Archives for the month of: February, 2011

I’ve got my mind set on Spring. I’m feeling claustrophobic and itchy in my layers, putting on boots ignites anger, and I just want to go to the damn beach. March is the worst month in this regard, and so to keep myself from avoiding SAD I’ve been thinking a lot about my plants.

I was given a my first potted plant by my mother when I went off to college. He’s almost seen his final days quite a number of times, but now that I’m settled, he seems to be settled and happy in my window sill with an Ivy I bought last Spring right around this time. So on this dreary day, while a jack hammer takes out our back floor spewing soil everywhere, I thought of Megan Piontkowski.

A few weeks ago, we had a drop-in visit from a local artist named Megan Piontkowski. This has to be one of my favorite parts about working here. I love when artists or designers stop in to see the space, introduce themselves, and we get to know a little more about the person at the same time as being introduced to their work.

Megan proposed some classes, and when I took a look at her website, her work immediately lifted my winter-blues.

The plants, of course, made me smile — but overall, there is a quirky and light air to everything she does — from her illustrations of her alter ego, Sebastian, to more political, tongue-in-cheek satire, like her own Economic Stimulus Plan.

I am also a fan of her embroidery. Somewhere behind my cluttered desk, I am a minimalist at heart.

Overall, I’d like to fill my apartment with things this subtly beautiful and happy. Only 21 days to go!

(Photos courtesy Megan Piontkowski — sorry for the small size!)

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Last Monday TAC took a rest and celebrated President’s Day – which for me pretty much ended up being the day that I finally did all my laundry, cleaned my room, and faced the world as a grown-up woman. The bright and shiny moment of the day was the quick stop that my roommate and I did at a pop-up gallery space in 147 Franklin Street, in Greenpoint.

The gallery is hosting the 600/3×9 project, which consists of 3 different exhibitions, by 3 different curators, featuring an x amount of artists, and all this happening in a 600 sq feet space, during only 9 days (each show is up for only 2 days!). The three emerging curators, Jiyoun Lee-Lodge, Ati Egas, Renee Bovenzi were selected amongst a group of 12, by the curators of the IN RiVERS gallery.

Hannah and I catch the end of the first show, Hybrid Lifeforms,  curated by Jiyoun Lee-Lodge, and I fell in love with the work of Aidan Sofia Earle.

Sorting, dyed fabric and thread on paper, 2010

Aidan Sofia Earle studied painting but has “always been drawn to fiber arts” and her work brings together painting, embroidery, fabric applique and found objects. The result are beautiful and detailed compositions, that ask you to take a closer look and spend time discovering. One of my favorites is “At Nostrand”, which had kind of  a finding-a-treasure-box effect in me.

Small Pile, watercolor, thread and fabric on paper, 2009

At Nostrand, found objects, mixed media, 2010

About her work, Aidan Sofia Earle says:

“Man made objects accumulate in many ways. Things are collated and stacked, piled and flushed, bundled and lined-up. We have numerous approaches to organizing our belongings and our waste. Even the forces of nature come into play in the way objects are accumulated. The gyres of trash in the oceans, the accretion of items on shorelines, these discarded items, small and large, have transformed landscapes.

From the streets of my environment I gather and accumulate discarded items. As a magpie chooses its treasure I collect the left behind objects of daily life. Physically stitching the objects together I think of the accumulation as story quilts, each item carrying its perceived history while becoming part of a new whole.”

The Collection, wood, metal, dyed fabric, thread, 2008

Aidan worked as a fashion textile dyer and painter, puppet and prop designer builder, carpenter and artists assistant, experiences that allowed her to have contact with a wide range of materials and techniques, which is reflected in her work. She still hand-dyes the fabric and the thread used in her artwork.

Untitled, collage watercolor, thread, pencil on paper, 2008

Aidan Sofia Earle is currently an MFA candidate at the Brooklyn College.  She has exhibited with Sharon Arts Center, NH, Chase Gallery and Bates College Gallery, ME, Target Gallery, VA and had several residency fellowships, including Vermont Studio Center 2009, CAC Woodside 2010. She lives and works in Brooklyn.

