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Source Matters

Thinking about Origin

Matthew Friday, graduate coordinator and theorist at SUNY New Paltz asked me to participate in his Craft Manifesto project. Check out the full text. We are now being interviewed by Benjamin Lignel, the new Art Jewelry Forum editor and member of the european group Think Tank!

Bauhaus Craft ED



Check out my reviews and news from the Amsterdam Jewelry / design scene.


I am interested in material and source, and meaning rooted in the connections between them. I investigate how materials collect their identity, beginning with geographic origins, through cultural connections and histories, ending with the objects they become. By traveling to physically gather material and information myself I create a personal connection to the source and attempt to render that bond. I account for the journey from source to viewer, acting as a liaison, intent on bringing the two worlds closer to one another. As a result of thorough research I become expert and the work becomes a vessel for discovery, communication and understanding. Through this act I hope to discover how my role as a connector of material and histories affects the form of the object and the formulation of the role of the viewer. The work’s ultimate goal is to inspire the viewer to consider a complex network of historical, economic, and geopolitical forces that bring an object into existence. Thus I intentionally collapse the notion that art or any designed object can emerge from an insular creative bubble, untouched by history, culture and economy. The specific use of material is dictated by my own inability to express what the material can express with authority. As a maker, I cannot create what the material holds within it, thus I borrow the power of material to communicate. In turn, as a maker I release a form of the materials own agency that it cannot release itself. This is a cooperative act.

for more check out my crafthaus page!

With the projects previous to summer of 2009 I became frustrated with the limited information made available to the consumer from companies that produce craft and construction materials. I found the information available to be rife with vagueness, misinformation, even conflicting information from within the producing company.

I wanted to use material from a source that was as distilled as possible from producers that were knowledgable and accountable. I was looking for sheep fleece from a single source and began having a conversation with Doreen Marsh of Scottish Fibers in Edinburgh. Besides having a flock of cashmere goats of her own, she specializes in fine Scottish fibers for spinning, knitting, weaving etc, and beautifully made tools of the trade.

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Through Doreen I discovered North Ronaldsay, the most northerly island in the Orkney archipelago. North Ronaldsay is unique for many reasons; an ancient sheep herding community, in 1830 the Laird (Lord) of the island decided that cattle would be a more profitable and so a six foot rock dyke was built around the perimeter of the island. The native sheep were cast out on the beach side of the wall to fend for themselves. Much to the surprise of the islanders the tough breed adapted to their new conditions and began to forage the seaweed that washed up each low tide. This diet and their ability to adapt to it helped them flourish. It also resulted in the flock evolving physiologically different than any other sheep on the planet. Their digestive tract is unique along with the fleece they grow and the taste of the mutton.

The Islands isolation has also prompted the islanders to process the fleece clipped from the flock in an annual cooperative effort known as “the pund”.

Rather than sending the each years take off island it is processed in the small mill on the northern tip of the island. The mill, one of the last left in the U.K. and the only one to process from only one region.

Being specific about material origin is an excuse to tell a story, of people, plants, animals and places. As Helen Denise Polson suggests in her Cabinet Magazine article “Leftovers/ Where do teeth go?”, objects and in my case materials are “(U)nsettleing and compelling in their realness, inviting us to conjure up a connection between us and their original owner”.  This connection whether invented or legitimate is a integral and important aspect whether acknowledged or not. The journey taken – the absorption of limitless matters are a hidden history making any given material unique. Each has a an inherent power and story to be told.

In my next post I will show the work I made with the fleece I clipped and tell the story of the North Ronaldsay Crofters.

Porcelain workshop with Ilona Romule October 2009

In our month long workshop with Ilona we constructed multi part molds in which to cast porcelain. My clay model was based on the H1N1 virus which I abstracted to create a hollow bead. Based on an imagined superstition, it is worn tight to the neck and acts as and amulet.

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culpable tea bags

Culpable Tea Bags, 2009

embroidery floss, coffee filters, thread, Junshan Yinzhen tea

each 2.5” x 2.5” x .3”

Each disposable tea bag is hand embroidered with a unique decorative pattern and filled with Junshan Yinzhen, a rare white tea.  The preciousness of the contents versus the beauty and painstaking labor of the container create a conflict. To enjoy the contents the container must be destroyed, to preserve the container the commodity must be wasted. A limited edition of 9 tea bags were produced and one was destroyed in the documentation process.

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These pieces were made in response to a call for entry called eXtreme Tea curated by Tom Muir, head of Metals at Bowling Green State University. The show took place in Houston in conjunction with the SNAG Conference at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft 1/16/10 – 3/21/10.

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