November 14, 2018

Adorning Boston and Beyond| Society of Arts & Crafts honors jewelry icons

Adorning Boston and Beyond| Society of Arts & Crafts honors jewelry icons & today’s innovators!

It’s wonderful when Boston’s leading institutions collaborate to create excitement around a theme.  That’s in fact what has happened with the series of related exhibits, talks, and events related to the history and present artistic achievements around jewelry design.

Address by Jennifer Rayburn Billings, Chair Board of Trustees & models wearing works at the Exhibition Opening November 8th.

Boston and environs have been a hub for jewelry design for some time.   Building on the MFA’s newest exhibit, Jewelry, The Body Transformed,  Heather White, curator and Mass Art Professor has created a stunning exhibit featuring  “pioneers of the art jewelry movement, prominent educators, and innovative artists who continue to change the way we think of jewelry and body adornment.”   Alongside this exhibit, enjoy ceramic works displays “Our Cups Runneth Over” through Feb 17, 2019.

October 28, 2018

Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in Contemporary Adornment at the Fuller Craft Museum

Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in Contemporary Adornment at the Fuller Craft Museum – Guest Post by Artist Harriete Estel Berman

Wearable art often shackles itself with the overly constraining condition to be easily wearable. This implicit limitation is tossed aside in an extraordinary exhibition at the Fuller Craft Museum titled “Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in Contemporary Adornment.” Curator Suzanne Ramljak selected a diverse group of work largely from the art jewelry field with a heightened emphasis on the “art”.  Every piece was obviously selected with great insight.

Throughout the exhibition, the intersection of adornment/jewelry/clothing stepped up to the challenge of raising thought-provoking, even inspiring topics, all while expressing sensitive aspects of beauty.

Bras are generally considered de-rigueur undergarments in western society, but they are no protection from the assault of breast cancer. This is where the bras of Mimi Smith examine wearability in a whole new way. The Protector Against Illness bra series includes Maximum Strength vitamins, Tamoxifen, and pink fabric ribbons.  Wearing this bra would be pointless, but displayed on the wall, it seduces us by its beauty, and is ultimately disquieting in revealing our vulnerability to cancer.

Can a person wear a 13-pound breastplate of gun triggers, gun bolts, gun barrels, and brass shells as a defense again gun violence? Bally reconstructs the components of guns while confronting our vulnerability to the random acts of gun violence in our society. What is wearable to protect us from bullets? Suits of armor were considered wearable battle until guns could pierce the steel. What will protect us?   Image to the left [ Brave 4: Breast Plate, 2013 Gun triggers, gun bolts, and gun barrels, brass shells, stainless cord, 925 silver 26” x 11 ½” x 2”]

The common shirt collar has morphed through the history of clothing from white lace, starched linen, to starched shirts. In “Uneasy Beauty” we get to examine our modern definitions of white collars and moneyed Corporate Collars, through to worn out collars as Momento Mori.  Daniel Joacz.Gigantic formal collars in plastic are ready to wear and promising to elevate the personage with a unique identity.

When Suzanne Ramljak invited me to be part of this exhibition, it was an invitation to push myself into new territory. Having made jewelry from recycled plastic trash for years, I wanted to expand dramatically to highlight the enormous problem of plastic waste accumulating in our rivers, oceans, and communities.  This was an opportunity to make a fashion accessory that might redefine expectations.  The overwhelming length and size of this boa is intended to stress the excesses of plastic waste as uncomfortable, restrictive, and strangling, the same way that marine fish and wild life are impaired by plastic waste.

Model wearing a 26-foot long boa necklace of recycled black plastic by Harriete Estel Berman.

Accessories are not always easy to wear, but they can heighten and enhance individual expression. By exploring or extending the meaning of wearable, this exhibition of adornment can present issues and underscore themes full of “Uneasy Beauty.” Don’t miss this show (through April 21)  at the Fuller Craft Museum. It will change your perceptions of wearable art forever.