I mentioned this exhibit on my blog yesterday but needed to have an excuse to further research the work of Anna Betbeze. She currently has an exhibit up at Kate Werble Gallery in NY and I cannot wait to check it out.

Anna is a young artist, under 35, originally from Alabama who went through the prestigious art program at Yale to end up as a working artist here in Brooklyn. Her work takes Flokati Rugs, think wool & shaggy, and she then dyes, beats, burns, and rips the work until it becomes a gorgeous but deconstructed skin of texture.

In a way her work is unclear, I remain unsure as what to take from it and her specific choice of canvas but in the end they are gorgeous abstract objects that have a more textural and therefore physical experience then most works of this style.

Her NY Times review by Karen Rosenberg beautifully said:

(The shows title, Moss Garden) refer to Michel Foucault, who lectured that “the garden is a rug onto which the whole world comes to enact its symbolic perfection, and the rug is a sort of garden that can move across space.” Fortunately the artworks don’t take themselves as seriously; they have a wonderfully forlorn, abject quality that inspires more empathy than theory.

I love the reference to the Foucault quote but do not agree that these works do not take themselves seriously, I feel that the “forlorn” quality is the “seriousness” of the work and though very abstract they also must be incredibly textural and through the process quite distressed and overworked.

I cannot help but wonder what the role of that deconstruction is… I feel that if an artist is choosing to take something and then in essence destroy it to make something new that there must be intention behind this act and I am curious to what Anna’s intention is.

Visually these works intrigue and satisfy, conceptually I still have questions and have much more ambiguous feelings but needless to say I cannot wait to head to the city and see them myself this weekend.

It would make a great day to see this show on the same trip.

Read another thoughtful review here.

Until next time keep your needle threaded.


Joetta Maue is a full time artist primarily using photography and fibers. Her most recent work is a series of embroideries and images exploring intimacy. Joetta exhibits her work throughout the United States and internationally, and authors the art and craft blog Little Yellowbird as well as regularly contributes to Mr. X Stitch. Joetta lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, baby son, two cats, a goldfish.

A few weeks ago, we were approached by a nice Irish man working for Japanese TV. He was working on a segment that highlighted the “craft wave” in and around NYC and Brooklyn. In particular he was interested in highlighting our weaving and shoe making classes, and he discussed with us the various ways in which we felt this “craft wave” was growing, affecting individuals, as well as the economy.

I feel like we’ve been having this conversation a lot, through several interviews happening around the same time (EcoSalon, Brooklyn Based), and it’s really actually helped in how we run things here. For the most part, we are doing what we believe in and what we think will make people happy. But when you are asked specific questions, it forces you to wrap your mind around what you’re actually doing — what is going on in a larger picture. And rather than just feeling it, you can talk about it in a more concrete way. I like that.

Alisa, one of our wonderful previous interns, shows up on the video as a weaver. She is Japanese, and her father still lives there. So when he randomly saw her on TV one night, he sent her the clip through Youtube:

Now I only wish I could understand Japanese and know what it says under my face while I’m speaking..

(photo courtesy EcoSalon)

Be sure to check out Elana Herzog’s show, Into the Fray, at LMAKprojects February 19.
It will be up February 19 – March  27 with an artist talk March 6.

Herzog alters and manipulates found textiles, including bedspreads and rugs, by stapling, tearing and draping.  These fabrics are transformed into new surfaces, often resembling organic decay or growth on the gallery walls they inhabit.

(Photos courtesy of http://www.elanaherzog.com/art.html)

Back in October we held a class taught by the wonderful Emily Fischer of HapticLab.

