Day One at the 2009 Surface Design Conference

Regional Meet-and-Greet breakfasts highlight the many accomplished longtime members and new attendees at this event. Morning keynote speaker Harmony Susalla, gave a fascinating talk, “Organic Cotton: Beyond Oatmeal and Granola Colors.” Susalla is a designer of colorful, interesting printed fabrics on organic cottons. She cites many reasons for choosing organic cotton: cotton production takes up 3% of farmland and 25% of insecticides used globally. Worker injuries are legion. In a nod to what consumers will actually buy, she uses synthetic dyes to develop fabric designs with striking color. Check out more statistics on her website. By the way, she mentioned that in the last four years, one in three textiles jobs has disappeared in this country.

After a tasty lunch with Iowa fiber sculptor Judy Bales in the inspiring surroundings of the Nelson-Atkins Museum courtyard restaurant (see picture at left), I attended “Creating & Printing Uncommon Surfaces” demonstration by Arizona artist and former art quilter Kathyanne White. This was basically a digital printing demonstration resulting in visually textured surfaces that worked well in books. Fabrics, spun polyester and cheesecloth surfaces were commonly used, all using Golden products. This demo and many of the presentations are being professionally videotaped into DVD format for purchase. This should be a boon for fiber arts groups around the country.

Then came keynote speaker Gerhard Knodel, longtime head of the fiber area and then the graduate program at Cranbrook. His talk focused on reinvention and was enlightening as always. The vendors exhibition opened in the evening following an outdoor picnic dinner; a highlight was handmade sumi-e painting brushes by a Chinese artist.

The Kansas City Art Institute is a lovely, creativity filled school sandwiched between the Kemper Museum of Contemporary American Art (shown below) and the Nelson Atkins Museum. It’s a lot of fun to take in various sculptures around campus. Eyes are opened to textures, patterns in new ways.

sculptures and evening at the Kansas City Art Institute

Surface Design Conference, Kansas City

Greetings from the Kansas City Art Institute, where the biennial International Surface Design Association Conference is about to begin. I’ve been here a number of times already, always with talented, accomplished artists whom I’ve watched grow and develop over the years. My first year, two of us were trying to wean infants while we came to the conference. Both of us are back for the first time, and those infants are now 24 years old. In the meantime, KCAI is a wonderful place for student creativity, and sculptures abound on the campus, as well as an outdoor walkway of lit up ground squares that change color at night as you walk over them. Cool! Dorm life is interesting- the first time we were not aware the bathrooms were coed. The two middle aged males on our floor moved up one.

The conference consists of multiple sessions on a variety of topics – theoretical, technical, artist-profile, new media, you name it. There’s always a day of exhibit openings throughout the city, and this is one of the most stimulating elements for me personally. Look for updates in the coming days.

In the meantime, we also hope to visit the new wing of the Nelson Atkins Museum and its wonderful outdoor sculpture garden. One more view below shows one from the group of sculptures by Magdalena Abakanowicz, a Polish artist who made phenomenal weavings, then haunted sculptures in the 1970s and is now mostly known as a sculptor.

Time for a Road Trip

The Wall Street Journal just posted a piece on traveling the summer “quilt circuit” with all definitions of the word included. That’s right, you read it correctly, The Wall Street Journal. Stops Along the Summer Quilt Trail: Major shows highlight the latest work in a booming medium by Meg Cox profiles several types of quilt events across the country.

According an April, 2008 article by Julia Pfaff in Quilters’ Newsletter, one in 12 Americans quilts. The most famous and prestigious American exhibition of contemporary art quilts, Quilt National ’09 just opened at the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio. It’s one of the exhibits profiled in The Wall Street Journal. (My work was not accepted this time, but I did participate in the last exhibition, and my piece “A Momentary Place” recently sold after touring.)