-4:30pm
City Lit, London, UK
“Textiles: manipulation, folding and fabric origami”


An example of what you can learn at Caroline Bartlett’s “Surfacing: Fold, Pleat, Form”

August 11-17
West Dean College near Chichester, UK
“Reshaping cloth — print and manipulation”

July 31-August 2
Hawar Textile Institute, Oldeberkoop, Netherlands
“Surfacing: Fold, Pleat, Form”

August 27-31
Big Cat Textiles, Newburgh, Scotland
“Between the Folds — Concealing and Revealing with Caroline Bartlett”



Shady Lane Polly Adams Sutton western red cedar bark, dyed ash, wire, cane 16” x 12” x 9”, 2006

Shady Lane,Polly Adams Sutton, 
western red cedar bark, dyed ash, wire, cane
16” x 12” x 9”, 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta

Polly Sutton

August 2-5
Missouri Basketweavers Convention
Talk: August 4, 7pm, “Basketry in Sardinia”
Workshop:  August 4-5, “Cedar Knothole Cathead”
August 4, 8am-5pm, August 5, 8am-10am


Ferne Jacobs

Offering private classes throughout the summer on the fiber techniques of coiling, knotting and twining.

For more information on Jacobs’ offered classes contact her at

Recap: Whirlwind Art Week in Wilton at browngrotta arts

VIP Preview

VIP-opening, photo by Carter Grotta

We had record crowds in attendance and a record number of sales at browngrotta arts in Wilton last week for Blue/Green: color/code/context. At our VIP preview event on Friday, we hosted our clients, collectors and art appreciators and our event sponsors from Litchfield Distilleryvenü Magazine and Country Club Homes.

Karl Dolnier parking cars at Blue/Green opening. Photo by Carter Grotta

Artist Dinner record crowds

Artist Dinner after Artist Reception. Photo by Carter Grotta

Saturday we hosted 10 artists from the exhibition (Keiji Nio and family all the way from Japan, Kiyomi Iwata from Virginia, Pat Campbell from Maine, Lewis Knauss, Nancy Koenigsberg, Polly Barton and Tamiko Kawata from New York, Wendy Wahl from Rhode Island and Dawn MacNutt from Nova Scotia) and loads of visitors, too. Sunday and Monday we were busy all day.

SDA Walkthrough record crowds

Surface Design Association Talk. Photo by Carter Grotta

Tuesday we hosted a good crowd of appreciative and knowledgable members of the Surface Design Association.

Designer Talk

Mae Colburn presentation of Helena Hernmarck work at the Architecture and Designer Talk. Photo by Carter Grotta

Wednesday was educational — we presented Material Matter: Integrating Art Textiles and Fiber Sculpture into Interiors and Architecture with the help of Mae Colburn from Helena Hernmarck’s studio and some interior shots from Walter Cromwell at Country Club Homes. Those in attendance were eligible to get Continuing Education Credit from the Interior Design Continuning Education Council.

westport arts center

westport arts center

Thursday brought the Westport Arts Council Board and patrons another educated and interested audience.

Ports of cause

Ports of cause fundraiser. photo by Harrison James O’Brien

Friday was Art•Ocean•Energy, an immersive art experience for supporters of Ports of Cause, a 501(c)3 driven to promote, inspire and accelerate innovative and sustainable solutions and practices that reduce the impact luxury living and everyday lifestyles have on our oceans. Those who joined us on Friday, heard Tom speak about our artists’ dedication to sustainable art and art practices and

Arthur Bavelas

Arthur Bavelas talking at Ports of Cause fundraiser. photo by Harrison James O’Brien

Arthur Bavelas, Founder of the Bavelas Group Family Office & Family Office Insights of New York City, speak about How sustainable innovation is driving the blue economy while benefiting our oceans and natural resources. A lively discussion followed. Saturday was a full day as was Sunday. Sunday evening we concluded our 10-day annual opening with a informed and engaged group from the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Hope we’ll see you at browngrotta arts in 2019 at one or more of our annual events. In the meantime, you can find us online at; talking about events and acquisitions and other art stuff at and on Facebook, posting items and images on Twitter and Instagram and videos on the browngrotta arts YouTube Channel.

