I was recently interviewed by Kari Lorenson at Knotwe: The Hub for Fiber, Textiles, Surface Design. If you have time to check out their site, it's gorgeous, really cool and I was fairly sure they'd made a mistake in contacting me because I'm so not hip. I'm like, a 43-year-old mom. In Alaska. And when the smart interview questions appeared (after Kari took the time to read my ENTIRE blog, no less) ... they were hard to answer. So because I spent a lot of time thinking about them, I wanted to share at least one of the Q & A's here.
This was question #3:
"I am so impressed with the mastery of so many techniques you incorporate into your work. The execution and compositions are complex, decisive and from reading your blog, your past experiences working in textile production and highly customized work, your family have all gave you a wide breadth of experiences to draw upon. To me the art of what you create is in part not only in the conceptual ideas you explore but the way you are able to blend these processes into a vocabulary that re-enforces the presence of the work. Do you feel like the forces behind your work and the processes you take into the fold have changed over time? Are there specific creative risks that you hope to take on in the next few projects?"
My mother’s family is in Sweden so my connection to them is limited in terms of distance and language [...]. So while I’ve had fleeting exposure, childhood memory and stories, I can only speculate about who they were and are as people, as women, as makers. Still, they’ve given me this great gift of history and skill. I’m grateful for this sensibility and this need to make, re-make, make better, make well and feel strongly that the ability to create something from nothing and the sensitivity towards any maker’s hand is a value not taught much anymore. For something so commonplace just a few generations ago, it’s slipping away [...].
The physical gift from these women is the work they’ve produced and sent to me for decades— much of it in the form of crochet and embroidery. I spent 25 years hauling it around and grumbling about the outdated form, about the quantity that just kept coming, threatening to toss it all, but then finally deciding to cut it apart and re-use it as a form of reverence. Which in some respects was the most unthinkable and disrespectful thing to do and I would still feel horrible about it if it weren’t for the incredible release I experienced.
The greater challenge with this type of material, is how to channel this buried feminine energy — this silent stabbing of hook and needle — and create something meaningful and complex from the original work. I will say right now that this isn’t easy on a number of levels, but two dichotomies immediately come to mind — first, it’s difficult to execute a contemporary idea from an outdated or vintage item. I am always teetering on the edge of nostalgia with these cloths (and please grab me if I fall off that cliff). And second, I want to revere each object as the last of its kind, but am absolutely propelled and emboldened by the seemingly endless quantity of domestic and decorative linens in the world. When it comes to making that cut, this lessens the hesitation.
Another challenge is that of the hand. Because I learned to embroider and crochet at such a young age, then spent so many years in production and design for the clothing industry (9 of 12 years in custom bridal, starting when I was 17) my hand instinctively makes marks that are even and aligned. I fight this constantly and can tell when I’ve slipped into autopilot; it is a huge effort to remain loose and chaotic in order to achieve an emotional resonance with the handwork.
My process is definitely evolving. I’ve been drawn to the quilt form for a long time, probably because I have very little history with quilts; the women in my family were/are crocheters, knitters, embroiderers and weavers. The only quilt I inherited was a brittle crazy quilt top that came from a great, great aunt who made it after emigrating to Boston, then sent it to Sweden where it was ridiculed and put in a trunk for 50 years (this, according to my mother, who was a child at the time of its arrival). So I am drawn to the quilt form as a vessel for narrative, language, history, effort, thoughts, materials and the domestic role. Recently, however, I’ve been exploring other forms such as upholstery, felting and embroidery all as an attempt to house found objects that are completely unrelated to textiles such as bone, stone, hair and shell.
I’m so interested in narrative, and the next few larger works waiting in the wings are exploring the narrative of others, some of it fictional. I don’t want to sound like a lunatic when I say I hear voices,
but … I do.