Saturday, November 12, 2011

Feature on Erin Cork, Collaboration Partner

This is the 3rd in a series of posts on the people I worked with for the exhibit Collaboration:  Reaping and Sewing.  I met Erin Cork in 2006 when she was in grad school.  She came to my home studio to learn about my natural methods of coloring cloth.   Her graduate professor, Laura Strand, head of textiles at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville had asked if I’d be willing to share my organic printing methods with Erin.  (Laura is also one of my collaboration partners who I’ll be writing about in a future post.)  Erin and I quickly bonded and worked together for 2 summers    experimenting with composted and solar dyed fabrics with natural materials.   I was just starting my transition to rusting then and so we both experimented with that process too.  Although it wasn’t a formal arrangement I certainly considered Erin my student and I have treasured the friendship she has offered in return.

Erin recycled bed sheets for this early composting experiment.  The larger piece used walnuts hulls, banana peels, turmeric spice.  Fabric was then covered with plastic and sealed up for several weeks, then picked up and cured for a time before laundering.  
A number of bundles were solar dyed on the roof of my house.  We attempted to document what we were doing.  I don't know about Erin, but I know I wasn't very successful in keeping numbers and notes with the fabrics after they were washed.    This is one of Erin's bundles before it was sealed up in aluminum foil and ziplock for the process.
Erin created some wearables with the composted fabric she did at my house.  This skirt was exhibited at Main Street Gallery in Edwardsville.  If you look closely, you can see the yellow flowers of the bedsheet.
Erin’s work with tongue in cheek crochet installations of domesticated doilies and felt for her thesis exhibition and a 2009 Innovations in Textiles show at Fontbonne University greatly impressed me--and they are a hoot to boot.  You can see images of her thesis show on her website.  When I began formulating my plan to become involved with Innovations 2011, the idea of a teacher student collaboration seemed perfect.  

Erin Cork 2011, Collaboration with Erin Vigneau Dimick
Erin was my first recruit.  Then I learned she was moving to Virginia and getting married!  Suffice it to say, this year has been a busy one for her.  Starting a new teaching job; commuting home occasionally for wedding planning; making her own wedding dress which was embellished with hand crocheted and beaded elements; AND working on three complex pieces involving felt for the collaboration in addition to squeezing in meetings with our group—sometimes in person, sometimes on SKYPE—would be enough to send anyone over the edge.  But Erin handled it all with aplomb.   And she was a radiant bride!

The first piece Erin started for the collaboration involved this weaving by Laura Strand into which she integrated both needle and wet felted elements.  A detail is below.  Look closely at the wall tag and you'll notice a little red dot indicating a sale.  The buyer was none other than Marci Rae McDade!  Marci is former editor of the now defunct FiberArts Magazine, but as of January 2012 will be the new editor at Surface Design Journal.  I'll tell you about Marci's visit to our exhibit in a future post.

Erin created a third piece for the show, but my own photograph of the piece does not do it justice.  I promise you'll see all the work eventually.

To complete this post I contacted Erin who was kind enough to answer some questions about her art.

What possession do you most cherish?
There is something that William Morris said that I try to live by in regards to my possessions - "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." The usefulness of objects to me is not only that it is something functional, but also is it an object that holds some kind of memory as well. An object's usefulness could be as a memory trigger. Many of my possession are cherished because they belonged to someone else before me. In particular, I have many things that belong to my grandmother, in many ways I think of these objects as a way to stay connected to the original owner. I think one of my most recent acquisitions is probably my most cherished possession, my wedding ring. Not only does it function as a symbol of my marital relationship, it also was my great grandmother's wedding ring.
Erin Cork 2011, Detail of collaboration with Laura Strand
What is the source of your creativity? How much is from within? How much comes from outside sources?

I derive a great deal of inspiration from everyday events. Domestic life and the natural world spur my ideas. The way that I manipulate real occurrences comes from within. Combining two things (nature and domestic culture) that aren’t integrated in reality is where my internal creativity comes into play. I use creative thinking exercises to exhaust all possible options for a piece. Then I have a long list of ideas to choose from.

