Masters: Lewis Knauss

Masters: Lewis Knauss

Fellow
Lewis Knauss Portrait

Photo: Chris Crisman

“The act of making has always been very important,” Lewis Knauss observes. “Sitting quietly, working, tying knots endlessly, working on objects on my own. I feel those objects really record every minute of my life.”

Knauss’ timeline with textiles began in the 1960s while he was studying art education at Kutztown University. An intro-to-crafts course piqued his interest, and a weaving class his senior year solidified his love for the process.

“From the very first moment I picked up a yarn, I just loved the feel of that in my hands. I love the dialogue. Every material in textiles has a different response to a structure, a different response to me as a maker.”

In his art, Knauss calls on deep engagement with nature – its complexity and evolution. It’s a connection he first made after a long-ago trip to the Grand Canyon, he says. A friend asked him what he thought of the vista. “I said, ‘God, it was like looking at a photograph,’ ” Knauss says. “And she said, ‘You know, it all takes time, really a lot of time.’ And at that moment, I started taking the same hike every day, beginning to really pay attention to what had changed in
the landscape.”

Though he’s modest about his success, his pieces have been shown in major museums across the United States – including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Cooper-Hewitt – and abroad, at the Design Museum in Finland and Musée de Design et d’Arts Appliqués in Switzerland. Then there’s the influence he’s had on others during his decades of teaching, including at Tyler School of Art (where he received his MFA in 1973), Philadelphia University, and, from 1982 to 2010, Moore College of Art and Design.

Now retired from teaching, Knauss continues to create, as focused as ever on the making process and the march of time. “I don’t really even think of this as a career,” he says. “It’s just something that I do and have always been interested in doing since I was about 22 years old.”