Friday, January 21, 2011

Back to...Mon Idee de Genie

Artist's Private Collection
Le Mariage Shibori Silk Kimono in Bronze/Orchidee Grid
Cassandra Classics Swarovski crystal bracelet
with Sterling Silver bangles

Bonjour, encore!

Well, I'm back to the "beginning" of Le Mariage Shibori Collection, and looking forward (or up, your choice) to the "back" of my Bronze/Orchidee Grid Kimono.  Ha! (And, yes...pun intended). Might I mention that I was very fond of poems, limericks and tongue twisters when I was a little girl.  These are the memories (remember?) that I love.  "There was a crooked man...As I was going to St. Ives...Jack Sprat could eat no fat...wee Willy Winkie...How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?"  You get the picture.

I mentioned before that I debuted the clothing collection in May of 2003.  I had, of course, been working on the idea and the textiles for much longer.   A couple of months before the debut, I attended a fiber art symposium in St. Louis, Minnesota.  It was a wonderful 5 days of total immersion in the art, textile and fiber community.  I met many new artists, spent time with old friends, and was graced with the acquaintance of some very real "icons" in the field.  I had the great honor and fortune to meet Marian Clayden, renowned clothing designer, Yoshiko Wada, author of "Memory on Cloth", and Carter Smith, shibori designer par excellence during the conference.  I was on Cloud Nine, let me tell you.

I met Marian Clayden at the symposium while we were waiting for the shuttle to the airport.  It was the last day, and I was surprised and pleased when Marian introduced herself.  Of course, I knew it was her, and had been holding my enthusiasm in check hoping she would open the conversation.  She talked about her career in the clothing design field as I soaked up every bit of advise. I imagine my face must have appeared stretched beyond human elasticity because my smile felt humongous.  At that moment, I probably could have rivaled the Joker for comedic drama.  I will never forget her parting words, "Move slowly in everything that you do, every decision that you make.  Think about it, and take your time.  Choose your direction wisely.  And, always, be true to your instinct...your inner voice!  I am sure you will find your own path and excel in it".  I get goosebumps remembering.  I have no idea why Marian singled me out and talked to me in such length.  I, simply, am greatly appreciative for such a singular experience and the gift of Marian's words.

On the first day at the symposium, after a grand tour of the art scene in St. Louis, we all gathered at a local gallery for the opening reception.  The temperature was high and the humidity was higher!  Hoping for a cooler spot, I decided to tour the lower floor of the gallery expecting a cooler blast from the air conditioning unit.  Alas, it was not to be, so I removed my shibori silk jacket and draped it over my arm.  Sipping on a citrus punch and trying not to perspire too much, I felt a small tug on my jacket.  Standing in a very tight space among the displays, I carefully turned to see what had caused the tug.  I glanced around at my own eye level, and seeing nothing, swiveled further around to the opposite side when the tug came again.  This time I looked down and came eye to eye with a pair of warm jet black eyes.

The bearer of this visage had been standing further to my left behind me, and so I did not see her on my initial glance.  The petite and intriguing persona, apologetically effused, "Oh, excuse me.  I'm Yoshiko Wada.  But, the cloth.  I was looking at the cloth.  I'm amazed at the pattern and color.  It's so different.  I've never seen anything like it.  It is shibori?  Is it yours"?  Stunned and elated, I beamingly answered, "Yes, and Yes!", as we both broke into laughter.

What a way to kick off the conference.  Yoshiko Wada, no doubt!  I forgot all about the heat.  I almost started to hyperventilate.  These were the icons of the textile field, and here was one of my most admired standing right in front of me complimenting me on my technique!  I know that Ms. Wada spoke to me for some time, but I can't remember much except those first words, and her final parting ones, "I don't know what you are doing, but, whatever it is, keep doing it.  You have got a new and wonderful direction".   Interestingly enough, Marian's words echoed Yoshiko's, though I didn't make the connection at the time.  I was, and still am, ever so grateful for the gift of these two women's vision and encouragement.

I'll be right "back" to the Le Mariage Bronze/Orchidee Grid, and the saga of Mon Idee de Genie depeche mode, n'est ce pas?  D'accord.

Wednesday, 1/26/2011  8:30 a.m.