Art Out and About: Exhibits Across the US, Eastern Edition

Norma Minkowitz Goodbye Goddess

Norma Minkowitz Goodbye Goddess, 2003, permanent collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum

Here’s a list of exhibitions, podcasts and lectures well worth seeking out in February, March and April. In Connecticut, at the Wadsworth Athenuem in Hartford SHE: Images of Female Power from the Permanent Collection is on exhibit through April 2, 2017. The exhibition considers: What does female power look like? The intimate installation takes that question as a starting point to consider works from across the Wadsworth Atheneum’s collections, from Egyptian sculpture to Pre-Columbian ceramics to photography and textiles by contemporary artists. Included are images of goddesses, queens and protectresses. The exhibition features works by Ana Mendieta, Elizabeth Catlett, Lorraine O’Grady, Norma Minkowitz and Mario Carreño, among others. Norma Minkowitz will speak at the museum on March 30th @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm followed by a guided visit to her groundbreaking sculpture Goodbye Goddess. Also in Connecticut, at the Yale Art Gallery in New Haven, Small-Great Objects: Anni and Josef Albers in the Americas examines intersections between the art-making and art-collecting strategies of the Alberses, two of the most influential figures of 20th-century modernism. As the Gallery notes explain, “Between 1935 and 1967, the couple made numerous trips to Latin America, namely Mexico and Peru, and amassed a large collection of ancient artworks from the region. The exhibition looks at these objects in depth and considers how Anni and Josef’s collection supported their aesthetic sensibilities and teaching practice. In addition to objects from the ancient Americas, the show gathers together dozens of works that the couple made, including textiles, paintings, works on paper, and rarely studied photographs that Josef took at archaeological sites and museums.” Demonstrating the Alberses’ deep and sustained engagement with ancient American art, Small-Great Objects explores a fascinating dimension of the couple’s creative vision. This exhibition is accompanied by a free podcast, available in the gallery space and online at In Massachusetts, 31 works by international artists are included in Excellence in Fibers at the New Bedford Museum of Art. Organized by Fiber Art Now magazine, submissions from around the world were reviewed by jurors Emily Zilber, Curator, MFA Boston; artists Gerhardt Knodel and Norma Minkowitz and Melissa Leventon, former curator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Rachel Max Basket

After Haeckel II by
Rachel Max, 2015 Photo by Tom Grotta

Rachel Max is among the artists selected for Excellence in Fibers. You can read more about her work in the Winter double edition of Fiber Art Now in an article by John Hopper: In New York at the Museum of Arts and Design,

Françoise Grossen sculpture

Embryo by Françoise Grossen. Photo by Tom Grotta

Françoise Grossen Selects remains on exhibit through March 15th. “Grossen has mined the Museum’s permanent collection,” the Museum writes, “and brought her own rope sculptures together with a selection of work from MAD’s unusual collection of baskets, as well as other work in fiber, wood, and metal….Grossen’s selections highlight an approach to contemporary sculpture that focuses on the artist’s direct transformation of material and links it to a wider discussion about ways of making in culture at large.”

On Sunday, February 19th at 2 p.m., MAD’s Windgate Research and Collections Curator, Elissa Auther, will discuss the historical context of Grossen’s work. Auther will also discuss the advance of thread, rope, string, felt and fabric from the “low” world of craft to the “high” world of art in the 1960s and ’70s, as well as the prominence of fiber in art today. For more information visit:çoise-grossen-selects.

