Last week, the Society hosted an amazing program, a round-table discussion with five folks working in the field of fiber. It was an honor to have: Angela Drakeford, Stephen Hamilton (Fiber artist, educator), Beth McLaughlin (Chief Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at Fuller Craft Museum), Maria Molteni (Nashville-to-Boston-based multimedia & performing artist, educator & organizer), and Anastatia Spicer. When we design our programming, we think of ways to engage artists and the audience in a meaningful way. As the moderator, my goal was to lead us in conversation and bring up points for us to discuss while at the same time giving the speakers space to share their own stories.
Anastatia, a student at Hampshire College, spoke first and shared how she always knew she would go into fiber, which is interesting because her work addresses memory and emotion. Throughout our discussion, she mentioned her concern with fiber as commodity. I'm looking forward to watching her grow as an artist and hearing her articulate her big ideas.
Angela Drakeford took the mic next, and as a teacher with her own strong practice, she talked about the push and pull of revelation and withholding, especially since her personal work is so much about the meaning she puts into each piece. I was drawn to how she places barriers between her work and her audience as a way of turning privilege on its head. She's brilliant.
From there, Stephen Hamilton took us on an adventure to southern Nigeria, where he learned adire and other fiber techniques of the Yoruba Diaspora. To him, learning from West African people meant reclaiming an art that is lost to a lot of Americans of African heritage. I was particularly interested in his discussion of indigo and how the crop's production by enslaved people in the American South was a form of intellectual property theft. Stephen is currently working on a comic book with characters modeled after his students on pages drawn on dyed fabric.
Maria Molteni also asks us to be aware of fiber's role geographically. She spoke about a recent project, Second Hands, as part of the Community Arts Initiative at the Museum of Fine Arts. In this project, and others, her goal is to empower youngsters to see themselves as artists, and to recognize the work they do as sophisticated and valid works of art.
Beth McLaughlin of the Fuller Craft Museum wrapped up the roundtable by sharing her perspective as a curator. She discussed three upcoming exhibitions: Threads of Resistance; Revolution in the Making; and Bend: Women in Wood, Men at the Loom. Smartly, she began by defining the Fuller as a craft museum, not a social activism museum or an art museum, but stated that for the Fuller not to recognize the power of craft in activism (particularly in light of the hugely successful Pussy Hat Project) would leave a gap in understanding fiber in the early 21st century. Conversely, to recognize the Project in the Museum further legitimizes the experiences of women who marched on Washington.
Throughout the evening, we also had great conversation about identity, including artist versus craftsperson; trends in repairing and mending; and continuity of tradition. Join us for other events like this and add your voice to the craft conversation.
Special thanks to the folks who made this roundtable happen: the speakers, Lois Russell and Adrienne Sloane, Anne Lee and Ashley Rooney, and my colleagues at the Society of Arts and Crafts. As a non-profit, we are committed to supporting craftspeople and educating the public about the power of craft. Your financial contributions help us make this program, and so many others, possible.