And, now for Carter Smith.  What does one say about Carter?  Tie-dye artist turned Shibori Master...nee Enigma!  I think that about sums it up.  Carter Smith...enigma.  Anyone in the textile field is familiar with Carter's magnificent use of vibrant color and unparalleled pattern creation.  He is definitely the "standout master" of shibori.  His credits run around the globe and back, and Carter is certainly not shy when it comes to talking about it.  The art of tie-dyeing was learned at "his mother's knee"  from childhood.  But, there is no question that Carter Smith has taken the craft of tie-dye back to its "origin", and realized the art of Shibori as the mother lode.

I knew that Carter would be lecturing at the symposium, and was eager to attend all of his speeches.   The first was on opening night, and I arrived late scooting unnoticed, I hoped, into the back aisle seating.  Well, no such luck.  When I entered, Carter immediately looked up and hesitated for a brief moment in his speech, seeming to look right at me.  Oh, great.  Not at all what I had intended.  He glanced my way several times during the lecture which encouraged me, I must admit.  I left before the last speaker, so I did not, formally, meet Carter that night.

Our next encounter was during a luncheon on the lawn for a meet and greet.  I sat down to chat with my new friends when I realized I did not have a cool drink (remember the humidity), and returned to the buffet.  On the way up the slight hill, I noticed Carter and his son, Noah, approaching the dining area.  As he came abreast of me, his eyes were averted, so I, perkily, said, "Good day, Carter".  He gave a slight start and beamed, "Hello".  Noah nodded and smiled.  I took this as a good sign, and determined to speak with him on the next opportunity.

That opportunity came at his next lecture.  The hall was packed with artists like myself who hung on every word he spoke.  He talked about his history and his tour in Japan, where he was welcomed with open arms.  Finally he began to speak about his technique.  You could have heard a pin drop.  The "aah's, hmm's and swift intakes of air" were palpable in the room.  During questioning, Carter revealed only the fact that he has an amazing "pleating machine that he forces to do things that it was never meant to do".  At the end of the speech, he invited us to come onstage and look at a sample of the pleated white cloth up close.  I stood close to him, hoping for an opportunity to speak, as he talked with another artist explaining the workings of the pleater.  Engrossed in what he was saying and mesmerized by the pleated cloth, to my total surprise, he lifted the long drape of fabric and placed it in my hands.  Incredible!  I hadn't uttered a word.  He smiled inviting me to examine it more closely.  It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen in the world of shibori technique.  I cannot describe it.  It was beyond words.  No, wait...enigma.  Yes, the enigma and mystique of Carter Smith's vision.  Even now, when I try to recall the intricacy of the pattern, it is virtually impossible.  What I remember is that it was one of the most memorable highlights of my experience in the fiber art world.  I have Carter Smith to thank for that.

Today, Carter continues his career and discovery of shibori.  He now offers 3-day retreats at his home and studio in Nahant, Massachusetts,on a lovely island surrounded by swirls of mist.  One can go and learn at the "knee of Carter Smith", so to speak.  Workshops start around $2000.  Hey...give the man his "props".  He has certainly earned it.  To learn "at the knee" of the master is no small thing... nor, is it free.

During the symposium, Carter and I had many "chance" encounters.  Sometimes a small greeting while shopping for books.  Sometimes a simple nod in passing.  After awhile it started to feel like, "...wherever you are...there I shall be".  I'm not sure who was manifesting who.  I would turn, and there he would be catching my gaze.

At the end of the week, embracing and saying goodbye to my new friends in the cafeteria, I was told an unforgettable thing.  One of them said, "Well, Cassandra...(we're all in agreement), you know what we have been saying about you during the conference"?  Surprised, I sort of froze, but managed a smile and said, "No.  What?"  My friend continued,  "We have all been bantering about (the entire week) that you are the closest thing to [the innovation, creativity and color theory of] Carter Smith at the conference".  Incredulous!  Outstanding!  This time I did hyperventilate, mop my brow and had to take several gulps of ice water.

"Okay, Joker.   Move over!"

I floated home in a happy textile haze, and  immediately started planning the debut of Le Mariage Shibori Collection.  I guess "Mon Idee de Genie" had turned out to be just that.

All images, text and content copyrighed, 2011, all rights reserved

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