Thanks Erin!  

Look for upcoming posts about Erin Vigneau Dimick and Laura Strand.  The posts featuring Nina Ganci and Jo Stealey can be found here and here.

Eventually, the entire collaboration show will be documented, but that takes time, so I hope you'll be patient.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fabric for a dress part 3--working in the dark

By the light of my headlamp (with a swarm of teeny gnats accompanying me wherever I went) I finished wrapping this piece--6 feet of pipe, 4 yards of dupioni, 10 layers, and 62 yards of hemp string, no bugs swallowed--in about 2 and half hours. 
String removed, but still on the pipe this morning.  Looks dramatic, but you'll see the final color is much more subdued.  Big diff between wet and dry.

I took some pics before washing, but there was no appreciable color shift with this piece.  Results below.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fabric for a dress part 2--results

This is the result of rusting the stitched and gathered silk you saw in the previous post.  The fabric is 4 yards so I didn't manage to fit the entire piece in the picture.  Part of it is on the floor.

I tried a suggestion from friend James Dennison to use castile soap to wash the silk.  I do not detect any color shift in this piece although some scarves I washed tonight were not so lucky.   Not that the results are bad, just was hoping there would be no color change.

I used Dr. Bonner's (with hemp, unscented).  Am looking for some other brands to try.  Suggestions welcome. 

Here is a detail of this very large piece of dupioni silk.  The stitching distorted the chevron patterns that usually occur in my shibori rust pieces.  The tea created very black marks.  I did draw with tea dust, but those areas were not as distinct as I'd hoped either.

Another detail below.  There were leaves all over this piece inside the folds and on the outside against the pipe and almost none of them printed or left a distinct mark--just general white resist shapes.   Of course they are distorted too because of the gathered pleats throughout the cloth.  I can't quite imagine a dress out of this--will have to play with it a bit. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fabric for a dress part 2

Another 4 yards of silk fabric is being prepped.   Had a different light shining on this so the color looks warm compared to the shots below.
Took me days instead of hours to stitch spirals and snakes all over this dupioni.  Took a while to gather everything up too and press.  I'm slow.  What can I say.

The fabric has been considerably reduced in width and length in the process and is now folded and soaking in vinegar.  Tomorrow (hopefully) I'll put it out to rust.  Haven't decided yet what I'll use.  Maybe berries, may not.  I work spontaneously once I'm outside.  Will let you know when I know.
Detail of a spiral gathered up and pressed flat.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fabric for a dress

Tried another large experiment on dupioni with elderberries and shibori rust (I did a 15 foot long piece last summer--click on the Farm Girl Landscape page to see it).   This 4 yard length of fabric is destined to become a dress...or not.  Depends.  Sassafras leaves were used for the resist.  To my surprise, they preserved the magenta color that initially came from the berries.  The fabric is in my tin box to cure and has not yet been rinsed or washed. 

On the pipe, but ready to come off. 

Off the pipe, wet and not unfolded yet.

Sassafras leaves preserved the elderberry magenta color.

The rest of the elderberry color oxidized to blue.

Wet, unfolded completely, resting in the shade.

Wet and hanging on the clothesline--sun is behind the piece.

Fabric is dry now.  Detail
Detail of string marks and chevron pattern (dry).

Close detail of leaf resist and tea marks (dry).

On the pin wall and floor of my studio (dry).

Detail of dry piece.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

YIKES!! A Fire near Jacoby Arts Center

This is the back of Jacoby from across the lot at Kentucky Fried Chicken
October 1 was the Innovations Bus Tour for outlying galleries.  The bus arrived on schedule at 3:10 pm but could get no closer than 1/2 block away due to a fire at the end of a block long building that is across the alley from Jacoby Arts Center on Broadway in Alton.  Broadway was blocked off at Henry Street.