Emily was a wonderful teacher and I was so happy we were able to offer a basic quilting class that engaged people with contemporary design. Quilting inherently is a a bit nostalgic — evoking images of rocking chairs, Grandma, piecing together old clothes so you can keep them around forever and ever… Whatever one’s general opinion on the “typical” quilt look, quilting is a fantastic skill that can be used in so many ways and applied to all kinds of items.

However, I think it can be a little difficult to find people doing new and interesting things with the very time consuming hobby. Emily is a long time quilter, with a family-quilting background, but her clean and modern aesthetic allows for items that are “New York chic” with a level of nostalgia that is just right and suitable to the individual.

I had been ogling Emily’s work for awhile, and after meeting her, was so happy she was willing to teach at TAC. Of course, in my stupidity, I thought I’d actually have time to take the class…I hardly got beyond cutting out my backing. However, Carol Cho over at BurdaStyle, posted her finished project! It’s so exciting to see finished student work, particularly in use or back in their own environment.

A perfect example of how Emily’s quilts allow for the individual to create something relevant to place, space, memory, through text, drawing, fabric choice. Carol’s USA map tracks all the cities she has visited with her boyfriend.

Emily is also a really good person. She has been working with Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and this weekend they will have a huge Open House at the new Gallery on Atlantic Ave, which you should all go to! RSVP = maligi@mskcc.org.

Last week I attended really interesting lecture at the Bard Graduate Center by Tristan Weddigen. The talk was entitled “The Warp and Weft of History: Raphael and Le Brun Reflecting on the Textile Medium” and explored the ways tapestries from early modern Europe expressed and reflected the early modern artists intentions, in the same way that painting and sculpture did.

The starting point of the talk was the fact that tapestries were amongst the most expensive and valued works of art on Europe during Renaissance, but that importance isn’t reflected in art theory, either from that time or today. Several examples of tapestries with cartoons from Raphael and Charles LeBrun were discussed, highlighting how tapestries were start mimicking reality, in such a detailed way as paintings. The first examples of a tapestry depicting water reflections, and perspective, and facial expressions come from the 16th century and it is really mesmerizing to think how that result was achieved by weaving with colorful threads.

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, part of the 10 tapestries series commissioned by     Leo X for the Sistine Chapel, cartoons by Raphael, 1519

However, what really got my attention was learning that it was around this time too that tapestries started depicting textiles, and clothing, and other tapestries in extreme detail. Take a look, for instance, in this tapestry commissioned by Louis XIV and made at Gobelins, following a cartoon of Charles LeBrun. This tapestry depicts Louis XIV visiting the Gobelins workshop in Paris, and you can see represented another tapestry in the background, draped brocade textiles and voluptuous clothing.

Louis XIV visiting the Gobelins Factory, cartoon by Charles LeBrun, 1673

Imagine the work involved on the creation of these tapestries and it’s not hard to understand why their were so valuable. Also, the fact that a tapestry workshop and the work-in-progress was represented in a tapestry (and the fact the Louis XIV commissioned this work and is represented in it) only reinforces how important tapestries were in the society.  Another good example are the early mentioned Sistine Chapel tapestries, commissioned by Leo X (with cartoons by Raphael), which costed at least 16,000 ducats, and that amount was around five times what Michelangelo was paid for the work in the ceiling. (More on the process of creating a tapestry from the cartoon in this video about the Raphael’s Sistine Tapestries)

What happened since then though? At what moment did we stop acknowledging the creativity, the mastership and all the work involved on the creation of fiber art? What made fiber art lose its status as art, and be sent to the complicated-to-define craft concept?

This lecture made me feel overwhelmed with knowledge (I didn’t even attempt to make a summary of it, knowing that I probably missed great part of the art theory discussion about tapestries and their role in the society and art at that time), but also made me feel that I need to study more, much more.

 

I am using part of my time while a resident artist at TAC this spring to explore the multitude of ways in which artists/designers/crafters use our processes of making textiles to engage in social change (part of my masters thesis at NYU). As I do so, I’ll also share some of what I am thinking about here on the TAC blog, discussing artists, events, projects, books, social movements, and resources.

