Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shonquis Moreno: Luxe Silk Scarf Artistry

Brooklyn-based Shonquis Moreno may be new to making but she’s not new to thinking about making. I met Shonquis several years ago at Dwell magazine where she was an editor, contributing a lively range of design articles to our editorial mix. During her career she has been a keen observer of textiles, architecture, interiors, furniture, window display, scenography, fashion, and graphic design, as well as ‘design-art’. She currently writes on a freelance basis for publications such at T, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Wallpaper, Metropolis, and American Craft, among others.

No one can accuse Shonquis of being idle. Speaking with her it occurs to me how much can be done if we are always doing. “I’m one of those people who doesn’t know my own mind until it takes some form outside myself; I think by writing, for instance,” she says. “I find the world through the words, instead of the other way around. And I think, for me, it’s the same with making things.”

Over the past few years Shonquis has turned her attention to learning how to make objects, focusing on surface pattern, texture, and color as she continues to work as a freelance journalist. She hopes to produce her patterns in multiple forms, from upholstery fabric, wall coverings, and tiles to carpets and handbags. Lucky us! 

Scarves are her first series of textile patterns, derived from the pixels and facets patterns of her own personal photographs. The result is a collection with a beautifully uneven scale and bold, lush color. She explains,  “I took some personal photographs that were records of some difficult moments in my life—a turning point that I hadn’t understood was a turning point at the time it was happening—and I turned them each into something good.” 

Her decision to use unhappy memories as raw materials was truly transformative. “I skewed them to an extreme, in any way I could think of, until the memories they had come from were blunted by having been turned into a source of beauty, and looking at them became a joy to me,” she says. 

Shonquis draws inspiration from visionaries such as Milan Kundera and Girard Richter, exploring how much our identity depends on perceptions and memory (not objective facts). In this sense, blurring helps us to see ourselves. She also directed me to a Ted Talk video featuring behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman who posits that our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness radically differently. 

For me these scarves have it all: beauty and brains! Shonquis’s take on the pixels and facets patterns are eye-catching and the range of color within the scarves makes them versatile for any wardrobe. I have the “Winter Scarf”, and depending on how I tie it, I can show as much of the color and pattern as I want. As I look at her collection of scarves I can’t stop thinking about tough memories being recasted into gorgeous objects. Transformation never looked so good!
The silk neck scarves—Chelsea, Fabrika & Derelict—tied up shows the play of color artistry.

You can purchase the scarves at
New York City:
West Village: 
Fair Folks and a Goat  

GGrippo Art & Design

Spring Design & Design 
Art gallery  

Institute of Contemporary Art Boston

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture & Art

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Interview with Kathryn Clark

Before becoming a full-time artist in 2005, Kathryn Clark worked as an architectural and urban designer for many years. So it’s not surprising that she held on to her urban planning roots when she transitioned to the art world. Today her art focuses on global land use issues such as the US housing crisis and industrial agriculture, using utilitarian objects such as dishes and quilts to construct her message.

Kathryn’s “Foreclosure Quilts” are simply brilliant. When the housing bubble burst, she was alarmed by the overwhelming number of foreclosures and began to research hard data on the subject. She made the decision to express her findings through—ironically enough—a series of handmade quilts. “It was important to me to present the whole story in a way that would captivate people’s attention and make a memorable statement,” Kathryn says.

In their most basic sense, quilts help generate warmth on a cold winter’s night. Quilts also tell stories reflecting the lives of the people who create them. These eclectic objects use color, texture, and pattern to express political views, remember loved ones, and celebrate life’s milestones. Throughout history, quilters (a majority of them woman) have used familiar materials such as scraps of clothing to record the cultural history of a particular place and time. Kathryn poetically leverages this quilting heritage in “Foreclosure Quilts.”

The patterns are based on RealtyTrac neighborhood maps Kathryn used during her research. The lot locations are completely random, providing an improvisational quality to the overall design. Foreclosed lots are shown as holes in the quilts. These holes question the protective nature of the quilt —in fact, there are so many foreclosures that the top layers are quite literally dwindling away. Kathyrn states on her site: “The situation is so dire that even a quilt can’t provide the security one needs. The neighborhoods shown are not an anomaly; they are a recurring pattern seen from coast to coast, urban to suburban neighborhoods across the US. The problem has not been solved, it is still occurring, just changing shape, affecting more of us.”

Without further ado, here’s my interview with the imaginative and perceptive Kathyrn Clark.

Job description: A fine artist who uses craft in her work. I coined the term ‘articraft’ to describe people who do similar work.

Why do you do what you do? Both of my parents were artists as well as one of my grandparents. I was surrounded by it so it was a natural choice. Standing in my aunt’s art gallery in Atlanta when I was thirteen was when it clicked for me though. I’m generally a very quiet person but I can be very passionate about certain subjects and making art allows me to express it. My current and future series revolves around themes of crisis. I want to tell as many people as I can about some serious issues that I feel are being overlooked in the media.

