Kristina Logan Volume 39.3

TURQUOISE FLORAL PENDANT/BROOCH of flameworked glass and fabricated sterling silver, 7 centimeters diameter, 2016.  Photograph by Dean Powell. 

TURQUOISE FLORAL PENDANT/BROOCH of flameworked glass and fabricated sterling silver, 7 centimeters diameter, 2016. Photograph by Dean Powell. 

After extensive renovations, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum reopened this past July with a stellar showcase of objects from its permanent collection. “Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery,” which is ongoing, offers eighty-plus eclectic and engaging examples of craft art, from the Eames brothers’ plywood Leg Splint, 1942, to Judith Schaechter’s stained glass The Birth of Eve, 2013. Curated by Nora Atkinson, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, the exhibition works by association rather than by chronology, seeking to emulate today’s hyperlinked world.

      Kristina Logan is represented by a brooch/pendant featuring a pattern of cobalt and silver accented with a ring of sterling dots. The lampworked soda-lime glass and sterling silver piece, made in 2001, is displayed alongside Alexander Calder’s undated hammered copper Necklace. In a video produced for the show, Logan speaks about Calder and their aesthetic ties. She loves how he used simple materials and created value “by infusing them with creative energy, ideas and careful mark-making.” Glass, like brass and copper, she notes, “has little intrinsic value, but it is the artist’s hand and spirit” that can give them worth.

Logan’s appearance in the Renwick show comes as no surprise: over the past twenty-five years, she has become one of the foremost glass bead artists in the world. Her work is in major collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and she has earned special recognition in her field, including the title “Dot Queen”—for the marvelous array of dots that accent her beads.

Certain of Logan’s designs, such as the Constellation necklace and the Cactus bead, are icons of contemporary beadwork. Her brooches, pendants, rings, and necklaces mesmerize. Kaleidoscopic disks set in sterling silver dazzle the eye.

COLLECTION OF TOTEM BEADS of flameworked glass, largest bead 10 centimeters long, 2000-2003.  Photograph by Dean Powell.

COLLECTION OF TOTEM BEADS of flameworked glass, largest bead 10 centimeters long, 2000-2003. Photograph by Dean Powell.

     Having started out making single beads, today Logan is the creator of reliquaries, candlesticks, goblets, teapots, chalices, and other objects that incorporate her beadwork. She is increasingly interested in pushing the boundaries of scale while retaining her intricate details. She is currently finishing up several statuesque drinking vessels inspired by eighteenth-century Nuremberg goblets she discovered in the Corning Museum of Glass. While the profile of her lidded goblets are similar to those early ones, the flameworked, pâte de verre and bronze pieces are “incredibly different” on a tactile level. One of them was featured in the recent exhibition “Beginnings” at the Corning Museum of Glass.

When asked about the evolution of her designs, Logan admits to progressing in geological time—very slowly. If you were to look at her beads today alongside ones she made early on, you would be able, she avers, to see the lineage. She does make drawings—of the brooches and metalwork—but the bead designs arise from experimentation. Once in a while an idea will come to her when she is not looking for it, at three in the morning, but ninety-nine percent of the time it happens when she is in the studio. She believes the constant pattern of work brings ideas. “I believe in that preparation,” she has stated. The concentration that comes with deadlines helps spur the work forward.

GOBLET of glass, bronze, silver, steel, lost wax cast and flameworked glass, cast bronze, 11.43 x 11.43 x 33.02 centimeters, 2016. Photograph by Bill Truslow.

     Logan’s beads are marked by opaque and transparent layers—“That’s how I find color,” she says. Starting with a “Crayola box of all the colors,” she uses layering to play subtle variations on the palette, thereby altering the design from piece to piece. She relishes this exploration of tint and shade and hue. Early on Logan was not always comfortable with color, and has noted, she “may have been afraid of it.” It was not the color in flameworking that interested her so much as the fluidity and movement of melting glass.

Logan likes working in series, “beading an idea to death,” she says with a smile, until she gets it right. She loves the refining process, a “precision” that comes “from hours and hours of going back over the same concept again and again,” deepening the vocabulary along the way. While she admires artists who can jump ideas, it is not in her DNA to work that way.

