Monday, February 22, 2010

Trip to New Bedford

Travelling to New Bedford for Lecture and Critiques

I went to New Bedford this week to do a lecture and critiques for the Fibers Department of University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. This was the first time I saw the new studio building since they moved it from the Purchase Street location where Mark did a year of graduate work. They are now located in the center of New Bedford in a renovated department store, and the studios are wonderful. They just hired Deborah Carlson (tenured, full-professor) to head the Fiber Department, which I think was a brilliant decision. Deborah is an inspiring artist and weaver with years of experience teaching and encouraging excellence from her students. If you know someone considering graduate or undergraduate work in Fibers, be sure to have them consider this program.

Students in Fibers working with Deborah Carlson (l), Kristin Crane in center, Paula Becker in front of student display (r)

The program at UMass-Dartmouth has been strong in both art and industrial applications for fiber. Besides Deborah, students are also working with Paula Becker. I first met Paula in Philadelphia, when I was teaching in an industrial textile program and she was a designer for Craftex. Later she went to Cranbrook for an MFA, had a child, did part-time college teaching, and worked for very high-end mills. Currently she has been able to conduct a project with students working with Swarovski and I saw some interesting results using crystals in the critiques. Her students are also getting the opportunity to design and have fabric woven through a local mill, Victor. I was quite impressed with how Deborah and Paula are envisioning the future for their students, recognizing that most mills have closed in the USA, and that small production, like the work shown on Etsy, is a viable model for handwork and art.

Deborah Carlson at the loom and detail of work at right

I did a talk on my work the first morning, and then had individual meetings with graduate students that afternoon. The next day I participated in a critique for the seniors, then had individual meetings with each of them. I was particularly impressed with the work of Dayna Day, shown below. She showed a machine embroidered work that had such flow and energy that it immediately captivated me. At first I saw it as organic abstraction and then realized she had embedded images from her life. Since baking is always a sub-text in my blog, I naturally took an image that shows her mixer.

Dayna Day with her embroidered narrative

The lobby of the art building is an open gallery with display cases used by students (see image of Paula Becker above in front of them), as well as entry to a gallery space, run by Lasse Antonsen. Exhibits vary, but I happened to catch the Merkin exhibit that originated at the last Surface Design Conference. Below are images of works by Elin Noble and Emily DuBois that were in the exhibit. I included the definition of merkin, in case you didn't know the word.

Merkin by Elin Noble (l) and Emily DuBois (r)

Elin and I became good friends when I lived in New Bedford in 1989-90. A few years ago, Elin, Tabbetha McCale, and I travelled through Turkey together. It was terrific to have time to catch up with all the wonderful changes in Elin's life, including a new home and studio with her husband, Lasse Antonsen. I was in extreme envy when we visited their studio Saturday morning. They share a magnificent space, which has allowed Elin to create new work that ranges from large to small. She also has a new free arm sewing machine that she is using on her work. The piece behind Elin and Lasse in the photo below is about 20 feet high. It immediately grabs you by its bold color and patterning, then you approach and you are awed by the intricate quilting that covers the work.

Elin Noble & Lasse Antonsen, details of work by Elin Noble

Elin Noble at her free arm sewing machine

Two marblized pieces by Elin Noble

Elin has always done her own art work, but she also has helped thousands of others through her former work at ProChemical, through the book she has written, and through the workshops she gives internationally. I felt so pleased to see the leap in her own work now, exemplified by the large quilted pieces and these amazing marbleized silk pieces, two of which are shown above. It is so encouraging for me, for everyone in fact, to see another artist find their voice. It affirms the fact that art is a process, that it does ebb and flow, and that perseverance furthers. Not everyone ends up with glorious results, but Elin Noble certainly is in a period of grace and beauty.

Lasse Antonsen in his studio

Lasse is also a case of encouragement for artist and art making. He is an art historian and curator, but has been focusing on his own work in recent years with a kind of joy that comes from, in the words of Joseph Campbell, "Following your bliss." It was apparent to me that these two artists are encouraging each other to do their work, get it out in the world, and share with others. They are great role models, and I really enjoyed seeing how New Bedford has changed through their eyes, which included a trip to The Gourmet Outlet, where we grazed for lunch. They put out recipe cards next to the food they served (Yuzu Salmon Salad, Italian Cous Cous Salad with Dried Fruit, and Jansal Valley Salmon Tartar were among the dishes I tasted) and on their website they also list recipes.

Grazing at The Gourmet Outlet

So I got home in time to host a Power of the Myth potluck dinner last night. My friends outdid themselves with the delicious food we shared, as well as the great conversation engendered by watching the first part of the six part series. Most people felt it was dated, and had some criticism of the first part, but everyone seems to want to keep going and see more. For my part, I still find his thinking and making connections between cultures from vastly different times and parts of the world, totally inspiring. Even more inspiring were our neighbors, Kelly Green and Forest McGregor, shown below. Kelly's stuffed baked potatoes were superb (we had some for lunch today) and so was her outfit. I especially love her gloves.

Kelly Green and Forest McGregor at the end of a great gathering

1 comment:

  1. This post made me laugh and was so interesting! Let's discuss machine quilting sometime.