Book of the Month
Fifteen years ago I learned about the magical quilts being created by Wen Redmond through photographic processes on fabric, and have followed her career with interest since then. Her new book Digital Fiber Art shares many of the artist’s techniques for texturing and collaging digital imagery, including her signature holographic effect. I asked Redmond to describe how she approaches art making: “I am a process person. My process is fed by my love of being outdoors. I’m passionate about coming up with ideas and working out the kinks. This leads to more discoveries, an evolution. I make the art and then the art makes me. Part of that process is photography. I can see the most exquisite scenes or combinations of patterns and want to share that beauty. My art represents these moments. They are what lie beneath. I bring them back to share, to remind, to remember. These moments become my source, my well. I hope to bring that energy into my art making, to communicate the positive. Layers peeled back reveal the source, the inspiration, and my mad desire to capture thoughts, dreams, and the beauty of nature.” Digital Fiber Art is issued by C&T Publications ($29.95).
Commemorating His Purple Reign: A Textural Tribute to Prince
The Textile Center in Minneapolis is celebrating the life and music of one of Minnesota’s most famous sons, who died last April at the age of 57. The show’s title, of course, is a pun on Purple Rain, a tribute to Prince’s favorite color and his famous song. This exhibition of quilts by 25 makers, including members of the Women of Color Quilting Network, is juried and curated by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, a Bess Lomax Hawes NEA National Heritage Fellow. She comments, “I loved Prince and his music, and I was honored to be asked to curate an exhibit in his honor. Each of the pieces in the exhibit is an endearing testament to how much others loved him as well.” This show opens on March 9 and runs through April 29 in the Joan Mondale Gallery, with an opening reception on March 9 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Black Fashion Designers
Organized by Ariele Elia and Elizabeth Way, Black Fashion Designers can be seen until May 16 in New York City in The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology). Many black fashion designers have had successful and influential careers. Only a few, however, are widely recognized today. By exploring the work of these designers – both historical and current – this exhibition calls attention to the diverse perspectives they bring, which make fashion more creative and inclusive. Black Fashion Designers ambitiously features 75 ensembles by 60 designers, highlighting a range of individual styles. Black designers face many challenges, including the presumption that they work in a single “black style,” catering to only one demographic. Black designers take inspiration from many sources, but may not necessarily address race in their work. The exhibition is divided into nine themes: Breaking into the Industry, The Rise of the Black Fashion Designer, Eveningwear, Street Influence, Activism, Menswear, Black Models, African Influence, and Experimentation.
Shock Wave: Japanese Fashion Design, 1980s–90s
Shock Wave is the inaugural exhibition organized by Florence Müller, the Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Curator of Fashion, who joined the museum in 2015. It includes twenty recent acquisitions for the Museum’s collection as well as loans from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and from private lenders. Japanese designers started a fashion revolution in Paris. This exhibition features 70 looks by powerhouse designers Issey Miyake, Kenzo Takada, Kansai Yamamoto, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, and Junya Watanabe, whose impact on fashion still resonates today. Works on view illustrate concepts such as the intersection of tradition and modernity; the influence of pop-culture motifs; molding the body versus hiding the body with oversized shapes; reinventing the traditional Western representation of femininity; collaborations between contemporary artists and fashion designers; and, other diverse ways of challenging the fashion system. On view through May 28, 2017
Like many of us, I am concerned about working conditions in textile and fiber factories, as well as the effects of these factories on the environment. Researching social entrepreneurial and “green” companies, I recently had the opportunity to interview Michael Mrowka, the life, studio, and business partner of Debra Lunn. This pair of artists is well known for unique quilts featuring patterns resulting from potato dextrin and resist processes. Years ago I visited their Ohio studio and was amazed by the variety and intensity of their surface designs. About fifteen years ago, a textile manufacturer asked Mrowka and Lunn to travel to Solo, Java, and see whether they could improve the quality, consistency, and efficiency of batik production in the factory there. On the first visit they spent three weeks studying the factory issues and immersing themselves in the Javanese culture. In successive future trips, Mrowka and Lunn focused on standardizing the facilities and improving the working conditions. After five years, they found a local partner who was able to rebuild the factory to their demands—which included responsible disposal and recycling of all recyclable materials. They even recycle the 4000 pounds of wax used monthly to make the batiks. They have a government-certified water treatment facility for all wastewater so the water that returns to the river is clean. Mrowka and Lunn also established a local non-profit organization and opened the first free public lending library to further give back to the batik community.
The factory has a very low rate of turnover, and the dye master, a woman, has been with Mrowka and Lunn for the entire fifteen years. The artists have learned over the years how to communicate precise specifications for dye samples and pattern placement, resulting in very successful production of 15-yard lengths of batik marketed by Robert Kaufman under the name “Artisan Batiks.” Many of the hand-printed batiks used by quilters around the world originate in the Solo factory. Mrowka and Lunn design all the batik patterns, which are sent to Solo worked into copper tjaps (pronounced “chops”) then stamped onto samples of fabric. These are shipped to Ohio, where the artists can review and adjust the designs if needed. They usually try to spend March through August in Solo, overseeing the batik production during the time of year having abundant sunshine because the batik requires the heat of the sun to set and dry. Although Mrowka and Lunn have studio space in Solo for their own work, it’s a challenge to balance studio time with their commitments to the 500,000-square-feet factory and its workers.