community art events

Anni Holm & the NetWorking Project

Iowa City’s celebrated Iowa Arts Festival took place June 3-5, inaugurated by a Gallery Walk at 17 downtown locations including Iowa Artisans Gallery, the gallery that I am associated with. On my rounds to check out artists at the art fair the next day, I discovered a tent with a knitting installation in progress. The red knitted labyrinth resembled a large unruly octopus and represents the work of many knitters over time. Curious, I asked artist and founder Anni Holm to tell me more about her project.

Anni, who lives in Chicago but is a native of Denmark, and fellow knitter Nyok-Mei Wong of Malaysia, started this knitting installation/performance art piece in 2006. Entitled “The NetWorking Project,” it involves members of the public stopping by to knit from one of the many ends. No experience is necessary.  From her promotional materials, Anni tells us, “The NetWorking project is an attempt to physically demonstrate how a network is constructed and constantly changing. The viewers are invited to sit down and knit with the artist, and through dialogue develop their own networks beyond the boundaries of the piece.” To see more images from other locations, visit The NetWorking Project’s website.

Anni Holm is pictured above, at left. She told Festival organizers that about 100 knitters participated in the project over two days, not bad for a first time appearance.

Chicago road trip: Lillstreet Art Center + SOFA

Here’s an introduction to the textiles studios at Lillstreet Art Center, which is now located on Ravenswood Avenue in a former 3-story “gear shop.” It’s a lot like a re-purposed 1930s junior high school space. Lillstreet started out about thirty years ago, strictly as a ceramics facility on Lill Street, featuring teaching space and studios for ceramists. The move to Ravenswood coincided with an expansion to a facility with metalsmithing, lampworked glass, printmaking, painting, textiles and kids’ art classes. Ceramics is still the main focus. The facility also includes a sales and exhibition area, plus First Slice, a great cafe with great food and profits going to support homeless youth meals.  I have been eagerly following Lillstreet Blog for some time, enamored with its focus on screen printing. Here you’ll find pictures of this facility, introduced by head of textile area Camille Canales.

SOFA is the Sculptural Objects Fine Art Exposition, this year paired with INTUIT, the outsider art museum plus galleries. Major collector galleries exhibit at SOFA, and one has the opportunity to look at work commonly found in American Craft and other magazines. I hadn’t been in several years, and the level of creativity is always astonishing. I also sat at the Surface Design Association information table, which was located in front of the Corning Glassblowing Demo booth, very informative, very impressive and great theater.

Below: the sewing workshop at Lillstreet- Camille is my guide.  
Camille is using pins to secure a runner to a table, in preparation for later screenprinting. I encouraged her to work as she answered questions- this was a time free of students in the dye and print studio.





Screenprinted curtains (above) and clothing (below)


It’s rare to have a workshop with so many fabric screens. I was in heaven!
Below, Camille’s screenprinted embroidery sampler, upon which students then practice certain embroidery stitches


above: pattern pieces. 
below: menu at the Cafe Slice. It’s time now to order pies for Thanksgiving! I purchased various pieces of pie plus their squash soup to take to my overnight host and good friend, and everything was super tasty.


Above: re-arranging jewelry displays in the Lillstreet Studio gallery. 
Below: I followed the many bike routes on my way back to Oak Park, through Wrigleyville.


Historic stained glass from Chicago producers, stunning examples of old and new, inside the corridor on Navy Pier. Very worth seeing.






Above: I had seen so much art at SOFA, that when I stepped outside, I was struck by the materials, color and textural contrast of this light post base. 
Below: SDA Area Representatives Linda and Darcy


Above: SDA President Candy and friend and fellow volunteer Ann attending tothe SDA informational table at SOFA, with the swatch collection

Above: a fantastic grouping of photos of Utah plus oversized ceramic sculpture by fellow Iowa City resident Gerry Eskin.  Below: stepping out towards my car, surface design is everywhere…


For years, when my kids were around, I thought that the way to really make summers creatively productive would be to aim for a drawing a day. It was always hard to actually get to more substantive studio work during that time. Intentions then, and later for other regular drawing “devotions” always gave less than satisfying results. Only an occasional drawing, but when I did them, how revealing.

dog sitting, Sam: my own dog Tuck moves around too much

Two Surface Design Association (SDA) Conferences ago, and looking at the course offerings of Penland School of Crafts, I realized that although the array of techniques and workshops was stunning, what I really want most is to draw. To expand my visual vocabulary. For my hand to be more in touch with what I see and what I want to express. A drawing a day would do it.