How do you break through a creative block? Several different ways. I like to visit SFMOMA for inspiration. And sometimes just puttering around in the studio cleaning works. I can see my work more objectively then for some reason.

Education: My parents were both artists (my dad is also an architect) so I grew up having conversations with them about art and architecture. Going to college never really came up in conversations at home. It was only after I met my husband that he stressed the importance of it (we were very young!). At that point I couldn’t decide between art and architecture. I ended up studying painting and drawing at the University of Alabama before switching to Interior Architecture at San Jose State in California. But I always felt that college didn’t push the students enough. I often gave myself extra challenges in school which I think drove the other students crazy. So in some ways I’m largely self-educated. I believe you can learn anything with dedicated study and practice.

Mentors: I’ve learned so many different things from so many people. My bosses in architecture and urban planning, Steve MacCracken and Peter Calthorpe were enormously influential. My friend Neile Royston, a RISD grad, is the one who introduced me to fiber. After featuring Myrna Tater on my blog last year, we’ve become a great support for each other. She reminds me to loosen up and push the envelope with my work. And don’t get me started about the online art community! It has been a wonderful way to meet other artists. We mentor each other constantly.

World-saving mission: That’s a heady question! I wish there was a way I could remind people to be more honest and respectful of each other and our world. There’s so much nastiness in politics and around us every day. No one wants to be held accountable or admit to making mistakes. It’s really frustrating!

Office chair: I own a lot of chairs! Right now, I’m using a knock-off Aeron task chair on wheels that is always trying to roll away from my desk since my floor is sloped.

Office Soundtrack: iTunes podcasts, NPR, jazz from the bebop period and classical.

Most useful tool: There are so many I can’t live without but my sewing needle probably wins.

Favorite space: My vegetable garden in Sonoma.

Favorite design object: A Dyson vacuum cleaner. My work generates a lot of fiber dust so it’s made a huge difference in the air quality in my studio.

Guilty Pleasure: Design magazines and Kinokuniya Japanese bookstore. Kinokuniya has the complete line of Jeu de Paume design books. I have a complete weakness for those.

Underrated: Libraries. I’m fortunate to live two blocks from a small branch of the San Francisco library. I can request almost any book I want, download audiobooks, flip through their magazines and get a great idea of what other people are reading.

Overrated: Mass production. I’m so fed up with the rapid decline of quality made goods. It annoys me that the majority of the population doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.

What did you learn the hard way? How to focus my time in the studio. This is probably the hardest lesson to learn as an artist and it’s a constant challenge. The studio can be very isolating and there are so many distractions in today’s world thanks to technology. Banning the computer in my studio helped a lot as well as recognizing my work rhythms. I’m most productive in the morning. As soon as I drop my daughter off at school, I head straight for the studio.

Has your work ever got you into trouble? Ha! Great question! Surprisingly, not yet!

If you could cross over into other profession… what would you do? I would become a gardener or a geologist.

Dream project: To create a large installation of one of my series, either the foreclosure quilts or a new series I’m working on around global farming.

Where’s home? San Francisco and Sonoma.

Detroit Foreclosure Quilt
Detroit Foreclosure Quilt Detail
Albuquerque Foreclosure Quilt
Albuquerque Foreclosure Quilt Detail
Cleveland Foreclosure Quilt
Cape Coral Foreclosure Quilt

In addition to her art, Kathyrn maintains a thriving blog showcasing her most recent work as well as featuring other inspiring artists and craftspeople. 


Friday, November 2, 2012

Jooney Woodward

Harriet and Gentleman Jack

Photographer Jooney Woodward created this portrait of 13-year-old Harriet Power in the guinea pig appraisal area of the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Wales — the largest agricultural show in Europe

“I found her image immediately striking with her long, red hair and white stewarding coat,” Woodward says. “She is holding her own guinea pig called Gentleman Jack, named after the Jack Daniel’s whiskey box in which he was given to her. Using natural light from a skylight above, I took just three frames and this image was the first.” 

The photographer used a Mamiya RZ medium format camera. “I don’t mess around with Photoshop so what you see is what you get,” she explains. “Enhanced images can portray a false sense of reality, whereas my work celebrates the people and places as they appear every day.”

I’m not alone in being captivated by Woodward’s photography. Harriet and Gentleman Jack has been fortunate to be included in The Art of Photography Show 2012 at the San Diego Art Institute and was the 2011 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize winner at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

I am drawn to this series in particular because of my love of animals, including my Welsh Terrier, Stig. Harriet’s crimson locks and her guinea pig’s coppery fur remind me of Stig’s reddish wire-hair coat. Further, I often find myself fantasizing about Wales and wondering about Stig’s roots. Jooney’s images open a contemporary window into a centuries-old agricultural landscape. The photographs are compassionately and graphically composed, making them highly gratifying and memorable for me. 

