Surface Design Association

Teaching: Anilinas Montblanc, Santiago

Recently, I was honored to be invited to teach a two day workshop at Anilinas Montblanc, the almost 70 year old Chilean Dye Company that supplies not only industry but also artists working with wool and felt. They also have an awesome program, Colorearte, to support art education in Chilean schools the length of the country. I first learned about Colorearte in a presentation by the company’s owner, Patricia Reutter, at the World Shibori Symposium in Oaxaca, Mexico, in November, 2016. When I returned to visit family in Chile in March 2017, I visited Patricia, and we made plans for this workshop.

left to right: Astrid, with Patricia Reutter and Tomas Clemmons in front of Anilines Montblanc’s sales area for artists. Shown: roving for felting in a luscious array of colors.

The reason for the workshop was to introduce the local textile community to surface design techniques using fiber reactive dyes. In February, I learned that these are Remazol dyes (not Procion MX, which I use). Mont Blanc imports Remazol dyes to industry but they are not well known in the local artist community, which is more accustomed to felting and immersion dyeing of wool. The workshop was set for March 7 & 8, 2018. It would be conducted in English, and although most understood some English, would require some translation.

I had a wonderful class of 10 participants including professional artists, teachers, studio owners, textile lab managers and two clothing designers. They include Ximena Bravo-Cuadra, a studio artist and workshop teacher who has also studied shibori with Karrin Brito in the US; Rocio Gomez Zalazar, a felter who also teaches at Anilinas Mont Blanc; designer Carolina Raggio; screenprinter and designer Patricio’s Sago Estudio; Paulina Figueroa Dumay, an artist with the Chilean arts and crafts store Manos del Alma and others whose contact information I didn’t receive. Media represented include shibori, felting, screenprinting, clothing design, immersion dyeing and stamping. These were good, intense workshop days. Working in 2 languages with translations going on plus materials I didn’t know fully, those were challenges. But the group was great and the facilities ample and well supported. Students dove in to play, to try mixing dyes, activator, to work on steamer prep, rinse and washout, and every other aspect of this. I could not have asked for a better group.

Carolina Raggio, with her own handmade wooden stamps.
Carolina and Patricio discussing their separate clothing lines. Here: Patrico’s from Sago Estudio.

Carolina Raggio, with her own stencils and stamps

 

  

Materials:

Remazol Dyes

With my dye suppliers in the US, these are the liquid fiber reactive (Remazol) dyes and are no longer sold. Here in Chile, Remazol dyes are in powdered form and are imported by Anilines Montblanc for the textile industry. Uses by artists for surface design painting, printing, etc, are relatively unknown. When I consulted in the US on dye procedures for Remazol, I was told that they do need steam for setting, and that baking soda alone can be used as the activator. Downloadable instructions included being able to store activated dye for up to two months (ie with baking soda added.)

Here, at Montblanc, an outside Sales Representative told me they should be treated just like Procion MX dyes. My real experience was that they seem more intense than Procion MX. So, my usual “medium” range color amounts of dye, actually resulted in “dark.” (The approach is to mix stock solutions and then dilute according to hue and depth desired, adding activator.) Since color preference is so personal, I counseled using less dye in those stock solutions.

Another interesting finding is that when we went to pre-rinse after steaming, there was only mild color loss in the water, which seemed remarkable. I wasn’t sure if this was also due a different sodium alginate, or is somehow the alginate got “trapped.” Subsequent hot wash and rinse in pH neutral soap left no unwanted extra alginate thickener, except at times in the silk samples. If this mild color loss is the pattern, this is good news for Chile, which is a very dry country with more limited water reserves.

Sodium Alginate / Print Paste

This centerpiece supply is critical to the concept of using fiber reactive dyes in multiple applications. Local Chilean sources came up with highly processed sodium alginate in fine powder form, not the more granular, less processed form I am accustomed to. On the day that I worked on setting up the workshop and testing unfamiliar materials, managing the sodium alginate was by far the most challenging and worrisome. Would I get it to be the right consistency (thinner for painting, thicker screen printing, and even more for monoprinting?) Would it be easy enough for students to manage?

