Thursday, March 14, 2013
This is a proposal for a book that I was looking into. I had met a lovely woman at a show who was one of the original felt artists in the US and her story inspired me to conceive this project. It seemed as though, back before felting became a big phenomenon, that there was a time when very few people practiced the craft and that they shared the technique in small workshops. My hope was that it would show a genealogy of the craft and tell a story of people helping other people (and also maybe women helping other women & sharing knowledge) back in a pre-internet time. I still think it is an important subject and an important part of the history of feltmaking in the US whose story needs telling. These people have fascinating histories, individual journeys that led them to felting, and moving feltwork to share. Not wanting to take on the task of writing (and hence editorializing) a history, I thought it might be fun to have each person tell their own stories and to follow from one artist to the next based on their “discovery” of the craft (and how many crafts have an eye-opening discovery moment like feltmaking does?) which would fall into a natural chronology and hence paint a much bigger picture of history in motion.
I looked into it, took a trip last May to investigate and feel it out, and came to the conclusion that I was not the right person to organize such a project. Plus, I discovered that the early group of feltmakers in the US were a varied bunch that were much more scattered (some were doing felt over here, some over there) than I had imagined, making it difficult to make a clear connection between one & the next. I still think it is a very compelling project that would enrich craft history & felting culture, but, for now, I’m going to put it out in the universe and work on other things.
If you meet an original feltmaker, give thanks! They were really pioneers out there blazing new trails back when you couldn’t find felt-able wool, but had to ask a neighboring sheepfarm for whatever they had. If you know of any felt pioneers, list them below (a link to their work is a bonus)! Or ask them to tell you their story with feltmaking-chances are it’s riveting.
Felt Pioneers: History of the Felt Movement in North America (working title)
Project: A collection of stories relating the personal journeys and interactions of North American felt artists in their own words, through written testimony (2-3 pages max) or oral history (recorded & transcribed interview).
Organized into a series according to the date of the artist’s discovery of medium (“discovery”) and collected in a “branching” fashion: artists mentioned in a particular story will be contacted for their own story. By organizing by discovery & branching from artist to artist, the hope is to illustrate a “genealogy” of sorts, demonstrating how the spark was shared from one artist to the next.
My expectation is that these stories will describe how artists shared knowledge at meetings, gatherings & interactions, painting a bigger picture of the felt movement pre-1990s (or pre-internet), probably concentrated in the 1970s-1980s.
About Methodology: A book of short stories could be organized in a variety of different ways such as alphabetically or based on date of birth, etc. In this collection, I would like to organize the stories based chronologically on when the artist discovered felting (“discovery”). For example: I first discovered feltmaking in the Spring of 1985 at a meeting of fiber enthusiasts in Springfield, Wisconsin. This story would be organized according to Spring, 1985.
My hope is that it would impart a feeling of concurrency and momentum. This might also help to illustrate a “genealogy” of the craft, the excitement of the period, and the interrelationship of felting artists in general.
2 options: Written Testimony (2-3 pages) or Oral History (transcribed interview) so as to reflect a true history without editorializing.
Goal: A true history where individual artists relate their stories, in so doing demonstrating how the spark was shared/passed between artists.
From each artist:
Write/Record their “felting story.” 2-3 pages for each written by the artist in their own words or transcribed from oral interview. 3 parts
1) Who they are: general introduction/bio
2) The story of their “discovery” : how they discovered felting, what was going on, who was doing it, where they went, who they met, how they met them.
2) Telling their felting story : what they did, where they went from there, accomplishments, collaborations, contributions, style, etc.
Visual Images: Artist’s portrait; 2 examples of work; 300 dpi 5″ x 6″
Artist details. Name, Business Name, Organizations, Website
Signed document (Deed of Gift) giving editor (Jenne Giles) permission to publish their story.*
*This is your story; permission just gives me the right to publish this particular version of your story on the web & in print.
1) Blog: the internet is the ultimate library. This would be a good format for organizing the material, refining it and sharing it so that people can be aware of the information.
2)Wikipedia: part of general encyclopedia. Story transcribed to third person.
3) Self-published (or published) book. I don’t think it would be a real money-maker. I’m thinking the real objective is to get it out into the world in a reverent & respectful manner with personal distribution so that it can enhance the body of knowledge about feltmaking, feltmakers, and felt history.
Monday, October 22, 2012
New Yorker’s endorsement of Barack Obama, FULL ARTICLE HERE
Please Vote this Fall. If you are not registered to vote, you can do so at this site: LINK
If you are a California Voter, please help us pass Prop 37 requiring labeling of genetically-modified foods. Yes on 37.
