Artist reception for Stillwater's Modella Gallery Women in Fiber: Two Paths is Sat., June 11 from 103 pm, with works from artists Carol Bormann and Janet Shipley Hawks. "Women Who Made a Difference" from Bormann is a series of two-dimensional fiber art panels - also called textile posters - honoring women who have contributed to their professional fields or communities such as medicine, literature, religion, government, social activism, art, science, engineering, sports, and more. Many of the women featured are well-known globally, but some have made differences more locally in Stillwater, the state of Oklahoma, or nearby states. "Fiber Forms" from Hawks includes numerous three-dimensional, colorful objects as large as a bowl or as small as a brooch that are all created with machine embroidery thread and water-soluble stabilizer. They are created with a sewing machine using free-motion technique that is familiar to many quilters and fiber artists. Hawks' life-long interest in creating useful and decorative objects led her to develop this technique of sculpting threads. Both exhibits continue through July 2. In the interviews below, Carol Bormann and Janey Shipley Hawks share their experiences as artists and a look behind-the-scenes at their process.
When did you start to consider an art career and what steps did you take to make it happen?
Carol Bormann: I did art all my life. My father was a commercial artist, starting in 1932 and worked in advertising until he retired. It was the main thing we shared as father-daughter. I majored in art and wanted to be an illustrator when I completed my bachelor's degree in art. However, after being exposed to many other types of art, I called upon those experiences to create my own path. I went on to get my Master's degree in Design with specialty in Commercial Interiors. The art-for-art's sake route began around 1970. Since that time, I have evolved to specializing in fiber art.
Janet Shipley Hawks: I ready didn't ever consider having a career in art, it just evolved and as it did, I embraced it. Creating three-dimensional objects using techniques usually considered for clothing or household items became a constant, "what if I'd?" Every experimentation stimulated more what if's as I was in the process of creating. I still do wait to finish with the current item to explore the possibilities I've conjured up. After my book, Sculpted Threads, was written and published I began to teach classes on the technique and became more involved in producing jewelry pieces as the interest and demand grew. I was given many opportunities and places to show and sell my jewelry in particular and that continues to guide my work.
How do you decide which ideas to take beyond an initial idea or sketch, and how do you know when the project is finished?
Carol Bormann: Like many artists, ideas are constantly coming forth in my head, but not all make it to an actual piece. Since smartphones are around, I often write down these initial concepts and review these thoughts. Sometimes a particular theme is needed for a juried exhibit and the notes usually have an idea that would be appropriate for that show.
Janet Shipley Hawks: There seems to be an obvious division between some of my what it's and successfully produced pieces. I don't usually sketch out the larger pieces but do direction or design in mind but as I work on it the thread tells me something else and most of the time I pay attention and am pleased with the end result. Many times I'll complete the machine work on a piece and then just observe it for a few days and it will be evident that it needs something more such as embellishment with beads or an additional element or that it needs to be put aside for another inspiration to strike and have it become the start of a new project.
Are there any other mediums, such as music, film, television, books, comics, etc. that you find helpful when brainstorming ideas?
Carol Bormann: Photography is one of my non-fiber techniques that can be the starting point or a way to express an element in the evolution of a piece. This ongoing series of panels to honor women who have excelled in their field or contributed to make the world a better place has been an exciting adventure.
Janet Shipley Hawks: Once in a while I'll see someone wearing jewelry, particularly earrings, and I'll think, I could do something similar in thread and it would be a much lighter weight. I became aware of this when a close friend had to have her earlobes repaired due to all the heavy jewelry she had worn over the years, Occasionally I'll be inspired by the theme of an exhibition and sometimes necessity rears its head. For instance, this past year, my husband who was a woodturner passed away and I found one of his vessels on the workbench that had a top that he'd never liked and was going to cut it off and re-do the pieces, but didn't get to it. When I looked at it I thought that I could create some sculpted threads foliage that would improve the piece and result tin something new that was ours and be an element in my healing process. That was my first experiment with creating the foliage work that is currently my focus and has sparked a further experimentation with containers made of yarn or thread as well.
For Carol, in regard to your multimedia textile posters, how do you go about matching the right idea with the right materials?
Carol Bormann: Choices of the techniques that will work best to represent the feeling I want is an evolving process. Sometimes I create one area using different techniques and then audition them with the other parts of the pieces. Sometimes the barriers I have faced have forced me to make changes that end up in a much better overall effect.
For Janet, how has your approach or sewing/knitting technique changes over time when creating the Fiber Forms?
Janet Shipley Hawks: I find myself looking at nature, three-dimensional art done by others and fiber materials and wondering how I could create a thread piece that is inspired by that. I still do some traditional knitting, mostly hats for charity and my more traditional sewing is usually small quilts also destined for charity organizations. I still appreciate and am often curious about what others are knitting or sewing and I've spent many hours as a volunteer instructing new knitters in the process as a way to do something productive and keep minds and hands engaged. I feel it is very important to have interests in your life and during my forty-nine years of marriage I saw first hand how one's life can be enriched, extended and improved by having a purpose. My husband lived to 101 years of age and was so active up to the last few months. He'd had a full career as a commercial photographer and when he retired from that he learned to turn wood, leading him to another whole career filled with new friends, places and experiences never imagined before.
Modella Gallery is a non-profit art gallery dedicated to bringing contemporary arts to Stillwater, Oklahoma. The gallery continues to be a program designed to share the works from national and local artists, visual art, musical performances, and hosts special events and projects. Modella Gallery is located at 721 S. Main Street in historic downtown Stillwater, Oklahoma. The hours are Thursday and Friday 11 to 6pm, Saturday 10am to 3pm. For more information, please contact the gallery at 405-880-4434 or visit modellaartgallery.org.