Archive for the 'Artist' Category

Ragged Cloth lives! Introducing Ragged Cloth 2

Ragged Cloth is art blog written primarily by fiber artists about any issues concerning artists.  All art forms, subjects, and time periods may be discussed. This is not a blog for self promotion or a place where we sell our work. but rather a place where we explore topics of concern to artists in any medium, but often with a fiber slant.  Here is the mission statement written by June Underwood, originator of Ragged Cloth :
“A new home for fiber & textile artists of all sorts.
The Ragged Cloth Café is a place for serious artists (who are also serious talkers) to verbally circle ideas about their own work, the visual arts, and the theories, histories, definitions and philosophies of arts while relating these to the textile arts. The group was begun by textile artists and most, but by no means all, of us
continue to have textile art as our base of reference. We are prone to go deep into any given topic, likely to go on for hours circling an idea, bringing in tangent ideas, never entirely resolving any issue, but seldom descending into boring repetition. We are practicing artists by day; thinking artists by night; verbal artists whenever we see the chance.The café invites civil discourse, discussions which probe and prod, and which are well-salted and sugared with references that will expand our horizons. Join us if you are willing to do your homework, looking up and seeking out what you don’t know as well as sharing what you do know. The list moderators and old hands will seed the discussion and keep it somewhat on track, but the group as a whole will, as they do with all email lists, have to draw up a seat, get their preferred cup of stimulus, and keep the comments, questions, and conversation going. Within this group, you will find fiber artists, art quilters, creators of complex/art cloth, wearable art, art dolls and others.”

We are a small band of dedicated posters who welcome comments, occasional or frequent, and new posters.  Join us.
cornell.rose-vents.small cornell.medici-boy.small cornell.habitat-group.small
Roses de Vent     Medici Boy    Habitat Group

Joseph Cornell was the first artist I admired.  I saw an exhibit of  his work in NY (perhaps at the Museum of Modern Art) when I was 11 or 12.   His constructions captivated and inspired me.  I knew nothing of Surrealism of course, but I found his odd juxtapositions endlessly fascinating and instantly liberating.  I immediately began to make my own collages or assemblages (I think I called them dioramas) in shoeboxes.  Anything that interested me could go into a diorama, and I was free to choose the theme, the objects (stones, twigs, grasses, magazine images, pieces of wood, or glass,  shells, dolls, etc.), and their arrangement.  Strangely enough, long after I had abandoned my first career as a teacher and become a fiber artist, I had to rediscover the empowerment to choose what I was interested in as my subject matter, and the “objects” and their arrangement.  I am fortunate to live in Chicago where The Art Institute has a room full of Cornell’s boxes.  I visit them at least once a year.  My own personal pilgrammage.

To see more : Cornell boxes

SoI’d love to know who inspired you first and  how  that inspiration affects your current work.


Connecting thread (by Olga Norris)

Crafts magazine, May/June 2010

The work of artist Maurizio Anzeri came to my attention in this magazine last year, with an article written by Jessica Hemmings.  And recently I found that an exhibition of his work is on at Baltic, Gateshead.   I am intrigued by uses of stitch, especially when not on cloth, because I wonder what it is that drew the artist to the needle and thread rather than to the pencil, pen, etc.

There is of course the added dimension of both the thread and its effect – in this case the latter being the holes caused by the needle.  So is this use of needle and thread rather than pen and line adding the active dimension of piercing and pulling.  Piercings on anonymous faces from the past, and is it a drawing out of their individuality in its unknown chaotic form, pulled out to form the imposed order of the stitched pattern?

Brigitte Family Album

And do they remind you as they do me of those so fashionable pictures made with nails and string on a dark background – when was that? 

To me these works by Anzeri are the dark side of stitching, somehow destructive of human sentiment because they take time, delicacy, precision, to overlay, to obliterate   Taking the tradition of pattern stitching, historically used to denote cultural difference, originally used in a positive way: treasured reminders of meaningful family moments, added to the similarly important marker of the photographic portrait – from years before the constant instant snapping of today – these spirographic doodlings may be attractive in an abstracted way, but I find them fundamentally cruel in outlook.

But we humans are a cruel species, and just as there is excessive sentimentality about photographs, so at the other end there is this twisting of view of what they might mean.   The artist Julie Cockburn also distorts found photographs, as well as sometimes embroidering on them.

Little one (left) Daydreamer

Mary (left) Warrior

 Is this kind of work yet another way in which an artist can say what others are feeling?  That far from venerating our ancestors and their aspirations for us, their progeny, we want to impose our own patterns on them retrospectively?  Is this form of art chosen because abstraction is not direct or personal enough?  The abstract can be taken in whatever way the observer wishes, such as in the work of  Alison Schwarz.


This does not even have a title to point the viewer.  But the altered photographs link directly with every viewer in a very personal way. 

I managed to find a middle ground, using photograph and thread – although with nails this time, not specifically stitch – a use of collage/assemblage by Dayna Thacker.  Do we find this more attractive/acceptable?  And if we do, is it because we prefer to sugar our pills?