This form jelled very quickly, more so overnight. It had to be thinned down and remixed for a painting consistency. And yet, it was lumpy for screen printing. Cooling the temperature and letting it sit overnight helped.

In the process, one student and seasoned workshop teacher, Ximena, introduced her electronic stirring tool, which makes use of a magnetized “stone” in the bottom of the solution placed in a glass container on top of a hotplate. The stone starts to percolate and mix the solution, breaking apart any clumps of dye or alginate (the yellow is particularly hard to make smooth.) We were all fascinated and coveting it. We tried using it with sodium alginate dye solutions.

Patricio, one of the students who screen prints a clothing line, was very concerned about having additional water change the consistency of the thick alginate. He tried mixing the baking soda directly into alginate thickener, and this worked well. He also had successful results mixing the dye powder with alginate solution using the electronic mixer.

My assessment at the end is that we made the sodium alginate work, but that it is more difficult to manage than the sodium alginate or print paste available to textile artists in the US. (To clarify: print paste is sodium alginate, with the addition of urea and ludigol, which mitigates hard water.) And it is only one type of consistency. In the US, you can also purchase print paste or sodium alginate specifically for silk (lower viscosity, higher solids) that gives finer edge detail on silk and, in my opinion, washes out better on that fiber. If the sodium alginate or  print paste for cotton and for silk were available in Chile, it would be preferable to the sodium alginate we received.

Steamer

Montblanc assembled a great steamer from existing equipment using very simple plans I sent them. A larger than average pot with a custom-made rack accommodated two rolls of fabric rolled in pelon for steaming. We also cut rounds of paper to deflect dripping water, and rounds of old towels. The customary bottled gas was used, first with two burners, and later, we decided to use only one. The “vapor” was intense enough that 22 minutes did the trick. Even if a little earlier than I usually do it, unbundling was not a problem in results.

Synthrapol

The company also had its in-house industrial soap, pH neutral, but not called Synthrapol. Since we just had a small quantity, I put it in the pre-rinse water, especially since there were many fabrics with white or light backgrounds that could backstain. For washing out we used a local commercially available soap, “Popeye,” that is used for children’s items and is pH neutral. I think it is also used for washing wool. Both of these, including the Popeye, were successful. The only exception were some forms of thin silk, which did backstain a little. Perhaps they needed a more acid bath.

Washing Machine 

Also new to me is a “spinner”- a small unit just used for spinning out handwashed items so they can dry with less moisture. Of course at home, I use my washing machine for this, but in situations without a washing machine, it would be great.

We did our pre-rinse, which really only required 2-3 water baths, if that. Then we washed in very hot water with Popeye. We rinsed by hand after that, and I could tell there were felters among us! Their water bath fabric processing techniques were awesome. Spinning in the spinner, then the pieces were hung to dry. In this dry summer climate, they were dry in no time.

A “spinner” used to extract excess water from rinsed or washed fabrics before drying.

 

After two days, everyone was had really explored and enjoyed themselves. It was an awesome experience for me as well!

Snow Tarp

Unlike last year, cold temperatures and snow have been the story for this winter. Always interesting to see how snow changes the balance of color, of white to black, of light. Here is Undercurrents 4, from my Tarp Series,  in a temporary immersion.

Undercurrents 4, Tarp Series, Handpainted, monoprinted cotton fabric with mixed media and last year’s coreopsis.

Pentaculum 2018: Red, for Sorrow and Renewal

In November 2016, Gatlinburg, Tennessee suffered a devastating fire that destroyed hundreds of homes, businesses and tree-covered acreage.  As news broke on social media, we watched the unfolding story as it related to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, a beloved crafts school with a network of artists, fans, and workshop attendees spread across the globe. The stories of escape from quickly advancing flames were horrific. We were frightened for Arrowmont’s staff and families, and we worried that nothing would remain of the school. When morning came, the dormitory I’d stayed in just one year earlier while attending a Surface Design Association conference, was one of two buildings destroyed in the fire, but the rest of the campus had mercifully been spared.

