You primarily reside in Maine now. Where did you grow up? What is the most important aspect of your environment?
I fell in love with Maine when first teaching at Haystack. I also (believe it or not) love and thrive in cold weather but more important, I love the quality of light found here that comes from diffused light from changing weather here on the coast. My home here is on a lake in the country and I thoroughly enjoy the isolation and quiet….. but at the same time thrive in cities like Philadelphia and New York. I love the energy there and in general am attracted to both extremes….urban and rural.
Do you recall your first experience of being creative? About how old were you and did this creativity come in spurts or was it a natural continuous flow?
An early memory of loving to make things comes from making puppets that I stitched together when about 5 years old…. also did some very crude embroidery which was much encouraged by both my mother and father. I always had a project of some kind going on at home but then loved art class once I was in school. I also vividly remember my father being very enthusiastic about slit paper castles that I loved to make. I remember him saying at age (around 7) that “no other kid makes as beautiful paper castle as you make.” That certainly did not hurt my self esteem which I think was very important.
You have talked about your first woven cloth as a dynamic energy field complete with living mystery. Do you also have such wonders when you are constructing work with hard elements such as metal?
Absolutely…. its not the (literal) material that is so important to me as it is discovering the “phenomenon” of textiles through my early experience in woven textiles and later translating that feeling through a variety of materials and in range of forms.
You have a very successful career as an artist, educator, and writer and also honored to be a Fellow and Board member of the American Crafts Council. How do you balance and dedicate yourself to these different sectors?
They all inter-relate…. Teaching is an extremely inspiring experience for me…. student discovery of their profound need to make, build and construct and love of materiality is exciting to observe and share with them. Their idealism about everything going on in their lives rubs off on me easily…. and is much appreciated. Also, I am interested in writing about ideas which I think are important and see few others who are paying attention. Students teach me so much about the textile medium through the way that they relate to it. My writing is often inspired by emerging artists and what appears to be important to them. Finally, I have been on a few boards including Haystack and the ACC. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with emerging artists with institutions and care deeply that they keep up with what the current generation of artists care about. The future of these institutions must be shaped by the needs of young artists.
You participate in the installation of your work which is demanding physically because your art is both large and heavy. And at the time of this interview, you have multiple simultaneous exhibitions. How do you manage your involvement?
In very large projects I hire assistants to work with me, especially when commissions come up. Keeping extremely busy keeps me young in body and in mind I think. I am in denial that I am getting older and recognize that I have slowed down in some ways. I guess that I am driven to do what I do and expect that that will never change.
You are now 69, do you reflect on how your art has changed and what challenges you would like to take?
That's a difficult question to answer in a few words. I am doing my best to not repeat my self in my work even though there is a real demand for that. I am more interested than ever in working collaboratively with installations at places like the Portland Museum of Art, Maryland Institute of Art and Haystack….. work where I have little idea what the finished product will be until the work is completed. Much of this work has no market value and only photo documentation and the experience of having accomplished is left after the project and showing has been completed.