Birth of a Prophet

I think that use of traditional materials, domestic skills, and use of previously highly regarded cultural markers can be incredibly powerful semiotic tools in expressing ourselves today.

Louise Bourgeois’ fabric drawings (by Olga Norris)

I have recently acquired a splendid large book: the catalogue of an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois fabric works.  I have written about this in my blog, but one aspect of the work interested me in particular – Bourgeois’ fabric drawings.

The images above are from a selection on the Hauser + Wirth site where the exhibition is on currently.  Another drawing can be seen here.  I am also intrigued by her collections of fabric drawings which she has made into books.  Here  and here give an idea of what their pages look like.

I find all of these pieces engaging and attractive on first view, and then despite their apparent simplicity – maybe because of their deceptive simplicity, I am intrigued to gaze on them longer.    I think that it’s a question of the compositions, the balance and choice of colours, the intensity of them which detain me.  And I certainly admire the quality of the craftsmanship.  That is not to say that I am in awe of Bourgeois’ craftsmanship, her wielding of a needle.  It is her idea that the craftsmanship is an important element which intrigues me.

Here is an artist drawing attention to craftmanship.  Of course  fibre craft is vital to the concept of so much of Bourgeois’ work in whatever medium given her tapestry mending origins.  But it struck me that Bourgeois validates so many of us who have the urge to express ourselves artistically, and who choose fibre craft as our medium.

As we see here in the fabric drawings, the effect can be powerful, arresting; work that is paired away and direct.  I find the oeuvre of Louise Bourgeois such a vital encouragement and endorsement of what I am trying to do, and these fabric drawings in particular reassure me that I should continue to try to simplify, to distil.


This post was also published at my WordPress blog Webs and Threads. At June Underwood’s invitation I am sharing this interesting work by weaver Aymar Ccopacatty since it coincides with my recent travel and experiences with trash in India. Aymar’s emphasis in weaving is on using trash found in the landscape of Peru.

(For some reason, the wonderful youtube video of Aymar in Peru weaving  isn’t currently being accepted on this blog but can be seen at the Webs And Threads blog and at Aymar’s website listed at the end of the post. I will try to add it again later.)

~Nancy Engstad

From my post on

One of the things that is ubiquitous in India is the presence of trash. This is something that seems to exist whether in city or countryside and it was quite an overwhelming part of being in this country for the first time. The roadsides are covered in it; adults, children, and animals seem oblivious to the tide of discarded paper and trash of every type that is part of everyday life.

I had an opportunity in Udaipur to chat with an Indian activist, visiting from his home in California. He was a guest at the home of my friends there, sharing with them their great passion for aiding the people of India. In the course of our conversation I did ask finally, about this tremendous problem. His answer made perfect sense. In times past, he explained, trash in India was of the organic kind which in time, would degrade or decay. The trash of the 20th and 21st Centuries has an infinite lifespan and confounds the old traditions of keeping the interiors of homes spotless by sweeping out daily litter from the door.

A street scene in India.

A gypsy camp by the roadside in India at dusk.

So the topic of trash was in my mind when I received an email announcement for an exhibition from an artist I’ve known since his first exhibition at the age of three. Aymar Ccopacatty had just immigrated from Peru with his Peruvian father and American mother when we met. His father Peruko, is also an artist and comes from the ancient Peruvian people, the Aymara.

Now thirty, Aymar Ccopacatty, spends time both in the United States and in Peru where he pursues his weaving and is passionate as well about preserving the ancient Peruvian traditions of weaving.

Recently Aymar sent me an announcement of his exhibition in New York City of the weavings he had created using trash from the landscape of Peru. As in India, the old and the new seem to collide in Peru, without a means of managing the detritus of modern times.  Aymar has addressed the situation in Peru by using trash to spin and weave into art, a powerful statement about his culture and the relationship of his traditions with the West.

Here is a scene sent by Aymar of a lake view in Peru.

Following is a statement from Aymar on what he considers his life’s work, preserving the ancient traditions of weaving as they meet with the changing modern influences in the Peruvian culture.

“I was born in Peru, my Father’s land, of two distinct cultures.We lived there until my second birthday, before returning to my Mother’s land in the U.S. Since then, much of my life’s exploration has been dedicated to fully understanding the dichotomies of these two greatly different cultures as they exist within and outside of myself.

I am a weaver. My work combines modern material with ancient technique. I n myexplorations I have built looms, spun and knitted using trash such as plastic and rubber tires. Much of the trash comes from Lake Titicaca, an ancient and ecologically sensitive environment 12,000 feet above sea level. The language and culture here is Aymara, a millennial language dating back to pre-Inca Wari and Tiwanaku empires. The work is a synthesis of tradition with modernity. I feelthat sometimes tradition must change and build upon its origins in order to achieve continued relevance in modern contexts, while also serving as a vehicle to express the concerns of an isolated and culturally marginalized people on the fringes of Peruvian society.