Still, it’s hard to fit that in, hard to be the observer instead of the doer.

This year, I learned about The Sketchbook Project, where you sign up to participate by receiving and filling a blank “moleskine” type of sketchbook, which then goes to sketchbook library in Brooklyn, and potentially on display. Yes, it costs a bit to join and needs to be done by a certain date. Hey, we pay tuition for classes. Since this seemed like a good way to force myself into a habit, I gladly signed up.

Receiving the sketchbook was  a bit of a disappointment. Such thin cardboard covers. There’s no reason why participants can’t deconstruct the book, and insert new pages, as long as the size conforms to the guidelines.

I spent time being intimidated by the empty pages. How to start with a bang, not a wimper. Most of us who draw at all know that only 1 of 10 drawings is any good though all have something to teach or can jog our memories as to place and locations. Starting a new sketchbook meant for others was definitely intimidating. My solution? start in the middle. Add pages randomly, numbered as Page 1, Page 2, etc. That seems to be working. Other solution? Use three sketchbooks- my regular journal one, my larger pad, and the Sketchbook Project one. Start my day in one, and migrate to the others. Copy and collage when needed. It’s starting to happen.

I’m also adopting some techniques about holding a brush and using washes that I learned in a Chinese Painting class, with a teacher from China who spoke no English and his interpreter, who was hard to understand. We sat in a basement and drew symbolic landscape on a beautiful spring day. Ironic, but the techniques have truly been useful.

Along the way, I’ve also found some interesting web communities of sketchers, like Urban Sketchers. Like Life Sketcher, Stan Fellows, and others.

I haven’t done enough yet to really have an effect on my paintings and prints on fabrics, but that should come. For now, it’s a rich time of year to draw outside, to see potential in any view. For really, anything can be made into a drawing, and the most mundane subject matter can be the most interesting.  My sketchbook will not be glamorous, but it will be a step in the right direction, for me, made fun by sitting outside – and – simply – drawing.

what happens with modular repeats: dried Roma tomato

Artquilts at the MacNider Art Museum

Summer is the perfect time for a road trip. If you’re in the neighborhood, check out the Charles MacNider Art Museum in Mason City (home to Meredith Wilson, creator of the Music Man). The MacNider is a charming regional museum with a nice collection of American art as well as Bill Baird’s puppets. Baird was the creator of the marionettes in The Sound of Music. You’ll also see an exhibit of my work, on view until September 4. The exhibit is the result of being awarded Best in Show in the Iowa Craft exhibition last November. Here are some photos from the installation.

Fellow artist Connie Roberts (above), a wooden whistle sculptor, accompanied me
a lovely modern addition to the MacNider houses a special exhibition space plus this area for contemporary ceramics
We also visited Clear Lake, 11 miles west of Mason City. It was also the day for a Bicycle, Blues & Barbecue Festival, looked and smelled great…

Reinvention, Return…

Studio tours in Emeryville

“Reinvention” Conference at San Francisco State University, March 17-19, 2010. Sponsored by the Surface Design Association (SDA) and Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). This regional conference attracted primarily California artists, but also SDA and SAQA Board members, state representatives and members from adjoining and other states. A blog is a poor substitute for active participation and listening, but it is a start.

Months ago, when I first read through the lineup of conference presenters, I thought, hmm, a very academic approach. But no, this was something more. Unlike most conferences involving textile artists, this one did not have much in the way of hands-on and technique-oriented sessions. I’m sure that this aggravated some attendees. Instead, this was a textiles homecoming, a conference that took a detailed look at the handmade textile scene— now, then and future. It dealt with legacy. With long-running artist careers still fired up and ongoing. With younger, collaborative and socially-conscious work. With the interface between hand made art and museums. With the current explorations by two prominent magazines, Fiber Arts and American Craft.