Check out this post about “Uneasy Beauty” at the Fuller Craft Museum for more images and insight.
Uneasy Beauty – Original, Personal, and Provocative

Harriete Estel Berman uses post consumer, recycled materials to construct artwork ranging from jewelry, Judaica, sculptures and installations of social commentary. Her work is included in the permanent collections of 16 museums and  featured in over 38 books.  Berman is the author of the Professional Guidelines and ASK Harriete offering professional development advice and information to the arts and crafts community.

October 18, 2018

Discovering the Artistry in Fiber| An Author’s Journey By Anne Lee

Discovering the Artistry in Fiber| An Author’s Journey By Anne Lee

in today’s art world, traditional methods, processes, and materials are evolving in fascinating, dynamic, and sometimes challenging directions—and the resurgence of fiber art beautifully illustrates these trends. Fiber artists today explore a multitude of materials, natural and synthetic, traditional and unexpected. They combine different fiber techniques together in a single piece, push technical processes, and cross-pollinate mediums. They explore social, political, economic, and environmental issues. They are today’s storytellers.

Excited by these trends, Ashley Rooney and I suggested to Schiffer Publishing that we compile a book on contemporary fiber art; published in 2017, the resulting Artistry in Fiber series—Wall Art, Sculpture, and Wearable Art—showcases the amazing creative energy of over 300 fiber artists captured in 1,500 images and enlivened by their own words. It was thrilling to bring this project to fruition and equally gratifying to participate in the October 4th seARTS Wearable Art Panel to discuss how these artists are pushing the boundaries of this ever-evolving art.

Wearable Art explores the materials, methods, and messages in an art form created for, and enlivened by, the body. Artists frequently reclaim and recycle materials, creating beauty from waste:


Korean-born Yong Joo Kim focuses primarily on “unattractive and mundane” hook-and-loop Velcro to create sumptuous jewelry resembling pleated felt. Others expand the narrative use of natural materials, such as the plant stalks Sharon Kallis grows from seed to final knit piece over the course of three years. Some explore unexpected synthetics—strands of acrylic paint, artificial hair, plastic, fiberglass, tape, and in the case of Kathryn Stanko, strands of thin wire. And, they combine different fiber techniques together in a single piece, braiding, tacking, weaving, and knitting in seemingly endless variations: Rebecca Wendlandt’s exuberant surfaces are a delightful example.

Technically, wearable art soars with the artists’ imagination, experimentation, and expertise.  Both Polish-born Ania Gilmore and Argentine-Dutch Luis Acosta manipulate paper into jewelry, but with


strikingly different results: she molds mulberry fibers into malleable pieces that can be further manipulated by the wearer, while he stitches together repeated paper forms. Other artists cross-pollinate mediums, incorporating paint, metal, and all manner of found or repurposed objects. Myung Urso, for instance, often observes “how different elements play out in their own way, helping to define the destiny of each work.”

Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Aphrodite of the Sea

The artists’ messages are as diverse as they are themselves, influenced by anything from personal tragedy to political awakening. As one of the softer veins of art, the luscious and palpable nature of wearable art—such as in Ana Lisa Hedstrom’s Aphrodite of the Sea—attracts us by its beauty and expression. However, there is sometimes an undercurrent that can be uncomfortable: the piece is made from recycled plastic bottles, and Aphrodite is in fact crying tears of oil in her beleaguered ocean.

Susan Taber Avila’s Vascular Expression, meanwhile, is part of a

Susan Taber Avila, Vascular Expression

series focusing on women’s health issues and in particular cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of women. And, Tina Lazzarine’s collars demonstrate the complex identity of women as both oppressed and empowered, using contrasting hard and soft materials to express these dichotomies.

The creative possibilities in the area of wearable art are endless and bound only by what is personally beautiful and expressive. A wearer can find a means of individual expression unavailable in our mainstream world of mass production. More than pure adornment, the intimate interaction between wearer and art is both physical and emotional; the body literally breathes life and movement into a piece, while also adding meaning and context.

These are works of art akin to a painting or piece of sculpture, and as such should be treated the same way: collected and curated, purchased and preserved, studied and shown.