Perhaps I am idealistic, but I believe in voting & politics, and I believe that there are real consequences to elections. I can imagine nothing more truly horrifying than a Romney presidency (except perhaps the horror and terror that we lived through during the Bush presidency). As a country, we have much growing to do and I fear a party that is willing to put its own partisan politics ahead of its responsibility to govern, one so willing to stand on the wrong side of history on all civil rights issues, and one short-sighted enough to make profits benefitting the already-advantaged at whatever cost. Please vote for a more sensible future. Vote Obama/Biden 2012.
Monday, August 13, 2012
On Sunday, I taught a felt painting lesson to a lovely lady, Anna, who kindly sent in these iphone photos of her project in-progress. For this, her first-ever felt painting, she was inspired to recreate her grandfather’s painting of these latern-like yellow & purple flowers.
I was so glad to be on board as a coach & teacher, helping her to navigate these new waters: guiding her through the basic techniques of painting in wool roving, the twists & turns of wet felting, the many currents of artistic decisions that one encounters on the way. I have to say that I am so proud of her & how beautifully the piece turned out. There is nothing quite as heart-warming as being part of someone’s journey as they embark on a new creative direction.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
I went in the other day to style the exuberant Rose Collar that is on display and can attest that the show looks spectacular! Some great concurrent exhibits too…it is definitely worth the trip (and check out the Spanish Mission while you’re there: gorgeous)
I’m planning on getting some pictures at the opening on Oct 4th….stay tuned
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Second Skin by India Flint
There is a lovely woman in Christchurch, NZ, who always sends in the best recommendations. Recently, she shared the following book: Second Skin by world-renowned dye-master India Flint and recommends reading this review by Alice Fox at her Textile Blog, stitchprintweave for a great synopsis.
India Flint’s new book Second Skin is a beautiful follow up to her first. It has the same luscious feel, packed with gorgeous photographs and illustrations and has a pleasing mix of practical information, snippets from different cultural traditions and more general anecdotal writing that gives an insight in to India’s colourful life.
Despite its visual appeal some of the content doesn’t make for comfortable reading. India reminds the reader of how poorly informed most of us are about where our clothing is derived from: the fibres and the processes that have gone into the garments that we wrap around our bodies for the majority of our lives. Of course, even if we care about such things it can often be very difficult to find out the history of what we buy and this book highlights the real facts about the systems that our clothes pass through.
You can read the full article at this link.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Writing can be like other forms of art: if you take a long break, you may have many different ideas for topics when you get back to it. Where to begin? It is never a bad idea to begin with “beginnings.”
As 2012 begins, there are many happy changes and new beginnings to be thankful for. Some are life-style changes, some are new consumer decisions, some are long-awaited big leaps forward of the personal kind, and some are small steps to long-term goals. Here are a few of the ones I’d love to share:
We changed our internet service provider from AT&T to a local ISP. Anything to do with tech always feels like more of an emotional upset than it really warrants, but once the change was complete, we were really happy about it. Better service, better streaming, a capped-price plan (no surprises) and no contract. Love it.
I quit biting my nails. I did this back in May, but am comfortable now saying that it is a change for keeps. I have been a life-long nail-biter, hiding my hands at every opportunity. I was even scared that my nails would grow out to be ugly nails, since I had savaged them for so long, but they are now a lovely set of short, strong nails.
I quit by first letting 6 nails grow (4 to bite) and then got myself up to 8 nails (2 to bite) then 9 (one to bite) and then I just finally stopped biting them. They call nail-biting a nervous habit which I always interpreted as something one did because one was nervous. I actually think that biting one’s nails makes one nervous, as I feel a lot calmer now without the habit.
My husband and I rarely eat meat anymore. We watched a great video called Forks over Knives that suggested that one could just use meat for flavoring and that is what we now do. Never one to do something in the all-together, I can handle avoiding meat rather than giving it up entirely. Funny thing is: I don’t even miss it and I’ve lost a lot of weight.
I am taking my time writing and that includes emails. This has been a huge leap forward. In emails, I am also taking time to listen and respond specifically to the issues raised by the person I am corresponding with. I’m not projecting my anxieties or dominating the discussion. It’s a small thing, but has made a huge difference.
I am getting back out to the national shows (ACC Baltimore in Feb, CraftBoston in March). To help and have more fun in the process, I have teamed up with a fellow-feltmaker and friend, Heidi Paul. We’ll be showing at ACC Baltimore together. It has made all the difference in the world to work together as a team rather than going at these things solo.