California is the state with the most Surface Design Association members. Northern California alone has 363 members, more than some of the multi-state regions. Southern California, 160 members. Contemporary fiber art got its foothold in the Bay Area, with the now-defunct, once-thriving Fiberworks that trained so many. It still has a depth of talent and long-term career commitment unparalleled elsewhere. And we got a taste of some of this.

Day 1: The contemporary scene
Keynote speaker Marci McDade, Editor of Fiberarts Magazine pointed out a number of innovative fiber artists in her talk Reinvention: Transforming the Face of Fiber. McDade mentioned the trend in museums to invite artists into their collections, from which they might make works based on that experience, where both the museum piece and the contemporary interpretation would be hung side by side. Other notes: the Design Center at Philadelphia University had a 150’ long chain link fence patterned after the traditional lace housed in their collection. Lace motifs were also used to stencil found metal in some of the Center’s garden settings. McDade also mentioned other innovative fiber projects, including Slash: Paper under the Knife at the Museum of Arts + Design in NYC; Anne Wilson’s Wind/Rewind/Weave community weaving project at the Knoxville Museum of Art. In this, Anne invited 60 weavers to do an “exquisite corpse” type of weaving, one day for each weaver. Each segment was divided by black thread. McDade also mentioned Craftweek 2.0’s New Household Tactics, a conceptual show where a paper towel dispenser was filled with handmade papers, etc. (McDade admitted to not really understanding fashion. —since many of our artists do wearables, this seemed an unfortunate slip in what was otherwise a great lineup of information.)

Jane Przybysz, Executive Director of the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, discussed What Makes Fiber Art? plus the challenges of running a nonprofit museum focused on textile arts, with the “emotional logic” versus the “financial logic” of an organizational mission statement. She said, “those who identify with media rather than the art or idea are not artists.” Not all agree with this. She mentioned the provocative book, String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art & Craft in American Art by Elissa Auther. Przybysz noted three communities where fiber art has currency: #1 the fiber art community; #2 Post-Conceptualist artists (Rauschenberg, Eva Hess), who used fiber as “non-art” to contest the hierarchy of art and craft; and #3 the feminist art community.

Stefan Catalani of the Bellevue Arts Museum showcased interesting examples of crossover art/textile artists. The Bellevue has no collections of its own, just organizes rotating exhibitions. Truly notable are works by Dinh Q. Le, and Ed Pien’s papercuttings, as well as Mandy Greer.

Jill D’Alessandro discussed exhibitions of historic and ethnic textiles at the de Young Museum. All of these presenters appeared on a panel exploring the issue of what kind of work gets promoted in their institutions.

Primarily, the emphasis with all of these presenters was on exceptional work, regardless of art or craft moniker. The challenges of funding when identifying only as a craft institution where brought up. Some attendees were focused on the “Q” word- whether or not to push the term “quilt”. This of course, also brought up conversations about gender-based work. We ended our day with joint openings of exhibits in the SFS textile studios, galleries and other locations.

Day 2: Artists
We started with a panel of emerging artists moderated by Vic de la Rosa, of San Francisco State University. Lacy Jane Roberts (“messy craft” rather than mastery, plastic knitting machines and academic discussions of contemporary craft and gender) and Bren Ahearn (embroidery) discussed their own work plus other issues such as the challenges of living as gay or queer (not identifying as either female or male) artists. Mung Lar Lam had a solid powerpoint of work called “ironings,” ironed, pleated installed works in which she appears in the installation and irons the pieces. Vic de la Rosa commented that as far as the “craft police” are concerned, it’s good to know the rules in order to break them.

The second presentation, Can Art Make a Difference? moderated and curated by Linda Gass focused on four exceptional artists working with environmental issues (Linda McDonald uses humor and fine draftsmanship to focus on forestation issues), Lea Redmond (very interesting conceptual work), Judith Selby Lange (who makes wearables using discarded plastic bags found on a particular beach), and Gass (silk art quilts highlighting mapping and land use concerns).