Below are additional photographs from the series at the Royal Welsh Show.

Cynan and Gwion
In the Fur and Feather Pavilion
Welsh and Any Other Modern Breed of Pigs

Monday, October 29, 2012

Amber Cowan: Recycling “Colony Harvest” Tableware

Whole Milk Wash Basin in Colony Harvest2012
Mirror in Colony Harvest / 2012
The sublimely talented Amber Cowan is a sculptor working primarily with glass. She received both her MFA in Glass/Ceramics from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and her BFA in 3-Dimensional Design with a concentration in Glass from Salisbury University. 

Not content to follow a traditional path, today she is perfecting an original process involving flameworking, blowing, and hot-sculpting recycled, up-cycled, found and second-life glass. Her materials are typically American pressed glass from the 1940s–1980s, giving her work a vibrant sense of history with references to mid-century craftsmanship.

I’m particularly drawn to one of her recent pieces — Whole Milk Wash Basin in Colony Harvest. She created the piece by using found glass from the Lancaster Colony Corporation, a thriving American pressed glass manufacturer which operated from 1907–2002.

The Colony Harvest pattern was a quite popular line of opaque milk glass tableware produced from the 1950s–1980s. Back in the day, postwar consumers would acquire the tableware through S&H Green Stamps, a rewards and return system. Today thrift stores are inundated with the pattern, as preceding generations are replacing it with today’s modern wares.

“I reconstruct this glass and alter its original state while keeping intact the original vintage feeling,” Amber explains. “I wish to reference the history of the pressed glass industry and bring into focus the feeling of its past glory and forlorn future.”

The peaceful milky-white glass reincarnated into a complex composition definitely gives the Colony Harvest pattern new life.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Interview with Martha Davis

Marilyn Monroe once said, “Give the girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world”. Every time I marvel over Martha Davis’s shoes, that quote comes instinctively to mind. Each pair is smartly designed, well crafted, comfortable and very sexy.

Trained as a product designer at Smart Design, Razorfish, and her own company Able Design before segueing into the fashion world in the fall of 2009, she leverages her industrial design expertise by fusing hard-core functionality with unique sculptural possibilities to create some very impressive shoes.

“I think of shoes as little products or architecture for the feet—both share similar purpose of protection, organization, and personality,” says the designer. An expert at looking for solutions within a problem, she never loses sight of ways to keep the foot secure and the wearer confident, while at the same time innovating with form and experimenting with structure and materials.

“I look at where the foot needs to be supported and where it doesn’t—then how the materials and shapes can be arranged in an interesting way. I like a bit of tension—something unexpected—whether it’s in the proportions, compositions, or materials,” Davis says.

This past winter, Martha was a resident at the newly formed The Workshop Residence in San Francisco. This exciting collective engages makers of all kinds: emerging and established, traditional and unexpected, and invites them to collaborate with the Bay Area’s vibrant artistic and craft communities. During her residency there, she blended industry and craftsmanship to design three distinctive shoes. While all of the shoes use the same vegetable-tanned leather and have similarities in the shape and construction of the shoe, the key point of innovation is the design of the heel.

“Kasha” features a heel with colored resin and utilizes the outer part of a redwood tree trunk known as the “jacket”. This part of the tree is considered waste product by sawmills, but Martha envisioned this beautiful and striking substance as a way to give the shoes a truly bespoke feeling.


For “Simone”, raw materials are carefully selected from the undulating folds of Black Acacia wood harvested in the San Francisco Bay.


Finally, “Sugi” has an adjustable heel made with repurposed Douglas Fir. Additionally she constructs the shoe with wood originally used as brakes for San Francisco’s iconic cable cars. Due to the wear and tear, the brakes on the cable cars are replaced every 72 hours. Martha resurfaced the brakes and cut the heels directly from them—the stunning result is a stylish oval that swivels on a pin to two heel heights.


Martha is joining forces with creative director Susanna Dulkinys to create Dulkinys Davis, a new fashion label made in the USA. The collection will consist of basics centered around leather, blending traditional and innovation to create modern shapes and exceptionally high-quality, handmade products. More on their collaboration in a future post.

With out further ado, here’s my Q&A with the alluring and magical Martha Davis.

Job description: a forever student—i hope!