So, when I was invited to attend Arrowmont’s Pentaculum 2018, a gathering of 80 artists and writers working in clay, metal, fiber, 2-d, and wood, I felt both delight and reverence. I wanted not only to inhabit this loss but pay homage to renewal. I’d make a piece in my Tarp Series, in which I position my expressive textile paintings as metaphorical tarps. I see tarps as protective, versatile and adaptive. I’d start with drawings on campus, translating them to cloth, then photograph the piece outdoors in select settings.

Upon arrival, inevitably I recalled a much earlier connection to the Great Smoky Mountains. During very formative years as a 19 year old, I spent two months at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, then known as the Maryville College Environmental Education Center. It was 1973, and I leaned into the wildness, leading school children on hikes, learning about material culture, foodways, harp singing, launching myself into the art making and community arts career that has been a part of me ever since.

At Pentaculum 2018, we did not anticipate the very unusual cold weather, which made outdoor drawing impossible and photography challenging. But I let my eye be “open,” with doodles and observations on walks and out the studio windows.

The imagery in the resulting piece, Sorrow and Renewal, is more representational than is usual for me.  Colors are black, grey, —and red. Red for pent-up passions, energy, sorrow, fire, joy and heat. But it is in the context of the forest, streams, rocks, gnarled trees, that this red makes the most sense and feels right.

Scouting photography locations in 13 degree weather, I explored the woodpile of huge downed trees, there perhaps not from the fire but adjacent to the hill where remains of the fire are visible. And also there, grapefruit sized piles of bear scat from visits to nearby dumpsters. But it was a place along the river that truly allowed this piece to find its singing voice. Renewal is apparent, gratifying, and not to be taken for granted.  Pentaculum 2018 was a wonderful experience. And Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts continues to be a magical place.

The 100 Drawings Project: February Update

Box turtle shell found in a creek bed 35 years ago. Interesting to examine and understand the structure of its skeleton through drawing.

My busy life involves balancing studio work with arts administration and advocacy for other artists. Pursuing drawing in a regularized way has always been an unrealized goal. That’s because drawing requires making time to stop, listen and be present in the moment. My ticker is set to always being on the move.

Last fall, before I accepted the position of President of the Surface Design Association, I had a serious talk with myself. I’d need to make a serious commitment to work-life balance or be swallowed up by administration and regret. But SDA is my homebody group and helping it develop and thrive in the future is important to me. So, just in the way that I took on careful planning for SDA and Iowa Artisans Gallery,  for which I work part time and am a co-owner, I decided to plan my studio life. In addition to creating works for the wall, I’d start a drawing series. I’d do it during the week, on several of my admin days. And so I have.  Today’s blog post is an update on that process, with 21 drawings into the collection.

Drawing has curious consequences. It teaches me to be more fearless. Taking risks is required, yet not risky. It doesn’t really matter. Drawing rests and re-sets the rational brain. This is helpful in the life of an administrator.

Some days, nothing gels. On those, it’s important to make the habit, to just keep going. I’ll work in my sketchbook, on paper, on fabric with matte medium, or on canvas with gesso, using pencil, brush and ink, watercolors, sticks, and acrylic paints. How about cut-up blue jeans or other clothing? That’s next. Sometimes attempt #8 leads me in a new direction. If nothing else, I can always tear up your paper and try again.

What’s in the fridge? mushrooms will do when the garden is fallow.

One other curious consequence: drawing allows me to acquire experience rather than always holding on to objects. Best to surround one’s self with the objects that hold meaning. The others? Draw them, commit them to deep, multi-sensory memory, and pass them along.

Stay tuned- more to come.

Drawing is also a good way to connect with a profound memory, in this case, the loss of a dear artist friend, Tom McAnulty, hit in January by a speeding motorcycle in New York City while crossing in the crosswalk. This is a sculpture he gave to me early in life.

The Studio Day: Creativity & the Great Balancing Act

Last September, I engaged in a much-needed weekend in my studio. Looking upon my upcoming role as Surface Design Association President, I knew I MUST prioritize making time for balance and creative work, so critical to making the rest of  life function well. In that,  I am just like 99.9% of our SDA members and all my other colleagues I know outside of SDA. All ages, all stages.

