I had a quick but wonderful visit to Kent State University to give a lecture on the history of woven figured textiles, i.e., drawloom woven, jacquard woven, and thread controller woven, and also spent time talking to students individually. The lecture was well-attended (the lecture room in the museum seats 130 and it was full), which is always gratifying. I was worried that my talk might be too basic for the fiber students, so was relieved when an art history class filed in. I was also pleased that J.R. Campbell, the new director of the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kent, and his wife attended the talk. We met before at a Surface Design Conference where we were both teaching. He is an expert at digital print and engineered garments and if you click on his name it will take you to his blog where he has posted some good images. Kent is very lucky to have both J.R. and Janice Lessman-Moss on their faculty, and I can imagine that they will figure out interesting ways to have their students collaborate. Fashion and its main players are always more prominent than the designers of the cloth that is used to make the clothes. I don't know if I even knew that there was such a thing as a textile designer until my mid-30's; I just assumed that the fashion designer created the cloth they were using.
Before lecture, people looking at some woven studies by Bhakti Ziek
Visiting with Janice and her husband Al, an artist and musician (member of the Hillbilly Idols) is stimulating and reinforces my commitment to live a life focused on making things. Janice is one of those super women who is juggling many commitments at once, and doing them all well. She has built an amazing department at Kent and the exhibition downtown of jacquard work by herself and her students was definitely a highlight of my trip. She gives to the larger field by activities such as being on the board of Textile Society of America. Most importantly, she is an active practicing artist and her studio is full of inspiring work. You might own a copy of Ideas in Weaving, and have seen an image of Janice's Macomber loom, which she modified in order to create shaped weavings. Her ability to conceive of what she wants to do, and then figure out means to achieve her ideas, is staggering--and this is one of the impressive skills she manages to pass on to her students. In her studio I saw large, well-conceived, time-consuming weavings--and in the fiber department and downtown gallery I saw works by her students that showed that they too have learned to think beyond the expected and put in what ever effort is necessary to execute big, detailed projects. Below is a picture of Janice standing near a few of her new weavings, and below that a detail of her and the work.
Janice Lessman-Moss with some of her recent weavings
Janice Lessman-Moss in her studio
It is fun for me to go into a university program and talk to the students. To catch a bit of the energy of hope and exploration and ambition that is present in a good department, like the one at Kent. The facilities are very good--large well-equipped rooms for both weaving and surface design, and the equipment, which is kept in good shape, includes two TC-1 looms. Below are images of two of the seniors that I met, Katie Rothacher and Lauren Mangeri. Katie's recent jacquard in the downtown show, made with hand dyed weft, is not just ambitious, but mature and successful work; Lauren has just begun working with plastic interlaced with other yarns, and already her initial study shows the work is going to become captivating.
Katie Rothacher in her studio at Kent State University
Lauren Mangeri showing her recent TC-1 jacquard in weaving studio at Kent State University
I was only gone three days, but in the words of Dorothy, "there is no place like home." I used to be a movie fanatic, sometimes going to three different theaters in NYC on the same day to catch films playing only on that day--but that was a long time ago and now it is a rare treat to go to a movie. Julie and Julia is playing at the local Randolph movie theater, the Playhouse, so Mark and I went tonight. I didn't expect to like it (dare I admit that I don't like Meryl Streep)--but I loved the movie. I loved everything, especially all the talk about blogs and blogging--and of course all the food--and for the most part, Streep didn't annoy me. It felt so good to sit in the dark, and laugh, and be absorbed by a big screen. I came home and pulled out my copy of Child's book (13th printing from 1966) and maybe I will make that chocolate cake with almonds tomorrow.