Architectural detail has been an important inspiration, be it East Indian doorways, Moroccan tiles, or mosaics from the pre-Renaissance and Renaissance. European reliquaries from 1300-1500, the bronze armatures found in Louis Comfort Tiffany’s work—these also inspire, as do patterns in nature. One collection of brooches got its start after Logan came across a book on ancient shields of Africa, South East Asia and Oceania from the Barbier-Mueller Museum collection in Geneva, Switzerland.

Logan has made it her mission to challenge the stereotype of bead jewelry, namely, beads strung together or with knots between them, like a string of pearls or a rosary. She is committed to connecting beads with metal in a way that is nontraditional, that “counteracts that idea of stringing.” To that end she cuts, drills and grinds her beads, in the process taking them to a new place in the realm of ornament. She is an innovator.

COLLECTION of large disk beads in flameworked glass, 5.08 centimeters diameter, 2016. Photograph by Kristina Logan.

     Kristina Logan was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, but spent much of her early life in New Hampshire’s White Mountains; she considers the Plymouth/Waterville Valley area her home. She boasts significant artistic genes, especially when it comes to working with her hands. Her mother, Reg Logan, née Surette, was a fashion illustrator at a time when newspaper and magazine advertisements were hand-drawn; today, she makes insect jewelry and ceramic objects. Logan’s grandmother, Reggie Surette, also worked in illustration, hand-drawing and -coloring for the Rust Craft Greeting Card Company, while her grandfather, Eliot Surette, did restoration in churches in the Boston area.

Growing up in this artistic milieu Logan recalls thinking that she, too, would draw for a living. In turn, she tells her own children, nine-year-old Valère and twelve-year-old Sophia, that she can tell that they already have the family hands. One of her necklace designs, a lively and playful collection of round beads, is named for her daughter.

Logan earned a BFA in sculpture at the University of New Hampshire in Durham in 1987. The all-star faculty included painter John Hatch (1919-1998), printmaker and draftsman Sigmund Abeles, and sculptor Michael McConnell (1948-2012). She appreciated the focus they placed on the foundations for making art—and their stories of life in New York City. She ended up embracing 3-D and carving in wood, sometimes with a chainsaw.

After moving to the coast of New Hampshire, Logan chanced into a job working for the renowned glass artist Dan Dailey in Kensington. “He needed people with good hands,” she recalls, and she fit the bill. In the four years in his studio, she received an education in glass. She did a lot of enameling on vases, as well as sandblasting, cold working, studio organizing “and making sure that pieces got to factories in West Virginia to be dipped in acid, and got back home again.”

One night while attending Pilchuk Glass School, Logan spied someone flameworking. She remembers thinking, “Oh, man, you mean I can do glass by myself? Without an enormous studio?” While she appreciates the sense of teamwork found among a group of glass blowers, she prefers working alone. As she noted in a 2009 interview, she likes the feeling of being self-reliant. 

Logan-LR-DSC_0957.jpg

     Logan was at Pilchuk to take a class in pâte de verre, which she describes as a kind of lost wax casting technique for glass. She was interested in trying to incorporate cast parts into the wood sculptures she was making at the time, but she found herself “seduced” by the flame and melting glass, by the intimacy and smaller scale of this work—“a torch and two hands.”

When she began to make beads, Logan was not all that serious. It was an amusement; “Oh, I’ll make some beads, it’ll be great, I’ll sell them for a dollar,” she recalls thinking. She had no idea that she would become fascinated by the rich cultural and anthropological history and reach of beadmaking. “All of a sudden,” she recounts, “I kind of plummeted into this world that I now exist in and adore.”

For a time Logan sold individual beads that other people would use to make jewelry. She attended bead shows, loading up her Volkswagen van and hitting the road. It afforded her a modest living and was “very empowering.” After a while, however, she wanted to make something out of the beads. She began collaborating with a jeweler friend who taught her how to solder. Soon she was making a few pieces of her own and loved it.