Suddenly I had an idea: talk about the importance of a studio day.  A day later, I read that I’m not alone in my thinking. Here’s the piece in the New York Times.

What follows are the closing comments I made at SDA’s Made/Aware: Socially-Engaged Practices Intensive at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. (Read a wonderful summary of this event, written by Tamryn McDermott for SDA’s NewsBlog.) I appeared in my studio garb, my SDA “uniform” —apron, t-shirt and torn jeans, rubber gloves in my pockets. I spoke to this gathering of artists, educators, students, makers, who among them have amassed an impressive list of accomplishments and inquiry, with dedication and enthusiasm.

This is what I said, illustrated here with photos from my past:

We are first and foremost, a community of makers. Many of us working in textile and new media do this as a tactile antidote to our increasingly digital world. In whatever stages of life you find yourself—longtime artist, recent college grad, juggling paid employment, or retired but wanting to rekindle a longtime interest —creative work is never an easy fit into a busy life. The quest for work-life balance challenges all of us and increasingly is part of a national conversation, as recent media articles have pointed out.

Four friends at the Surface Design Conference, Kansas City Art Institute

SDA helps us to promote connections with our fellow makers. Our group of largely textile-centric makers is the most diverse of any national textile organizations available to us. The SDA Journal, Blog, and our members show us a broader way of thinking about what we do, as do SDA’s tools such as exhibitions, grants and fellow aficionados to talk shop with.

How do YOU make time for creativity? No one path fits all. Creative success is rarely about being secluded and monastic, — it’s about living fully within our lives, a frame of mind. Often, it’s about enjoying the ride, the process rather than the final outcome.

My own life confirms this. I joined SDA as a recent college grad and worked in my studio in addition to jobs and new motherhood. I always referred to my studio work as my fourth child. If I didn’t pay attention, it screamed and hollered. There was a time when my creative moment coincided with Mr Rogers Neighborhood on Public Television.

looms are great jungle gyms for toys

Archive photo: Astrid finishing handwoven ikat wall piece

learning fold and dip dye

Later, I saw firsthand how the kind of creative thinking that artists employ brought new ideas to the table in our  Downtown District, where I worked as a long time manager for Iowa Artisans Gallery, a 4000 square foot business with 200 artists, and served on committees for community initiatives. And it wasn’t just me. For a time, the interim head of the local Area Chamber of Commerce was a graphic designer who injected new life into the organization. As a business manager/owner, I hired artists with both retail and creative abilities, or others who simply wanted to be creative, encouraging them to pursue and fulfill their own personal life destinies as artists of all stripes.

Iowa Artisans Gallery staff, 2015

Throughout this time, I always tried to guard my studio day on Fridays.  Make no mistake: work-life balance is an issue for everyone I know.

I invite you to join me in making time for creativity during a weekly Studio Day, whether it’s by learning/contemplation only, or by active doing, —for an hour a day, a day a week, or many days every month, whatever fits. And wouldn’t it be great if SDA, as an organization, took a “studio day.” (Mind you, I’m not saying we should shut down our website  for a day a week, just that our Board, staff and members can commune together in that great notion.) We share the importance of creativity to the structure and balance of our lives.  Let the community of SDA members inspire us to be more than who we are working alone. It is not selfish. It is about good self-management practices that make us more meaningfully productive in all of life.

Lastly if you believe in SDA and its community, here are a few easy things you can do to help strengthen this organization. First, invite a friend to join the SDA community. Our membership numbers are crucial to publishing our robust, quarterly Journal. And there’s more, but that’s for a future discussion. Second, thank our advertising partners and suggest new ones. (I’ll do it here for the ones I have used for years in my own work: shout-outs and thanks to ProChemical & Dye, Testfabrics, Dharma Trading.) They wonder if their ads are unseen, down some big black hole. WE NOTICE!

So, I’ve come to the end of this little talk, and on behalf of the SDA Board, Staff and all of our volunteers, I wish you a safe and inspired journey home, to the heart of your creative work and life and your very own SDA uniform! Ciao!