It has been a great experience: we can support each other in our art and work together to choose appropriate shows; we can share stories about our experiences with shows and felt-making in general; and, ultimately, I know we are going to have a fun adventure together on the road. There are many instances in art (and other things!) where one should work alone, but it is far nicer and more fulfilling when one has the opportunity to collaborate with others.
So, that is a good start on my new beginnings. I hope your 2012 is off to a great start with many new beginnings of your own!
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Oat Tendril Scarf 2010
Good article on Craft in the Arts in NYTimes/Int’l Herald Tribune:
By ALICE PFEIFFER; Published: December 2, 2011
PARIS — “Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons; there is nothing more depressing for a young artist,” said Bianca Argimon, a student at the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris who favors traditional techniques when working with ceramics, engravings and pyrography over what she views as ultraconceptual, increasingly dematerialized art. “Most of us can’t afford — nor approve of — having an entire factory of workers.”
Artisanal techniques, once deemed the opposite of cool, are making their way back into art fairs and galleries, particularly in Europe. Dedicated spaces and university programs are contributing to the renewed recognition of these trades — albeit with modern twists and messages — while also providing young artists with marketable skills. As a result, the line between gallerists and craftsmen, once so clearly delineated, is increasingly being blurred.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Felt Pelt: Zebra by Jenne Giles 2007
I hear that animal patterns are back in style in a big way. Truly, animal patterns never seems to stop being stylish. Whether we like it or not, it is one of those classic fashion motifs: sometimes classy, sometimes clashy.
Animal patterns have historical and cultural roots. They can remind us of African animals, as many of our most recognizable patterns come from the unique fauna, namely Leopard, Cheetah, Zebra, Tiger, and Giraffe, from this part of the world. They can remind us of the Age of Empire and of safaris and sport-killing, which fetishizes exotic animal skins as the ultimate trophy, an emblem of wealth and status. How masculine, we think, is a room with mounted heads on the walls and animal skin rugs on the floor? Perhaps a more modern sensitivity thinks: “how macabre?”
Animal patterns came back into vogue in the 50s-60s as a popular Bohemian motif, a symbol of sex and women’s sexual empowerment. This time, we were not talking real animal skin but a symbol of the wild animal within. ”It is Cadillacs and wildebeest, hippies and hunter-gatherers, Zulu royalty and the Rolling Stones, Mickey Hartigay & Jayne Mansfield and Adam & Eve.” (~quantumbiologist) No matter how you approach it, animal patterns have an undeniably primal power.
From time to time, I like to return to the rich conceptual material of animal patterns and skins. I don’t know if that means I endorse the idea, but it holds tremendous fascination and potential. Felt can recreate the fetishistic “realness” of the animal pelt to a disturbing level. Though no harm has come to any animal in the process, it seems to cross some forbidden line back into the animal zone. I definitely noticed an element of alarm or danger in people’s reaction to animal-inspired pieces. Well, art is about asking these sorts of questions: if it is a perennial classic in fashion, what does it mean about why we wear it? As women, are we the hunters or are we the hunted when we wear animal symbols? Interesting issues….
A fascinating article on animal prints:
Leopard print has never gone out of style — and has probably never notbeen in style, somewhere on Earth. (Many paleontologists believe that dinosaurs wore leopard-like spots.) Perhaps the reason for its endurance is that its parents are these two very different nostalgias. One is a deep-seeded yearning for the Paleolithic and pre-civilization, a length of time far longer than post-civilization humanity, when we as a species were in a more even conversation with nature and depended more on our physical prowess, our animal senses, and our understanding of the wilderness. To be sure, there are many people on Earth who are not far removed from this lifestyle, but for those of us in the “first world,” nostalgia for the time of spears and shamans exists as a distant cultural memory, perhaps stitched into the threads of our genetic code, like a dream we can’t quite remember yet which tugs on our hearts upon waking. We cannot shake the feeling that something, somehow led us astray from our true identity as the human ape, and adorning ourselves in leopard print reminds us of our species’ connection to wildlife of the world and our once-intimate relationship to it.
The other type of nostalgia, of course, is this:
Monday, February 28, 2011
Felt Delicacies by Wendy Allen of Miss Fitt
The first thing I ever saw in handmade felt was a hat that I think was made by Wendy Allen of Miss Fitt. It was a red heart hat with a doily felted to the top and an airplane flying across it…or maybe into it (it was a long time ago). I was not thinking about felt in any way at the time. In fact, it would be about a year later until I really thought to ever work in felt. Despite being pretty oblivious to it (my tunnel vision was honed in on feathers and metal in those days), it was popping up on the horizon and I remember how impressed I was by that hat. The materials…the heart…the doily…the airplane…it was a beautiful piece. I was a metal worker then and was looking to do something that did not involve I-beams or architectural projects (I was building railings and chairs and my proudest and last project as a metal fabricator: a whole outdoor studio for a stone mason, so it wasn’t that I wasn’t good at it, I was just sick of doing it) and I wanted something that I could make that was small and a product and that would allow me to work more in the company of women. I was making these flamboyant feather hats as a possible product and the owner of a funky local hat store took out the airplane hat and showed it to me with much reverence.
