Northern Clay Center's latest exhibition - "Elemental" - presents four artists who explore themes of fire, water, earth and air, all through the medium of ceramics.
The theme is particularly fitting, because those are precisely the four elements of pottery. The challenge for each artist was to highlight one element over the other.
Artist Paula Winokur has three complementary pieces in the Northern Clay Center show: "Ice Cores," "Calving Glacier IV," and "Above and Below"
Ceramicist Linda Swanson was commissioned to create a piece that emphasized "earth," which was a bit of a twist for her since water is so prominent in her work. But it's also fitting, because she uses water to reveal and transform a platform of bentonite clay that contains metallic oxides.
"A lot of the ceramics that we normally experience are in their finished permanent state, explains Swanson, "but as a maker there are all these stages the materials go through - soft to hard, impermanent to permanent. I found that by working with water I could make these stages visible to the viewer - I could reveal aspects of them that are normally only privy to the maker."
"Temperamental Earth" by Linda Swanson, 2013
In Swanson's "Temperamental Earth," nylon sacks suspended from the ceiling slowly drip water onto the surface of the clay. Traditionally, Swanson says, earth is thought of as the most stable element. She wanted to look at how the earth is actually in flux. So as the water drips, the bentonite swells and buckles, and reveals an array of colors as different metallic oxides are exposed.
"Sifted into the clay are different colors of iron," said Swanson. "Red, yellow and black iron; a lack of iron results in white clay. In ancient Greece, those colors also happened to represent the humors of the body. They saw the body as a microcosm of the universe."
Over time, the water will stop flowing, and the clay will dry out and contract.
Air/Breath by Del Harrow, 2013
While the gallery as a whole reflects a minimalist feel, the individual pieces range widely, exploring everything from issues of personal loss to the degradation of the environment.
One piece incorporates electricity (a contemporary version of fire) while another includes video. Swanson says together, they challenge common notions of what ceramic art is.
"Elemental" runs through May 12 at Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis.(0 Comments)
The Minnesota Book Awards has named Jana Pullman the winner of the 2013 Minnesota Book Artist Award. The award is presented each year to a Minnesota book artist or group of artists that has shown excellence and innovation in the field over the previous three years, and has contributed significantly to the local book arts community.
Pullman is well known in the community for her work as a book binder and conservator, and especially for her work with leather and wood covers. But her knowledge runs deep in several veins of the book arts, including not just binding but paper-making, printing, box-making, and the history of bookbinding.
Pullman has been involved in the book arts for thirty years, studying the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the University of Iowa, where she later worked for several years with noted paper maker Tim Barrett.
"Open Horizon" - a cover for the book Open Horizons by Sigurd F. Olson, about his love affair with the wilderness in Wisconsin.
Pullman arrived in Minneapolis in 1997. Since then she has become a pillar of the local book arts community, regularly teaching classes at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and running her Western Slope Bindery. She also teaches workshops throughout the country, and has received several prestigious awards.
Full disclosure: I've had the pleasure of taking several classes with Jana Pullman over the last few years. She is a treasure of book arts knowledge and a gem of a teacher.
In conjunction with the Minnesota Book Artist award, an exhibit of Pullman's work will be on display at the MCBA January 18 - February 24, and will subsequently tour to other venues across the state.
"Water" - Full bound goatskin over sculptured boards. Silk endbands and chiyogami endpapers. Air brushed background and title in aluminum leaf.
Images courtesy of the Minnesota Book Awards.(0 Comments)
In the world of tableware, it would appear there's little room for innovation.
For instance a plate can be given corners, or different colors or patterns, but in its essence it's a flat surface on which to put your food. A plate is recognizably a plate.
Along that same line of reasoning a bowl is a bowl, and a cup is a cup.
Ceramic artist Kimberlee Roth thinks it's time to shake things up a bit.
Photo by Jennifer Phelps
Roth started out studying physics, specifically material science, more specifically ceramics (ceramics play an important role in superconductors and as insulators).
However Roth soon was so charmed by clay's sensual nature, and its artistic potential, that she left physics to study art.
Over the years Roth has used what she learned in physics about curves, heat and pressure to create sculptural pieces that she hopes people will admire both for their sensual form, and their functionality: sculpture for the dinner table.
Masdevallia Veitchiana- Yana, 2010
MPR photo/Marianne Combs
The shapes are inspired by shells, flowers and the female figure.
"I'm very attracted to the female form," says Roth. "I think the female body is beautiful. I think the male body is beautiful, too, but I found it easier to translate feminine imagery to ceramics than masculine."
Other pieces are inspired by Moorish tiles, or by the terracotta embellishments that decorate many older buildings.
MPR Photo/Marianne Combs
Roth's most recent show, at Burnet Gallery in downtown Minneapolis, features several different sets of pieces hung meticulously on the wall to create a larger geometric pattern. They are hung on nails, and can be easily taken down and set on a dining room table.
Roth imagines her as the backdrop to a particularly evocative meal.
"I wouldn't serve spaghetti on these dishes," says Roth, "I'm thinking of sushi, or other food that you would eat with chopsticks or your fingers."
Photo by Jennifer Phelps
Roth says while some artists imbue their work with meaning and symbolism, for her it's simply about pleasure.
"I'm not trying to make provocative work. I'm not trying to get that 'Aha!' moment from somebody. I want people to think these pieces are beautiful, and I want them to frame food elegantly. Special plates, for a special meal."
Roth's exhibit "Bouquet" is on display at Burnet Gallery through January 5.
Lori Greene is filled with expectation.
"It's like being pregnant, but having no idea when you're due," she chuckled on a recent summer afternoon.
Greene is the force behind Mosaic on a Stick, a combination store, gallery, classroom and community center for people interested in making mosaics.
Lori Greene stands before the current home of her store Mosaic on a Stick
MPR Photo/Marianne Combs
Located on the corner of Snelling and Thomas Avenues in St. Paul, Mosaic on a Stick has worked over the years to beautify the immediate neighborhood, covering the street planters that line Snelling with colorful tile art made in classes. Greene also often works on murals for schools and other communities.
But Greene said her current space isn't meeting the needs of the store, and she's hoping to move to a new space with a long history.
The Hamline Park building
MPR Photo/Marianne Combs
The Hamline Park Building was built by Cap Wigington in 1938 as a Works Progress Administration project. Located just a block from Mosaic on a Stick's current site, the building sits on the corner of a park that is regularly filled with kids and young adults of various ethnic backgrounds playing basketball and tennis, and climbing the jungle gym. For the last year the building has sat empty.
For Lori Greene, it's a perfect place to call home.
It's fabulously beautiful. Look at all that park land around it - we can have classes in the park, maybe do a sculpture in the park, projects with kids that play in the park.
Greene said the new building will make it easier for her to hold multiple classes simultaneously (her current is basically a single large room, with storage space). It also helps her to move closer to fulfilling a longtime mission, namely to get diverse youth involved in her community building projects.
And on top of everything else, the rent will be cheaper.
Detail of the Hamline Park building
MPR Photo/Marianne Combs
Tom Russell, with the City of Saint Paul's Parks and Recreation, says the Hamline building hasn't been used for actual recreation purposes since the late 1980s. As Parks and Recreation tries to reduce the amount of its capital liability, he says it is becoming more and more common for the agency to assume the role of landlord.
Russell says, for the city, having Mosaic on a Stick move into Hamline Park Building is a win-win for both organizations.
In addition to a good business plan, Mosaic on a Stick also has community support and will be providing services to the community - so two big pluses. Mosaic on a Stick has also committed (with the Historic Preservation Commission) to improving and preserving the historic nature of the building. So they will help preserve a historic community asset - another plus.
Lori Greene has one last hurdle to leap before making the move into her new home; currently the park building is zoned for everything except retail. In order to re-zone the building, Greene needs to get permission from neighbors, allowing her to sell her art supplies on site.
If all goes well, Greene hopes to open Mosaic on a Stick on its new site in October.
Posted at 5:14 PM on June 4, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Craft
The Textile Center in Minneapolis has named Timothy G. Fleming its new Executive Director. The longtime supporter of the center succeeds founding director Margaret Miller.
Photo courtesy of the Textile Center
Fleming's past accomplishments include chairing the Textile Curatorial Council for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for nearly a decade and co-founding Ampersand, a home accessory retailer. He also runs Timothy Fleming Interiors, which produces upscale residential interior design projects.
Founding director Margaret Miller announced her retirement earlier this year.
Nestled into the lake shore in Grand Marais, North House Folk School is a hotbed of learning. But the skills you'll acquire here might seem other-worldly compared to modern life. For example, would you like to learn how to build a yurt?" Or maybe you'd like to sew your own anorak?
Tim Schwiebert of Osceola and Brian Belanger of Edina work on a timber frame at North House Folk School Grand Marais
Photo: Derek Montgomery for MPR
According to reporter Dan Kraker, in the age of iPads and Twitter, this center of low-tech handcraft has never been more popular:
The chance to work with their hands, learn from peers and create something lasting draws a growing number of people like Belanger to North House, and to other folk schools sprouting up around the region: from the Driftless Folk School in southwestern Wisconsin, to the Milan Village Arts School in southwestern Minnesota.
North House started with 14 students taking a single kayak-building class 15 years ago. Last year the school hosted 13,000 participants from 36 states.
Mark Hansen, a founder of the school who taught its first class, said the reason for the school's growth is simple: people are born to create.
"People like to do for themselves," Hansen said. "We live in such a high-tech world that I think people are really looking for low-tech and high-touch."
You can hear the rest of Dan Kraker's story by clicking on the link below:
This week I've picked four events that are worth your time, even if their descriptions seem either confusing, boring or downright contradictory. Just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you shouldn't always judge an event by its press release...
Theatre Novi Most presents a blending of two absurdist plays into "one slapstick-funny and dead-serious narrative" about the horrors of war. Impossible, you say? Not so fast. Initial reviews for this show have been enthusiastic, with one critic stating "Through brilliant observation and a taut thread of growing dread, [Lisa] Channer and [Vladimir] Rovinsky are able to close the first act with a searing moment of tragic reality that breaks the playful absurdity."
Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theatre
Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater always takes on issues that address the essentials of human nature. Its latest work claims to ask the question "Can separation and opposition become a connecting place for finding the beauty in difference?"
If you find the question itself rather confusing, never fear; where language fails, dance moves in to the rescue.
This exhibition has the dubious honor of sporting a title that sounds simultaneously redundant and incorrect (because white, physicists will tell you, is actually composed of all colors of the spectrum).
But don't let this keep you you from taking in what promises to be a fun show. Mpls Photo Center covers the walls with great photo talent, and always puts on a nice party for their openings. In this case, the opening is tonight from 7 - 10pm.