Police prevented our visitors from unloading and walking down to the gallery despite many spectators in the area.  I was so disappointed.

The fire started about 12:30 pm and by 6 pm several trucks from four fire departments were there battling from Broadway and the large parking lot at the back.

I'm standing in front of Jacoby looking down Broadway around 3 pm
Taken from behind Jacoby around 6 pm.

Firemen had temporarily stopped blasting with hoses and flames erupted at 6 pm.

Broadway looking towards Henry with the hoses snaking around.
On Broadway across the street from Jacoby.  Fire is in end of this building.

An alley separates Jacoby from the block where the fire is.

Two businesses and some apartments were destroyed at the far end of the building which was mentioned as being "historic".  It has a "modern" exterior however and fortunately the fire is at the far end away from Jacoby.  Here's hoping it doesn't spread any closer.  It looks like one big long building with several businesses on the ground level.   The people who lived there and the businesses lost everything.  Too sad.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Lucky me

A week or so ago I was in Alton to meet some people at the Jacoby gallery.  Did some antiquing afterwards and came across this tin box.  Could not believe my luck or the price!  $27 bucks.  I plan to use it for curing fabric before washing.
I'm still trying to figure out where I read (years ago) that the Japanese use tin lined boxes for curing naturally dyed fabric (indigo?) up to 2 years.  My friend Kimberly Baxter Packwood suggested that with humidity, the tin would act as a mordant which I suspected.  I don't want anything to mildew while in storage, so hope to keep it dry--which is perhaps why it takes so long for the curing process.

I have allowed berry dyed fabric to cure 2 months or more before washing--no need to do that with walnut or rusting.  But TWO years is LONG time to wait.   So if using color I need to plan way ahead.  The interior is just as shiny as can be.  The outside is a lovely patina and the lid is red.  I forgot to photograph it closed.

Sunday night I wrapped up a few pieces to rust overnight so that I could reveal them to some visitors coming to the studio on Monday.  It was dark and sprinkling rain!  Had to borrow my neighbor's head lamp when I discovered mine is broken.  Being in a hurry to get out of the rain, I was working fast.  This long scarf was wrapped on my auger.  I piled on green tea and squirted liquid tannin before wrapping and here is the result.  Not washed or pressed yet and hoping to avoid any color shift in that delicate pinkish color.   Love the zebra stripes and wondering if I can come close to replicating this design in future.

If anyone has a source for information regarding curing fabric in tin boxes, I would appreciate your sharing it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ARTEAST event coming up

First time since 2002 that I haven't participated--just couldn't spare the time to make scarves when I had the collaboration show to deal with...but the upside is that this year I get to see everyone's work instead of being stuck in my own venue.  
Mark your calendars!! 

Saturday, October 15, 9 AM - 5 PM
Sunday, October 16, 11 AM - 5 PM 

ARTEAST was initiated in 1998 by a group of artists as a way to pool their resources and bring attention to the extraordinary artists in the Metro East area of St. Louis. Now in its 14th year, ARTEAST continues as an event designed to showcase the artists who live and work in Madison County, Illinois.

Artists from this region participate by opening their studios to the public or participating in exhibits. Over 120 artists working in a wide range of disciplines including collage, painting, ceramics, photography, printmaking, sculpture, glass and digital media show their work and demonstrate their craft.

Organized as a self-guided tour for patrons, ARTEAST provides an opportunity to get a glimpse into the workspace, inspiration and techniques of our resident artists, while exploring the neighborhoods, historic city centers and beautiful countryside.

The event is free and open to the public.

The poster (with map on the back) is available at Jacoby Arts Center and most venues.  You can also print out maps from the website at .

ARTEAST Small Works Exhibit opens at the Jacoby Arts Center Friday, October 7, 5-8 pm with a reception.  The show will be up through November 6.  Most participating ARTEAST artists will have a piece in this group show to provide a preview of the ARTEAST tour event mid-October. 

