Posts tagged Textiles
Studio Sunday: Lizz Berry
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Create! Magazine is pleased to present a new Studio Sunday feature with Portland-based artist Lizz Berry. Learn more about what inspired her interest in fiber and textile art, the multiple reasons that she keeps a small forest of plants in her home studio, and what will be keeping her busy for the rest of the summer!

Bio

Lizz Berry is the founder, maker, and innovator behind The Wild Textile. All of the products she creates are hand crafted in her home studio in Portland, Maine.  She is a hand-weaver, natural dyer, quilter, and all around fiber enthusiast. 

Her love for cloth began at an early age, when she was exposed to family heirlooms from India - some over a century old. Colorful antique silk saris and other complex weavings were a part of her childhood - whether it be forts, canopies, or costumes. These fueled her love not only for textiles, but also for the color and textures that enliven them. Today you can still find her home adorned with some of the very same pieces that inspired her as a child. 

Lizz received her B.F.A. from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, where she concentrated in Textiles. She spent her undergraduate years studying hand weaving, color application, and surface design via dyeing techniques.

More recently, she has integrated her fibers studio with her other life-long passion, the outdoors. She loves the simplicity of color in nature, and it never ceases to inspire her. Environmental conservation is also important to her, and she represents this value in her practices as often as possible. Color, the natural world, and fibers are the core elements of her creativity, and the unified embodiment of The Wild Textile.

When did you first become interested in art?

My interest in textile design has evolved from a variety of influences with one commonality: three dimensional, visual design. In grade school I wanted to be an architect, which later shifted to interior design and decorating. I experimented with every artistic medium that was available, both inside and outside the classroom. Throughout high school I took every single art class that was offered, except for Weaving. Ironically, I thought it sounded boring!  However, as a crafts major in college, my attitude quickly changed. I developed a passion for textiles after taking my first class. My focus began to gravitate towards functional pieces - scarves, blankets, linens, tableware and various items of home decor.  Throughout and following my college years, I worked in a sewing studio and fabrics store. This experience supplemented my passion for textiles with exciting new disciplines - sewing and quilting! On weekends and after work I also taught myself to forage for natural dyes and use my kitchen scraps for free sustainable colors that told a story. All of these practices have become key elements of The Wild Textile, and I suspect that my artistic interests will only grow more diverse in the years to come.  

Tell us about what inspires you creatively.

Plant life, abundant light, and nature in every form. Whether it’s the ever-expanding urban jungle in my home studio,  the rocky coasts and sandy beaches of Maine, or the alpine zones of my favorite mountains - I constantly integrate the textures and colors of my natural surroundings with my work. Exploring the outdoors inspires me to build lively color palettes that facilitate unique combinations of surface designs. It is always an extra special day when I come across natural dyes to be foraged in my travels! Another key source of my textiles inspiration emanates from my family heirlooms. My grandmother was a missionary surgeon in Assam, India, and she bestowed to my family a variety of handwoven Indian saris, tapestries and fabrics. The standards of craftsmanship upheld by prior generations never ceases to astound me. I find myself connecting with these textiles more than ever, as I approach reading the end of her diary entries on life in India during the 1950’s. 

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What is your process like? 

I often find my process fluctuates between meticulously planning and complete improvisation. In some instances, I plan each weaving in precise detail to make sure they will work logistically. In these cases, I create multiple scales of drawings with different colorways, pattern options, and sizes. On other projects, I allow my process to depend solely on my instincts. This approach involves designing my pieces while simultaneously crafting them, and has created some of my most interesting weavings to date. I love making up patterns on the loom that have never existed, and perhaps never will again. I often find myself in a meditative state where my feet move across the foot pedals while barely looking down at what I am creating. Some weavers may find this odd, but I think this technique can create truly authentic combinations of texture and color. I am always anticipating the next weave structure to be accidentally discovered!

Describe your current studio space. What is most important about it or one thing that you can’t live without in your work area?

I work out of my home studio in Portland, Maine. I have A LOT of house plants (over 70) scattered throughout my small apartment, which has abundant natural light. The plants are therapeutic to me, and also very functional in the photography process. I use them as backdrops in an effort to help the viewer visualize my products in a livable space. As an added bonus, it allows me to hide the nicks and bumps in my not-so-perfect wall from the early 1900’s.

What is one piece of advice that has stuck with you or a quote that you think is especially meaningful?

If you want to keep it, so will someone else! That’s how the majority of my products have developed. Create something for yourself - something that embodies the colors, textures, and emotions that inspire you - and before long you will have orders for more. 

Are there any exciting exhibitions, projects, or collaborations going on this year that you’re currently working on or will be soon?