The word "functional" is not the most compelling choice for seducing art lovers in your door. But at the heart of all great craft is the notion of function, and seeing true artists re-imagine such basic objects as teapots and dinnerware can be downright inspiring. The exhibition at the Northern Clay Center opens today and runs through April 29.
What are you doing this weekend?
Margaret Miller, the longtime Executive Director of the Textile Center, is retiring.
Miller was instrumental in forming Textile Center, and she has been the only executive director during Textile Center's 18-year history.
Located on University Avenue in Minneapolis, the center has grown in scope over the years, hosting classes in weaving, dyeing, felting and other textile related skills, while also exhibiting work by some of the most pre-eminent fiber artists.
In a release sent out late yesterday, Textile Center Board President Ruth Stephens said:
Margaret has brought Textile Center to the point where program and space needs have outpaced the present location and the organization is gearing up for expansion. With the exciting changes Central Corridor Light Rail will bring to our neighborhood, Textile Center's next decade should be just as dynamic as this past decade.
Miller plans to step down on July 1, after which she plans to pursue a long-term goal of providing volunteer services overseas. In the meantime, the Textile Center board of directors and its transition committee are undertaking a search process to name a new executive director.
"Barns are collapsing every year in the Midwest," laments Gary Stone of Red Wing. "It's a lot of expense to keep a barn up if you haven't got a real good use for it. So we've found an adaptive reuse for this barn."
Gary and his wife, Eve, repurposed their circa 1920 barn as a place for the arts. The barn's cathedral-like ceiling formerly sheltered hay; now it's a venue for concerts and plays. The barn's grain-storage area is now a folk-music shop with adjoining space for music lessons. And the ground floor, which at one time housed dairy cows, is now a workshop where Gary, Eve and the rest of their team build dulcimers, bodhráns (Irish drums) and, especially, folk lever harps.
Gary and Eve Stone's barn is on Hwy 19 in Goodhue County, near Red Wing. The poem on the side is from a Barn Poetry project 35 years ago, created by Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Back in 1984, Gary was working as a kitchen-cabinet installer when he and Eve purchased a dulcimer-building company begun in 1968 by Len MacEachron in Minneapolis' West Bank area. The Stones relocated the business to Goodhue County, where Eve rechristened the company "Stoney End."
Gary's woodworking skills allowed him to continue making dulcimers according to MacEachron's specifications, but Gary discovered harp-building rather by accident. "In amongst the dulcimers was a harp plan Len had," Gary recalls. "It had a kernel of a real good idea in the design, so I re-engineered it, modified it, and did a lot of improvements on it and started selling the harps."
Twenty-seven years on, Gary has built more than 7,000 lever harps. He's designed 12 different models, ranging from a 16-string lap harp to a 34-string floor harp. Lever harps are so named because some or all of the strings are fitted with a lever that adjusts the pitch of the string by a half step, allowing the player to play the harp in different keys. Whereas pedal harps are preferred by classical orchestras, lever harps are played in smaller performance settings and even for therapeutic purposes.
Brittany Graetz, the Stones' daughter, holds a 22-string lap harp. Its shape looks peeled from a Guinness label. "This is in the Celtic style," Brittany explains, "so it's got the nice curve shape. The Gothic-style harp has a straighter pillar and a sharper point. The Gothic was more popular in continental Europe, and the Celtic was more popular in Ireland and Britain. We've preserved those two shapes throughout our harp sizes."
Gary and Eve Stone name many of their harp models for important people in their lives. The Stones' daughter, Brittany Graetz, holds her namesake: a 22-string Celtic harp called 'Brittany'.
According to Brittany, the harps' sound boxes are made of birch, while the frames (comprising the harmonic curve and pillar) are made of cherry, walnut or maple, depending on the size of the harp. Gary determined his wood selections over time by experimentation.
Brian Stewart holds an assembled sound box. Stewart studied instrument repair at Red Wing Technical College and has been working at Stoney End since 1997.
As with any experiments, some have gone awry. For example, most of the harps are strung with nylon strings and others with steel, but Eve recalls a time Gary tried brass strings. "He'd finally get it up to pitch and it would be holding beautifully and one string would break and take five out with it," she laughs. "We heard some very bad, nasty words coming from the stringing area in the barn, so we gave up on that!"
In the north end of the barn, the Stones prepare finished harps for shipping; on this day, harps are going to Japan, to Iceland and to Australia. A few others are on their way to Door County, Wis., where professional musician Gerhard Bernhard operates a music shop. Bernhard says he first experienced harp music 20 years ago at a concert in Madison, Wis. "That beautiful sound simply blew me away," he says. "I told myself I had to get involved in making and selling harps."
Bernhard met Gary Stone at a harp conference 15 years ago, "We connected instantly," Bernhard recalls. "The harps he makes are not only beautiful aesthetically, they're also designed for maximum beauty of sound."
Harp builder Gary Stone assembles the pillar for a Gothic-style lap harp.
"What I like about building harps is that it's an artistic expression, making a beautiful object," Gary says. "I like the beauty of the wood, the shaping, the design, the flow, and the simplicity and elegance of the harp shapes. Then there's the scientific aspects of string lengths and vibrations and tuning. The harp has to be strong enough to withstand the tension of the strings and light enough to be responsive to the energy that just one little string adds to the music. I like the combination of all these requirements in a functional object: a tool for musicians."
Although he enjoys creating objects that create music, Gary doesn't consider himself an artist. "I primarily see myself as a toolmaker," he says.(2 Comments)
Can we get an "Amen?"
After 15 years of painstaking calligraphy and illumination by an international team of artists, the St. John's Bible is complete.
Detail from Letter to the Seven Churches with the Heavenly Choir, Donald Jackson, 2011. The Saint John's Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.
In the tradition of medieval Bibles, The Saint John's Bible is two feet tall and three feet wide when opened. It's bound in seven distinct volumes. It is the first handwritten bible to be commissioned by a Benedectine Monastery in more than 500 years.
Starting tomorrow, visitors to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts can see excerpts from the final volume, which comprises the Book of Letters and the Book of Revelation.
Detail from Valley of the Dry Bones, The Saint John's Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota
The St. John's Bible was written and drawn entirely by hand by a team of 23 professional scribes, artists and assistants, using quills and paints hand-ground from precious minerals and stones such as lapis lazuli, malachite, silver, and 24-karat gold.
The project was conceived and overseen by Donald Jackson, one of the world's foremost calligraphers and Senior Scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's Crown Office at the House of Lords.
"Now that I have inscribed the final Amen, I realise that over the long years of this task, a boyhood dream, I have gradually absorbed an enduring conviction of the pin-sharp relevance of these ancient Biblical Texts to the past, present and the future of our personal and public life and experience," Jackson said in a release. "These texts have a life of their own and their life is a mirror of the human spirit and experience."
Wisdom Woman, The Saint John's Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.
You can read about Minnesota calligrapher Diane von Arx's participation in illuminating the bible here.
So I returned to work yesterday after taking a nice late summer vacation in Door County, Wisconsin.
Quilt pattern: "North Star"
Located on the Olson Farm on the County Highway in Sturgeon Bay
Image courtesy Door County Barn Quilts
It turns out, this is the second year of the Door County Barn Quilts Project, which is simultaneously celebrating the area's agricultural, architectural and quilting heritage.
Quilt pattern: "Flying Geese"
Located on the Smith's barn on Highway 42 in Sturgeon Bay
Image courtesy Door County Barn Quilts
Barn quilts, according to the project's website, are "large, colorful, painted wooden quilt blocks that range in size from 6' to 8' square."
Quilt pattern: "Crazy Quilt"
Located on the Lasee Farm on Hwy 57, Sturgeon Bay
Image courtesy Door County Barn Quilts
The patterns were selected by the barn owners, then painted by 4-H members and other volunteers. According to coordinator Pam Peterson, volunteers are getting started on a second round of painting and will soon be adding another dozen quilts to the current 24.
Art is everywhere!(1 Comments)
This week's hounds can't resist a Latino art show inspired by miracles, an art crawl the Longfellow neighborhood way--from home to home, and an attempt to scale the theatrical heights of Hamlet for the first time.
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The Twin Cities Latino artist collective Grupo Soap del Corazon has a fan in former Minneapolis Institutue of Arts assistant curator Molly Huber. Molly, who now works at the Minnesota Historical Society, highly recommends the group's latest exhibition, "El Milagro," at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis. It's a collection of paintings, photography, sculpture and mixed media pieces from the area's most dynamic Latino artists, all inspired by the presence of miracles in their lives.
No Bird Sing emcee and McNally Smith College of Music faculty member Joe Horton will be on foot, going from home to home in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis this weekend, on the hunt for art. The League of Longfellow Artists, or LoLa, will be hosting the third annual LoLa Art Crawl, in which artists open up their doors and showcase their art. Joe says the art is fantastic, and so is the community building that results.
Veteran Art Hound and Minnesota Monthly writer Gregory Scott is always game for a production of his favorite play, Hamlet. This time, the Jungle Theater is taking a stab at Shakespeare's masterpiece for the first time in its 21-year history, with 2008 Guthrie BFA grad Hugh Kennedy in the title role. It's a level of boldness that Gregory admires and thinks should be rewarded. On stage from Aug. 26 - Oct. 9th.
And you can get an early sneak peek at the Art Hounds' picks every week by texting the word ART to 677-677.
Art Hounds is powered by the Public Insight Network.
Potter Alex Wilson retrieves a bone-colored cylinder from his toolbox. "With this, I can actually draw designs on a pot," he says. "It's a cow horn with a quillish-type device stuck in the end."
Alex Wilson's slip-trailer is a cow horn fitted with an artificial goose quill he made of wire insulation and pen pieces.
Wilson, one of three potters at Red Wing Pottery in Red Wing, Minn., is describing the tool he uses for slip-trailing, a method of creating designs on ceramics using watered-down clay -- called "slip" -- that has pigment added to give it color. Wilson uses a mixture of cobalt oxide and zirconium oxide to make his slip bright blue.
Wilson holds a salt-glazed crock he made featuring a slip-trailed design of a dog in a garden.
Salt-glazing gives the pottery its speckled, tawny appearance. Wilson says Red Wing Pottery fires its kiln once per month, with an average of 400 pieces inside. When the kiln reaches about 2250° F, "we just take bean cans full of salt and fling them in there." As much as 1,000 pounds of salt is used in a typical firing.
Originally from Kilmarnock in Scotland, Wilson first trained as a potter at what is now the University of Cumbria in Carlisle in northwest England, then he spent three years' additional training at Wetheriggs Pottery down the road in Penrith. "For me, ceramics was the obvious direction," Wilson says of his artistic path. "It's immediate: You see a shape in your head and you make it with your hands."
