textile conferences

Oaxaca Tales: The Textile Museum, Weaving with Duck Down and other textile tales

More textile discoveries at the 10th International Shibori Symposium in Oaxaca, Mexico. Several exhibitions of historical and indigenous textiles were featured at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, with spillover exhibition areas in the San Pablo Cultural Center.

Perhaps the most intriguing exhibit centered around a mystery textile discovered by at a flea market in the 1980s. Entitled The Plumed Weavings, its centerpiece is, quoting the Textile Museum signage,  “the ‘tlamachtentli de Madeline’, thus named in honor of Madeline Humm de Mollet, as it was she that discovered it in a Puebla flea market towards the end of the 1980s. The tlamachtentli is only a fragment of what must have been a most extraordinary huipil; notwithstanding, among its threads we were able to discern the technical sophistication and the aesthetics of indigenous art from over 300 years ago. Only five other textiles with similar characteristics as this weaving have been documented; three of them are located in Mexico, one in Rome and another in New York. All six are Mexican… and share a very special peculiarity; each one has different varieties of cotton thread that have been twisted or spun with duck down.

…While it is possible to find the use of feathers in other regions of the world (like the Andes, the Amazon, the islands of the Pacific and even in western USA) all indications are that plumed threads are exclusive to Mesoamerican culture, and in particular, to the cultures that established themselves in what we now know as Mexico.”

The research into these textiles was then shared with current day weavers from Puebla, Guerrero and Oaxaca. The exhibition displays examples of modern-day pieces resurrecting these almost long lost techniques. An excellent set of videos documented the process.

Additional exhibits focused on the use of resist dye techniques globally. Here are a few favorite pictures. Many other pieces were just as sublime.

 

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

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,