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