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Fiberarts - November/December 2008
November/December 2008

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Images from editor Marci Rae McDade's summer fiber-art travels
Team Fiberarts's trip to the Denver Art Museum's Untitled #16 (Thread)
Editor Marci Rae McDade's favorite experience and images from The Language of Craft conference at Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Deer Isle, Maine
The stories behind some of the squares from the World Reclamation Art Project
More work from our student artists and information about included schools
Call for fiber-postcard valentines
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November/December 2008

The Language of Craft Conference

In the News and Notes section of our November/December 2008 issue, Editor Marci Rae McDade writes about her experiences at The Language of Craft conference held at the Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Deer Isle, Maine. In the article, she shares a conversation with Janet Koplos, senior editor at Art in America, about the conference and Koplos’s favorite experiences. Here, Marci shares her favorite experiences and additional images from the conference.

From July 13–17 I attended The Language of Craft, a five-day conference of panel discussions, visiting artist lectures, and hands-on workshops, held at the Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Deer Isle, Maine. The premise of this event, hosted by Haystack’s Director, Stuart Kestenbaum, focused on how language is used to inspire the creation of art work, describe its process, evaluate its aesthetic values, and promote critical writing in the fields of craft.

The award-winning Haystack Mountain School of Craft campus, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, was added to the National Historic Register in February 2006. Photo: Amanda Kowalski.

John McQueen, Margot Mensing, Paulus Berensohn, and Sonya Clark at The Language of Craft.

I had two exceptional experiences during the Language of Craft conference. The first was the opportunity to spend an entire afternoon with Margo Mensing, an artist whose work and writing I have greatly admired and followed for many years in the pages of Fiberarts. I attended the “Tools” seminar led by Margo and John McQueen; a thought-provoking workshop (held in the Haystack woodshop) in which all of us were invited to invent a new tool. We also discussed the nature of tools throughout history and how tools have the power to inspire and facilitate creative projects. My “invention” was a portable doorknocker, which seemed a necessary item at the time as I was traveling around the country for several weeks this summer conducting my state-of-craft research. To form this goofy tool, I selected a piece of wood from the recycle bin, laced some wire through a drill hole, and attached a strange red metal object to make the knocking noise against the wooden surface. John told me the red thing had been a farm implement in an earlier incarnation, but none of us could figure out its original intention. The session was pure fun as each member of the group revealed their tools and related their motivations, from the practical to the absurd.

John McQueen, Marci Rae McDade, and Margot Mensing at the “Tools” seminar.

Marci’s portable doorknocker.

My second exceptional experience was a group activity held the final afternoon of the conference (July 16), when all participants were asked to take a piece of paper from a bowl that had a word printed on it and make something inspired by that word. This exercise helped me truly connect with the theme of the conference in a very direct way as I made my piece. In an ironic twist, however, my word “carbuncle” was misspelled as “carbuncke” and I spent a few fretful minutes poring over the dictionary to find this elusive term before eventually deciding to make something about its absence and mystery instead! The group of over fifty people worked in silence for about an hour with various materials like paper and clay, paint and pencils, wire and wood, until it was time to lay out all of our finished creations. None of our names were on these pieces so it was uniquely exciting to walk around and simply respond to the work of by “unknown maker.”

My favorite pieces were both, surprisingly, based on the same word—crumple. The first was a very conceptual and minimal interpretation of the concept with the small strip of paper simply crumpled up and set atop a large piece of white paper, a pedestal of sorts for the weight of this tiny sculpture. I later found out that it was made by Janet Koplos.

Kathy Sosa, Metate

Kathy Sosa, Metate

My other favorite explored the aesthetic allure of craft and love of process in a series of three pieces of paper delicately folded in different patterns, made by Sonya Clark, well-known artist and chair and professor of Craft/Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University (Fine Art Industry).

These two examples beautifully capture the many aspects of craft that I admire in the work of others and pursue in my own studio practice.

For my own contribution, I decided to work with two objects I brought with me on a whim: a thick hard cover book and an Exacto knife. In pursuit of the meaning of my mysterious term, I carefully dug out the inside of each page to create an empty space, then used the cut pages to make one long continuous strip of paper that seemed to roll out of the book like a tongue. It was my attempt to communicate the futility of my search as well as the fun of the quest. I gave the book, my cherished memento of The Language of Craft, to my teenage son to keep his own petite treasures.

Marci and her Carbuncke. Photo: Wendy Wahl.

Kathy Sosa, Metate

Kathy Sosa, Metate




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