It wasn’t until I had joined the street artists program in SF that I discovered that I needed a new medium as feather hats weren’t going to fly and my wacky felt hats (jazzed up from industry made hat forms) weren’t cutting the mustard, so I started looking for a new medium….maybe felt? I very seriously did not have a clue.
I experimented with wool at home and made a variety of terrible things. As I worked with it more, I made better felt and I discovered ways that I was successful working with the wool. Ways that I liked to work with it…effects that I could work on…all of which eventually led to the felt scarves and, in 2006-2007, to the first of the Rose Scarves. It has since taken many years to refine them so that they turn out consistently and many years more to learn new tricks, shortcuts, or ways to enhance or improve the piece for the Rose Scarf as I now make it. On a food show the other day a master Japanese Tuna Chef was showing how to choose the best tuna at market. He said that after 40 years of choosing tuna, he was still learning how to pick the best one…and that is a lot how I feel: everyday, I am still learning.
I don’t know if I could have ever gotten into felting if I had tried to “take on” the airplane hat. Mercifully, I don’t think I remembered the hat consciously as I took on the humbling (and humiliating) task of starting over in a new medium. It took experimentation to find techniques that were natural to me and to eventually find my own voice, and that simply boiled down to time, practice and keeping an open mind (and also not getting discouraged by early results). I think I was able to do it because there was no goal or objective during the time that I experimented. I did not expect great results but took the time I needed for trail and error. If I had thought that the red felt hat was the end-all, be-all of felt, I imagine that I would have felt so discouraged that I would have given up before ever really giving myself a chance. If that happened, it would be my own fault, not the fault of the beautiful red hat.
I’ve been successful in a few different art mediums going way back to early art school days and I can say from experience that it is a tremendous thing when you find a medium that you groove with. People respond to it and then confidence grows. The more often you do it, the more you know you can. But I have also been wracked by great lack of self confidence and self-doubt. Where do these negative feelings come from? Somewhere along the line, growing up, they were put there by competitive and stressful situations. We learned them and we can also unlearn them. When you meet someone who has no fear or self-doubt (and I’ve met a couple) you wonder: “Why the heck am I carrying around all this baggage anyway??” The only thing to fear in art is that kind of negative loop or emotion, whether you are doing it to yourself or someone is trying to do it to you! In a fast-paced world where everyone is in competition, it is hard to find that quiet place where you can be yourself and simply play with new toys and ideas without bullies in the psychological schoolyard interrupting your fun.
When I started to make felt, I had to start over with nothing. In a new environment with unfamiliar tools and materials and no friends. I have had to start over from scratch many times in the past and it is always a fearful and humbling experience. It can also be a great adventure! I felt great freedom in giving myself over to something completely new and to knowing that I didn’t know anything and was beginning a whole new learning process. Doing something like this requires making a special, protected place in your self where you can listen to your thoughts and pursue your own experiments. You can question assumptions or combine ideas in new ways, where you can learn new tools or wash your thoughts in images of inspiring work. Anything can spark desire and creative thought, but you have to be able to hear it and, in the cacophony of daily life, it can be hard to make out its faint voice. Especially if others unfairly bully you or if you are unknowingly bullying yourself with negative expectations.
I’m not into competition in art. I know it’s there and I’ve dealt with the emotions of it many times. What helps is to step back and have respect for people. When someone makes a truly great art piece, it is something we all share culturally as art. It adds to the dialogue and elevates the conversation. When someone is just starting out, there is much respect deserved for trying something new or the hard work of developing a personal style. Everything takes time and we are all involved in the same evolution. There are no winners and losers, just people bouncing off each other and at different points in their creative development.
Just as we are each unique, each of us has a unique voice to contribute. That voice is our art and we must each carefully nurture its development and respect others that are involved in that same spiritual struggle. Each art piece that you make is like a litte brick building a temple to yourself. You should treat it with great reverence and, when other people share their temple with you, it should be treated with equal reverence. Together, we could build a beautiful Acropolis of little creative temples.
This is not something I’m writing for anyone in particular….just something I was thinking about last night.