I learned the techniques of spinning, weaving and knitting within a traditional indigenous Aymara lifestyle. My Grandmother Maria, a master weaver, would spend her days in the fields and nights at home, all the while spinning her drop spindle to a rhythm of lake and sky. At the age of fifteen I began learning from her. Traditionally men wove bolts of cloth on a stiff heddle loom, and the women wove their elaborate and colorful designs on string-heddled tension looms. I saw that as things changed, both men and women might abandon this knowledge completely.

Slowly this abandonment has come to pass. The Awayu is the traditional carrying cloth of Andean women. As the Aymara enter modernity many of these traditional cloths are now being made of synthetic materials on machine looms. This combination of new material and process cuts us off from the past. The traditional Andean weavings are warp-faced and are strung up to the desired final length. If looked at from the side, one sees the shape as an Infinity symbol. They are never cut or sewn. The older weavings are thought to contain a bit of the Elder’s presence and energy, and are therefore sacred. Within the traditional weaving of the Aymara, originating millennia ago, are held elements of color, composition, and structure that form a metaphysical complexity and language of great cultural meaning. This art form is now threatened with extinction.

Peru is a nation built on layers and layers of human habitation and pre-Colombian cultures dating back through time. Now, more than five hundred years after the Spanish conquest, the nation is just beginning to accept its indigenous identity and rich past. As with most indigenous peoples worldwide, life for these peoples in modern Peru hasn’t been equal or fair.

This interplay between ancient and modern society is something very necessary today. Though both societies find each other sharing a shrinking Planet, there is room for all.

Indigenous people combine form and function. Woven and knitted pieces, are simultaneously used to acknowledge and celebrate our ceremonial place in the Universe, while also providing everyday uses such as, clothing, backpacks, lower back support, plates, weaponry, boats and roofs. Spiritual significance is not separated from functional object. This unity of ideas over time have found expression in my people’s weaving tradition.

The Aymara traditionally use the term “Qara” to denote one outside of their culture.This word literally means “Naked” or “wears no identity”. Taken further, it implies that Western clothing originally struck the Aymara as lacking a ”transmission of ideas”.   To us these conceptual signifiers of color and design transmit our ideas as the highest expression of Humankind’s place in the Cosmos. Since the traditional weaving of Peru is and has truly been a vehicle for transmission of ideas I feel that it rises above the merely functional “craft” definition, existing rather as an expressive and communicative art form. Only in broadening and changing the way the West shapes its definitions can we hope to preserve our ancient spiritual and creative heritage to share with future generations.”

Beautiful examples of the transformation of trash from the Peruvian landscape into art by Aymar Ccopacatty.

As an experimental textile artist, Aymar has used interesting methods and materials to weave his pieces. With an emphasis on found materials, you will see that he has recycled both the “fiber” and the loom from found material of the most humble and simple variety.

While “found” objects and material are now often used in the making of art, Aymar’s work invests an intention in his pieces that draws on his heritage and calls upon us to view them in that context.  They are both thoroughly “new” and “old” at the same time.

Aymar Ccopacatty

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The catalogue better than the exhibition -? by Olga Norris

Eva_Hesse_Studiowork_FlyerI’m really cheating here, because I have neither seen the exhibition in question, nor finished reading the catalogue.   I did plan to see the show, had read the reviews: here, here, here, and here, but did not manage to get up to Edinburgh.  My consolation was the catalogue brought back by my husband who did see the exhibition.  I expected to flick through, disconsolate at having missed it; but no – this document more than makes up for missing seeing the display itself.

It’s always a question with Hesse’s work anyway – is this what she saw when she made it?  The materials have discoloured and altered in other ways over the intervening years.  And in any case, having read the first three chapters of the catalogue I realise that Briony Fer’s text makes us think so compellingly about the studio context of these pieces rather than the crisp empty vacuum of a white cube gallery.

This book is brilliant (so far): discussing not only Hesse, but the artists around her, and looking not directly at the major pieces of art and their meaning.  Rather she concentrates on how the art comes about – what accidents lead to pieces and their presentation – how, for instance the way that Sol LeWitt displayed in a glass case find little pieces gifted to him by Hesse inspired her deliberately to group works that way. 

The studio is all important, acting as context, sketchbook, inspiration, and critic, and so much more.  Fer’s examination of Hesse’s studio ‘arrangements’ on grid tables, her own work next to all sorts of other work and ephemera reveals so much more of the artist’s thinking than just looking at the individual pieces themselves.  And by the way shows that curiosity about other artists’ studios and their contents is a valid study and not just Interiors nosiness!

This book is making me think hard, and I am enjoying what is presented and where it inspires me to explore.  I see now why I so loved the extraordinary ephemera that I found and photographed when I visited Henry Moore’s studios (he had several sheds etc. around his grounds) in the early 1980s.

Henry Moore 5 Henry Moore 8

Henry Moore 9

True, I would have loved to see the work itself too, but this document by Briony Fer is providing me with the most enjoyable mental meal I’ve had for some time.

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