Gallery staff having a painting day

Astrid teaching at Penland School of Crafts

Cat learning screenprinting at Home Ec Workshop

Helix Center Biotech Incubator Commission

This fall I completed a large commission entitled Dark Summer Sky: Mica, Stars & Fireflies  for permanent installation in the Helix Center Biotech Incubator  in St Louis, MO. This innovative facility created by the St Louis Economic Development Partnership, bills itself as a place for “startup bioscience, technology or plant and life science businesses,” with wet and dry labs, office space, mentoring and more. Currently, I’m told there are close to 40 tenants, and an expansion is planned. A perfect concept that matches my own interests in science and entrepreneurship.

My connection to this project started two years ago. I was contacted by Faith Berger, 652 Moderne Art Consultants about supplying a large textile piece for a shared meeting space. Berger found my work through the Fiber Art Collective website , which led her to my own website. (Ironically, the piece that caught her eye was Two Weeks in Autumn,  a large, 10′ triptych from a commission made for a client who found my work on the Surface Design Association website.)  At first the project was for a 10′ x 6′ piece. Faith particularly liked some of my works, like Pods 1. I supplied some ideas and sent some actual pieces to demonstrate potential textures and colors. I was told that earthy colors (mossy green, dusty rose red, browns) would be a good color palette, and that the piece would be hanging against a wood paneled wall with modernist furniture, necessitating a ceiling hanging device.

Accommodating a wooden wall as background meant that if I decided to do my usual triptych for this large size format, the wood grain and color would have to figure into the design of the piece. That was not a good fit; I felt the grain would interfere with rather than support the idea. Therefore, I designed this as one long piece.

The project went on hiatus for a while, only to be rekindled with a different concept in summer 2014. Project designer/architect Stacey Hudson, Professional Office Environments (POE), liked what she saw in my art quilt, Mica 2, above, taking the project into quite a different direction. This was a piece made in response to an experience I had while teaching at Penland School of Crafts. While walking back to my quarters on a dark summer night, the mica in the ground sparkled, forming one continuum with the stars in the sky and fireflies. Very powerful.

I went back to the drawing board, reworking the concept as well as the size to 15′ x 4′ based on the room elevations. I then submitted several ideas. Mica 2 worked well in the smaller scale in which it was made, but it wasn’t a design layout that lent itself to a larger format, so I had to rethink that. I divided the piece diagonally to provide forward movement and added a complementary color way. Mica 2 is a pleasing, “quiet” piece, nothing too visually challenging. It plays a supporting role to the ambience of the place.

This new design was approved in early August, 2014, for completion around the end of October. I quickly went to work creating fabrics using hand painting and mono printing techniques, always making more than I thought I would need.

Although I have made large pieces before, this was the largest to date and it was not a triptych. Simply creating the design and hanging the final product in one piece was challenging but one I knew I could handle. To assemble the piece, I used both the floor plus a large, end-to-end wall in my 100-year old house. Designing was done on the horizontal wall. When I was satisfied with the layout, I stitched it together. Then I took it apart to create three separate pieces for stitching/quilting. These were laid out on my 10 foot printing table to make the “quilt sandwich”, i.e. with backing and needle punched batting, then pinned. Stitching took place on an ordinary sewing machine, which I always use.

When I finished quilting/stitching the three separate pieces, I re-stitched them together. This diagonal seam was a little tricky in that the quilting had shifted and tightened up the fabrics. I had to make sure that the seams were correct, or else the piece would not be square.

During this time, I researched hanging rods. Because of the wood wall, I could not use my usual solution. Since my original intention was to ship the piece, the rods needed to be no longer than six feet. I settled on 3/4 aluminum tubing, which is hollow for added strength. A short length of dowel joined two of the tubes in two places, creating one long hanging device.

My last step was add top and bottom casings and bindings. My original intention was not to use a binding, but simply to finish the edges as they were. With the large size, this was not possible, because the piece needed to be squared up. In its finished form, it measures 175 x 42.”