We then heard from “The Voices of Experience,” four artists with 152 combined years of studio practice between them and who are still actively engaged with their work. This fact-paced, poignant presentation inspired many of us and included work by Michael Rohde (weaver), Carol Westfall (mixed media) and Consuelo Underwood (weaver and political-conceptual artist, #11 of 12 children born into a migrant family) with Joan Schulze moderating. Any of these could have filled an hour-long segment, not just their 20 minutes allotted time.

For the closing remarks, we listened to Janet Koplos’ survey 60+ years of American Craft magazine and how it reflected the thinking and trends of the day. Koplos is a former Acting Editor of the magazine. She showed an image of work by a younger artist named Kathryn Pannepacker, whose murals in Philadelphia echo traditional textiles from around the world. Kathryn was sitting right next to us. And that’s how it went throughout the conference- you never knew who might have something original to contribute.

Karen Livingstone’s dye studio

Day 3: Studio Tours, for those who’d made arrangements
This was the day where everything came together for me. Our group started at Ana Lisa Hedstrom’s shibori studio, with work by Yoshiko Wada and Jeanne Caciedo also on display. These three titans of the fiber arts community were generous with their time and knowledge. We were seduced by Ana Lisa’s clothing. Yoshiko Wada explained that shibori (Japanese resist dyeing using pleating, clamping and tying, are only 150 years old. She has worked to promote the field and preserve knowledge by current Japanese shirbori masters. Then Richard Elliott, head of textiles at CCA, showed pieces incorporating digital printing. Susan Taber Avila is creating wonderful, large-scale layered work using dyeing and machine embroidery. Her studio mate Candace Kling comes from a historic costuming background and had manipulated trims and historic examples throughout her studio. We visited Karen Livingstone’s studio in a former corner grocery, where she does custom dyeing and once did Marian Clayden’s dyeing. And an inspiring tour of the home and gardens of Paul and Robin Cowley, landscape architect and art quilter.

Cameras out: the beautiful landscaping of Paul and Robin Cowley.

That night, some of us went to a fiber artist potluck way up high in the hills of Berkeley. Stunning sunset overlooking the entire Bay area. As I looked around at attendees, I was struck yet again by the sheer concentration of talent in this part of California, and the generosity and dedication of our host.

In addition, the SDA Board met before the conference, spending time on the topic of reinvention. Established in 1976, SDA is doing what any organization of similar age does- reviewing goals, strategy, mission and communications. Things are cooking up well, and we are positioning ourselves for the present and future cyber age.

What else? Trails around the hotel followed the bay, had shorebirds, and smelled of salt water. I visited with my high school friend and fellow yearbook co-editor, whom I hadn’t seen since I was 21. On my last day, I checked my bags earlier and headed to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The building alone is worth the visit, —I especially enjoyed the abstract expressionist galleries. I was surprising to see how large the Diebenkorn paintings are- I had assumed they were half the size. The collection of San Francisco-based artists was excellent quality, with fresh ideas and excellent quality of execution. I also stopped by the exhibit of textiles from Mali at the Museum of International Craft & Folk Art. I was familiar with much of what was presented but found the videos of a contemporary wedding fascinating. And then, on this stunningly beautiful day that even the locals were relishing, I headed back on my friend BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to the airport and flew home over snow-capped mountains and pink-tipped clouds.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Our hotel in South San Francisco, taken from the extensive trails around the bay. My morning walks included the smell of salt water during low tide, with shore birds and blooming succulents, a far cry from the snow banks I’d left behind the week before. When I see this picture, I reminded of the California hills
Wallace Stegner describes in one of my favorite books, Angle of Repose.

Olson-Larsen Gallery Exhibit & Quilt Walk

Friends, I will be one of four contemporary fiber artists featured in an exhibit at Olson-Larsen Gallery in West Des Moines, Iowa. Probably Iowa’s premier gallery for two dimensional works (paintings, original prints and mixed media), Olson-Larsen is participating in the Quilt Walk in conjunction with the AQS show in Des Moines. The Opening and Quilt Walk for this show takes place from 4-8pm on October 29. The show runs until November 28, 2009. Other fiber artists include Priscilla Sage, Linda Andeberg and Debra Smith. If you’re in the area, stop by!