Friday, August 3, 2012
photo: Moja Ma’at; Felt Dresses by Jenne Giles; Styling by Angelica Garde; MUA by Kenya of Ruby Envy; Hair by Diana Regua; Models: Monika & Sara
Here is the original material for FilzFun 35 by Marion Kaesmayr & myself. It was such a fun interview to respond to and Marion did a marvelous job translating, editing, and laying out the text with images from a photoshoot we did in North Beach for the printed magazine (which is beeea-utiful!). As is natural, some lovely bits were cut from the final printed article in the interest of space. Without further ado, here is the full text.
Who is Jenne?
(tell us something about your life and work and so on…)
Spiritually, I am a bit of an avant-gardist that likes to make unexpected things of beauty. I relish that genuine moment of surprise, both in myself and in others.
Where in the world are you living?
When did you decide to become a artist?
The art bug bit me early in life. Through difficult periods, it has always been a safe place where I could go for refuge & growth. I was fortunate to be accepted into a Magnet Arts High School in 1990, where studying visual art became the foundation of my learning and personal development. It was wonderful to be in a place where one was appreciated for one’s individuality and not harassed for being different. Since then, I have been dedicated to the arts throughout my adult life in one form or another,
What made you choose the materials that you work with?
What other materials would you like to work with in?
For my fine art work, I am currently exploring felt and its relationship to painting. I have a strong desire to pursue more sculptural ideas and hope that my path will send me in that direction soon.
Which technics do you prefer?
Where do you get your inspiration from?
To me, this artistic process is about sensory awakening: being open to the world through your senses by truly seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or touching. When your mind is open and your senses are fully engaged, you can experience the world as it is: rich with variation, mystery and surprise. Felting is an excellent way to embrace the unexpected and to move through the creative process from inspiration to discovery (and back again).
Personally, I am inspired by geometry, color, form, structure, design, surprise, poetry, nature, perception, and the irresistible impulse to interact with the great big mess of it all.
What motivates you?
Do you create your work in a studio or a home base?
In 2007, I moved into a studio space. My husband and I built it ourselves, putting up walls and shelves and installing doors and sinks. I even overcame my personal phobia of plumbing- a big triumph! It is nice to have a space of my own where I can go to be creative. It has also been very important to have the dedicated space for running my business in an organized way….or at least as organized as creative spaces can be.
Crafts in the 21th Century, what does it means to you?
I believe that craft offers an antidote to much of what we are experiencing in the 21st Century. This era is identified as being the Information Age, with the internet tying us all together and allowing us access to infinite information. The plus side of this is that there is vast wisdom now available to most people; the downside is that it can be an intellectual-overload where we become lost in the sheer volume of information.
Many hours can be spent in front of a computer screen absorbing information, but it is not until we apply that information through doing that we truly learn it. In fact, one could argue that we learn so much more in the doing of things (using our hands, minds and senses in concentrated effort), than we could ever learn through reading/studying alone. After all, as humans we are the “tool-makers” who learn by working with our hands—this is how we build skills, learn, express ourselves, think creatively, and develop as individual people.
Craft is inclusive and it brings us together. Everyone can master a craft. Everyone has something to contribute to craft. So, individually, craft offers us new ways to learn, to be productive, to be involved, and to appreciate the work of others. Combined with the internet, craft allows people to interact and form communities, both locally and internationally. Therefore, being involved with a craft is an antidote to the separation and loneliness that many experience in the Information Age. So on a larger level, craft empowers people, creates community, generates economies, and generally makes this a more peaceful and respectful world.
Add to all of this that craft is historically related to the small-scale production of goods, and this makes modern-day crafting a good remedy for living in the global, big-business world where our day is filled with fast-moving, anxious advertising to buy the latest must-have item from generic, impersonal box stores. Craft is a way to make things that allows us the option to contribute in a personal way rather than to consume. It is an opportunity to slow down and enjoy, making life more satisfying.
In my opinion, the more craft we have in the world, the better the 21st Century world will be.
How do you sell and promote your work?
After that, I showed at many of the national craft shows in the US. This allowed me to practice my craft at a more professional level. Each year has offered new and changing opportunities for growth. I win some, I lose some, but the most important thing is being out there. By doing shows, I meet new people and visit new places. By having an online presence, I can meet people all over the world and can be easier to find.