I have recently signed on as Show Coordinator for the Maine Crafts Guild, which puts me in charge of organizing four large fine craft shows throughout the summer. This will keep me pretty busy over the next few months, but in my spare time I have been experimenting with a slew of great new materials for product prototypes. I am currently working on a brand new Fall line for the The Wild Textile, including more home decor items than ever, zipper pouches, sling bags, backpacks and more. Keep an eye out for this exciting release!

Check out The Wild Textile online or follow along on Instagram!

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Studio Sunday: María Guzmán of Austère & Crudo Atelier
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I recently had the chance to speak with Costa Rican fashion & textile designer María Guzmán in her studio, which is housed in a beautifully quaint Victorian-style residence in San Jose that she inherited from her grandmother. She is the brains behind Austère, a women-run and eco-conscious brand of swimwear and elevated basics. Built from her background working in the fashion industry in both Argentina and Europe, María’s company will be celebrating its fifth year in business come October. Having lived abroad for a number of years, she returned to Costa Rica around nine years ago. Not exactly sure of what she would do next, but certain that she was tired of working for companies that didn’t meet her standards for sustainability, she first lived at the beach and dove into painting. María’s creativity eventually led her to design dresses. Then, after a friend helped her connect the idea of incorporating her paintings into her work, she started making colorfully printed swimsuits as well.

It is clear early on in our conversation that art is an integral part of her business. The prints used in María’s bikinis and one-piece bathing suits come from her own sketches and gouache paintings that she then finalizes on the computer. Looking closely at the fabrics, you notice the deliberate choices of her various color palettes. Bright and fun without being too flashy, she explains the inspiration behind each pattern, calling one ‘feminist camouflage’ and saying that others were inspired by contemporary art or the environment. Like mini abstract paintings, each piece that María makes is unique as much as it is comfortable, functional, and sustainable.


Apart from her fashion design work, however, María also runs a second business called Crudo Atelier. From her same spacious studio, she holds weekend workshops in Costa Rica where small groups take classes such as hand lettering, embroidery, or how to make natural dyes. Now three years old, Crudo Atelier was initially a way for María to share her creative skills with others. It has grown since then, with her moving away from teaching and instead inviting new specialists to diversify the offering of classes. One of the aspects of these workshops that she loves most is the idea of creating community. Like-minded creatives meet each other through her platform and have gone on to continue working together afterwards. She also mentions that students have started projects based on the work they first produced at Crudo Atelier.

As focused as she is on her own businesses, she has an equal interest in paving the way for the next generation. Besides Crudo Atelier, María also serves on a council with the local chamber of commerce and the contemporary art and design museum along with ten other representatives. With this group, she seeks to build out more resources for designers of all types in Costa Rica and additional opportunities to show and sell their work. With stores in the area taking high commissions on locally produced items, especially those created by women, she hopes that this task force can put together more fairs or similar events and spaces that allow makers to have direct access to new customers.

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With so many things going on already, it’s hard to imagine María having time to do much else! However, she’s also currently working on an an ecommerce website to make her collections available beyond the few local and international stores where her items are currently sold. In addition, she’s begun the process of designing low-impact handbags made from wood and wool fibers alongside her other pieces. If all goes well, her portfolios will be shown at Satisfactory, a local design popup in San Jose. While she loves her studio space, she’s also in the middle of renovating it to make it more practical for her businesses. Once that is complete, one of her other goals is to eventually utilize it as a gallery for women artists. The space will then be even more of a hub for all of the things that she believes in: building community, creating quality and sustainable designs, and empowering other female artists.

Learn more about Austère by following the brand on Instagram at @austere_atelier or check out Crudo Atelier’s profile at @crudoatelier!

A New Mythology: Interview with Textile Artist Amy Meissner
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Alaskan artist, Amy Meissner, combines traditional handwork, found objects and abandoned domestic textiles to reference and revere the work of women. She has shown internationally, with textile work in the permanent collection of the Anchorage Museum, the Contemporary Art Bank of Alaska and the Alaska Humanities Forum as well as many private collections. Her solo exhibition Inheritance: makers. memory. myth. – a body of work crafted from 13 months-worth of globally crowdsourced vintage linens and personal narratives from over 70 contributors -- debuted at the Anchorage Museum in May 2018, and is slated to travel through 2021. Her background is in clothing design, illustration and creative writing.  

Statement

My work with needle prods the literal, physical and emotional work of women — gathering the collective thrum of women’s abandoned handwork and combining with my own to generate a new mythology. I approach this textile work with the traditional skills taught in girlhood, confronting an expectation of beauty, decoration and domesticity with a raw female gaze. The resulting narrative does more to reveal an emotional truth about a life than any partial or assumed history; completing a story feels human, crafting by hand even more so.