PREPARING the silver prior to soldering for Ivory and Red Constellation Necklace, 2015. Photograph by Kristina Logan.

     Logan never went to school for metalwork, but she knew enough to make the pieces she wanted to produce. If she wished to try something new, she would ask a friend—and sometimes her mother—how to do it. “I’ve always learned metalsmithing through osmosis,” she says. Formal training came from a few evening classes with the Australian silversmith Alan Place who worked for a time at Old Newbury Crafters in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

In her thirties Logan “induced” arthritis in the cartilage in her left thumb from nearly non-stop beadmaking. Taken aback by the idea that one could wear out a body part at that age, she wore a brace for a while, but continued to work as hard as ever. Eventually realizing that she could no longer be a “bead machine,” Logan began making larger objects and combining glass and metals. Returning to her sculptural roots, to what was important to her as an artist, she needed to invest more heart into her work in order “to feel better about myself and not have my hands wear out.”At the same time Logan began to see the potential of beads as sculptural forms. Individual beads could be resonant objects that people might carry around with them, like a Japanese netsuke or a marble—“a small piece that holds importance.” She came to believe that an object could be made so carefully that it could hold “spiritual content” without being attached to any specific religion.

Logan’s totem beads, inspired by ancient African granite beads, epitomize this belief. She started out making them as handles for objects, but never made the actual object for the handle. While she has made a few brooches out of them, she feels they connect to the hand more than anything.

Logan likes working in series, ‘beading an idea to death,’ she says with a smile, until she gets it right. She loves the refining process, a ‘precision’ that comes ‘from hours and hours of going back over the same concept again and again,’ deepening the vocabulary along the way. While she admires artists who can jump ideas, it is not in her DNA to work that way.

     The “Contemporary Glass Bead Exhibition” in Prescott, Arizona, in 1993 proved to be a turning point, both for Logan and the universe of bead artists. “You can kind of call that the beginning of the glass bead movement,” she says. About eighty people came together and realized, “Hey, we’re all making glass beads! We’re a society.” The Society of Glass Beadmakers, later changed to the International Society of Glass Beadmakers, was born. Logan would serve as its president in 1996-1998 and later, in 2005, win its Hall of Flame award. Its annual conference, called “The Gathering,” takes place in a different spot each year. While the ISGB has, says Logan, waxed and waned over the years, “we still get together.”

KRISTINA LOGAN’S STUDIO, designed and built by Michael Graf. Photograph by Kristen Fuller.

     Asked about how she balances teaching with her artmaking, Logan estimates that ninety percent of the time she is working alone in the studio—“just me making”—with the balance spent leading workshops. In addition to instructorships at Haystack, the Corning Museum, Penland, and other schools and private studios further afield, she has started offering bead workshops at her new studio in Portsmouth. Being around other artists and interacting with students charges her up.

In the workshop at Haystack, assisted by bead artist Priscilla Turner Spada from Newburyport, Massachusetts, Logan taught flamework technique—“all beads, all the time”—plus how to insert silver rivets in the bead holes. Seated before torches attached to three benches set along a wall of windows overlooking Jericho Bay, the students gamely wound the melting soda-lime glass canes around mandrels and listened as Logan shared the thought process that goes into creating her beads.

Logan has sought to impart her knowledge of her art to an ever broader audience. In 2009, the Corning Museum of Glass helped in that mission, producing “Beadmaking with Kristina Logan,” the seventh installment in its Master Class series. In the thirty-minute video Logan offers insight into her artistic principles. She notes, for example, that she has never turned away from making smaller beads because “it all serves the greater purpose, to have your hands ready to work with this molten material.” She also admits she is not a fast beadmaker. Indeed, she encourages her students to “seek ease and the fewest movements possible.” She likens it to her yoga practice “where your movement and your breath are very much connected to your mind at the same time.”

IVORY AND RED CONSTELLATION NECKLACE of flameworked glass and fabricated sterling silver, 4.45 x 1.27 x 66.04 centimeters, 2015. Photograph by Dean Powell.