My advice would be to try different things and keep challenging yourself. If the goal was just to sell a lot, there are many better business models for doing that. For me, running a small craft-based business allows me to pursue the goals of personal and artistic growth coupled with the opportunity for new experiences. These goals have a value that cannot be measured in money alone. I believe that a big secret of marketing is that you will discover your market and your message through the process of discovering yourself.
What’s your typical working day like?
First off, I get up and make a strong espresso.
Next, I drive or take the train from Oakland to my studio in San Francisco. When I am in the studio, the first thing I do is turn on my electric kettles and music. I take care of any office stuff that needs doing or any packaging and shipping that should go out. Then I can start felting.
When I am making creative pieces, I am venturing into new territories and playing with the wool and colors in new combinations. This I do to design new production pieces or to make unique items for art projects, whether it is a dress, a painting or a sculpture. When I do production, I am repeating the same steps to make a particular design over and over again. This can have a nice Zen to it, as I get lost in the rhythm of making. Both are very interesting ways of working and have their own state of being and ways of interacting with materials and tools. Perhaps each process uses different parts of the brain….all I know is that I make a mess when I try to do both on the same day.
What is your working style?
3 words of advice for an Textile Artist?
Do you have a colour you love most?
Who is your favourite artist?
Which artist do you want to meet?
What music do you listen to?
Three likes and dislikes?
warm, fuzzy, dry socks
spending time with family & friends
What do you do to relax?
Do you plan a exhibition, book-project or something like this?
In 2010, I published a book called Felt Fashion: Couture Projects from Garments to Accessories with the help of a production team from Los Angeles. When the producers first asked me to write a book, I did a lot of soul-searching about whether I had something worthwhile to contribute, especially when there are so many great felting books already available. At the time, I was learning much about pattern-making, couture sewing & garment construction and I felt there were many unexplored opportunities to combine these techniques with feltmaking. At the very least, the Felt Fashion book could bridge two disciplines: sewing for feltmakers and feltmaking for sewers. To this end, I took a wide range of feltmaking skills (basic to advanced) and sewing/patternmaking skills and blended them together to make 24 different projects, each designed to teach specific skills. I also added techniques and tools for making jewelry and hat-making so that readers could experience those traditions as well. My hope is that readers would have a comprehensive set of feltmaking and sewing skills once they had tried all the projects and that they could then combine these skills to make personalized pieces.
Often, in books or in classes, it seems to me as though one must choose a technical approach or a creative one. I tried to balance the 2, as I really appreciate technical know-how and skill-building but also enjoy a book when it inspires or encourages my creativity. Further, I wanted to appeal to both a craft-aesthetic of exuberant self-expression and to a fashion-aesthetic that can be more about subtlety, materials, details, and finishing. I hope that readers will feel it addresses both.
I believe that good learners make good teachers and I learned very much about feltmaking by writing Felt Fashion.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
I have a new favorite-of-all-time tv show! Just when I think we’ve run out of shows to watch on Netflix Streaming (and foo on Dish network for dropping good channels), there are gems like this. If you enjoy fashion, you will love this series following Joe Zee, creative director of ELLE magazine, as he helps designers put together capsule collections to show to prime-time buyers. I love the love that is in this show: the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts, down to brass tacks look at the business of fashion and the magical passion for design, fashion, and art that drives everyone involved. It’s the real deal!
As far as I’m concerned, reality tv can keep these good fashion-specific shows coming…more please!
about the show:
Joe Zee – Creative Director for ELLE – is not only one step ahead of the trends…he defines them. Now, Joe is using his style smarts and eye for detail to guide struggling fashion designers back on the road to success. With insider savvy, a positive spirit, and a double dose of tough love, Joe inspires these struggling designers to rekindle their creative fire before their line goes down in flames.
In Joe’s own words: “I’m at a point in my career where I want to use my experience to help struggling designers make their dreams come true. Each week, I will hand pick one talented designer who has hit a roadblock on the way to success…and I will use all of my resources and power to help them turn their business around…It’s all on the line.”
to learn more visit http://www.sundancechannel.com/all-on-the-line/
Monday, May 21, 2012
I was inspired to name my business Harlequin Feltworks by the personal & symbolic importance of the “harlequin,” a classic figure in Italian theater.
