Artist Statement | I started to sew with a child-sized Singer sewing machine with a hand crank on it. I was probably 8. When I was 13 I studied weaving for a semester at Kingswood School Cranbrook. Nearly 50 years later I continue to sew and weave, enjoying both thoroughly.
I studied sewing, tailoring and dress making techniques as a teen and pattern making in my 20’s when I quit my last job (1981) and began making clothing for a living. I designed a chamois leather sweatshirt and marketed it in San Francisco. I approached the Banana Republic in 1981 and designed and produced men’s shirts in chamois leather for two catalogs.
I left San Francisco for northern Michigan in 1983, discovering and settling in Leelanau County… a decision I have never for a moment regretted.
After so many button holes and collars I investigated native American clothing design, using deer and sheep skins (oil tanned as chamois). A “3 skin dress” of the plains native tribes’design made brilliant use of sheep skin; men’s shirts displayed their personal powerful images with which the men would decorate. Reinforced with machine stitches, the pieces are punched and laced with lacing I cut from the skins. The hand work of lacing the seams is very pleasing.
I became heir to a large floor loom in 1984 and re-learned weaving. I have been making rag rugs and wall hangings weaving mostly recycled cotton cut into strips on a cotton rug warp. A technique I favor is bubbling i.e. pulling up loops of weft fabric to make a lofty, surface texture.
Since 1987, I have owned and managed The Painted Bird, a gallery of contemporary crafts in Suttons Bay. I represent 125 local and American artists there. I continue to make both clothing and weavings by commission.
Artist Interview |
Q:What was your first memorable experience with art?
A: When I was five, a beautiful woman friend of our family sculpted a bust of me, modeling in clay. She was someone I so admired, not only for her gorgeous braid of long blond hair, but for the beauty she could render with her hands. She even encouraged me to lend my small hands to model a small part of the sculpture – a safe little area of hair, which I scored with the sculpting tool and was very proud of my contribution.
Q: Can you explain when you first knew you wanted to become an artist? Who/What turned you on to art?
A: While a student at Kingswood School Cranbrook, I spent my happiest hours in the studio of our sculpture instructor Pamela Stump Walsh. It was 1970, I was sixteen, and my world was full of changes: personal, social, political, and intellectual. I came to love the freedom of the creative hours spent in the sculpture studio. It was an escape from troubling times, and there I felt the great reward of artistic creativity. I could exercise my imagination and experiment under the freeing, indulgent guidance of that wonderful teacher and mentor. More than being just a satisfying experience, creating art became essential to my personal happiness. That passion endures.
Q: Is there any single piece of artwork that has impacted you as a child? An adolescent? An adult?
A: An Inuit sculpture that my parents bought in the very early 60’s. It is a powerful stone carving of a fisherman with strong rounded shoulders, his face smooth, simply sculpted. When I studied art history in college, the very first image in my Janson History of Art text was an ancient sculpture, thousands of years old that bore an uncanny resemblance our Eskimo. When I learned later how the Inuit people were introduced to the art of stone carving by Canadian government art teachers (in the late 40’s,in an effort to give these impoverished people a way to earn a living) I could not help thinking that image was shown to a native carver, and that he was inspired by it. I am happy to still own this sculpture – a source of daily joy.
Q: What artists influenced you the most? Current Influences?
A: Pablo Picasso was my first favorite artist and remains high on my list. His virtuosity in so many media – from two dimensional painting, drawing, print-making, to sculpture and ceramics, was inspiring to me. He clearly enjoyed his experimentation. His work also expressed so many moods and loves: love of life, art, people, lovers, children, and food. Political statement as well as playful comedy poured forth from this multi-faceted artist.
Alexander Calder is another artist I love for his joie de vivre and the diversity of materials he embraced. He taught me one could make art out of whatever material you could get your hands on. His work ranged from colossal sculpture to intimate toys, jewelry and even household tools crafted in stone, steel, wire, fabric, coffee cans, and other found objects. He was the first “soft sculptor” I had ever known. Calder’s Circus was an early performance artwork, with a cast of wonderful characters he drew from the travelling circuses. His mobiles were inspired by the balancing acts he so loved.
Q: What do you like most about the medium and surface you use?
A: I weave, and I sew, and I guess what I like best is that you can weave or stitch any material, with a myriad of techniques. Using fabric, threads, recycled clothing, wire, wooden sticks, even plastic bags, - one can make fine fabric, clothing, dense rugs, an abstract wall hanging, a wooden mat, or even a vessel. There are no limits.
Q: What ideas are behind your current work?
A: I have long wanted to weave wood. I collect branches of red osier, or the yellow barked weeping willow wisps, perhaps peeled to reveal the snowy white wood. I have been collecting lily stalks which branch out like fingers once the bloom has fallen. My friend Majel Chance Obata – who earned her MFA in fiber arts at Cranbrook Art Academy, taught me a few off-loom techniques, and ripped wide open my conventional concept of weaving.
Going from two-dimensional flat weaving to sculptural forms is what I am now enjoying. I am creating a sort of woven vessel, and then by filling the it with light, now it becomes a light sculpture: Delightful! (see image)
Q: What do you want people to respond to in your work?
A: I suppose as an artist I do aim to please others as well as for my own aesthetic sense. If I make a piece that makes people smile, it is a measure of its success. I choose beautiful materials, and use color, texture and shape, kindled with craftsmanship, experimentation and imagination. These are the elements of my work that I hope will be appreciated.
Q: Do you have a predetermined idea of what your finished work will be like, or do the ideas emerge in process?
A: I am very much a spontaneous artist… I believe in happy accidents. Of course in functional work – rug weaving or sewing clothing or soft sculpture, there is a big element of planning, engineering, and technique that is precise, regular and fulfills my vision.
Q: What are your goals for your work in the next few years?
A: I want to do more non-functional pieces with less concern for engineering/functionality and more emphasis on form and visuals. I want to experiment with light-emitting objects. I’d like to spend more happy time in a studio.