      “Bead people are passionate about beads,” Logan says. They understand the primal connection people have to these pieces of glass and how they are worn on the body. They also appreciate, as she does, the long lineage of beadwork in the cultures of the world. These beautiful objects bring people together “on a heart level.” That is the level to which Logan aspires, in art and life.

SUGGESTED READING 
Benesh, Carolyn L. E. “Kristina Logan. A Luminous Aesthetic.” Ornament 21.4: 42-45, 1998.
DeDominicis, Jill. “Kristina Logan. Master Class in Glass Beadmaking.” Ornament 30.3: 64-67, 2007.
Dubin, Lois Sherr. The History of Beads: From 100,000 B.C. to the Present, revised and expanded edition. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2009.
Hemachandra, Ray, editor. The Penland Book of Glass: Master Classes in Flamework Techniques. Lark Crafts, 2011.
Jenkins, Cindy. Making Glass Beads (Beadwork Books). New York: Lark Books, 1997.
Logan, Kristina. “Creative Process and Inspiration.” Glass Bead Evolution. International Society of Glass Beadmakers, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2014.
     Masters: Glass Beads: Major Works by Leading Artists. New York: Lark Books, 2008.
     1000 Glass Beads: Innovation & Imagination in Contemporary Glass Beadmaking. New York: Lark Books, 2004.

 

     Get Inspired!

 
 

Carl Little caught up with Kristina Logan in late August at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle where she was teaching a workshop on glass beadmaking. Based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Logan is “the leading maker of glass beads working today,” according to David Whitehouse, executive director of the Corning Museum of Glass. Little is one of twenty poets featured in a series of videos produced during Maine poet laureate Wesley McNair’s tenure. They can be viewed on the University of Maine website. His most recent book is Wendy Turner—Island Light.

Egyptian Broadcollars Volume 39.3

VIRTUALLY INTACT FAIENCE BROADCOLLAR OF WAH, an estate manager, XIth Dynasty, circa 2020 B.C., 39.4 cm deep. X-ray in 1940 revealed this almost intact broadcollar within his mummy wrappings. It is the best preserved example of its type and is strung on linen threads without disk beads, with the typical fringe of drop pendants and semi-circular terminals. The first row has 83 cylindrical faience beads, the last 222 beads, increasing gradually in length from top to bottom, hinting at how many beads are required for this broadcollar. Ceramic artist Carol Strick has made a replica of this necklace.  Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  Rogers Fund/E. S. Harkness Gift, 1940, 40.3.2; gallery 105.  Photographed as displayed, with high ISO and manual mode on a Canon SLR.   Photographs by Robert K. Liu/ Ornament  unless noted.

VIRTUALLY INTACT FAIENCE BROADCOLLAR OF WAH, an estate manager, XIth Dynasty, circa 2020 B.C., 39.4 cm deep. X-ray in 1940 revealed this almost intact broadcollar within his mummy wrappings. It is the best preserved example of its type and is strung on linen threads without disk beads, with the typical fringe of drop pendants and semi-circular terminals. The first row has 83 cylindrical faience beads, the last 222 beads, increasing gradually in length from top to bottom, hinting at how many beads are required for this broadcollar. Ceramic artist Carol Strick has made a replica of this necklace. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund/E. S. Harkness Gift, 1940, 40.3.2; gallery 105. Photographed as displayed, with high ISO and manual mode on a Canon SLR. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament unless noted.

No other ancient culture has been as well-studied as that of Predynastic and Dynastic Egypt, especially the personal adornment of their upper class women and men. Well-developed technologies of working stone, metal, faience, glass, and fibers, all under the control of dynastic elites, contributed to a precision and uniformity of jewelry and dress. Living in a hot, dry climate, men wore linen kilts, women thin, tight sheath dresses of the same fiber, some pleated, and often with straps that covered the breasts. For health and comfort, both sexes usually shaved their heads, using wigs to prevent sunstroke (Watterson 1991). Depictions of ancient Egyptians on paintings, reliefs and statuary invariably showed them wearing broadcollars, almost an essential form of dress. The majority of broadcollars were made of cylindrical and/or disk beads of faience, a self-glazing, thixotropic ceramic that was both a luxury and a magical product for the elite (Friedman 1998).