Wilson later relocated to Iowa, and on a visit to Continental Clay in Minneapolis, he spotted an advertisement for a job at Red Wing Pottery, where he has now worked for 11 years. "I'm part of the second production wave," he says.
According to Jennifer Komar Olivarez, Associate Curator in the Department of Decorative Arts, Textiles and Sculpture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Red Wing's first ceramics production wave began in the 19th century with the manufacture of functional stoneware.
The first wave of ceramic production in Red Wing began in the 1860s. This photo of 19th-century workers hangs on the wall at Red Wing Pottery.
Olivarez says the consolidated stoneware companies known as Red Wing Potteries enjoyed a heyday in the 20th century, particularly in the '30s, '40s and '50s.
"They sought out very talented designers to explore different areas and bring in a more national or international sensibility to what they were trying to do to create art pottery. They were not content to follow trends, but to set trends. If you asked a curator at MOMA what comes to mind when you say 'Red Wing Pottery,' they would say Eva Zeisel's Town and Country."
Zeisel, Olivarez explains, is a Hungarian émigré who designed the biomorphic -- or amoeba-shaped -- Town and Country dinnerware line (images of her work remain strictly protected, but it can be viewed here). "It was considered really contemporary, trendy in the way it followed that kind of push for design aesthetic," Olivarez says. "When we stop and think, 'Oh -- that was made in southeastern Minnesota,' it's kind of interesting!"
Red Wing Potteries ended production in 1967. Wilson reports less expensive, post-World War II imports had priced Red Wing wares out of the market.
Ruins of disused kilns stand as evidence of Red Wing's earlier pottery production era.
Kilns in Red Wing mostly sat cold until 1984 when, according to Wilson, a potter called John Falconer started Red Wing Stoneware Company. Then in 1996, Scott Gillmer -- the grandson of Red Wing Potteries' last general manager from 1967 -- launched Red Wing Pottery. Wilson says Red Wing Stoneware Company and Red Wing Pottery amicably coexist, with wares from both companies on display in the same shop.
Olivarez isn't as familiar with Red Wing's current ceramics production, but she has some impressions. "From what I've seen, it seems to be the more traditional, functional wares," she says, "the late 19th, early 20th century collectible spongeware and things like that."
Wilson describes an annual anniversary firing where Red Wing Pottery creates six unique, numbered pieces. "I did some dragon banks this year, which naturally I have no photographs of," he laughs. "We tend to get caught up in the whirlwind of the event and things like photographs tend to get forgotten."
Potter Alex Wilson
But Wilson doesn't spend much time pondering how collectible his work may be. "My part in all this is to make something that people enjoy using," he says. "When they go in the cupboard and they see the mug that they bought from you, if they like using that mug, that's the one that they'll pick because it feels good or looks good, or feels and looks good.
"That's the trick of it, I think, is to make something that people find pleasing."
After a national search for a new director, the Northern Clay Center has decided to promote someone from within.
Northern Clay Center
Sarah Millfelt, Deputy Director of Programs, will replace longtime director Emily Galusha.
Millfelt, 35, was hired in 1999, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a BFA in ceramics. She was initially hired as an assistant to the then-Education Director, to manage NCC's nascent outreach program, but was promoted to director of the program about a year later.
Emily Galusha announced her retirement last year. She has been with NCC since 1991, and was hired as director in 1994. NCC was founded by Peter Leach.
"My true love," says Minneapolis painter Jane Elias, "is community art." Flip through Elias's portfolios of photos and newspaper cuttings that highlight her work, and that much is clear.
Elias has been a muralist for 25 years, bringing color and life to previously unremarkable spaces: Hospitals, daycare centers, public areas and private businesses throughout Minnesota (and even as far as California and Florida) bear the hallmarks of her work. On her own time, Elias has created community art gardens in Powderhorn and in North Minneapolis. Her latest project is unfolding in Tangletown, in the city's southwest quadrant.
Samples of Jane Elias's murals from a daycare center (bear, deer, bunnies) and an area business (dog under hairdryer).
Earlier in her career, Elias had a studio in Northeast Minneapolis, but after marrying and starting a family, she says Northeast wasn't the easiest place to get to from her home in Tangletown. "There's a lot of really great artists over here, too," she observes.
Elias was inspired to open a studio in her own neighborhood. "I always envisaged having a lot of artists use the space with me and having a drop-in studio where people could come in and we could teach," Elias says.
That was the basis for Simply Jane Studio and Alleyway Arts. Located near 54th and Nicollet Avenue South in Minneapolis, it's a studio where Elias and her colleagues pursue their various art forms -- including painting, illustration, ceramics, mosaics and papermaking -- and they also teach classes. By autumn, Elias and her studio partners plan to establish the studio as a full artists' co-op.
Although southwest Minneapolis is not known for loft space, Elias credits a supportive landlord for encouraging her vision for the ground-floor lease. Elias removed a retail-esque drop ceiling to expose wooden beams and a large skylight; a steel-plated, early 20th-century fire door lends the space additional industrial cred. In pastoral counterpoint to those elements, Elias painted a garden path through the center of the studio. In the alley out back, Elias plans to build an art garden and herbaceous border with a shaded deck area for extra space in summer.
The interior of Simply Jane Studio comprises industrial and idyllic elements.
"I think that sometimes studios and artists can be intimidating to the general public," Elias says. "I've always felt like I'm between an artist and a designer, so I design these spaces and these environments that the general community at large feels comfortable in."
Creating an unintimidating space was vital to Elias, especially since she and her colleagues offer classes and host open studio time for art-curious people. "I tell everybody, 'We're all artists, we're all creative'," she says. "The adults think I'm just saying that, but it's true."
Architect Jerome Ryan of Uptown likes to attend open studio with his kids.
The work at Simply Jane doesn't mean Elias has no time for the broader community. She's recently received three grants from the Tangletown Business Association to finance new murals in the neighborhood; assisting Elias will be high school-age artists who apply for mentorships with her. "I'm not an artist who has some deep, inner thing that I need to express, to communicate to the world," Elias says. "I just like making pretty things."
Why is her studio is called Simply Jane? "I have eight siblings and they all have middle names and I'm the only one who doesn't have one," Elias laughs. "I guess I still haven't got over it!"
I stumbled across this AFL-CIO promotional video from the 1960s, and found it both charming and fascinating. It's a detailed look at all the art and work involved in binding books, and a rather romantic and aspirational portrayal of the life of a tradesman, filled with such statements as the following:
"This is a happy marrying of antique values with modern practicality, and these workers know that the wearing out of a book from re-reading is a truer estimate of its worth than any review by a critic."
Of course the big punch is saved for the end of the video:
The art of bookmaking is older than printing by many centuries yet today's members of the brotherhood of bookbinders, artists of the AFL-CIO, are able to supply the demand for the most important ingredient of the modern world - literacy.
Following a craft as ancient as cave drawings, these union workers of the book industry are second to none in keeping pace with progress. The ingenuity which has been passed on to the folders, gatherers, sewers, trimmers, liners and casemakers in a proud profession is constantly at work for you to produce our greatest treasure - knowledge.
A festival of improvisational comedy Twin Cities style, American woodturners uniting in St. Paul, and two dance companies preparing a feast of movement are on the hounds' agenda this week.
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Scotty Reynolds, an actor with Interact Theater and a food performance artist with "Mixed Precipitation," finds a lot of inspiration in the culinary arts. No wonder he's drawn to "Dali's Cookbook: A Gastronomical Inquisition," a joint production of Ballet of the Dolls and Zorongo Dance Theatre in Minneapolis. It's based on a cookbook surrealist Salvador Dali wrote and dedicated to his lover. It's on stage at the Ritz Theater through Sunday, June 26.
Love free form improv comedy? Want to see the Twin Cities' best improv artists matched up with stars from other parts of the country? Shad Petosky, owner of Pink Hobo Gallery and Puny Entertainment in Minneapolis suggests you go directly to Huge Theater for the fifth annual Twin Cities Improv Festival. Shows start tonight and go through Sunday.
Maybe your only exposure to woodturning was in woodshop in junior high. Or maybe woodturning is a completely foreign concept. Amanda Birnstengel says it doesn't matter. Amanda, director of the Hopkins Center for the Arts, predicts you'll be amazed by the progression of the art form and the prowess of the nation's finest woodturners as they converge for the 25th American Association of Woodturners Symposium at St. Paul's River Centre.
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A Guide to Higher Learning, Julie Chen
© Julie Chen; photo courtesy Minnesota Center for Book Arts
Today the Minnesota Center for Book Arts announced the five finalists for the 2011 MCBA Prize. The prize recognizes exceptional work by book artists from all over the globe. The five finalists were selected from a pool 147 submissions from 22 different countries.
Now, I'm no judge of book arts, but finalist Julie Chen's work really struck me. It's titled "A Guide to Higher Learning" and is reminiscent of both a book and a board game. According to a description from the MCBA, "as the text is read, panels are rolled over revealing increasingly complex layers of visual information such as communication models, mathematical equations, diagrams and matrices."
A Guide to Higher Learning, Julie Chen
© Julie Chen; photo courtesy Minnesota Center for Book Arts
Chen, a resident of Berkeley, California, was a finalist for the MCBA Prize in 2009 (it's offered every other year, to coincide with the MCBA's Book Arts Biennial, a two-day academic symposium on contemporary practice in the book arts).
"My approach to the artist's book involves intensive explorations of both form and content, says Chen. "I strive to present the reader/viewer with an object that challenges preconceived ideas of what a book is, while at the same time providing a deeply engaging and meaningful experience. Often the reader must engage in unexpected physical actions in order to fully read/view a piece."
A Guide to Higher Learning, Julie Chen
© Julie Chen; photo courtesy Minnesota Center for Book Arts
The Minnesota Center for Book Arts will display Chen's work along with those of the other four finalists during Book Art Biennial 2011, a two-day event at the end of July. The winner will be announced at a gala award ceremony on Saturday, July 30.
You can see the work of the other finalists here. However if you visit the MCBA's website you may experience technical problems; evidently the announcement of the finalists inspired such a flurry of traffic that it crashed the site.