SOFA Chicago Sneak Peek; Judy Mulford’s Empty Chairs Series

Judy Mulford 80 Empty Chairs Photo by Tom Grotta

Judy Mulford 80 Empty Chairs Photo by Tom Grotta

At SOFA Chicago this week, artist Judy Mulford will present her remarkable room-sized mixed media installation Empty Chairs. The installation features a central sculpture entitled “What now?” she said. “What now?…What now?…What now?…” surrounded by 80 individually rendered chairs in frames. The intimate and emotional sculpture chronicles domestic life. The dollhouse chairs, dolls, buttons and embellishments used in the work were collected by the artist from family members, flea markets, antique stores and friends. Mulford spent a year on the work, which marks her upcoming 80th birthday. She has also produced a limited-edition book, 80 Empty Chairs, as a part of this project.

Mulford’s sculptures have been exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Charlotte, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery and The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C. and the 12th International Biennial of Tapestry in Hungary. Mulford’s work is informed by her studies of the basket-making culture of Micronesia, particularly on the islands of Truk and Ulithi. She was a member of the studio team for Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party in the 1970s.

Judy Mulford Portrait in her studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Judy Mulford Portrait in her studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Mulford will speak at her Special Exhibition booth, SE221, and sign copies of her book at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, November 4th. Mulford will also be at browngrotta arts, Booth 921 at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday the 6th and will be available for questions and conversation throughout SOFA.

SOFA Chicago, Artists Wall to Wall: Lectures, Booksignings and Booth Q&As

At this year’s SOFA Chicago, browngrotta arts has planned a full calendar of activities. Hope to see you at one or more of our special events:

Friday, November 4th

Norma Minkowitz and Nancy Koenigsberg. Photos by Tom Grotta

Norma Minkowitz and Nancy Koenigsberg. Photos by Tom Grotta

Fiber Art in Three Dimensions: A History and Discussion of Fiber Art Off the Wall, including Norma Minkowitz and Nancy Koenigsberg
10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Lecture Room B

Artist Q&A: Norma Minkowitz
2 p.m.
browngrotta arts, booth 921
Norma Minkowitz’ work is intense and finely wrought, merging sculpture, stitching, crochet and fine pen-and-ink drawing. Join us at browngrotta arts’ Booth 921 at 2 p.m. Friday when Minkowitz will answer questions about her inspiration and process.

Art in the Future: A Look at Collecting Fragile and

Jennifer Falck Linssen

Jennifer Falck Linssen at SOFA Chicago

Unusual Materials, including Jennifer Falck Linssen
2:30 – 3:30 pm
Lecture Room A
As contemporary artists experiment with innovative techniques and non-traditional materials, a collector must consider the fragility and instability of these new works. Collectors of Studio Art Glass, CEO of The Conservation Center, Executive Vice President, Business Development, Gurr Johns, Gallery Director, TAI Modern and artist Jennifer Falck Linssen, browngrotta arts, will address issues of preservation and conservation in a panel moderated by Michelle Impey, AVP – Fine Art & Collections Manager, Risk Consulting Group, Chubb Personal Risk Services.

Judy Mulford in her studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Judy Mulford in her studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Judy Mulford: Special Booth Talk/Book Signing
3:30 p.m.
Special Booth SE221
Judy Mulford incorporates photographs, words, beads, figures, antique silver, buttons and more into her knotted and woven sculptures that celebrate the family. Mulford will speak about her remarkable room-sized mixed media installation, Empty Chairs, and sign copies of her limited edition book, 80 Empty Chairs.

Artist Q&A: Jennifer Falck Linssen
5 p.m.
browngrotta arts, booth 921
The foundation of Jennifer Falck Linssen’s artwork lies in the ancient Japanese paper and textile traditions of katagami, stencil carving and katazome. Join us at browngrotta arts’ Booth 921 at 5 p.m. Friday when Linssen will answer questions about her inspiration and process.

Saturday, November 5th

Marian Bijlenga SOFA Chicago 2008 photo by Tom Grotta

Marian Bijlenga SOFA Chicago 2008 photo by Tom Grotta

Marian Bijlenga: 30 Years of Making, Lecture
11:30 a.m
Lecture Room C
Fiber artist Marian Bijlenga explores her inspirations in creating wall sculptures from delicately worked elements of horse hair, viscose, paper, glass and fish scales, how she balances intuitive and structured creative impulses, her 30 years of making, and what lies ahead.