 

To Read the Full Article

 
 

Robert K. Liu is Coeditor of Ornament and for many years its in-house photographer. His recent book, The Photography of Personal Adornment, covers forty plus years of shooting jewelry, clothing and events related to wearable art, both in and out of the Ornament studio. Recently he has been teaching one-on-one photography lessons at our office, as well as teaching workshops on bamboo jewelry. In this issue Liu writes about ancient Egyptian broadcollars, usually made of faience beads, how they were made and extant examples of this beautiful item of dress, including modern replicas by artist Carol Strick.

Tufted Tales: Chenille Garments Volume 39.3

Georgia and textiles, cotton in particular, have a long association, and the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail is bringing increased recognition to the history of the industrial growth resulting from that union. In addition to the expected cotton mills, the trail highlights numerous factories devoted to the production of garments and accessories including hosiery, underwear and—in Bremen—menswear. In the northwestern corner of the state, especially in the town of Dalton, the trail focuses on the old highway where small roadside businesses sold souvenirs like tufted peacock bathrobes and on the mills that manufactured chenille bedspreads and garments before focusing on the production of carpet. My book Southern Tufts: The Regional Origins and National Craze for Chenille Fashion, published by the University of Georgia Press, is part of a growing body of research into the region’s textile history and the first to focus on tufted fashion.

      In the spring of 2015 the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail organized a conference focused on using the arts to tell textile stories; the event included presentations about mill town music, life in a mill village, using theater to convey information about the past, and incorporating narrative elements into the promotion of historic destinations. I shared stories about the makers and manufacturers of tufted garments, encouraging the careful reconsideration of well-known stories and the inclusion of individuals at all levels of production, as well as stressing the importance of preserving objects. Following are five tufted textile stories.

CATHERINE EVANS WHITENER AND CANDLEWICK KIMONOS

CATHERINE EVANS WHITENER with a candlewick bedspread, circa 1960. Courtesy of Bandy Heritage Center for Northwest Georgia, Carpet and Rug Institute Photograph Collection.

      Almost any recounting of the history of Georgia’s tufted textiles begins with the story of Catherine Evans Whitener (1880-1964) and her “rediscovery” of the traditional candlewick technique for decorating spreads in the late nineteenth century. Actually, there was increased interest in these historic textiles in many parts of the United States as part of the Colonial Revival. As Americans celebrated the country’s centenary and reflected on the people, places, and objects associated with its founding, they turned to forms like candlewick spreads, originally popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, for inspiration. 

Whitener, inspired by an antique candlewick spread in a relative’s home, made her first few spreads as gifts, then began selling them. Orders quickly outpaced her individual production capabilities and she taught neighboring women her process. She either drew her own pattern or copied an existing spread by placing it fluff-side down with a fresh sheet on top that she rubbed with a greased tin (or other “stamping iron”) to transfer the pattern. Then she stitched the pattern with plain running stitches, clipped the stitches with scissors, and boiled the fabric to shrink the weave and hold the stitches in place. Finally, she dried and fluffed the spreads, creating the familiar pompom decorations. The women she taught in turn instructed others, and a cottage industry developed. By the mid-1910s department stores throughout the Midwest and New England carried the popular southern bedspreads. As automobile travel increased (especially by the late 1920s), Dalton also developed a thriving culture of roadside stands, known as “spreadlines,” selling tufted products.

As consumer demand for the textiles increased, and due to government pressure for fair wages, the industry mechanized in the early 1930s. The new machine-tufted textiles were called chenille, French for “caterpillar,” to distinguish them from the earlier hand-tufted candlewick goods. As the mechanization process progressed, the machines evolved from single-needle converted sewing machines to large, multi-needle machines that could produce tufted yardage. Later, carpet became the dominate tufted product, eclipsing chenille in the 1950s. 

MRS. RALPH HANEY wearing a candlewick kimono with a peacock design, circa 1920. Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection, gor466.