Textiles and garments—through their production, circulation, consumption, and use— have played a central role in social change for centuries. I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you reading this that not unlike food, textiles are a consistent part of our lives: a fundamental human need and an important marker and driver of culture. The farms on which fibers are grown and the factories in which textiles and garments are produced have been sites of terrible abuses but also sites for important moments in the history of labor activism. This makes it a particularly rich place from which to ask questions about what is happening in the world today. If you have suggestions for anyone or anything you think I should look into, by all means send them my way! I value all of your comments and contributions.

Movie Nights:

While helping out at TAC’s mending circle this past Sunday, Owyn, Isa and I were contemplating organizing movie nights at TAC. So I thought for this first post I would share some of my favorite textile-related films that also offer a precursor to themes for future posts. Please do add your movie recommendations in the comments.

Daughters of the Dust, 1991

film still from Daughters of the Dust

A powerful film about the women of a family descended from slaves who worked on the plantations that grew indigo, cotton and rice. It takes place on the Sea Islands, where ships first dropped off slaves for quarantine before they were sold on the main land. In addition to a different view on an important part of textile history, the costumes themselves—the white dresses of the younger women and the deep indigo of the matriarch—are a striking part of the story telling.

Gabbeh, 1996

film still from "Gabbeh"

A Gabbeh is one kind of handwoven Persian rug, and in the film, Gabbeh is also the name of a young woman who mysteriously appears and becomes the protagonist in the film. The entire film is filled with images of the process of rug making, often used to tell part of the story of the human characters: collecting plants for dyeing, shearing goats, dyeing and spinning yarn, and weaving.

Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags, 2009

film still

A documentary on the history of the New York garment industry with a focus on its decline over the last 30 years in the context of global trade, the move of manufacturing overseas, and the continual search for cheaper labor.

Wool 100%, 1996

film still

A dream-like Japanese film of two junk-collecting women whose latest find are several balls of bright red wool. This acquisition also attracts a girl who spends the movie obsessively knitting a long sweater, then unraveling and re-knitting it again and again.

Gandhi, 1982

film still

Cloth played an integral role in India’s struggle for independence from Britain, something captured in great detail in this epic film, from the Indigo farmers who first tell Gandhi of their poverty to his promotion of Khadi cloth for both symbolic and economic reasons.

Norma Rae, 1979

film still

One of my favorite films about organizing, based on a true story, a single young mother and textile worker organizes a garment factory in Alabama.

Made in Dagenham. 2010

film still

I haven’t seen this yet but its getting great reviews and looks like an important comment on the classification of garment work as supposedly “unskilled.” Also based on a true story, this is about the 1968 strike of 187 sewing machinists that eventually led to the Equal Pay Act.

Craft in America, 2009

film still: Lucy Morgan at Penland School of Craft

Craft in America is a PBS series that covers much more than textile crafts and their first season is available to watch online. For those interested in fiber, I particularly love the first part of the third episode on quilting and community and about the creation of the Penland School in North Carolina.

* The title of this column is a play on “Bread and Roses,” a phrase taken from a poem and used to refer to the 1912 textile workers strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The call of women marchers, “We want bread, but we want roses too,” is said to be a call for dignity as well as fair wages, that life should be beautiful as well as just.

Not in  New York for fashion week? If you happen to be flying through Atlanta’s international airport be sure to check out Nancy Judd’s Recycle Runway fashions.  Judd brings new life to things that have outlived their original purpose and displays these intricate items in high traffic locations like shopping malls and airports.

Aluminum Drop Dress


Photos by Eric Swanson

 

Jacket made from old cassette tape

(Photo by Sandrine Hahn)

(And this is a cassette tape, kids.)

 

 

Rusty Nails

Transformed!

(Photos Courtesy of Nancy Judd)

 

 

 

(via unconsumption)

Most of all, we like to think of this day as a good excuse to stop our crazy lives and just spend time making something special for that special someone (or for the all the special someones) in our life.