As a young child growing up in the Veneto region of Italy (my father was a doctor at the military base in Vicenza & my mother became part of the local community), I vividly remember certain moments of the annual Carnival festival in February. One particular memory was of the Arlecchino throwing candy from the rooftops. To a small child, this was literally candy raining down from heaven. Abundance, sweetness, joy….mythical costumed characters coming to life and sharing their gifts.
Costuming became an important form of artistic expression in my life. There were many opportunities for costuming growing up with a birthday so close to Halloween (tragically, I was induced early and missed being born on the holiday) and costuming even became a genre of art that I took very seriously for a couple concentrated years. During this time, the elegant clown character became something I would return to over & over again. Fortunately, it had special resonance in the Bay Area which has a strong tradition of Commedia dell’Arte & circus. During this period of intense costuming in my early to mid-twenties, I would piece together costumes from found materials in an ad-hoc & spontaneous combination (most costumes were completed in under 24 hours), always aiming to be elegant, fanciful, and over-the-top; a momentary manifestation and statement designed to dazzle and amuse.
When I began to make wearable art from felted wool and other materials, I wanted to retain this sense of playfulness, spontaneity, and a subtle element of spectacle/theater. The Harlequin became a great mascot for the business: agile in making new designs and pieces (but also kind of mentally slow, as some skills took longer to develop); a sort of greedy & vain character (business can be a bit greedy & vain-at least those are aspects that one wrestles with: profit & presence); a romantic figure who personifies love and enchantment. Colorful & illusionistic, he is a character as well as the concept of animation through color (near & dear to my heart). His mask is anonymity or a new/auxiliary identity, something you become as a business entity.
The harlequin brought to mind notions of old-world traditions & craft, which related strongly to the craft of feltmaking. Coincidentally, the harlequin also had great currency in high fashion, inspiring such designers as Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, and Miuccia Prada. No matter when or where, the harlequin has a delightful, charming innocence juxtaposed with a certain sexual mystique.
Since the beginning of Harlequin Feltworks in 2007, the years have been full of nimble acrobatics in the fields of design, fashion, art & business. These 5 years have seen a lot of evolution & change, yet the harlequin continues to be a source of inspiration, keeping me company and sharing his gifts.
Harlequin or Arlecchino in Italian, Arlequin in French and Arlequín in Spanish is the most popularly known of the zanni or comic servant characters from the Italian Commedia dell’arte and its descendant, the Harlequinade. The Harlequin is also known to be a type of clown.
The Harlequin character may have been based on or influenced by the Zanni archetype who, although a slow thinker, was acrobatic and nimble. Interpreted thus, Harlequin’s distinctive motley costume may be a stylized variant of Zanni’s plain white garb, designed to reflect the ad-hoc patching necessary to prevent the garment’s degradation
The primary aspect of Arlecchino was his physical agility. While generally depicted as stupid and gluttonous, he was very nimble and performed the sort of acrobatics the audience expected to see. The character would never perform a simple action when the addition of a cartwheel, somersault, or flip would spice up the movement.
He is typically cast as the servant of an innamorato or vecchio much to the detriment of the plans of his master. Arlecchino often had a love interest in the person of Colombina, or in older plays any of the Soubrette roles, and his lust for her was only superseded by his desire for food and fear of his master.
He eventually became something more of a romantic hero around the 18th century, when his popularity provoked the Harlequinade.
Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlequin
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I am on pins and needles waiting for the release of the next FilzFun magazine out of Germany. Harlequin Feltworks will be in there!
This is a stellar magazine with an un-paralled passion for felting in all of its forms. Family-run, the team behind this publication has an immense dedication to serving the latest trends in feltmaking from across the world and it has been a real joy to work with them preparing the article.
It was tough to keep things “under wraps” for these past few months, but it was worth it: the article serves up some fresh ideas, both visually and in the insightful interview.
You can order a copy, or subscribe, at their website: FilzFun
Sunday, May 6, 2012
The Surface Design Association invited 4 artists to show at the American Craft Council Show Baltimore. We were one of them. Here is an article with collected insights from the artists at the show.
by Candace Edgerly
In their quest to attract new talent, the American Craft Council gave several art/craft-focused organizations the opportunity to invite 10 of their members to bypass ACC’s jury process. 4 out of the 10 SDA invited took us up on the offer by participating in the 2012 Baltimore ACC Show in February.