A Guide to Higher Learning, Julie Chen
© Julie Chen; photo courtesy Minnesota Center for Book Arts
There's a lovely article in the New York Times about the rise in "yarn-bombing." In essence, women are taking to the streets to add their own commentary with knitting needles, making the world a warmer, fuzzier place. Malia Wollan (woolen?) writes:
It is a global phenomenon, with yarn bombers taking their brightly colored fuzzy work to Europe, Asia and beyond. In Paris, a yarn culprit has filled sidewalk cracks with colorful knots of yarn. In Denver, a group called Ladies Fancywork Society has crocheted tree trunks, park benches and public telephones. Seattle has the YarnCore collective ("Hardcore Chicks With Sharp Sticks") and Stockholm has the knit crew Masquerade. In London, Knit the City has "yarnstormed" fountains and fences. And in Melbourne, Australia, a woman known as Bali conjures up cozies for bike racks and bus stops.
To record their ephemeral works (the fragile pieces begin to fray within weeks), yarn bombers photograph and videotape their creations and upload them to blogs, social networks and Web sites for all the world to see.
Sometimes called grandma graffiti, the movement got a boost, and a manifesto, in 2009 with the publication of the book "Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti," by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain, knitters from Vancouver, Canada. It is part coffee-table book, with color photographs of creative bombs, and part tutorial, with tips like wearing "ninja" black to avoid capture.
Grandma graffiti artists dressed in ninja black - I love it!
Check out this video of yarn artist Olek as she wraps the bull of Wall Street into his own little knit cozy.
All images courtesy Karen Lohn
Grand Marais resident Karen Lohn is concerned about the world and where we're headed. But rather than try to change things on a global scale, she's working on helping individuals find their own inner peace.
Lohn, a licensed psychologist, is the author of a new book called "Peace Fibres: stitching a soulful world," which uses the act of working with fibers as a means of working toward peace, and building a sense of connection with other cultures.
Mongolian spinners to turn Bactrian camel hairs into yarn
Lohn says she was inspired to write the book by her own exposure to weaving and textiles:
Looking down fairly often, taking note of who clothed me that day was the initial inspiration for Peace Fibres. I am the lucky recipient of scarves, jackets, sweaters, and other clothing whether knit, crocheted, woven, or stitched by family and friends. When I wear a garment handmade by someone I care about, I touch it gently and feel connected to that person.
Then, I took a trip to the Far East with my sister. With no intention of
focusing on textiles, in each country we visited, fibre work became a focus.
We stroked glorious silks in Hong Kong; we visited back strap weavers in the
Hill tribes of Thailand; and, we observed a circle of batik workers in Java.
We brought items from women's cooperatives back with us and I again felt
joined with the hands that produced them. It became clear to me that fibre
work serves to connect people; it builds relationship, the foundation for
Traditional braids worn in Guatemala
Once back home, Lohn created activities that use the weaving of fibers as a metaphor for personal development. Not just knitting and friendship bracelets, but also meditation exercises, and "threads for thought:"
It is based on the premise that peace begins within, then radiates in ever-expanding webs of connection. It underlines our interdependence with nature as the source of fibres that serve every human need from basic subsistence to inspirational works of art. From indigenous villages to intimate relationships, fibres connect. And, Peace Fibres invites readers to experience the meditative and sensual aspects of working with fibres through activities and simple symbolic projects.
Women of Paraguay capture the fractal patterns of nature by gracefully stitching layers connected to layers in a durable web of beauty and strength called Ñandutí, or Paraguayan lace.
From Native American dream catchers to the World Wide Web, Lohn found many images of weaving and webs that implied both greater community and greater strength. That's something she's hoping her book "Peace Fibres" will help create:
My aim for readers of Peace Fibres is to stimulate awareness, awe, and action. The stories and "Threads for Thought" offer awareness of the multidimensional roles served through fibre, while the activities and projects offer hands-on experiences of meaning and connection. Throughout, I encourage exploration of organizations throughout the world that are serving to empower the marginalized and offer nurturing creations to those in need. All is aimed at creating conditions that contribute to personal and political peace.
You can find out more about Peace Fibres here.
This week's hounds have set their sights on a performance series by and about women, a re-discovered collection of beautifully woven Native American bags in Winona, and the co-founder of 'Afrobeat' music, who's playing at the Cedar.
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"It's Women's Work," at Open Eye Figure Theatre in Minneapolis, deserves more attention than it's getting, says Art Hound Levi Weinhagen. Levi, co-founder of the kids/adult theater troupe "Comedy Suitcase," says the showcase features mainly female singers and performers dealing with material that pertains to women. It winds up Thursday, April 21 through Saturday April 23, with "Fearless and Fallen," a performance of 17th, 18th and 19th century folk songs. "Fearless and Fallen" features singer Prudence Johnson, guitarist Dean Magraw and cellist Michelle Kinney.
Retired arts educator Peter Flick of Winona wants to spread the word about a collection of re-discovered woven Native American bags at Winona County Historical Society. Peter says the beautifully woven bags from tribes around the Great Lakes region are gorgeous to look at and provide a glimpse into everyday life for Native people. The exhibition is called "Weaving Culture," and it's on display through May 22.
Minneapolis rapper M.anifest is so excited about this Saturday's Tony Allen concert at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, he got on Skype to tell us about it from his native Ghana! M.anifest says Nigerian percussionist Tony Allen not only co-founded the infectiously rhythmic and influential 'Afrobeat' movement, he's probably the greatest drummer in the world, even at 71!
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This weekend approximately ten thousand people will make their way to the St. Paul Rivercentre for the American Craft Council's annual exhibition. More than 240 artists will show off their wares, from jewelry and clothing to furniture and pottery. It's one of four shows the American Craft Council holds around the country - the others are in Baltimore, Atlanta and San Francisco.
Last summer the American Craft Council moved its headquarters from New York City to Northeast Minneapolis. In advance of this weekend's show we thought we'd check in with the Council to talk about the move, what it means for the Minnesota arts scene, and all things craft.
Today on Midmorning I spoke with the Executive Director of the American Craft Council, Chris Amundson, and Ann Pifer, owner of Grand Hand Gallery in St. Paul. It was a lively conversation that highlighted the wealth of craft artists we have here in Minnesota - here's the audio:(1 Comments)
Scraffito and blunging may suggest the inventive vocabulary created by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, but they're actually terms you might overhear in a conversation among real-life potters.
Today we continue our series explaining unusual words and phrases in the arts by looking at the language of the ceramic arts, sometimes referred to as pottery.
According to ceramic artist Kip O'Krongly, the question of whether it's called "ceramics" or "pottery" arises because ceramics is a functional art form, putting it in a category that straddles art and craft.
A display of some of ceramic artist Kip O'Krongly's work
In expressing herself through her work, O'Krongly embraces both the functional and artistic aspects of ceramics. Acknowledging that people use ceramics on a daily basis, often at mealtimes, O'Krongly infuses her work with images of topics that interest her; specifically, food production, transportation and energy. "There is this really intimate relationship with pots that maybe we don't have with other art forms," she asserts. "The dinner table is a great place for conversation, so I'm hoping that with people using these bowls, cups and dishes, it's a way to start conversations and to ask questions about these social issues."
The Northern Clay Center is on Franklin Avenue in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.
O'Krongly recently wrapped up a show at the Northern Clay Center (where she has her studio and also teaches classes) as well as a show in Tennessee. She's looking forward to deeper exploration of traditional ceramics methods in Cambridge, England, this summer. Just last week, O'Krongly spent some time describing the colorful terminology in her chosen art form.
This is a method of covering a clay surface with a contrasting color of thin clay, then drawing through that thin layer. "It looks like there is a pencil drawing on the surface," O'Krongly explains, "but it's actually scratching away the lighter color to reveal the darker color beneath it."
Much of O'Krongly's work exhibits the scraffito technique.
The layer of thin clay that is applied in scraffito is called slip. Slip is simply clay and usually other materials suspended in water.
The act of mixing slip is called blunging. The tool that's used is called a blunger. "I don't know why it's called blunging," O'Krongly laughs. "I guess it could relate to 'bludgeon' because you are really beating the heck out of it when you do that!"
O'Krongly brandishes the blunger.
Glaze is the glassy substance that is fused onto the surface of ceramics to form a hard coating. O'Krongly says that a glaze mixture -- which includes silica, alumina, water and other materials -- has a tendency to want to settle out, so artists alter the chemistry of the mixture using a process called flocculating. "What we use to flocculate is Epsom salts, which makes the clay particles stay in suspension," she explains. "When you're glazing you want all of the materials to be evenly distributed on your work.
Mixing glaze that's been flocculated with Epsom salts.
In a ceramics studio, reclaim is also a noun. Simply put, reclaim is recycled clay; the excess clay that runs off a potter's wheel can be gathered and reused. "We throw all this sloppy, juicy clay into big buckets and then I mix it up with dry materials until it's back to the consistency of clay again," O'Krongly says. "The reclaim tends to be one of the nicer clays. It gets better with time."
Used clay breaks down in buckets like this; it's mixed with dry materials to form reclaim.
A pug mill is the device that extrudes reclaim into neat blocks. The blocks of reclaim can then be bagged, stacked and stored.
A digital pyrometer can accurately give the temperature within a kiln at a given moment, but it can't measure elapsed time. That's why witness cones are vital. Witness cones are series of spiky clay pieces that are placed inside a kiln. "When you're thinking about temperature, you also have to think about how long the clay has been at that temperature," O'Krongly explains. "Witness cones measure both the time and the temperature when they start to curl over and bend."
Witness cones melt after certain times and temperatures have been reached. A set of witness cones is called a 'cone pack'.
Witness cones need to be occasionally visible, so kilns have what are called spy holes. To keep heat from escaping, the spy holes are covered with peeps; peeps are removed when ceramic artists want to have a peep at witness cones. "I always think of the marshmallow peeps," O'Krongly smiles, "but these peeps are usually made of high-temperature ceramic material, often porcelain or brick."
A visible flame surges from the kiln when the peep is removed.
An undesired effect that can happen when firing glazed earthenware is that the clay underneath the glaze shrinks faster than the glaze itself, causing the glaze to flake off the piece; this is called shivering. "Glaze is essentially glass, so you really don't want glass in your cup of coffee in the morning," O'Krongly says. "Shivering is probably the worst fault."
Crazing is the opposite of shivering in that the glaze shrinks more than the clay, creating a network of cracks that permeate the surface of the object. What's interesting about crazing (versus shivering) is that sometimes it's a desired effect. "Some people love that look and will actually stain the crazed lines with black ink or something to really bring them out," O'Krongly says. "They can be very beautiful."
The texture on this bowl is the result of crazing.
No circus performer would want anything to do with these. Clay objects that are placed in a kiln must not come in contact with one another or with the kiln walls. Objects are carefully stacked on platforms, and the bricks that separate the platforms are called stilts.
Stilts separate platforms of earthenware objects loaded in the kiln.