Marian Bijlenga Book Signing
12:30- 1:30 p.m.
browngrotta arts Booth 921
Marian Bijlenga will sign copies of her limited edition book:
Marian Bijlenga: MINIATURES: An Autobiographical Archive, reflecting 30 years of work

Artist Q&A: Christine Joy
2 p.m.
browngrotta arts booth 921
Christine Joy’s baskets of willow, maple, cottonwood and osier appear as if they are moving, as she intends, growing and animated, as though the shapes had been cut from a tree or pulled from moving water. Join us at browngrotta arts’ Booth 921 at 2 p.m. Friday when Joy will answer questions about her inspiration and process.

Grethe Sørensen at browngrotta arts 10th Wave III opening. Photo by Tom Grotta

Grethe Sørensen at browngrotta arts 10th Wave III opening. Photo by Tom Grotta

Artist Q&A: Grethe Sørensen
3 p.m.
browngrotta arts booth 921
Grethe Sørensen explores digital technologies to create her tapestries that combine weaving and video, selecting and manipulating still images to create a poetic universe of pixels, headlights, traffic lights, neon shop and advertising signs meticulously rendered in cotton thread. Join us at browngrotta arts’ Booth 921 at 3 p.m. Saturday when Sorenson will answer questions about her inspiration and process.

Sunday, November 6th

Artist Q&A: Judy Mulford
1 p.m.
browngrotta art
Judy Mulford incorporates photographs, words, beads, figures, antique silver, buttons and more into her knotted and woven sculptures that celebrate the family. Join us at 1 p.m. on Sunday the 6th at browngrotta arts, Booth 921 when the artist will speak about her remarkable room-sized mixed media installation, Empty Chairs and her artistic process and sign copies of her limited edition book, 80 Empty Chairs.

SOFA Sneak Peak: Marian Bijlenga — 30 Years of Making, Art, Lecture and a Book Signing

Nine miniatures refers to works from 1983,1986,1998,2000,2003,2004 and 2012. Photo by Tom Grotta

Marian Bijlenga’s Nine miniatures refers to works from 1983,1986,1998,2000,2003,2004 and 2012. Photo by Tom Grotta


Marian Bijlenga: MINIATURES An Autobiographical Archive reflecting 30 years of work

Artist Marian Bijlenga from the Netherlands will attend SOFA Chicago this year. She’ll be presenting her work through browngrotta arts, and a lecture, on Saturday, at 11:30 a.m. in Room C of the Navy Pier, and signing copies of her book on Saturday at 12:30 .m. at Booth 921. Bijlenga will discuss the 30-year span of her career and the evolution of her practice. She is known internationally for wall sculptures created from delicately worked elements of horse hair, viscose, paper, glass and fish scales, using a technique that she developed herself while studying at the Rietveld Art Academy in the late 1970s and early 1980s.Instead of drawing on paper, the artist draws in space by using textile as a material. “For me,” she says,”transparency is a prerequisite. By leaving some space between the structure and the wall the object is freed from its background and interacts with the white wall. It becomes what I call a ‘Spatial Drawing.’” In her lecture, she will explore her inspirations, found in the natural world, and the way she balances intuitive and structured creative impulses, as well as the 30 more years of making she sees ahead. For her 60th birthday, Bijlenga compiled a group of 60 miniatures, each replicating a piece, or a series of pieces — many of which are in museum collections — that reflect 30 years of her artistic career. The project became a limited-edition book: MINIATURES: An Autobiographical Archive with text by Jack Lenor Larsen and Lesley Millar MBE. Bijlenga will sign copies of her book at browngrotta arts just after her lecture on Saturday, November 5th at 12:30. For more information on SOFA, visit:

Traces of Writing, 2015. This piece is an enlargement of a miniature made in 1995.

Marian Bijlenga’s Traces of Writing, 2015.
This piece is an enlargement of a miniature made in 1995.