      The tufted textile industry whole-heartedly embraced and promoted the story of Catherine Evans Whitener by the 1930s. For example, in 1953 a buyer for Rich’s department store in Atlanta wrote an article for the Tufted Textile Manufacturers Association Directory, the industry’s annual publication, advising stores to tell their sales forces “about the young farm girl, Catherine Evans, who made the first modern tufted spread in 1895 and launched a multi-million dollar industry.” As Philis Alvic details in her book Weavers of the Southern Highlands, other textile production centers in southern Appalachia in the early twentieth century offered similar stories in order to connect their modern textiles with antiques and capitalize on the popularity of the Colonial Revival.

Though rarely mentioned, Whitener made garments—aprons and kimonos—as well as spreads. While none of her garments are known to survive, a single photographic image from the region showing Mrs. Ralph Haney (née Exzene Carter, 1894-1962) wearing a kimono suggests the type of work Whitener would have done. Haney’s kimono appears to be hand tufted in a single color on a solid color background and shows a peacock next to a vase in a trellis setting.

I found several advertisements from 1923 in northeastern newspapers for candlewick kimonos, and while the ads do not mention Georgia, the garments are similar in style and description to Haney’s. One ad, for the Joseph Horne Company in Pittsburgh, lists some of the color combinations of these garments as “gray with rose designs, orchid with lavender, orange with blue, pumpkin with white, black with rose, old blue with white, yellow with yellow, leaf green with green.”

These were part of a vogue for Orientalism in fashion, and the butterflies, peacocks, and kimono form are relevant to that theme. The production in southern Appalachia of kimonos that were handcrafted using a traditional technique related to the Colonial Revival and reflecting a Japanese-inspired contemporary fashion trend, represents a remarkable combination of influences that enriches Whitener’s story and helps expand its significance beyond local history.

A PINK CANDLEWICK DRESS

CANDLEWICK COTTON DRESS, circa 1930s. Photograph by Michael McKelvey. Collection of Bradley Putnam.

      While visiting with a collector in Tunnel Hill, a small town north of Dalton, I encountered an unusual pink dress and bonnet. The dress was a mystery to the collector; he purchased it because it was tufted, but did not know its history.

At the time, I was well into my research and particularly interested by how in the late 1920s and early 1930s women from the region helped promote candlewick spreads by traveling to department stores throughout the country to give hand-tufting demonstrations. Often these women wore Colonial Revival style costumes with bonnets. An ad for a demonstration at Macy’s in New York in 1931 reads, “You’ll have to imagine the log cabin and the cotton fields background. But the girls themselves, in cotton frocks and sunbonnets, will be here, tufting the spreads by hand, just as they do in their native Georgia.” Other evidence suggests that these “native costumes,” as they often were called, were sometimes tufted.

As I examined the pink dress—hand tufted then dyed, assembled with a sewing machine, a silhouette that recalls a French shepherdess—the details all suggested that this was a rare survival: an example of a costume worn by a hand-tufting demonstrator. It is not an accurate copy of anything that existed historically and it is not a style that was ever popular during the twentieth century, but it is appropriate as a circa 1930 interpretation of something from “golden olden times.”

The marketing of candlewick spreads was not the only entrepreneurial enterprise that benefited from the incorporation of Colonial Revival style costumes. Fashion historian Beverly Gordon, in an article on Colonial Revival fashion published in Dress, explains that by the interwar years the practice was popular in businesses such as Colonial-style tea rooms (with costumed waitresses) because the high moral associations with the style helped increase profits. She also notes that historical accuracy was less important than conveying a sense of a charming and picturesque past. The lovely image that the candlewick demonstrators presented helped sell bedspreads, but it was actually a far cry from the experiences of many of the tufters, often desperately poor women working long, hard hours for very little pay.

EMILY BENNETT AND U.S. 41

TWO VIEWS of Mrs. J. H. Bennett’s chenille business, with Willie Jean Chitwood, Helen Bennett (Mrs. Bennett’s daughter), and Aveline Chitwood seated at left, circa 1937. Photographs probably taken by Iduma Chitwood. Collection of Helen Johnson.

