On View at ACC: Jaana Mattson

On View at ACC: Jaana Mattson

From now through the end of the year, we have a number of pieces by Minneapolis-based mixed media artist Jaana Mattson on view at the American Craft Council. Mattson turns dyed wool into felted landscape works that are then embedded in wood. She writes of the work, "In the artist’s subconscious, landscapes are embedded over a lifetime of road trips and solitary journeys. With every change in light, weather, geography, and season, hours on the road become a study of form in nature." We asked her to tell us more about her practice and what inspires her.

What do you make? What do you want to make?
I make needle felted landscapes from wisps of dyed wool roving, which are then recessed into locally milled timber and weathered barn boards. I’ve developed this particular technique and approach over the past several years. I love the resonance of textures, the richness of color from dyed wool, and the innately human response to landscape. What do I want to make? I always want to make things better and different. That’s what keeps me moving forward: mastering skills while exploring new ideas.

Who and what inspires you?
I was a Midwestern city kid, but I think a family history of frugal farmers fixing, crafting, and modifying things is in my soul. I love found objects, old tools and textiles, and especially objects which were mended by hand. In today’s mass produced and disposable culture these humble items seem almost sacred.

How did you first become engaged with craft?
Growing up, I would work with my dad in his woodshop on simple projects. I loved the focus of creating things and the pride of making something useful and beautiful. 

Describe your dream studio…
Great lighting, organized storage, work tables for each different medium I engage with, plenty of outlets, and a window (for staring out of). And, since this is a dream, maybe a couple minions to clean up the “craftermath,” which is a word I recently picked up to describe the debris that follows a creative whirlwind.

What does craft mean to you?
My respect for craft follows two definitions. As a verb “to exercise skill in making,” it fuels my own standards of execution; honing my technical skills and material insights to a level of expertise deserving of the title. On the other hand, I define the noun as “handmade works of beautiful functionality,” which offers a history of elegant design, innovative use of traditional materials, and evidence of the human hand that informs every piece I make.

Library bonus question: What’s your favorite/most-read art or craft book in your personal collection?
Of all of the art, craft, and design books collected over the years, it’s my old survey of art history undergraduate textbook, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages that has been my touchstone. I’ve worked in so many media, from welding to jewelry, encaustic, and landscape. I’ve used this book as a reference point for everything from form and color theory to composition. It makes me feel connected to the human impulse for beauty and creativity across time and culture.

On View is a brief Q&A with artists whose work is currently on view at the American Craft Council.