Out and About: Grethe Wittrock’s Reception and Lecture at Fuller Craft Museum

We were pleased to catch up with Grethe Wittrock and fans of her work at the Fuller Craft Museum yesterday, to hear her speak and to celebrate the opening of her first solo exhibition the US.

Grethe Wittrock at her Fuller Craft Museum Exhibition Opening. photo by Tom Grotta

Grethe Wittrock at her Fuller Craft Museum Exhibition Opening. photo by Tom Grotta

The installation, of sails that Wittrock has re-purposed and re-envisioned, dyed and cut, is dramatic, its shifting shadows giving visitors a sense of being near the sea.

Titilayo Ngwenya, Director of Communication filming Grethe Wittrrock, European Magpie. Photo by Tom Grotta

Titilayo Ngwenya, Director of Communication filming Grethe Wittrrock, European Magpie. Photo by Tom Grotta

In her lecture, Wittrock spoke about this work and about her initial SAIL project at the Danish Arts Workshops using sails from the training vessel Georg Stage, which is moored at Holmen in Copenhagen in between cruises. Wittrock began by punching holes and tying knots through the sails to create designs and then transitioned to painting and dying them an finally to cutting sails and sailcloth to resemble bird wings.

Grethe Wittrock Fuller Exhibition Lecture. Photo by Tom Grotta

Grethe Wittrock Fuller Exhibition Lecture. Photo by Tom Grotta

The maritime signal colors of neon orange and yellow are the dominating colors in the project, and patterns representing rope bindings, nautical maps and underwater seascapes are transferred by means of printing and perforation. Wittrock’s dual goal is to shape the material in accordance with her idea while also incorporating the potential and expression of the material itself. The SAIL project is based on a piece of age-old utilitarian textile that has served in all sorts of wind and weather conditions, and which is a carrier of stories from voyages to destinations near and far.

Wittrock explained that she grew up near a stony shore and sea and sky, stones and birds are consistent influences in her work.The exhibition, Grethe Wittrock: Nordic Currents, is at the Fuller through January 31, 2015, 455 Oak Street, Brockton, MA.

Art/Text Events: Helena Hernmarck and Norma Minkowitz at Connecticut Libraries

Helena Hernmarck Portrait, photo by Tom Grotta

Helena Hernmarck Portrait, photo by Tom Grotta

This Sunday, January 25, 2015, award-winning artist Helena Hernmarck will speak at the Ridgefield Library, 472 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877 from 2-3:30 p.m. A longtime resident of Ridgefield, Hernmarck was born in Sweden and educated at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. Hernmarck is known for her monumental tapestries, found in numerous corporate and museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Arts and Design, the Detroit Art Institute, Time-Warner, Kellogg, Pitney Bowes and Newsday, which are based on photographs, rephotographed collages and her own watercolors. “It is easy to affix the label photo-realism or trompe l’oeil to her work, but the medium itself, full of surprising surface effects, rejects such classifications,” according to Sigrid Wortmann Weltge, professor emeritus, history of art and design, Philadelphia University. “Hernmarck is thoroughly modern and asserts her rights as an artist by defying all rules. Ignoring that a weaving should be flat, for example, she superbly manipulates not only the textile but the viewer as well. Through the use of perspective and shading, her iconography appears dimensional while it is in effect flat. Yet the surface, as a result of deftly combined yarns of varying density, is dimensional. Hernmarck draws on various sources for her subject matter, nature as well as mundane objects. Though unideological, her imagery is, nevertheless, entirely in tune with contemporary life, immediately understood yet unexpected and mysterious.” (“Helena Hernmarck,” American Craft magazine, Sigrid Wortmann Weltge, Dec 1999/Jan 2000). SNOW DATE: Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 2p.m. The Library encourages registration as the talk is likely to fill up quickly. For more information: tel: 203.438.2282;

Norma Minkowitz artist talk at Drawn to the Edge reception at the Westport Library. Photo by Tom Grotta

Norma Minkowitz artist talk at Drawn to the Edge reception at the Westport Library. Photo by Tom Grotta