 Ron Vivod, Alone in the Dark, Photo Digital Artwork
Ron Vivod, my brother in law, participates in ARTEAST.  He will be at venue #24 on the map at 

Eden United Church of Christ   
903 N. Second Street
Edwardsville, IL  62025

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fiber Focus at Art Saint Louis--Great show!

Gallery view of Fiber Focus exhibit at Art Saint Louis
Friday, September 16, I attended the reception at Art Saint Louis for the Fiber Focus exhibit juried by Lia Cook.  This exhibit is part of Innovations 2011 and will be up through October 13.  So proud to be in the show.  Robin Hirsch of ASL took this photo which includes my big piece, Garden Kingdom, on the left.  On the floor is the Best of Show piece and for the life of me I can't remember the artist.  Will post that as soon as I do a little research.  It is made of dirt sifted through a lace tablecloth and is most impressive.  The show has been up a while and apparently someone must of stepped on a corner and scuffed up the dust.  Still beautiful.  You can read more about the exhibit here and find the participating artists.   Found the info:

Trudy Rogers-Denham, Columbia, MO  Best of Show Award sponsored by Missouri Fiber Artists

Friday, September 2, 2011

Feature on Nina Ganci--Collaboration partner

Interior long view of SKIF International in St. Louis
I took this shot about half way up the steps at one end of SKIF International, Nina Ganci's fashion factory and wholesale shop on "The Hill" in St. Louis.  Nina founded SKIF in 1994 after she returned from a year long odyssey in Milan and Paris.  Her European adventure afforded her the opportunity to work four months (unpaid!) in the atelier of Martin Margiela, an independent designer in Paris following a stint in Milan working for a man who installed fire sprinkler systems.  An odd combination of experiences to be sure, but they left an indelible impression on Nina.  Nina told me a story about hand stitching the cuffs on the jacket below for the designer in Paris.

Hand labor experience in the atelier

I first encountered Nina in my classroom at Notre Dame High School where I taught art for nearly two decades.  She and I talked recently about her high school years.  Both of us are fuzzy on details.  (Give me a break--it was the 80s!)  I remember asking about her "portfolio" (during her senior year) only to hear that she'd made a bonfire in the backyard over the summer and burned most if not all of the art she'd made to date.  I was shocked by the declaration but also in awe of her confidence.  She knew then what was of value and what needed purging and she is the same today.  I'm touched, however, that she still has the art award I presented to her, an odd bar of glass she coveted from my desk.  And one look around the riot of color and design, found objects, racks of colorful fashion, murals on wall and floor and still lifes everywhere convinces me that something else of the Notre Dame Art department rubbed off on Nina too.

One of many still lifes scattered around SKIF
After high school Nina studied at Webster University for a year, then attended FIT in New York on an off for three years.  She was initially interested in interior design but switched to fashion with the aim of becoming a designer.  She's worked hard to make that a reality. Recently she showed me some of her old sketches, made around the time the "gig in Paris" was coming to an end.  I was absolutely enchanted.

The dame (top right) with the hairy legs is a hoot!  I am taken with the shoes too.  I think these designs are as fresh today as when they were drawn.  Simply timeless.

I asked Nina what she got out of her experiences across the pond.  I wondered where she'd gotten her business sense.  From the sprinkler businessman, she explained, came her understanding of handling money.  I should add that when she first arrived in Milan, Nina fearlessly talked her way into a job involving knitting machines (for which she had no previous experience) that lasted all of two days. She could sew however, having learned at an early age from family.  So she began sending out resumes.   The Paris designer she described as "anti-marketing".  He was mysterious, never gave interviews.  But she credits her clothing design skills to those four months with Margiela where she came to appreciate the artisanal, handmade things and especially the raw edges that Margiela favored as seen below.  Perhaps the greatest lesson was how NOT to treat employees.   In Paris she was hired to "basically sew--by hand and machine, leather and recycled costumes.  No pay, no thanks, minimalist grunge".  