This is an adjective that's used to describe clay that is solid at first, but becomes really soft when it's manipulated. "A lot of people will take a block of clay and drop it on the floor a number of times and then it's much softer than if they had just taken it right out of the bag," O'Krongly says. "That's thixotropic. I love that word!"
Next Tuesday, visit State of the Arts for words from architecture.
Erica Spitzer Rasmussen's "Book of Sustenance"
When is a book not a book? And when is something that doesn't appear to look at all like a book, actually a work of "book art?"
These are the questions I keep returning to when I see a show at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, because - like all good art - the works on display regularly challenge my assumptions about what is, and what could be.
Currently on display in the Center's gallery space is a group show called "Parts of a Whole"; it consists of work by MCBA staff, faculty, co-op members and past artists-in-residence.
MCBA Managing Director Jeff Rathermel says while on the surface many of the works look nothing like books, they share themes of repetition, storytelling, and time.
It's the true power of a book that you have a time element within it, rather than just one snapshot view. Unlike a photograph or a painting, you have more time with the viewer/reader... you repeat ideas to emphasize them, you build upon them. But that's also a real responsibility and a challenge. To do this successfully you need to be a "page-turner" to engage people in the entire process - an artist book has a lot more in common with a film or a musical score than it does with traditional print-making.
Julie Sirek's "A Family Matter"
After perusing the exhibition, I was interested by strong themes that emerged around domesticity and women's work.
One of the most powerful works in the exhibition is Julie Sirek's "A Family Matter." It consists of 30 miniature dresses, made from gampi paper, thread, glass and wire. Sirek made each of these dresses to represent the 30 women from Minnesota who died as a result of domestic violence in 2009. Rathermel says in this work, each dress is in essence a page in a haunting narrative.
The delicateness of those small dresses really works well as a metaphor of vulnerability. And the other thing that I think is really interesting, is that it demands intimacy. Each of those dresses appears relatively similar, but as you start to engage with it you see that each one is unique. By demanding that intimacy you're pulled into a very uncomfortable situation - it's a quiet and powerful conversation.
From a distance, the dresses appear innocent and pretty. But once you move up close you notice subtle differences; one has a tear in the skirt, another a cigarette burn in the chest, a third has wire thorns in the collar. Each of them has been disfigured in some way.
Chandler O'Leary's "Mnemonic Sampler"
On the opposite wall is a piece with a completely different, far more playful, tone. Chandler O'Leary's "Mnemonic Sampler" consists of embroidered letters of the alphabet, alongside images of ordinary objects whose names start with the given letter (N is for needle, O is for oven mitt, etc). Rathermel says Leary is known for exploring what we have traditionally called "women's work."
At one level it's playful and whimsical, with great detail and humor, but I think there's also this addressing of the "art vs craft" hierarchy, and addressing what we've typically thought of as "women's work" in the community. Certainly it's much better now, but we still have these biases... I think Chandler is interested in reclaiming some of these craft traditions, to say that it's more than just women's work, and that anything done at this particular level could be considered art.
Detail of Erica Spitzer Rasmussen's "Book of Sustenance"
Erika Spitzer Rasmussen seeks to raise the life of the working-mother to that of high glamour. Her "Book of Sustenance" is a wearable work - similar to a ruffled collar that Queen Elizabeth might have worn. But this collar consists of a grocery list printed on grocery bags stained in cherry Kool-Aid. The result, Jeff Rathermel says, is both stunning... and unsettling.
She's worked with corsets in the past - this notion of being both decorative and restrictive;To have something this big around your neck...and in this case, blood red. She's talking about sustenance and food, and yet collar appears to restrict your throat.
In her artist statement, Rasmussen referred to the repeated pages on the collar as a sort of "mantra for domestic divadom."
"Parts of a Whole" runs through April 24 at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.
Hoof Heels by Roxanne Jackson
Ceramic artists are very familiar with the "craft vs art" debate. Many will tell you that if you work with clay, you can expect to be summarily lumped in with the rest of the craft world. No matter what your work looks like, you will be associated with teapots and mugs.
However some ceramic sculptors are defying stereotype, making their way into art museums and contemporary galleries.
Northern Clay Center is currently showing two group exhibitions in its galleries, and three of the artists stand out for their work in sculpture.
First and foremost is Roxanne Jackson, who came to clay relatively late in life.
When I was in grad school making my work I was adding all these elements like beef jerky and dried fish parts. And I was told by my colleagues that I couldn't do that, because this was "ceramics." But I was a botany major undergrad, so I didn't have that background of what you can and can't do.
Jackson's pieces explore the blurry line between our animal and human nature. Her "Hoof Heels" were inspired by the work of a German fashion designer who creates incredibly expensive shoes using actual animal hooves. "It's a fascinating modern day references to pan mythology - my version hopefully plays with these tensions of the whimsical and the horrifying," says Jackson.
Ouroboros by Roxanne Jackson
Jackson's also interested in challenging traditional ideas of beauty. Her sculpture "Ouroboros" was inspired by the mythical snake that eats its own tail. Using the forms of a zebra head, a woman's face and a dog's snout, she depicts birth and death together in an form that is both grotesque and sublime.
I think there's a really thin line between what's horrifying and what's beautiful. A great example is birth - birth is grotesque and kind of disgusting. The visuals, the liquid, the colors, but of course it's a miracle, it's life!
Jackson also points to our fascination with horror movies; is it our more base animal nature that makes us want to look?
Comfort Creature by Elizabeth Coleman
While not as grotesque visually, Elizabeth Coleman's pieces combine elements that are both innocent and raw in a way that leave the viewer unsettled. Exhibition Curator Jamie Lang says she's working with unfired brick clay and her own memories to create a haunting sense of nostalgia:
They're memorials, honoring elements of childhood, innocence lost. Using the teddy bear that everybody has - it's a pneumonic device that brings people back to their childhood. Brick implies permanence, something everlasting.
Coleman says she's transforming her childhood friends into "immortal watchers" and "guardians" similar to the Japanese "Haniwa" - terra cotta figures that were buried with the dead.
The second gallery at Northern Clay Center is dominated by a sculptural piece by David Swenson. Hanging from the ceiling by a single cord, his "Handelier" is approximately six feet tall and seven feet wide, and is made almost entirely of... handles.
Handelier by David Swenson
Swenson, who works at NCC, is playing with one of the most utilitarian elements in pottery, and through repetition turning it into a thing of ornate beauty. He's even created small platforms onto which he's placed miniature "handelabras." By leaving the work unglazed, he's drawing the viewers' attention to the process and the materials.
Each of these artists is working with clay, and they obviously have attained a mastery of their "craft." But their work would be equally at home in a fine art gallery or museum. Exhibition curator Jamie Lang says he hopes the show will help to break down some stereotypes about ceramics.
I think there are more people like [these artists] out there, but people haven't had the opportunity to see the work, or they don't know to look for it. Having artists like Roxanne Jackson in the show I hope will bring in new people through our doors - people who might not normally consider the Clay Center a destination.
The two exhibitions - "Three Jerome Artists" and "Fogelberg and Red Wing Fellowship Artists" - are on display through February 27.(3 Comments)
We asked our Art Hounds to pick their arts and culture highlights of the year. Here is the first installment:
"Photographer to the Tsar: Revealing the Silk Road" at The Museum of Russian Art
In the early 1900s, Sergei M. Prokudin-Gorskii, reportedly a photographer and chemist, took black and white images and used red, green, and blue filters to create the highly detailed color images that were on display. The fabrics and landscapes memorialized in the slides are just stunning. What a lovely example of the powerful combination of color, science, site, and art patron.
-Jada Schumacher, designer
"Inter-Be" by Peter Wolf Crier
The music on the album covers so much territory, at once melancholy, pleading, relentless, sexy, sad, hopeful, and every other emotion you can think of. It's the type of album you just want to listen to over and over.
-Billie Jo Konze, actress
The evolution of the Scrimshaw Brothers
Seeing the Scrimshaw brothers evolve from a seat-of-the-(no) pants sketch comedy and improv duo into the creators of two full-fledged comedy production companies, Joking Envelope and Comedy Suitcase. Between the two of them, they're producing and performing in some of the finest original comedies in theater today.
-Scott Pakudaitis, theater photographer
The relocation of the American Craft Council
The ACC did their homework and found that the Twin Cities is a thriving and dynamic place for craft -- from individuals to organizations, from DIY to long-time artisans. Their presence here will bring even more attention to those who create beautiful things here in Minnesota.
-Nina Clark, singer and director of programs and exhibits and the American Swedish Institute
"Thinkingaview" by Jeffery Peterson Dance
Both kooky and graceful, it defied all expectations of what a dance show should or can be. Underwear dancing and unabashed public displays of affection onstage led to audience members making out throughout the theater!
-Robyn Hendrix, artist
Check back next week for the second round of highlights. In the meantime, tell us about your arts and culture highlights in the comments!
Calligrapher Diane von Arx in the basement studio of her Minneapolis home.
Diane von Arx grew up as a tomboy on a farm in LaCrescent, but she soon learned that her hands were good at doing more than just chores.
In high school, girls would ask me to put the names of their boyfriends on their folders, in a calligraphic style, and then fill in the lines. The nuns were so taken with my talent that they gave me a speedball textbook that lettering artists use, plus pens and poster board to make posters.
Von Arx's career as a professional calligrapher took her from decorating her friends' folders to designing the graphics for General Mills' "Count Chocula" cereal, to lettering official documents and decrees. And now it's led her to illuminating one of the most important texts of our time - the Saint John's Bible.
To help you understand the importance of the Saint John's Bible, here are a few rather stunning facts:
- The bible is being written by hand and illustrated by a team of calligraphers and artists; this is a project that has not been undertaken in oh, about 500 years.
- The Saint John's Bible is separated into seven volumes, each two feet by three feet in size. Once completed, each bound volume will weigh as much as 35 pounds, with a combined weight of more than 165 pounds.
- The illumination of the bible began in 2000; if it stays on schedule, it will be finished next fall. That's eleven years of work.
- Pope Benedict XVI, upon seeing a completed volume of the Saint John's Bible, called it "a work for eternity."
Pope Benedict XVI pages through the Wisdom volume of The St. Peter Apostles Edition of The Saint John's Bible in April 2008. (L'Osservatore Romano)
So imagine Diane von Arx's reaction when project director Donald Jackson asked her to illuminate four different texts of the Wisdom Books.
I was ecstatic, honored - I would think this is a job that pretty much any calligrapher would die to be a part of it, just because of the nature of the project and the legacy. It's going to last a very long time, and will be around long after we're gone. Along with all this excitement and this honor, there was also this sense of "oh my God now I have to do this."