Published in 2017, the three volumes of Artistry in Fiber (Wall Art, Sculpture, and Wearable Art) are available at Schiffer Publishing (www.schifferbooks.com), Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other stores. THROUGHOUT THE MONTH OF OCTOBER, THE BOOK CAN BE PURCHASED IN GLOUCESTER AT THE CAPE ANN MUSEUM GIFT SHOP  Anne Lee can be contacted via email: AnJamLee [at] aol.com

PHOTOS ARE IN ORDER WITH THE TEXT.  [Scroll over photos to see artist information]

October 12, 2018

Back to the Future| Fiber, Future, & Fusion hits Fashion in Boston

Back to the Future| Fiber, Future, & Fusion hits Fashion in Boston| Observations from the seARTS Wearable Art Salon 2018 & Mass Fashion Symposium, by Jacqueline Ganim-DeFalco

For those of us hanging out in the fashion and wearable art space, it’s been a mashup of happenings along the north shore “Fashion Trail.”  It began with our seARTS Wearable Art Salon on Thursday evening at the Cape Ann Museum, followed closely the next day by the Mass Fashion Symposium at the MFA and then wrapping up with three days of visitors in my own studio for the Cape Ann Artisans fall tour.  Since I only have time to write one blog post, I will try to cover my impressions and observations broadly.

Left|Christine Kelly’s painted silk Mermaid Right|Eileen Mueller’s Garden Glow Background works on exhibit at the Cape Ann Museum

Our seARTS Salon 2018 showcased a powerhouse panel that addressed wearable art from the perspectives of the wearer, the maker, the curator, the writer, and the educator.  The Salon kicked off softly with each artist describing their own backgrounds and arrival at the wearable art doorstep and ended with a call to action to Museums and collectors to treat wearable art as works to be curated, showcased, and purchased in the same way we collect “fine art.”   Suzanne expressed that “wearables” were completely left out of her training as an Art Historian.  This was her “call to action” to catalogue jewelry collections including the contemporary collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  She describes jewelry as her “gateway” to the world of wearable art but see jewelry as performing many roles from “protecting” the wearer to making them feel confident and empowered.  Other perspectives included reshaping, contouring, and making other impacts on the body of the wearer and the viewer.  Christine Kelley describes the connection of the “maker” and “wearer” as “soul to soul.”

Another important theme for the weekend’s events- artists making wearable art use a diverse set of materials and methods – often pushing the envelope.  Certainly we have seen that at our Celebrate Wearable Art events and several key pieces were on exhibit at the event.   Donna Caselden’s piece made from pennies “Obselence”  an example of unusual materials.   Panelist, Barbara Broudo discussed her array of interests from pottery to weaving, to macramé to arrive at her current works.  Anne Lee spoke about the artists she met writing the book – in particular the male creators who had to pick up a needle for the first time to create the piece they wanted.

At the Mass Fashion Symposium, I was simply astonished by the textile Renaissance under way in Boston.  Tricia Wilson Nguyen from Thistle, Threads, and Fabric Works and Tosha Hays from Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) are leading a new chapter in the “best of” New England’s history and love of textiles and its immense technology resources.  They are effectively deconstructing and reconstituting old techniques using new technologies that will create new generations of fabrics that are sustainable, functional, and strategically critical for key industries such as professional sports and the military.  They are balancing the functionality with style and color and illumination in completely innovative ways – spawning an entirely new generation of fashion possibilities.  “Fabric-as-a-service”  “eTextiles,” “smart textiles,” and the reinvention of the production of metal threads among the many exciting developments in this movement. Among the most powerful visuals was the Ecosystem that is providing fuel for this movement.  The map encompassed these critical components:  History (textiles in particular), the Crafts movement (which had strong roots in Boston – see Boston Made Exhibit at MFA), Museums (to house works), Technologists/Inventors, Industries and Marketing, and Collaborative opportunities/symposia – fostered by the educational community.  I had to miss Day 2 of the Symposium to do my participation as an artist in the Cape Ann Artisan’s Tour, but I know we will be hearing more from this powerful collaborative.