Beginning this month, visitors to the library in Westport, Connecticut can view Drawn to the Edge, an exhibit of small sculptures and textured pen-and-ink drawings combined with collage and fiber by Westport resident, Norma Minkowitz, whose work is held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) and Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Minkowitz has long used stiffened crochet to create airy, three-dimensional objects. In these, “[e]ach of the smallest elements — a crossing of threads, an individual knot, is essential to her realization of the final form, in a manner not unlike the complex assembling of individual cells to form a complete organism,” wrote David McFadden, former Chief Curator at the Museum of Arts & Design, New York of Minkowitz’s work. “This transformation is made possible only by cells held in genetically predetermined arrangements. By paying homage to the basic construction principles of the natural world, the artist achieves forms that appear to have been given the breath of life.” Minkowitz has been creating her intensely detailed pen-and-ink drawings for many years, but only recently begun to exhibit them. Like her sculptures, they are complex assemblages that include collage elements that the artist says, “interest, intrigue or scare me.” The artist spoke last week at the opening of Drawn to the Edge after being introduced by Chris Timmons, the Library exhibits coordinator, as a “treasure.” The cross-hatching in her drawings Minkowitz described as a link to stitching. She explains that she works spontaneously without a preplanned ending, letting the final work enfold on its own.

The Seekers collage/drawing by Norma Minkowitz. Photo by Tom Grotta

The Seekers collage/drawing by Norma Minkowitz. Photo by Tom Grotta

In The Seekers, for example, she had included cutouts of birds, but it was not until she came across an image of Picasso’s eyes, “so dark and piercing,” that “I knew how to finish the piece.” Minkowitz spoke some about the inspiration for her imagery, but added that she doesn’t wish to over explain her works. “I want them to be open to interpretation,” she says, “I like it when people see something else entirely.” Drawn to the Edge runs through March 25th in The Great Hall of the Westport Library, 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880 | 203.291.4800 | Hours: Mon-Thurs 9-9 , Fri 9-6 , Sat 9-5 , Sun 1-5;

Guest Post: Hisako Sekijima

Hisako Sekijima at Haystack School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine

photo by Meghan Price

photo by Meghan Price

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.

Basketmaking at Haystack with Hisako Sekijima 2013

photo by Meghan Price

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.

Hisako Sekijima Lecturing her class at Haystack, photo by Meghan Price

Hisako Sekijima Lecturing her class at Haystack, photo by Meghan Price

photo by Meghan Price

photo by Meghan Price

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.

photo by Meghan Price

photo by Meghan Price

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.

Hisako Sekijima photo by Meghan

Hisako Sekijima
photo by Meghan

Hisako Sekijima Yokohama, Japan

Process Notes: On Paper and Pages – Wendy Wahl

Wendy Wahl talking about her works after her talk at the Flinn Gallery

Last month, Wendy Wahl spoke to a group at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut at  the Paperworks: material as medium exhibtion about her recent works and installations made of re-purposed encyclopedias. Here are some excerpts from Wahl’s remarks:

REBOUND: FROM E/H Wendy Wahl discarded/deconstructed/ restructured encylopedia pages , blackened old elm barn beam 27″ x 27″ x 13″, 2009

“My daily walk in the woods allows me the quiet opportunity to hear the sounds of the trees, to see a segment of something larger and profound. Those walks provided the time and space I needed to figure out what the next series of pieces were going to be. It became apparent to me that the materials I needed to use should be familiar and abundant. In 2006, I participated in a group show titled Not Quite Natural, this was the first time I used the pages or leaves of books as a material to create an object. The exhibition was at the Wheeler School Gallery, an ideal setting to present art that is inspired by the concept of how we learn. “Stand for Knowledge” is constructed from pages of discarded New American Encyclopedias whose text I blackened with India ink. Each form stands on a base made from a recycled 200-year-old elm barn beam that has been blackened.”