Tim Ternes is director of exhibition and programming for The Saint John's Bible and the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. He explains the illumination of the Bible was calligrapher Donald Jackson's idea. Jackson is Senior Scribe to her Royal Majesty's Crown Office, a.k.a. "The Queen's Calligrapher." For Jackson, illuminating the bible was a life's goal. He approached Saint John's about the project in 1998, and they agreed to sponsor it.
Don is considered by most to be the worlds foremost western scribe, and he's gathered together his A-Team. Donald wanted to make sure that there was a Midwestern touch - he's based in Wales and has done much of the work there. For Diane to be recognized in this way is really important. This is a once in a millennium project.
In addition to von Arx's illumination, the bible also features depictions of nature unique to Stearns County, Minnesota, and references buildings from the Saint John's campus.
Donald Jackson examines sketches for the book of Psalms.
(Copyright Derek Evan, HUW Evans Agency, Cardiff, Wales)
The Saint John's Bible is written on vellum, or calfskin. So when it was von Arx's time to add her mark, the vellum pages were shipped to her, with most of the writing already done. She was given her words and her space to fill.
Before writing on the pages I had to stretch them out - it was fall, it was dry, and vellum doesn't like dry - it likes moisture and humidity. As Donald Jackson likes to say "that vellum forever wants to get back on the calf - that's its job." So I cranked the shower in the bathroom 'til the sheets were pliable, then put the vellum on my counter while it was still moist and stapled it to a sheet of coated plywood.
If the Pope only knew...
Von Arx created sketches, sent photographs of them to Jackson in Wales, and then they would chat about the ideas. Von Arx says it felt like an apprenticeship, with Jackson giving her a sense of direction but no explicit orders. She says she felt she had to do the best job that she could, and then take it up a notch further.
One of the four texts Diane von Arx illuminated for Saint John's Bible
While the Bible is an ancient text, the Saint John's Bible is being created for the modern age. Images include strands of DNA running through parts of the gospels, views from the Hubble telescope, scenes from Auschwitz and Rwanda. Von Arx says she finds the artwork compelling.
I think it is absolutely appropriate. I'm just blown away every time a new volume is released.It goes far beyond the literal, and creates layers of meaning. I think each person, when they look at them, brings something different. It makes people think.
Tim Ternes agrees; he says the Saint John's Bible is meant to give the viewer something to think about without telling them what it means, or what it's supposed to mean.
We'd like to see the St. John's Bible become a spark for a really high quality visual bible study - this can unite imaginations. What excites me is this notion of the Bible truly being communal. It is one of the very few things in the religious world that's received such support on both ends of the conservative and liberal spectrum. This invites discussion and dialogue among traditions.
Ternes is hoping the Saint John's Bible will serve as a source of inspiration for thousands of years to come.
Put it into the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls: they've lasted centuries, without any real protection, and we'd like this book to last at least two or three thousand years [by using ancient bookbinding techniques]. We're not trying to recreate history, but there's simply no better method to create a work that lasts.
Calligrapher Diane von Arx says she's only recently begun to appreciate the value of her hands, and the work they can do.
For Diane von Arx, the idea of her work being around for not just hundreds, but thousands of years is a humbling one.
I don't have kids - this is the only creative thing that I've done that will live far beyond me. My part in it may have been relatively small, but it's going to last for a very long time. It's a calligraphic legacy for our time.
You can see pages of the Saint John's Bible, including some of Diane von Arx's work, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, as part of the exhibition on the Dead Sea Scrolls. It runs through October 24.(3 Comments)
Richfield artist Molly Spilane sells unique earrings, bracelets and pendants - like this anatomically correct heart - on Etsy.com under the name "Unique Art Pendants."
Model: Chesty Von Ellem - Photographer: Daniel Stigefelt
Etsy.com has fast become the destination of choice for artists of all stripes looking to sell their wares to a wide audience.
The site allows people to sell their own handmade goods, vintage items, or art and craft supplies. It costs only 20 cents to list an item for four months. When an item sells, the seller pays a 3.5% transaction fee.
In the month of April alone, Etsy.com hosted $22.4 million in sales, an increase of 78% over the same month in 2009. This past month almost a quarter-million people joined the site, which now serves buyers and sellers in over 150 countries.
Richfield artist Molly Spilane in her home studio, wearing one of her pendants.
The sellers on Etsy range from amateur knitters who want to make a few extra bucks to buy more yarn, to people like Richfield artist Molly Spilane. Spilane has been on Etsy for two years now selling custom made earrings, pendants and bracelets, and in that time she's made 5,380 sales on her Etsy site, "Unique Art Pendants." For Spilane, Etsy has enabled her to make a living out of her home studio.
My fiancé has his own career, but absolutely I could support myself on this if need be. For the first year I tried to balance this business with being a stay-at-home mom, but that didn't work. Now my daughter's in daycare, and I have business hours from 8 - 5pm; my friends know not to come over.
Brass cuff decorated with vintage bird and finished with a metal sealer
Photo by Molly Spilane
Etsy.com allows interested buyers a means to find Spilane, without Spilane doing a lot of legwork. And it's not just connected her with individual shoppers:
There are a ton of boutiques worldwide that are scouring Etsy to find artists to put in their boutiques, galleries and even museums. I've received a lot of queries from boutiques asking if I do wholesale. I now have work at boutiques in France, Germany Australia and locally at the Walker Art Center. The Walker found me through Etsy, and that's just exploded my business.
Spilane says she thought long and hard before she agreed to sell her work wholesale to galleries, rather than limit herself to direct sales with clients:
I want to be an artist in business, and not just in name only. I feel I've been able to come full circle from art school to now say that the Walker is selling my work. If somebody can sell something I made for more money and make a profit - more power to them, that's kind of my outlook.
Vintage plate series
Photo by Molly Spilane
Unlike many professional artists, Spilane does not run a separate website aside from the site hosted by Etsy. She thinks of Etsy.com as an inexpensive tool which has the power to really work for an artist. But, she warns, it does take a great deal of effort:
Find your target market; don't just throw things out there. Brand yourself, find your niche, focus on the quality of your photos and packaging. Really treat it for what it is - a business. Being your own boss is hard, so you really need to manage your time so you don't end up doing a half-assed job.
Spilane says many independent artists starting their own business have a hard time with self-promotion. But her mother, also an artist, always said "don't be afraid to toot your own horn."
Vintage science fauna seashell art print on gilded vintage dictionary page
Photo by Molly Spilane
Spilane works out of her home all day, but she says through Etsy she's also found a community of friends:
Last fall the Etsy CEO at the time came and did a meet and greet in Minneapolis and there were about 200 area artists who sell on Etsy who came to hang out and meet each other. I made some friends there, and I like to purchase from local artists, so I now buy things from them.
While Etsy has provided Spilane with a cheap and easy means of selling her work and reaching her target audience, she says there is still some room for improvement:
Etsy is relatively still kind of a new site and their members are shooting up almost every month. So for them just handling the sheer numbers is a challenge. As a seller, I think it would be cool if you could go one step further in connecting with your audience - for instance allowing shops to have their own blogs on the site to update clients about what they're working on.
Spilane has created a Facebook page and a Twitter account to further spread the word about her business, which is growing fast. She says her only real concern is that it's getting to the point that there's almost too much business for her to manage. She now has a studio assistant who helps five hours a week, and Spilane says she's researching how best to take her business to "the next level."
"Lip Service" by Dixie Biggs, 2009
Made with cherry, acrylic paint and a Krylon finish
Photo by Tib Shaw
The Gallery of Wood Art is filled with teapots, but gallery coordinator Tib Shaw says these pots are for admiring, not pouring.
Not a one of these teapots is usable for tea. I was a bit surprised by this, as it is certainly possible. In this case the artists, because they were working in wood, had quite a few technical hurdles to overcome already.
What the teapots are able to do is seduce the eye and inspire the imagination.
This is the gallery's fourth in a series of invitational spring exhibits centered around very specific themes. Past invitational challenges included "the sphere" and in one case, presented each of the participating artists with identical rough-turned bowls to finish in their own style.
When the artists have such strong limits it makes their process more visible: it creates a window into the mind. Because my role is to expand the public's understanding of wood art and woodturning beyond spindles and baseball bats, I love this kind of exhibit because it makes visible the vast range of approaches and techniques possible while using wood as a form of expression.
"They Came for Tea" by Darrell Copeland, 2009
Made with maple and acrylic paint
Photo by Tib Shaw
One trait the woodturners seem to have in common is a sense of humor, particularly when it comes to naming their teapots. Darrell Copeland's "They Came for Tea" evokes a distinctly "alien" feel.
Shaw says woodturning is a highly technical craft, and so there are many hallmarks of quality that you look for: the smoothness of the surface, the clarity of the transitions between design elements, the thinness of the wall in a vessel, the quality of the wood.
With wood art, I look to see how well the artists works with what nature has provided. Wood is not a very forgiving medium: each type of wood has its own properties and needs to be worked with respect, using knowledge that has been accumulating for hundreds of years. If a piece looks like it has been forced it is rarely successful.
"Having Tea With My Good Friend Wiley-O" by Cindy Drozda, 2009
Sputnik sea urchin shell gilded with varigated metal leaf, African Blackwood, garnet in 14k gold, catnip
Photo by Tib Shaw
While this is the Gallery of Wood Art, many artists did also incorporated metal, pearls, gold and even sea shells into thier work. And while traditional standards of woodturning emphasized seemless design, Shaw says those standards are changing.
In some pieces tool marks really do scream sloppy, while in others they reflect the creative process and provide almost a micro-history of the creation of the piece, of the relationship between the maker and the object. Some have wandered away from the woodpile altogether and are turning things like cardboard and laminated paper.
This isn't to say that technique is being thrown out the window - the artists in this exhibit are all technically as well as visually gifted; several are masters in the field. If you see a tool mark, they wanted you to!
"Sinus Amoris" by Binh Pho, 2009
Maple, acrylic paint, glass beads, cultured pearls, 14k gold
Photo by Tib Shaw
So why challenge a bunch of woodturners to make teapots, if they can't actually be used for making tea? Shaw says teapots have a been a 'design canvas' for centuries.
Maybe because there is something oddly anthropomorphic about the form. Just think of "I'm a Little Teapot."
David McFadden, curator at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, said "Outside of the chair, the teapot is the most ubiquitous and important design element in the domestic environment and almost everyone who has tackled the world of design has ended up designing one."
Boxwood spoon by Gerrit Van Ness
Photo by Tib Shaw
In conjunction with the teapot exhibition, the Gallery of Wood Art is also showing a wide array of carved spoons belonging to collector Norman D. Stevens. The show runs through May 30.