In the end, I delivered the piece in person, driving the four hours through autumnal landscapes, wary of the deer in rutting season in early November. Northeastern Missouri, near the Mississippi River, is quite beautiful, and the thinning of vegetation meant that old Prairie family graveyards, ancient trees and southern-style architecture were all in view. Delivery was well worth the drive. It was rewarding to see the piece installed and meet the people involved with this project. And it is a treat to be associated with this facility, the Helix Center, as well as with Faith Berger and 652 Moderne.

ICON Gallery Exhibit, plus a night in Fairfield

Work by Astrid Hilger Bennett, Icon Gallery, Fairfield

Contemporary Art Quilts of Astrid Hilger Bennett, Carol Coohey, BJ Parady and Judy Zoelzer Levine is featured exhibition at ICON Gallery in Fairfield, Iowa. What a wonderful installation: clean, light-filled and spacious, the best installation of my own work I’ve ever come across. This is ICON’s first-ever art quilt exhibition; exhibit dates are October 7 to November 12. ICON is located at 58 Main St. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday noon to 4pm, Saturday 1 – 4pm, and by appointment. For more information, contact ICON Gallery by phone, 641.919.6252.

“Curators Wendy Read and Karen Harris have brought four of the best contemporary art quilters in the region to ICON Gallery,” says ICON Director Bill Teeple. “If you are used to traditional quilt making in Iowa, this will be an eye opener. It contains the visual and conceptual impact of a contemporary painting exhibit.” My personal opinion is that the Midwest is rich with exceptional art quilters. We appreciate the compliment, and curator Wendy Read, also a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Association) Iowa Representative and Karen Harris did a great job balancing styles of work, which makes for a conceptually strong show. What follows are images more from my own section of the exhibit; the work was divided up by artist into different mini-galleries. By the way, Carol Coohey, BJ Parady and Astrid Hilger Bennett, are all members of the Surface Design Association, and all four of us, including Judy Zoelzer Levine, are members of SAQA. For a more detailed look at images in this post, be sure to click on the image and watch it expand.

Looking towards the gallery with Judy Zoelzer Levine’s Body of Evidence, Contemporary Art Quilts, ICON Gallery

more from Judy Zoelzer Levine’s Body of Evidence, ICON Art Gallery

 

left to right: BJ Parady, Carol Coohey, Astrid Hilger Bennett & Director Bill Teeple in front of a work by Coohey, ICON Art Gallery

Astrid with her work, Icon Gallery, Fairfield, IA

Carol Coohey is a newer, talented fiber artist living in Coralville, Iowa,  who has recently really found her own voice. This collection of work, entitled Voices, is powerful and was developed using many surface design techniques inclduing drawing, discharge, screenprinting and painting before quilting. Carol explains, “My most recent work focuses on the rights of girls and women, especially in the Middle East.  To make my collage paintings, I use un-gessoed cloth as the foundation.  I draw, paint and print on cloth with dye, discharge paste, ink and acrylic paint.   I spend half my time teaching and conducting research on violence at a university and half of my time creating art.  The themes in my research often carry over into my artwork.  Earlier in my career, I worked as a graphic artist and an art therapist.

In the Voices Series, I focus on how policy and culture affect the lives of women and girls living in the Middle East.  I explore universal themes, such as the right to an education and the influence of culture on girl’s and women’s decision-making. Stylistically, I’ve drawn on graffiti street art which has become a form of political protest in the Middle East during recent years.”

Illinois artist BJ Parady works primarily on silk and recyled fabrics, creating smaller pieces where marks made by stitching are important. She interprets Midwestern landscape. “My art reflects the microcosm in which I live—where the tall grass prairie used to be. I am inspired daily by the big skies, the reflection of light on water, the remaining remnants of native plants. I have come to embrace the idea of abstraction—capturing the essence of a moment rather than a literal depiction of a scene that could just as easily be photographed.”

Judy Zoelzer Levine’s Body of Evidence series is composed of 25 art quilts interpreting the female human form. A Wisconsin artist, Levine created these works over a span of many years.