This is time-based work. A landscape.

An act of slicing apart, then piecing oneself back together.

Tell me about yourself. When did you develop an interest in sewing?

I’m the twelfth first-born daughter to a first-born daughter, a line that can be traced to 1640. These women are Swedish (I’m the first one to be born in the US), so handwork is a skill I was taught at a young age. I learned to crochet and embroider at age 3 or 4, run a sewing machine when I was 9, and my initial interest in sewing was probably based on wanting to do what my mother was doing. I quickly lost interest when she began instructing me in a very Scandinavian “the-front-has-to-look-as-good-as-the-back” way, and I cried a lot, but by the time I was in high school in the 1980s I was making my clothes and friends were hiring me to design and make rad prom dresses. At 17 I landed an internship at a small atelier that made costumes and custom wedding gowns, and I stayed in the fashion industry until I was 30, mostly working for similar shops where I had to know how to do everything from production cutting, to sample sewing, to pattern drafting, to fine finishing, to knowing enough breezy conversation to make a half-naked bride feel comfortable in the fitting room.

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It is a beautiful decision to make such time-based, intricate work in a fast-paced world. What are your favorite parts of your process and studio practice?

I’m glad you’ve referred to it as a decision because this work does feel very intentional. I could take so many shortcuts, so many, but I choose not to because I want to honor the history of women’s handwork. So much of it has been lost, discarded, disregarded…those makers were such talented women, whether they would consider themselves talented or not. They knew how to make something out of nothing, and no one called it “upcycling” or “repurposing.” This was mending and remaking and making do, especially the women from my family who lived a life of meager resources, but seriously mad skills.

So I love making something out of nothing. I love the physicality of the work, the repetitive quality of handwork, the problem solving that arises from using fragile, cast off vintage linens and cloth intended for the domestic realm, often made according to someone else’s idea of beauty. 

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What inspired your most recent series?

 In 2015 I received a box of vintage linens in the mail from a woman in New York state. She’d seen my work using a personal collection of family embroidery and crochet and wanted me to have hers. I blogged about it (www.amymeissner.com/blog/box-of-mystery) and then other women wanted to send their linens as well. This became the catalyst for a 13-month crowdsourcing effort to collect unwanted handwork and narratives from women all over the world, called the “Inheritance Project,” whereby I became the final inheritor. This provided people with a place to send the family linens no one else wanted rather than sending them to the landfill, and it provided me with raw material. Over 80 contributors sent over 650 objects, representing 20 countries and 25 states. 90% of the makers are unknown.

The stories women shared were heartbreaking. One woman from Illinois sent a scrap of tablecloth crocheted by a woman incarcerated in the Detroit House of Corrections for killing her abusive husband in the 1970s. Other women sent stories of grandmothers emigrating from Europe with nothing, lost histories, lost languages. Many contributors were also artists who recognized the value in these items, often collected them, but decided not to use the material in their own practice and were happy to have someone to send it to.

The body of work that arose from the project became the solo exhibition, “Inheritance: makers. memory. myth.,” funded in part by the Sustainable Arts Foundation and the Rasmuson Foundation. It showed at the Anchorage Museum during the summer of 2018 and is at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau until February 2019 as part of their Solo Exhibition Series.

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What do you hope your viewers and collectors experience and take away from your art? 

I hope to create a new conversation around the value of women’s work - the literal handwork, the physical work of the body, and the emotional labor we bear. Working with textiles offers an opening to have these exchanges, which can be confrontational, but since no one initially feels assaulted when looking at a doily the work is approachable; viewers are thinking of their grandmother, their own intimate experience with cloth. My work has a recognizable quality to it, whether it’s the sometimes quilt-form I work in or the components I use, but it is layered and emotional. I want people to realize the vibrant inner life of the women who sat quietly with needles or hooks. This was a dense landscape, not the vacuous or meaningless work often portrayed. If society and history hadn’t channeled these women to only make functional or beautiful work for the home in order to justify their creative impulses…if the material and conceptual exploration had been the goal…what would they have made?

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What do you wish more people knew about handwork and the intersection of craft and fine art? 

It’s important to me to have a relationship with materials. There’s a reason why I use cloth -- it’s a vehicle for deeper meaning, it’s part of my culture, it belongs in my skill set. As a woman and a mother, the cloth has become more important as I get older. I didn’t start using this medium until after I had children, stopped painting for a variety of reasons, and returned to this skill I learned as a girl. This was work I could engage in with children at my feet - like all of those other first-born daughters who’d likely done the same. I’m coming closer to understanding the importance of their craft.