The gallery is sponsored in part by the American Association of Woodturners. The teapots will be auctioned off at the AAW's annual symposium in June. This year's symposium is taking place in Hartford, Connecticut, but next year it will be coming to St. Paul, just as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Honey locust spoon with gold leaf by Jacques Vesery
Photo by Tib Shaw
The Gallery of Wood Art is located on the 2nd floor of the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul.(1 Comments)
Open Book is the home of the Loft Literary Center, Milkweed Editions and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.
This Saturday Open Book is celebrating its ten year anniversary as a center for the literary and book arts.
After watching the center grow and thrive over the past decade, the biggest surprise is that Open Book remains unique in the country for what it offers.
There are centers for the literary arts (that focus on reading and writing), and there are centers for the book arts (that teach printing and book-binding). And in the years since Open Book opened, its three tenants - Milkweed Editions, the Loft Literary Centery, and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts - have fielded numerous inquiries from organizations seeking to bring the literary and book arts together under one roof in their own communities. Yet nothing has emerged from those initial conversations.
So what makes Open Book such a singular entity?
Milkweed Editions Editor Daniel Slager points to the then directors of the three non-profits who, more than a decade ago, realized together they could become something greater than the sum of their parts.
I think it's really a Minnesota story, in terms of the level of cooperation between the three organizations. I got a whiff of that when I first arrived [in 2005], but didn't really get it until a few years later. I feel such admiration for the visionaries who put this together in the first place.
Those three founders were Emilie Buchwald (Milkweed), Linda Myers (Loft) and Peggy Korsmo-Kennon (MCBA). While their vision was in part aspirational, it was also practical; they were facing increasing rents in their respective buildings, and wanted a permanent, sustainable home. Thus Open Book was born, located on a strip of Washington Avenue in Minneapolis that was known best for metrodome parking and the Liquor Depot.
Since the spring of 2000 a lot has changed both inside and outside the building.
Open Book is looked upon as a pioneer settler in what is now a cultural corridor, featuring the Guthrie Theater, the MacPhail Center for Music, the Mill City Museum, a farmers' market, several restaurants and upscale condominiums.
Open Book Board Chair Moira Turner says the vibrancy of the community is feeding right back into the health of Open Book:
The building is buzzing; ten thousand people a month come through the doors. I'm just amazed.
None of the three original founders remain, but the legacy of their work is evident. Loft Director Jocelyn Hale says what once seemed like an excessive amount of classroom space is now almost at capacity.
Working in this building is an absolute pleasure. And all the run-ins, the coincidences that happen because there's so much activity in this building - it's really enhanced our work.
Hale recently ran into Milkweed Editor Dan Slager in the hall, and started talking about the Loft's newsletter, which has been offering insights on the writing process for 35 years. Fast forward several months, and Milkweed is now working on publishing an anthology of "A View from the Loft."
Jeff Rathermel, Artistic Director of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, says he's enjoyed having the freedom of letting his shows bleed out into communal spaces:
Something that I've been able to do over the past six years, is look at the building itself as an exhibition space - moving it out into the building in general - lobby, literary commons, there are many more opportunities for artists to present their work.
Rathermel says he's also thrilled to see other organizations adopt Open Book as their home base for meetings and events.
As for Milkweed's Dan Slager, he says by being based in Open Book, Mildweed Editions is able to have a direct relationship with the community and many of its readers - something few publishers have.
Yet for all its success, one key component has yet to fall into place for the center: a bookstore.
Over the years the space next to the coffee shop has been occupied by Rosalux Gallery and Ruminator Books, but nothing lasted. Daniel Slager says he's eager to see a place on the first floor where people can buy Milkweed's work. While past efforts have failed, Slager thinks now may be the time to try again:
My own take is that the book store was a little ahead of its time with the neighborhood. Our area has changed, we've changed. We have a new opportunity to engage with a growing community here, and to establish not just a traditional bookstore, but books in all sorts of formats. It would have to be something beautiful, in line with the aethetics of the three organizations, but also innovate and forward looking.
A bookstore was just one of the ideas discussed as part of a recently developed five year strategic plan to further "open" Open Book. Other plans debated - and approved - include removing a wall on the first floor so that the MCBA's gallery is visible as soon as a patron walks in the door, and installing more outlets to accomodate all the laptops people bring with them. And this fall the Loft Literary Center will offer its first online writing class, for people who can't afford to commute into the Twin Cities week after week.
Looking ahead to the next ten years, Slager thinks Open Book should work on raising its profile. While the individual non-profits have varying national reputations, the Open Book building does not. Considering its enduring singularity, and the community destination Open Book has created for book-lovers, it's time to spread the word.(1 Comments)
This morning I stopped by the Rivercentre in downtown St. Paul to check out this year's American Craft Council show. The show purports to present "outstanding works by America's leading craftspeople." Well, if that's the case, it's no wonder the ACC is moving to Minnesota, because approximately one sixth of the artists at this weekends show hail from around our state (I counted 43 out of 243 exhibitors).
While the majority of the Minnesota exhibitors hail from the Twin Cities, there are a number who have driven in from all over the state to show their work. Here's a look at who's in town for the weekend (note: I've included links for all those artists who have websites).
Table clock by James Borden
James Borden's sculptural clocks, what he calls "timeshapes," are always a wonder to behold. Long pieces of walnut and cherry balance and sway in the most delightful way, and actually keep time, too. You can visit his studio in La Crescent.
Tim Byrns is a Duluth sculptor who works with large pieces of local figured hardwood. His work is rooted in the compositional elements of the raw form, such as the colors, shapes, textures and grains found in his materials. Favoring free form wood sculpture, Byrns enjoys carving abstract forms that are often functional.
Susan Carlson of Olivia makes hand knit clothing specially designed for children. This is just her second time in the craft show, and she's absolutely thrilled about it.
A shibori scarf by Patricia Freiert
Patricia Freiert of St. Peter was introduced to "shibori" through a gift from a Japanese friend in 1988. Shibori is a centuries old Japanese technique for decorating kimono fabric in which the fabric is shaped by binding, folding, stitching or wrapping. Similar to tye-dying, Freiert prefers the sharp, clean lines created by shibori for her work.
Reese Gaertner of Northfield calls herself a "nerd" because she loves learning about the physics of wood stains, down to the molecular level. That knowledge helps her to create varnishes that bring out the natural beauty of the various woods she works with to create unique pieces of wall art, often mixed with text and found objects.
New London resident and potter Bill Gossman creates original wood-fired stoneware and porcelain pieces designed to be functional and beautiful. Think tea-pots, cases, bowls and more.
Raku vessel by Richard Gruchalla and Carrin Rosetti
Richard Gruchalla has been coming to the Twin Cities ACC show since it started 24 years ago, and has more recently been joined by his wife and artistic partner Carrin Rosetti. Together they work in "American Raku," creating brightly colored clay vessels that sometimes incorporate wire, stones or even wooden pegs.
Stillwater fiber artist Tim Harding incorporates a complex technique of "reverse applique" to create tapestries that evoke looking into a pool of shimmering water.
Metalworker Paula Jensen works out of Earth Eagle Forge in Guthrie. There she creates rails, gates, tables and stools, as well as ornamental home furnishings.
Tom Larson turns wood at Turning Trail Studio in Brainerd. There he makes everything from simple spinning tops to natural burl bowls and trays using maple, birch and boxelder.
"Ripples" bench by Peter Pestalozzi, made from curly maple
Peter Pestalozzi and his wife Jeanne Bourquin are both woodworkers. While Bourquin builds primarily canoes, Pestalozzi focuses on furniture inspired by the woods and lakes of Northern Minnesota (they live in Ely).
Ann Ringness has been working with leather for over thirty years. Based in St. Cloud, Ringness specializes in leather handbags and purses of all sizes and colors.
A relative newcomer to artisan boat building, Bill Romness makes his home in Nickerson, where he has built canoes and custom paddles since 2005.
"Tumble" by Dan and Lee Ross, carved from granite
Dan and Lee Ross moved to Hovland in 1991, and it's had a tremendous impact on their work as stonecarvers. New forms and shapes evolved after they observed tumultous storms and shifting ice sheets rearrange their boulder strewn shoreline. They continue to find inspiration in walks along the lake, turning over stones, or looking down into the water while in a canoe.
The American Craft Council Show runs April 16 - 18 at Rivercentre in downtown St. Paul.(1 Comments)
The American Craft Council has announced it's moving to the historic Grain Belt Brewery building in northeast Minneapolis this summer.
The ACC had previously declared its intention to relocate to the Twin Cities, based on the high level of craft interest and activity in the area, but there was some speculation it might choose St. Paul for its home base.
The ACC has also hired a new director. Chris Amundsen is currently the Chief Operating Officer of the Greater Twin Cities United Way, a position he's held since 2004. Amundsen is a Minneapolis native and graduate of the University of Minnesota.
The ACC plans to move into its new home August 1. It will share the building with its new landlord, RSP Architects.(1 Comments)
This past weekend I decided it was time to put my learning cap on again, and headed over to Open Book, home of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, to take a class on box making.
Now box making might not at first seem like an art form, but it only takes a few minutes with instructor Jody Williams' work to realize that, with the right talent and skill, boxes can indeed become works of art. Her boxes contain miniature worlds, often decorated with prints of drawings she etched herself. The Walker Art Center has several of her works in its collection. You can see close up images of her work here:
Some of the tools you'll need to make a box of your own: scissors, cutting board with a measuring grid, ruler, exacto knife (or razor blade), and a bone folder. Other supplies include PVA glue (polyvinyl acetate), a glue brush, and a small awl.
The class took up most of the weekend, running from 9:30am to 5pm on Saturday and noon to 5pm on Sunday. There were six of us in the class - all women - ranging from college age to mid-career to happily retired. A few had been to - or were currently enrolled in - art school, but I didn't feel out of my league coming to the class with no prior experience.
Most of the basic tools you need for making boxes are quite ordinary. People who work with books or paper will recognize the 'bone folder' - it's used to smooth out paper once it's been glued to a surface.
The most important lesson of the class? Measure twice, cut once.
Over the course of the weekend we made three boxes - one with a simple fitted lid, another with a hinged lid, and finally a portfolio box (used traditionally for housing delicate objects or old books in libraries; one of the students was a librarian).
The title of the class was "Box making made easy," primarily because Jody Williams did a lot of the prep work for us in advance, namely measuring and cutting the board we were using to construct our boxes. Still we did a lot of measuring and cutting of paper ourselves, and learned quickly that it's easy to get your measurements wrong on the first - and sometimes even second - try. Check and double check!