Astrid Hilger Bennett approaches her pieces as she would a piece of music, using painting, monoprinting, screenprinting and other techniques to make large scale, abstract wall art. For more information on  her work, please check out the gallery and other pages on this website.

Contemporary Art Quilts, ICON Gallery

SDA Confluence Conference, part one

Tim Harding’s Exhibit at the Nash Gallery

In June, I had the opportunity to attend Confluence, the biennial International Conference of the Surface Design Association. As an SDA Board member, I knew that my tasks at the Conference went beyond mere participation, —I am in charge of all the “state” or Area Representatives — but I had a wonderful time. What I’ve always appreciated about the SDA Conferences is that they provide not only a forum for networking and sharing of technical information, but they are also a rich snapshot of what’s currently interesting in fiber art. Not all fiber art gets covered, of course, but participants on all levels of expertise return home with food for thought on many levels.

one third of the Members’ Show, Merge & Flow, sandwiched between other stellar exhibits at the Nash Gallery

 Add to that, participants have the opportunity to see more than thirty exhibitions of contemporary fiber art, which alone would make the conference worth attending. Other events included a stellar fashion show of members’ work, dynamic speakers and demonstrations, a members’ trunk show, a vendor fair, regional members’ meetings, and special interest gatherings, for example, for educators or batik artists. The beginning of the light rail expansion  directly in front of the hotel caused some traffic complications in being able to see all the exhibitions, but most participants did go with the “merge and flow” and used the time to get to know one another.

members’ meet & greet started our day of Gallery hopping

Now in its 36th year, SDA came to pass in the time when local and national craft organizations were encouraged to add the work “design” or “designer” to their names in order to distinguish the kinds of work their artists did from folk and hobby craft. The Surface Design Association was born. Despite its longevity and history, the phrase “surface design” still causes some confusion. Here’s how it is defined on SDA’s new website:

Surface Design refers to any process that gives structure, pattern, or color to fiber & fabric. These include spinning, felting, papermaking, weaving, knotting, netting, looping, dyeing, painting, stitching, cutting, piecing, printing, quilting, & embellishing.

And here’s something about the organization:
The Surface Design Association is an international community engaged in the creative exploration of fiber & fabric. Our mission is to promote awareness & appreciation of the textile arts. Through member-supported publications, exhibitions & conferences, we inspire creativity, encourage innovation, & advocate excellence.

Confluence is co-sponsored by the Textile Center of Minnesota. Director Margaret Miller tells us that the Center is comprised of 900 members in 35 member organizations. Now located in what was once a car dealership, the Center contains meeting rooms, gallery areas, a sales shop, a 23,000 volume library, and a well-equipped dye kitchen.

What follows is literally a snapshot my own personal view on the conference. It is not complete, but it reflects my experience and available photos. The exhibits appear in the next post. Bodies of Water Fashion Show, Trunk Show, workshop photos and member pictures appear here. What’s missing? All of the provocative speakers, like India Flint, Pat Hickman, Barbara Lee Smith, Stephen Fraser, Faythe Levine, Natalie Chanin and Jane Dunnewold, plus a wide array of panels and demos. And, all that camaradie, hard to capture. You just had to be there…

Awards Judges Leesa Hubbell and Lynne Pollard examine Penny Collins’ Gown for Great Pacific Garbage Patch Ball, made of recycled plastic bags and winner of the SDA Award of Excellence
examining the Fashion Show entries

talking with Fashion Show Coordinator Anna Lee

Chunghie Lee’s Pojagi-making demonstration
At the DIY fair: altering a T-shirt, fundraiser for the Textile Center of MN (above), TCM lacemaking demo, plus impromptu “fashion show parade” by 17 year-old fashion designer, shown in black suit & glasses (below)

Trunk show & Vendors’ Fair, above and below

Faythe Levine discusses Handmade Nation, which was also shown
international conferees viewing a beaded piece while waiting for Conference buses
one conferee on her way to the Fashion Show finishes the crocheted embellishment on her altered SDA T-shirt

SDA President Candace Edgerly with new American Crafts Council Executive Director Chris Admundsen. The ACC recently moved to Minneapolis from New York City,