9ww #502, Wendy Wahl, seven pieces, paper, yarn,95″ x 60″ x 36″, 2001-2002, photo by Tom Grotta

“Originally, I was most interested in the process. I didn’t necessarily need to know what the outcomes would look like only that I had to do it and I wanted to work the material in three dimensions. Sometimes, it is in the act of making the parts where the inspiration resides; knowing there is a mystery of what is about to unfold. Earlier pieces were suspended by monofilament, just kissing the platform, swaying ever so slightly.“

Wendy Wahl works on her installation “Uncovered Grove” at Newport Art Museum. The show will run through February 3, 2008. (photo by Jacqueline Marque)

“In 2007, Curator Nancy Grinnell invited me to have an exhibition at the Newport Art Museum. I created Uncovered Grove. I was seduced by the idea of making a body of work that considered the association between the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. The intention was to describe the relationship of our natural and cultural realms in an attempt to understand the sources and structures that bind us together. I am a fan of Pablo Neruda’s poetry and in his last book of Questions he asks, “What did the tree learn from the earth to be able to talk to the sky? And Why did the tree undress itself only to wait for the snow?”

“A journal entry from Ralph Waldo Emerson dated November 2, 1833 clearly says the unsayable: “Nature is a language, and every new fact that we learn is a new word; but rightly seen, taken all together, it is not merely a language, but the language put together into a most significant and universal book. I wish to learn the language, not that I may learn a new set of nouns and verbs, but that I may read the great book which is written in that tongue.”

8ww #77 Wendy Wahl paper, 29″ x 40″ x 15″, 2001-2002, photo by Tom Grotta

“In 2009, Tom Grotta called me up and said, the installation work is very nice, but do you think you cam make something to hang on a wall in a room rather than something that requires the whole room to hold the piece. And with that nudge I embarked on making a series of pieces on panel with frames using encyclopedias and dictionaries. “

25ww REBOUND DIPTYCH Wendy Wahl, Encylodpedia Britanica mixed editions, 2; 28″ x 18″ panels, 2010, photo by Tom Grotta

“They are somewhere between sculpture, collage and paintings. I see them as landscapes. They are constructed from hundreds and hundreds of scrolled pages glued to the surface of a wood panel.”

26ww Seeds(of knowledge) WB vol.18/19, Wendy Wahl, World Book encyclopedia pages on inked panel, 21.25″€ x 34.25″€ x 1.625″€, 2011, photo by Tom Grotta

“When WS Merwin was US poet laureate, I was inspired by his poem Unchopping a Tree and would recite it aloud prior to working on these 4’x4’ panels. It begins: Start with the leaves, the small twigs and the nests that have been shaken, ripped or broken off by the fall; these must be gathered and attached once again to their respective places, And ends: But there is nothing more you can do. Others are waiting. Everything is going to have to be put back.”

Branches Unbound Wendy Wahl’s installation at the Grand Rapids Art Museum

“I am still compelled to make large scale installations and last year I erected Branches Unboundat the Grand Rapids Art Museum. It is another iteration of my view of the connections between nature and culture. My continued interest is considering the associations between the tree of life, defined as the patterns of relationships that link all earth’s species and the tree of knowledge, defined as the connected branches of human thought realized in the form of writing and speaking.”

“This work is part of an ongoing experiment and series that uses the potency of printed text. I’m using a cultural artifact as my material for many of reasons that include the meanings that it carries, its unique physical qualities, and to recognize its symbolic status. By restructuring familiar elements that in a particular format belongs to a collective consciousness, I’m commenting on an aspect of our station in time.”

Wendy Wahl discussing her works at Paperworks: Material as Medium at the Flinn Gallery photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

“I am often asked why paper? I began using paper as more than a substrate because of its beauty and mystery. It can be permanent or transient, delicate or strong, cheap or expensive, abundant or scarce. It can be cut, bent, folded, crumpled, twisted, torn, glazed, waxed, pulped or burned. Paper can go from two to three dimensions in unexpected ways. It can be preserved or returned to the earth. It is probably one of the most important technological developments that affected the course of human history.”