Why do you do what you do? i am a terminal non-linear thinker

How do you break through a creative block? look at stuff

Education: cornell art/arch/planning school: 82-84
risd: bfa sculpture 86
are sutoria: footwear engineering certificate 07

Mentors: my dad & tucker viemeister

World-saving mission: help people appreciate making things and live more self sufficiently

Office chair: Eames

Office Soundtrack: Italian opera

Most useful tool: apple air book/ husquvarna sewing machine i got as a gift when i was 17

Favorite space: the giardiniin venice

Favorite design object: paperclip

Guilty Pleasure: naps

Underrated: plumbing

Overrated: facebook

What did you learn the hard way? to love

If you could cross over into other profession… what would you do? be an architect or a surgeon

Dream project: to start a factory that could employ all kinds of people and give local vitality

Where’s home? san francisco

Fall 2011

Friday, April 20, 2012

Q&A With Eva Hild

Photograph by Carl Bengtsson

When my eyes glide across Eva Hild’s astonishing ceramic sculptures, I feel a rush akin to being on a roller-coaster. The rise and fall of the paper-thin oversize forms, the swaying undulating waves that appear to be breathing— it’s a truly exhilarating experience. Needless to say, I enjoy the ride.

Hild’s work is hand-built and is made primarily from clay with a minimal color palette. “I try to relate my work to my life,” says the Swedish-born artist. “What is happening and how does it feel? Pressure. Slow. Strain. Ramification. Inside turn outside. As a starting point, I put words onto my feelings, and use the vessel form to translate this into three dimensions. The size of the form relates to my body. The thin walls are pulled and bent in different directions.”

Experience these poetically sinuous pieces yourself at Nancy Margolis Gallery in Manhattan. Here’s my Q&A with the enchanting and talented Eva Hild.

Job description: Shaping my life as a sculptor. Mostly and originally in clay but nowadays in any material that seems to be interesting, appropriate, possible and challenging. I work with the relation between inner and outer worlds, mind and matter, volumes and mass.

Why do you do what you do? I am interested in materials, shapes and the way objects could tell stories about life. I love to work with my hands and body. After a short period as a physiotherapist and ideas about being a physician, I throw myself happily (zestfully, with confidence) into the art-world. Clay was a good starter; non-exclusive and almost infinite possibilities. I tried everything during my first years at the art-university, but as time passed my aim was to really find my own path. I found a track in my inner landscapes, and I still follow.

How do you break through a creative block? My work is very time-consuming and I think I break any block by patience, endurance and hard work. On the other hand, this could also be the block; being stucked in the material, the extended time and the on-going process. I need periods of less dirty hands, and more intellectual work. I need to step back, reflect over and formulate my themes, get impressions from the outer world. My work is a flow, very much connected to my life. I am interested in this slow development. I try to be true and consistent, but also curious and struggle to reach new viewpoints.

Education: University of Design and Crafts in Gothenburg, Sweden. And by learning the hard way: mistakes always take you further...

Mentors: A lot of people in different positions and professions has been important in my artistic life. For example a supportive husband. 

World-saving mission: Try your best (but do not be too harsh on yourself…).

Studio chair: Wood and metal from the 50s, from my grandfathers studio (rural painter).

Studio Soundtrack: P1 (talking, educational radio channel).

Most useful tool: My metal kidney.

Favorite space: Except my studio: In the airy forest, where the trees are high as in a colonnade hall, and the ground is covered with moss.

Favorite design object: 
Citro├źn 2CV

Guilty Pleasure: 
Picking the best parts of the muesli...

Good and sustainable choices. Less is more.

Quick fixes.

What did you learn the hard way? How to transform one of my ceramic pieces into a bigger scale, in stainless steel…

Has your work ever got you into trouble? Things could go wrong (stainless steel sculptures can rust) and I could feel troubled, but most things finally get solved, one way or another. I really appreciate good co-workers and learning things. Experience gives confidence. Working with fragile materials in a 3-dimensional way always contains a risk; how to handle, ship and maintain? And at the same time: that is part of the content, expression and challenge.

If you could cross over into other profession… what would you do? I have already changed direction in my professional life; now I really look forward to explore and broaden the horizons in this area.

Dream project: An architectural big piece, performed in a supersustainable material with a team of professionals. To be able to experience the inner world in an outer world scale...This makes me think of another possible favorite space, where I have not been yet (on my wish-list): Cloud Gate of Anish Kapoor in Chicago Millennium Park.

Where’s home? Where I keep my collection of wool sweaters, rubber boots and parkas…

Protuberance, stoneware, 2011, 90 x 56 x 69 cm

Gotland Art Museum, 2001

Track, stoneware, 2010, 105 x 50 x 40 cm

Extension Loop 1079, stoneware, 2006, 90 x 70 x 65 cm

Expansion (Wall), stoneware, 2008, 135 x 90 x 53 cm

Aluminum Sculpture, aluminum, 2011, 115.1 x  85.1 x  85.1 cm.

Bilateral, Stoneware 2008, 100 x 55 x 55cm.

Prolongation, stoneware, 2009, 85 x 37 x 25 cm

Spine, stoneware, 2008-2009, 105 x 65 x 69 cm

Eva working in her studio in Sweden. 
Photography by Anna Sigge

Link to Eva’s site.