Left to Right Martha Davis, MIT Museum, Elizabeth Carey, Discover Gloucester & Ronda Faloon, Director of the Cape Ann Museum

From my perspective as a founder of the seARTS Wearable Art Group, this is all incredible news.  Wearable Art is a natural outcome of the melding of the old and the new – materials, techniques, and functions.  Wearable Art also attracts a wide range of creative types and makers and challenges them to mold their work to the human form.   Each piece tells a powerful story, connects to maker to the wearer, and makes every human being a potential “collector” of art in their everyday life.  I look forward to connecting the dots between these phenomenal entrepreneurs and our Wearable Art community.  Many thanks to our hosts at the Cape Ann Museum  and panelists – Petra Slinkard, Anne Lee, Barbara Broudo, Suzanne Ramjlak, and Christine Kelley for leading us in Salon|2018.


September 2, 2018

Salon 2018| The Transformative Power of Wearable Art – Five Panelists Confirmed for October 4th

Since 2011 the seARTS has embarked on a fabulous journey, challenging the larger arts community to design and raise the bar for wearable art. Through the Celebrate Wearable Art program, we have enjoyed runway looks from seasoned fashion designers, sculptors, fiber artists, floral designers, interior designers, jewelers, painters, photographers, and woodworkers, among others.  The wearable works created by CWA artists have served to inspire numerous viewers and fellow artists.

Our annual “Salon” panel discussions present an opportunity to explore various aspects of wearable art from the perspective of makers, curators, educators, and wearers.  Past Salon themes include “Exploring Expressions on the Human Form,” and “From the Understated to the Outrageous.”  The 2018 Salon will focus on the “Transformative Power of Wearable Art,” and will probe wearable art’s impact in relation to education, fashion, exhibitions, and the artist’s own creative experience.  We have asked artists in the community to send us stories about their journey, challenges, and inspirational moments in the process of making wearable art.  Along with these stories of creative transformation, there will be a discussion about the power of wearable art works for wearers, and within the broader cultural arena.   

Petra Slinkard of the PEM
Barbara Broudo, Endicott College

This panel will be hosted on the evening of October 4th at the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, MA.  It has been timed to coincide with Mass Fashion Symposium.  The keynote moderator will Petra Slinkard, The Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Peabody-Essex Museum.  Petra will be joined by Barbara Broudo, former Director Archives & Museum at Endicott College;

Suzanne Ramljak, longtime editor of Metalsmith magazine and curator of the Fuller Craft Museum’s exhibition, Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in

Suzanne Ramljak, Independent Curator

Contemporary Adornment opening October 6th; and Anne Lee, author of Artistry in Fiber, Wearable Art. According to the book description, We have always decorated our bodies – both permanently and temporarily. Art to wear explores the intersection of fashion and art, in a creative space in which the wearer interacts with art, breathing life, shape, and individual expression into it. In our mass-produced world, wearable art offers a place for individuality. The third volume in this acclaimed series exhibits the work of over 50 international artists who create unusual wearable art with both traditional and uncommon materials combined with modern technology.”  The book will be available for sale and to be signed by the author at the Salon.

Anne Lee co-authored Encaustic Art in the Twenty-First Century (2016) and a three-volume series, Artistry in Fiber (July 2017) covering Wall Art, Sculpture, and Wearable Art (all from Schiffer Publishing). In addition, Anne has written articles for Fiber Arts Now, Art Quilt Collector, and the NBO Quarterly Review. Prior to her writing career, she researched, curated, and wrote about exhibitions at Vose Galleries in Boston.

Our final panelist is Christine Gauthier-Kelley, a silk painter and wearable artist who was an early member of the seARTS Wearable Art group and participant in Celebrate Wearable Art starting in 2011.  Christine creates her works at Ten Pound Studio in Gloucester and has recently presented a solo show at the Manchester Historical Museum.   The event will also include select looks from Celebrate Wearable Art IV.