With over 650 juried artists, the Baltimore show is a bit overwhelming. For the visitor, there is no shortage of interesting and inspiring new work. For the exhibitor, however, there are some challenges involved in putting yourself out there. Jiyoung Chung, Tamara Embrey, Jenne Giles and Deborah Kruger shared some insights into their experience of working this venue below.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Ceramic Cockroach Coffee Mug by Catherine Reece
Visit Catherine’s Etsy Store, Village Clayworks
Traveling for Thanksgiving gave me some time to catch up on my reading. There’s nothing quite like flying or commuting in general to make some headway in a book.
So it was with great pleasure that I jumped into The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It is filled with many gems of wisdom which seem especially poignant over the holidays. One of the recommendations that jumped out at me was her suggestion to start a collection. The author had started to collect bluebirds inspired by the legend of the “bluebirds of happiness.” Her hunt for new bluebirds and the cultivation of her “flock” had been the occasion of many happy experiences and new adventures. It made me think: do I collect anything? So many of the past years have been about streamlining and reducing the unnecessary objects that I had unintentionally collected over time. Then I remembered that, indeed, I do collect something…I collect mugs.
I’ll admit that it’s rather mundane as a far as a bona fide collection goes. I mean, I can think of many more exciting collections (modern art, jewels, exotic memorabilia, racing cars….even stamps or garden gnomes sound a little more adventurous), but I get a great sense of satisfaction adding to my utilitarian mug collection. After all, many mugs come and go as one loses a handle here or eventually breaks there (the retirement of a good mug is always an emotional moment), so there is a very practical need to resupply and add new members to my motley crew of cups.
When I am traveling, I try to pick up the silliest mug I can find. I have one from the Hearst Castle (the biggest and most sprawlingly opulent that they had, of course), a pearlescent hummingbird from Galveston Island, even a mug from the Undertaker’s University at the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston (a great museum if you get a chance to go). I will never forget collecting my first mug from the Montrose Arts Fair in Houston. It had a dragon’s face: the eyes and nose set in a round, red clay bowl indented with scales, with the dragon’s tail forming the handle and fired with a beautifully sparkley raku. Every drink served in this cup instantly became a magic potion! Now that I am reflecting on my current collection, it certainly seems that it could use some love….but as shabby as it is, it still gives me a unique pleasure.
Recently at a show we did up in Petaluma, I picked up a new star to my collection: a Cockroach Mug by ceramic artist Catherine Reece (pictured above). Drinking from it is far sweeter than any sugar I could add to the hot coffee inside. I have always been drawn to ceramics and, after years of doing craft shows, I know the extra effort that it takes for clay & ceramic artists to bring their work to a show: the crating, hauling, and careful packaging it takes…and that is just the logistics of bringing the work there. Imagine the hand-sculpting or throwing, the firing, the glazing and the detailing that goes into each one! One thing is for sure: there’s a lot of love invested in each hand-made piece. It makes me appreciate the relative ease that it takes to bring felt to a show: though I may worry about ironing and creasing, I don’t need to worry about things getting broken.
So, as the first step in my own Happiness Project, I have now made it my resolution to never let an opportunity pass to add a new handmade mug to my collection, especially when doing craft shows. Not only does the act of collecting give me great joy, but it is a thank you to the love and effort that clay artists have for their craft. Everytime I use one of my special mugs, it makes the experience so much sweeter, imbuing happy memories to simple moments.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Last week, I spoke to Associated Press journalist Jennifer Forker for an upcoming article on feltmaking. The article just came out today and is popping up across the country in local newspapers. How exciting! It is a lovely article and really revs my engines!!
Here is the article at ABC News
Felting Transforms Raw Material Into Work of Art
Seven years ago, Jenne Giles was a San Francisco painter and sculptor who didn’t know felting existed. Now she works almost exclusively in the medium, stretching the possibilities of felt in fashion.
There’s a soft-sculpture aspect to wet felting that is attractive to Giles, who sells her ruffled scarves in museum gift shops and online at the Artful Home. It’s tactile and hands-on, like working in clay, she says.
“It incorporates all the things that I love,” says Giles, author of “Felt Fashion: Couture Projects from Garments to Accessories” (Quarry Books, 2010).
“It’s an ancient medium,” she adds. “It’s right there at the dawn of mankind, after making clothing from leather and sinew.”