Martin Margiela fashions

Nina returned to St. Louis in 1993 with big ideas.  On a visit to the Gypsy Caravan, a huge open air flea market held yearly in St. Louis, she stumbled across and bought huge cones of mop yarn made in the USA.  (I asked, and yes, it is yarn for making mops!)  She acquired a knitting machine and video instructions and practiced for a couple of weeks.  (Remember those 2 days in Milan!)  She began turning out sweaters which friends snapped up.  Word began to spread.  A high school chum of Nina's modeled the sweaters for her in this album.

Early sweaters by Nina, modeled by Trina (Boyer) Barchi
Nina's vision was to start a huge company, create good jobs in St. Louis and to produce radically different clothing.  She opened a studio on Washington Avenue downtown and acquired 2 more knitting machines (for different weights of yarn) but for awhile she worked solo.  It soon became clear that to grow the business she would need representation in other cities.  She found reps in Chicago, New England and San Francisco and did a trade show in New York.  In 1996 she introduced a line of pants and shirts.  She had to have something to wear--she doesn't wear sweaters!

NY runway show, courtesy SKIF website
Today Nina has five in house employees at the headquarters on Marconi Street and subcontracts with 20 others who work out of their homes with their own knitting or sewing machines.  SKIF fashions are sold in over 125 boutiques around the USA and in Canada.  In 2009 Nina was given the St. Louis Business Journal's "Most Influential Business Woman" Award.  You can read about it here.

Gorgeaous blues on the rack--spring 2011
Ever changing displays keep the factory boutique fresh.  And unlike most designers, Nina holds no secrets--her factory/workshop/design center is also a showroom for the latest fashions and they are available for purchase at wholesale prices to anyone who comes in off the street.  She provides dressing rooms and a fabulous mirror/still life arrangement for your viewing pleasure.  When you visit you'll often hear the clatter of the knitting machines that are located on the second floor balcony that completely surrounds the main floor.

SKIF International office/shipping area
The nerve center of SKIF is this area just steps away from the racks of fashion.   Inventory and shipping are done here, orders taken and business conducted.  In house employees are masters of many jobs and do whatever needs doing on a daily basis.  But they will stop to help customers whenever the need arises. 

Sweaters drying--fresh from a very yellow dyepot


When I first approached Nina regarding the collaboration show, I naturally assumed that her contribution would encompass the tools of her trade.  But yarn was not on her mind.  Over the years she has surrounded herself with all sorts of found objects in the factory that are artfully arranged in the shop for all to enjoy.  Found things have also become design staples.  The block print used on the seersucker fabric I selected at the swap meet came from a sheet of carved plywood abandoned next to a dumpster.  Nina has been using it ever since to print fabric and sweaters.  You can find examples on her blog. 

As luck would have it, one of the items Jo Stealey brought from her studio for the collaboration swap meet were a set of vintage porcelain casters that Nina grabbed the first chance she had.  They were incorporated along with some paper bowls made by Jo into a mobile structure she appropriated from an artist friend and made her own.

Photo of opening by Andrew Dobson of Jacoby
At the opening last Friday, Nina (center), Melissa Cunningham (right) and Barb Farar are having a good time discussing one of Nina's mobiles.

Nina took fabric from me that she whipped into a great dress.  She also stitched shibori rusted silk onto stool cushions that are in the gallery to scoot around on.  She constructed another very large mobile and a felt and paper cone piece that hangs on the wall.  Pictures of those things will be included in a post about the show in general.

Nina's confidence, shrewd business sense, vision and creativity have ensured her success even through this damaged economy.   I've enjoyed getting reacquainted with her through this collaboration process and I can't thank her enough for her generosity in allowing SKIF to become the meeting place for the collaboration group--even supplying the computer on which we Skyped Erin Cork when she was in Virginia. 

Thank you Nina, best wishes for you and for SKIF!
Check out the SKIF website and Nina's blog.
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