TRADITION IN TECHNIQUE AWARD
Through the endless search for their truth, their main word, artists continuously contribute to an eternal cloud of ideas manifested by humankind, thus renewing the cover of today's perception of reality. It seems that wherever new ideas emerge, and the fabric of reality shapes into the quaint folds, familiar contours emerge through the transparent weave. Do these images and ideas generate in our consciousness, or do we borrow them from deeper layers of a subconscious on a certain "wavelength"? How do we preserve the connection between ourselves and that range of "wavelengths"? How do we continue and share the feeling of something beautiful, something in common between people of different eras? What is a tradition in art? The subject is so profound and unfathomable. Here is a tiny dent in its surface - an artist statement that I wrote for Surface Design Journal.
During the pre-technological era, only the most necessary resources were taken from the earth.
It is from this earth that humans built their homes, made their clothing, grew their food and
produced crafts. The concept of some plant being a weed simply did not exist. The textile
pioneers utilized nettles, hemp, flax, hops, and even plants like willow tea, burdock, orach and
pine needles were of value to textile craftspeople. To this day, much of Eastern Europe, Russia
and Ukraine are overgrown with nettles, wild hemp, and many other plants. These "weeds" grow
without any pesticides or fertilizer, through rain or drought, and under every fence. Perhaps they
were made to be so hardy to serve as an indispensable medium for the ever-present demand
for textile creation.
My love for nettles goes back to my childhood, when I would spend my summers outside of the
city. I quickly discovered that this plant was different from the rest. At a glance an ordinary
weed, but how it stung my hands at the slightest touch. However, as my grandmother explained,
the stinging nettle possessed medicinal properties, fed people in times of hunger and produced
soft yet durable fabric for clothing. The nettle had come back to me, or I returned to it much later
in life, during my studies at CCA, in my experiments and projects. At the time, I did not know I
would be working primarily with raw fibers, nettle, and wool. Nowadays, I occasionally get the
question of why I don't work with wool alone and use plant fibers. Plants have been with me
since before I started using wool; they merely joined with it down the road, forming a united
The description “natural” suits the stinging nettle. The obtaining and processing of a plant like
flax by hand, for example, requires a multitude of necessary manipulations. Nettles are a
different story. A four-season climate does most of the processing job. One only needs to gather
the stems in the late winter to have ready-made plant fiber work. After the rain, wind and frost
prepare the plants, they can be harvested. Nettle stems are hollow and soft; they are broken
with a simple tool, frayed, combed—first with a wooden comb, then with a bristle brush.
As a medium, it is also interesting in that it can be felted together with wool. Usually, no
additional technical aids are necessary for creating a non-woven plant fiber–wool fabric. Wool
can make up most of the combination and be the primary fiber, or it can serve as a connecting
material, a thin foundation upon which the nettle fiber is applied, akin to paint on canvas. In
sculptural work, or work that involves creating a three-dimensional textured surface, plant fiber
produces interesting qualities. It's impossible to sculpt without the aid of some connecting
material, but it wonderfully secures and "glazes" a surface, creating a tough and textured cover.
These series of works were created for an exposition in Italy in 2017. In collaboration with
Canadian artist Fiona Duthie, we collected our works under one exhibition called Sea States, in
the ancient capital of textile, Prato, in a gallery founded on the base of a small manufacturer that
processed raw fiber, including that of plants. The fibers include Himalayan stinging nettles,
nettles, rose, bamboo and hemp. Several years ago, some of those names were not associated
with textile, but we can revive an art that was once almost lost. I created my large works from
already prepared nettle fiber, but my thoughts were with the ample bunches of stinging nettles I
spotted growing in my Vermont backyard last year.
I believe that old traditions still exist. They aren't present in our lives in an unaffected form, but
they are imprinted in our subconscious, our genetic memory. They sometimes arise in the vision
of silhouettes or wondrous patterns. In my work, patterns occur in the form of multiple repetitive
elements. They grow smaller, larger and change their vertical or horizontal positioning to are all
connected to each other, appear to grow out of each other, and co-depend, as do all creatures
and objects in nature. It is interesting how we come across these patterns everywhere—in seed
pods, blossom clusters, reptile skins, fish scales and much more. Their rhythm is mesmerizing,
and they seem to “sound” differently from one another. If you look deeper on a cellular level, you
will see how everything exists in the form of multiple structures and repeating elements.
In nature, elements are repetitive in structures but not identical to one another, albeit they look
similar. It is the distinction between organic and artificial, and it is a natural harmony, as is
noticed in traditional ethnic embroidery and weaves. In fiber structures or other fiber work,
handcrafted elements could also be similar and repeat, but at the same time are always
somewhat individually distinct.
The form of a wearable sculpture shows the multifaceted structure of the surface from all sides,
with the scale of the motifs changing with the proportions and curves of the body. I created large
pieces to amplify this visual effect; when this “marriage” of elements is in motion, all parts
appear to come to life, existing in their structure. The attachment to the human body in this
format is also a metaphor. It is our melding back into our surrounding system from which we
initially sprang, maybe to correct the trajectory of our future and find our place there. Those
nettle cocoon dresses or giant shells are a place of cover or safety, where we find ourselves
and our awareness of modern reality, where we can hopefully determine a better direction.
Tradition in Technique Award
Future Fabrication: SDA International Exhibition In Print 2017