I think the line between art and craft is shaggy and blurry and widening, as people have ongoing conversations regarding materials and technique, attempt to define craft, and identify its qualities and value compared to fine art. Some of this interest in craft might be a direct response to a technological, fast-paced world, but it could also be the rise in awareness of the craft-based work traditionally done by women and therefore historically dismissed. I feel like there’s a lot of untapped energy in this realm, especially for younger women ready to infuse cast-off chapters of women’s work with new energy, sometimes rage.

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What is your creative community like in Alaska? What are some highlights?

I’ve been here 18 years, and while Alaska is remote I feel fortunate to be an artist in a supportive culture. There aren’t many studio spaces available (mine is in my home), our galleries and opportunities to exhibit are limited, but this generates exciting projects utilizing alternative spaces and ways of practicing. Although we can mail-order anything, shipping is expensive or unavailable to non-contiguous states, and many artists choose to look to their surroundings for materials, still in a mindset of making do and utilizing resources that have always been abundant here. Alaska has a powerful history of indigenous art and I’m so honored to be surrounded by contemporary Alaska Native artists and have the privilege of sharing this incredible landscape.

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What are you currently working on and what do you hope to accomplish in the next few years? 

I’m currently engaged in a body of work around motherhood and birth. I’m in the early stages of “not knowing,” but what I do know is my relationship to the materials -- which are still old, still abandoned, still fragile -- and that what I want to say and how to say it relies on cloth.

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Kirsten Ledbetter

Kirsten Ledbetter is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Art Education, a Bachelor of Fine Arts with concentrations in Painting and Ceramics as well as a minor in Special Education.

Her desire is to be as versatile as possible in order to take advantage of any opportunity that comes her way. She has determination and motivation to fulfill any task and her academic performance, in her five years at Miami, exemplifies this. During her time at Miami, she received many scholarships and grants for her studio work, her art education research, as well as her academic merit. During her five years at Miami, she also had many opportunities for involvement and leadership; she served as president of the student chapter of the National Art Education Association on the Miami University campus for the 2015-2016 academic year.

She is also passionate about arts education and travel. In the summer of 2016, she was an intern at the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati for their arts summer camp. She has also had international experiences during her time at Miami; in the summer of 2015, she traveled to the city of Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany for an intensive language summer course at the Albert-Ludwigs Universität. She also had teaching experience that was facilitated through her university. She taught in the United States and Luxembourg; she spent eight weeks teaching kindergarten through fourth grade at Madeira Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio and then spent eight weeks teaching at the Nordstad Lycée in Diekirch, Luxembourg teaching sixth grade through twelfth grade in English, German and French.

A passionate artist, she is in a tumultuous yet prolific time of making in her studio. She is searching for her own independent voice through the creation of seemingly every idea that enters her mind. During her last semester, she participated in her Capstone Exhibition “Still Just as Qualified” where she exhibited new experimental works. She has had an exhilarating last semester at Miami that will propel her into her next chapter of life.

She will be vigilant and open-minded for: exhibition opportunities, publication opportunities, collaboration opportunities, almost any opportunity that allows her to continue making and share her work with others. Kirsten will be creating a portfolio over the next two years with the goal of applying to and then attending graduate school in Germany where she hopes to work toward her Master of Fine Arts.

My art investigates my identity as a woman and what it means to be a 21st-century woman. My work explores who I am and the relation of my identity to women’s identities in the past. I work in a variety of materials and kind of collect items but in a very specific way. I almost pay attention to each detail of a piece as well as the process of creating a piece. I nurture each piece as it takes nurturing to develop as an individual, the process of coming to where we are now is something that is very important to me. I also am interested in the topic of ‘high’ art versus ‘low’ art; meaning highly revered, traditionally and often costly materials versus creating art with easier to access, less costly materials. I make informed material choices also for the kinds of thoughts it provokes in viewers. Sewing and textile work traditionally falls under the ‘low’ art category because it can be learned/taught. It is also used more readily and is more accessible to people when compared to traditional oil painting, sculpture work, etc. Sewing is part of everyone’s lives; clothing, bedding, towels, repairing clothing, quilting, etc. I explore the art of sewing and textiles in my work and take into consideration the perspective of them as ‘low’ art and traditional feminine crafts. In this exploration, I work in nontraditional methods, incorporating nontraditional materials. Along with the subject of femininity, feminism and the modern world, I explore the ideas of discovery, investigation/exploration, veiling, symbolism, color and light. I experiment with texture, light, color, fabric, stenciling, layering, installation, thread, and other materials that catch my curiosity. The ideas that I explore also come into consideration when I consider the vocabulary or language used for my work. Veiling, investigation, fog: these words contribute to my exploration and the language that purveys my work, which aids me in asserting my voice.