Well, so much for posting updates from the road. Now I'm sitting in the airport, homeward bound.
This was my first Surface Design Association conference, though I've been a member for many years. It's been both helpful and challenging, giving me information, exposing me to some wonderful art (including, in addition to all the amazing textile work, a fantastic photography show at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art) and connecting me to people whose names I've known for years but never met until now. It's also pushed me up against all my own internal issues about art and craft and textiles, where I fit in, the level of work and commitment that I've had or have not had, and where I'm going from here. Some highlights.
- Harmony Susalla was the opening keynote speaker, and she gave a fluent and entertaining talk about her own history as a textile designer and her path of creating the first viable all-organic print fabric company. I didn't know that Harmony had designed a fabric that is to this day the best-selling Wal-Mart bedding line. If the crowd of people who sought her out to talk more with her was an indication, organic cotton has a bright future yet -- and it couldn't have a more sincere and shining spokesperson.
- Gerhardt Knodel gave a rollicking, practiced speech on identifying your own neighborhood of concepts, motivations and connections through a treehouse metaphor. I'll write more on this. Opinions were divided on this talk, but I liked it. As I was looking online for more information about him for you, I came across Worn Through, a blog/journal that looks well worth exploring if you're interested in a scholarly approach to apparel and dress (probably due its own post in the near future). It's published and edited by Monika Sklar.
- Victoria K. Rivers gave an awesome overview of her life (so far) as a textilian, a word I wish I'd invented. She's a global textile explorer of the first order, an artist, a professor, and a warm, generous spirit. While her accomplishments are dazzling, she's not even a little bit intimidating. I've written a few times about Victoria's work with mirrors, metal and beads and her book The Shining Cloth, and it was really a delight to finally hear her speak and get to talk with her for a moment. I'm always struggling with the current pressure to clear all clutter, when what I really want is an environment rich and dense with beautiful, satisfying and meaningful objects, so I liked that Victoria declared that it's okay to be accumulative; you don't have to live in a space of Zen emptiness.
- Jane Dunnewold's talk was inspiring in every way. She said: Stop taking workshops and get to work; keep working through times when inspiration seems out of reach; and take the time to do things well. Art or craft? Don't worry about it; call yourself a mixed-media artist and let the details of that be somebody else's problem to figure out -- just do your work. She wove beautiful poems through her talk, showed a visual feast of her work and process, and was so accessible yet clearly setting a high standard. I bought her book Finding Your Own Visual Language and I'll report on my experience with the exercises in the book. She also has a DVD on edging and finishing for textile pieces that's on my wish list. After meeting her it's even more clear why she's one of the most sought-after teacher/speaker/authors in the textile art world.
There you have a few speaker highlights. I'll talk more about the people, the textile art and some of the things that the conference stirred up for me later this week. Tomorrow my new job starts, so onward we go.