My first box, with a simple fitted lid.
It's also tricky working with glue which affixes and dries relatively quickly. Sometimes we only had a few seconds to get our decorative papers in place on the board, before they were permanently stuck! Some papers (such as Japanese art papers) are resilient enough to be pulled off and re-affixed, but others will shred easily when they're wet.
Class participant Donna Nelson shows off two of the three boxes she made over the weekend.
Hinged lids appear simple, but it's important to space the lid far away enough from the box that it can open and close easily, yet still fit in place. And probably most important of all, the "grain" of the paper needs to line up with the grain of the board box, which needs to line up with the direction of the hinge. That's so when they paper and board are glued together they form a solid bond, and the hinge can withstand regular opening and closing without breaking. Phew - details!
Jody Williams stands by - and on - the strength of her work.
Before we knew it, the weekend was over, and we each had successfully assembled three boxes. Many of the students said they were already looking forward to "Box making made hard" despite the daunting name.
Now that I've learned the basics of box making, I'm interested in seeing what I might make using the marbled papers I made in a previous class.(4 Comments)
Tomorrow through Sunday, the American Craft Council is holding its annual conference in Minneapolis at the Radisson Plaza Hotel. While here, curators and artists will tour local studios and art centers, including the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Highpoint Center for Printmaking and the Textile Center. The theme for the conference is "Creating a New Craft Culture."
Speaking of which, if you're interested in learning more about "Craft in America," PBS has a nifty five-part series which you can watch in its entirety on-line through October 22.
Inspired by my recent trip to the Textile Center, I decided to pay a visit to a local star in the weaving world. Kelly Marshall actually got her start in weaving at the
Textile Center Weaver's Guild of Minnesota when she was 19, then went on to study in Sweden, and now runs a nationally recognized business from a studio in the Northrup King building in Minneapolis.
Marshall's studio has four large looms in it, and a staff of three full-time weavers to work them. While weaving is often considered a solitary art, Marshall says she's always wanted company:
When I started weaving for a profession, I took a business class at Women Venture to help me get my mind around running a business as a weaver. One of the first things we did was project what the business would look like in 5 years. My vision was a large, sunlight room with several looms and myself and several weavers working on the looms. I have always wanted to share the craft of weaving, making the textiles, with others.
Photo by Abernathy Photography
Marshall is very aware of the pleasure that comes from making something with your own hands, but she also recognizes that if she wants to be a professional weaver for many years to come, she has to take care of herself.
I enjoy doing many different kinds of handwork and always have a project going whether it is stitching, knitting, beading, or bobbin lace making to name a few of the crafts I enjoy. Weaving is very taxing on the body and although I never had an injury from weaving I could feel the stress on my body after 15 years of weaving full time.
Photo by Andrea Rugg
Now Marshall spends the majority of her time working with clients, attending craft shows, and working on her favorite aspect of weaving - the design process. The infinite possibilities of form and color are what really excite Marshall.
Photo by Abernathy Photography
Marshall says even though she's not on the loom weaving every day, she still feels very connected to the work:
I consult with the clients and do all the designing. I calculate all the yarn needed for each piece and lay out the patterns and consult with the weavers when they start a piece to get the proportions correct. I am in the studio sewing the totes and am always working on developing new product.
Sometimes I do miss working on the loom where the task ahead of me is very determined, repetitive and meditative at times. It is a process of doing something that has hand memory, my body knows how to weave, set up a loom, the actions are learned in my cells, it is wonderful to be so connected to something. On the other hand I enjoy challenging other parts of myself: how to run a successful business, employees, human resources, benefits, marketing, product development, and financial planning. How do I fit into a community of fiber artists, and craftspeople in general?
If you'd like to check out Kelly Marshall's studio, you can! She'll be participating in the Northrup King Building's "Art Attack" gallery open house November 6-8.(5 Comments)
"Burning for you, too" by Richard Saja
New York Designer Richard Saja has developped a following for his handiwork with a needle. Armed with brightly colored thread and a quirky sense of humor, Saja takes traditional toile (fabric printed with pastoral scenes, often featuring people) and superimposes his own story line. He calls his brand of pillows and toile furniture "Historically Inaccurate Decorative Arts."
"Mr. Birdman" by Richard Saja
Under Saja's hand, noble ladies and gents are transformed into clowns, monsters, and strange animal hybrids. Cupid angels sprout long locks of Van Halen-esque hair, Abraham Lincoln comes a-courtin', and luscious bouquets are disrupted by menacing beetles.
In a recent interview on Supernaturale, Saja explains his fascination with toile:
I knew that toile prints were a perfect canvas for hand embroidery: the black line of the print begging to be made more alive through the vibrancy of color, texture and technique afforded by hand embroidery. By wedding traditional toile prints to embroidery I found I had developed something easily accessible to modern tastes: tattoos are now accompanied by rabbit ears on children, cigars in dog's mouths, nipples, gold chains and mohawks on monkeys.
Of late Saja has been working with glow-in-the-dark thread, which allows a completely new scene to appear on your pillow once the lights are turned off.
(FYI - A Facebook friend posted a link to this artist's work, and I just couldn't resist sharing. Thanks for the tip!)
So here's the deal. I figure if I'm going to blog about the arts, I can't just sit back and watch. Because for every artist who performs before an audience, there are thousands of others who are practicing some artistic pursuit in the quiet of their own home, or with a group of like-minded individuals.
So my goal for the next year is to try a new type of art each month, and write about it. There are plenty of centers around the Twin Cities - and Minnesota - that offer extensive classes in various crafts, from pottery to photography to stained-glass. So why not check them out for the benefit of everyone?
This summer I started with something already familiar to me, paper marbling. Then I jumped into my first attempt at something completely new - making a mosaic. In addition to posting on what I learned, I also followed the work of one mosaic artist from start to finish, and sped it up into what I call "Fast Art."
Just yesterday, I posted on my most recent venture into weaving. Since I took a very entry-level class (not really enough to merit a "How To" presentation) I plan to return for a little more in-depth instruction later this month. Also, later this week, I'll profile the work of local weaver Kelly Marshall, and pay a visit to her studio.
The months to come present me with all sorts of options. What to try? And what sort of information would you like me to bring back from the experience? Think of me as your emissary, testing those classes you've always had a lurking desire to take, but never got up the gumption for. Information is power...
Some ideas that have been bandied about: how to do a particular dance move, how to draw the human figure, how to pour a metal sculpture, and how to make and use a pinhole camera.
Let me know what you'd like, and I'll do my best to make it happen. And maybe I'll even pick up a skill or two in the process.
Spools of dyed wool at the ready for a weaving class at the Textile Center.
This weekend, I'm rather embarrassed to admit, I paid my first-ever visit to the Textile Center in Minneapolis. Just as Open Book is a center for all things literary, the Textile Center is a hub for all activity that involves thread, yarn and fabric. That includes weaving, quilting, knitting, sewing, needlework, lace making, basketry and beading.
The center is home to dozens of organizations, including the Weavers Guild, the Knitters Guild, and Minnesota Contemporary Quilters. The building includes a gallery, store, library, lecture hall and several classrooms. One classroom is dedicated to the art of dying fiber.
What brought me to the Textile Center was a class called "Try It! Weave on a floor loom." For the next year I'm attempting to try a new craft each month (see previous entries on paper marbling and making mosaics), and this class seemed like a perfect fit.
A typical floor loom.
So there's my loom - or at least the loom I got to use for the class. Over the course of six hours I learned how to wind bobbins, throw and catch the shuttle, tromp on treadles, and develop a (somewhat) consistent beat. I also learned that tension is key in a good weave.
But here's what else I learned. The ancient Egyptians and Chinese used looms as early as 4000 BC. Looms are actually the foundation for computer programming. Which may be why people who tend to like weaving (and are good at it) have an affinity for math (our weaving instructor works as an accountant during the week). In many societies, men are the weavers, while the women spin the thread.
"Homage to Jean Nodlund" by Paul O'Connor
In the main hall of the Textile Center is a retrospective of the weaving of Paul O'Connor. O'Connor was for many years a chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota, and his work took him to India for five years, where he explored his interest in weaving. When he retired from chemistry in the 1970s, he pursued his weaving interest with a passion, and now is considered an expert in the art of "double-weaving." His work is incredibly fine, and often uses sewing thread.
Look! I made something!
Here's my scarf - or at least a section of it. I still need to wash it and do some finishing work, but overall I'm feeling pretty pleased that in six hours I was able to pull this off. Now I should mention that for this class the instructor had our looms set up ahead of time, and just learning how to warp your loom is another class entirely. I'll report back on how well I pick up those skills in a month or two. And I'll post a picture of the scarf in its entirety once I've cleaned it up.(2 Comments)
If you saw last week's bit of "fast art," you know I've been hanging out at Mosaic on a Stick lately, learning the ropes. In the process I've gained a great deal of respect for the creativity involved in making a really stunning mosaic. While many people consider mosaics to be a sort of craft, enthusiasts know that it can also be high art, in the right hands.
The tradition of making mosaics goes back centuries, and when done correctly they can last for centuries as well. Across much of Europe and North Africa you can visit mosaics that date back to the Roman Empire.
Making a mosaic is surprisingly easy, once you have the right materials in place. Check out this "how to" slideshow. And once you've finished, check out the mosaic art of people like Sonia King, Emma Biggs, and Brooks Tower.
(p.s. Many many thanks go to Lori Greene, owner of Mosaic on a Stick, for humoring my quest for knowledge, and for being my hand model for many of the photographs.)
Over the past three weeks I've been following Tara Nielson as she made a mosaic at Mosaic On A Stick in St. Paul. Every time she placed a tile, I took a picture. I've sped up the results into what I'm calling "Fast Art" (much healthier for you than fast food). Check it out, and if making a mosaic intrigues you, stay tuned for a "How To" presentation next week.(17 Comments)
St. Paul-based artist Jean Matzke was walking her dog in lowertown St. Paul early this morning when she was hit by a garbage truck turning the corner. 70-year-old Matzke was a fiber artist, showing her work locally at Grand Hand Gallery, and teaching both at the College of St. Benedict and the Textile Center of Minnesota. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, St.John's University, and the College of St. Benedict, and has been featured on HGTV.(1 Comments)
This is the first in what I hope will be a semi-regular series on "how to do stuff" - arts-related stuff, of course. Since I've been marbling paper at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts for the past year, I thought I'd start there.
The video above is by no means comprehensive. If you want more information about the history and various techniques of paper marbling, click here. For a vast array of different pattern samples, click here. If you're interested in trying paper marbling yourself, the MCBA holds classes about twice a year, with open studio days for you to marble on your own every few months.