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Talking Shop at Present Tense

On Thursday, March 26th, a full-house gathered in the American Craft Council's historic library for an evening exploring the current state of embroidery…

A Postcolonial Kinderhood, 1994, installation at The Jewish Museum.

A Postcolonial Kinderhood, 1994, installation at The Jewish Museum.

Arapaho, 1990, knitted wool, hand-painted photograph  
{h. 62 in, w. 51 in}.

Arapaho, 1990, knitted wool, hand-painted photograph
{h. 62 in, w. 51 in}.

Temple of Heaven, detail, 1982, knitted yarn, color pencil on paper, hand-painted photograph {h. 36 in, w. 81.75 in}.

Temple of Heaven, detail, 1982, knitted yarn, color pencil on paper, hand-painted photograph {h. 36 in, w. 81.75 in}.

A Postcolonial Kinderhood, 1994, installation at The Jewish Museum.

Photo gallery (28 images)
Elaine Reichek at Yale University, May 1964.

Elaine Reichek at Yale University, May 1964.

Sampler (Remember), 2001, embroidery on linen {h. 27 in, w. 23.5 in}.

Sampler (Remember), 2001, embroidery on linen {h. 27 in, w. 23.5 in}.

Morse Code: First Morse Message, detail, 2003 {h. 173 in, w. 166 in}, Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery

Morse Code: First Morse Message, detail, 2003 {h. 173 in, w. 166 in}, Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery

Vera Icon, 2006, hand embroidery on linen {h. 48 in, w. 43 in}.

Vera Icon, 2006, hand embroidery on linen {h. 48 in, w. 43 in}.

Egyptian Curtain, 2007, hand embroidery on linen {h. 57 in, w. 52 in}.

Egyptian Curtain, 2007, hand embroidery on linen {h. 57 in, w. 52 in}.

Matisse with colors, Hotel Regina, Nice, c. 1952, 2007, hand embroidery on linen {h. 21 in, w. 20 in}.

Matisse with colors, Hotel Regina, Nice, c. 1952, 2007, hand embroidery on linen {h. 21 in, w. 20 in}.

Pattern Recognition, 2007, installation, Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery.

Pattern Recognition, 2007, installation, Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery.

Swatches, Mondrian 1-4, 2007, digital embroidery on linen {h. 26.5 in, w. 22.5 in}.

Swatches, Mondrian 1-4, 2007, digital embroidery on linen {h. 26.5 in, w. 22.5 in}.

Swatches, B&W 1-25, 2007, digital embroidery on linen {h. 70 in, w. 55 in}.

Swatches, B&W 1-25, 2007, digital embroidery on linen {h. 70 in, w. 55 in}.

A Chinese woman embroidering.

A Chinese woman embroidering.

AIDS Quilt installation.

AIDS Quilt installation.

A woman and drapery.

A woman and drapery.

Renoir, Christine Lerolle Embroidering, detail, 1897.

Renoir, Christine Lerolle Embroidering, detail, 1897.

Judy Chicago, et al, The Dinner Party, detail, 1974-9.

Judy Chicago, et al, The Dinner Party, detail, 1974-9.

Detail of first hand-embroidered toile cushion.

Detail of first hand-embroidered toile cushion.

Detail of hand embroidered toile headboard.

Detail of hand embroidered toile headboard.

Another detail of a hand embroidered toile headboard.

Another detail of a hand embroidered toile headboard.

Detail of hand embroidered toile sofa.

Detail of hand embroidered toile sofa.

Detail of hand embroidered toile sofa.

Detail of hand embroidered toile sofa.

Jawanese, rhinestones & notions on toile.

Jawanese, rhinestones & notions on toile.

Detail of Diversity Quilt.

Detail of Diversity Quilt.

Vicki Halper speaks at the American Craft Council library.

Vicki Halper speaks at the American Craft Council library.

On Thursday, March 26th, a full-house gathered in the American Craft Council's historic library for an evening exploring the current state of embroidery as a counterpoint to the Bard Graduate Center’s current exhibition of historic textiles, English Embroidery from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1570-1700: 'Twixt Art and Nature.

The evening kicked off with independent scholar (and former associate curator of modern art at the Seattle Art Museum) Vicki Halper who presented the evolution of contemporary embroidery art. Halper’s talk, featured here, focused on the richness and diversity of contemporary embroidery and, through a slideshow of images, explored the evidence of craft's utility, ornament, and ability to tell social status and to draw respect. She illustrated her points through images of embroidery witnessed in current and historic paintings, clothing, installations, tapestries, and woodcuts and through work created by current artists including Elaine Reichek and Richard Saja (featured presenters), Tamar Stone, Andrea Deszo and Judy Chicago to historic work evidenced in pieces by Renoir, Claude Monet, Flemish woodcuts of the 17th century and Elizabethan samplers from the 1790s. Halper's book, Choosing Craft: The Artist’s Viewpoint, will be released in May.

Directly following Halper, artist Elaine Reichek (a conceptual artist who uses embroidery to explore aesthetics in art) delivered a presentation about her artistic path, inspirations and viewpoints. Coming to embroidery through a formal concern with "the disembodied line that wouldn't adhere to the support,” Reichek shared her work with the audience, detailing her fascination and sometime obsession with mapping, pattern and the often humorous interpretations and translations that can occur from the cross-mixing of cultures, fables and stories.

And finally, Richard Saja, (one of the American Craft Council's very own Searchlight Artists this year - and founder of Historically Inaccurate Decorative Arts) took the audience on a tour of his work (cushions, sofa and bed headboards, among others), inspired by his love of embroidering and embellishing, in intricate detail, on toile. Saja admitted-almost sheepishly-that he comes to craft through the design world via self-taught means. His work is both humorous and sometimes vaguely dark, but intelligently and playfully crafted. Who wouldn't get a chuckle out of clowns cavorting across Pierre Frey toile-or a hand-stitched image of a dog-faced toile boy? Or landscapes of 18th century fabric designers (again, with the clowns!) at work while the factory 'burns' in bright embroidery threads in the background? Have a listen and enjoy!

Listen to Vicki Halper

Listen to this podcast in itunes

Listen to Elaine Reichek

Listen to this podcast in itunes

Listen to Richard Saja

Listen to this podcast in itunes

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