      Many small businesses existed along the highway, first called the Dixie Highway and later U.S. 41, in northwestern Georgia. One belonged to Mrs. J. H. Bennett (née Emily Mealor or Mealer, 1904-1997). Select records from her business survive in the collection of the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society in Dalton, and one of her daughters, Helen Johnson, who lives a few miles from where her mother worked, recalls many details about what she made.

Bennett began working as a hand tufter while her husband farmed; they lived out in the country at the time and she sold her wares on the spreadline of a friend who lived near the highway. Then the family moved to U.S. 41 and she set up her own spreadline near the Resaca Confederate Cemetery, just south of Dalton. In the early 1930s her husband built her a little log cabin and she worked there alone. In many ways, she epitomized the popular notion of a traditional Appalachian craftswoman; she almost always wore a bonnet, she used an old-timey needlework technique, she was near a Civil War historic sight, and she worked in a log cabin, albeit a brand-new one. In 1936 the Atlanta Journal even included two photographs of her business on a rotogravure page about Bedspread Boulevard, as the highway was called at the time. In addition to bedspreads, she made pillows and aprons, which the newspaper described as “novel.”

CHENILLE COTTON APRON by Mrs. J. H. Bennett, undated. Photograph by Michael McKelvey. Courtesy of the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society, Crown Gardens & Archives, Dalton, Georgia, gift of Helen Johnson.

      Bennett soon acquired a single-needle tufting machine, adding bath sets, capes, jackets, and robes to her inventory, then moved to a new spreadline down the road. Her daughter believes that Bennett’s ability to sew clothing—a skill learned of necessity because she had four daughters and limited income—helped her translate the tufted textiles into appealing garments.

Bennett had regular customers who would visit her when traveling U.S. 41 to vacation in Florida and who would write to her during the year to place orders. Sometimes travelers would make purchases as they traveled through and she would ship the goods to their far-away homes. She also sold to a few department stores in Chicago. Bennett continued her business until Interstate 75 opened in 1965 and drew away the tourist traffic from the older highway, though she still tufted until she was eighty years of age.

ARTHUR RICHMAN AND THE ART-RICH MANUFACTURING COMPANY

MATCHBOOK COVER advertisement for Blue Ridge Manufacturing Company, circa 1945. Private Collection.

      As chenille garments became increasingly popular in the late 1930s, several big spread companies realized that they needed to bring in specialized talent. They knew how to manufacture and design and market spreads, but clothing was new to them. Samuel Hurowitz (b. Russia, 1898-1975), who had founded Blue Ridge Spread in Dalton in 1933, added a garment department and in 1939 had hired Arthur “Artie” Richman (b. Poland, 1904-1965), an experienced garment designer in New York, to run it.

Richman’s designs for Blue Ridge included a series of chenille robes with playing card motifs, recorded through patent applications. He filed for the patents in April 1943 and was granted them in December 1943, but during that time much of Blue Ridge’s production was turned over to the war effort.
Blue Ridge featured the heart design in an advertisement in Glamour in 1944 that acknowledged the reality of wartime retail. Part of the text reads, “We are still trying to make shipments… to at least one store in each city so that you may have yours.”

Sometime before World War II ended Richman left Blue Ridge to start his own company, Ann-Lee Chenilles, which existed only briefly. By 1947 he had established Art-Rich Manufacturing Company, a large, long-lived business that focused on chenille robes for women and children. The overwhelming majority of chenille manufactories were in northwestern Georgia, and in 1949 the industry produced almost five and one half million chenille robes. Even though Richman’s business was one of the younger ones in the region and it never manufactured hand-tufted candlewick products, he still capitalized on the appeal of the industry’s early southern roots by adding paper tags to his robes that read, “This chenille robe is made where the candlewick tufting industry originated,” with an image of cotton.

MODEL wearing a chenille robe by Art-Rich, circa 1953. Courtesy of Bandy Heritage Center for Northwest Georgia, Carpet and Rug Institute Photograph Collection.

      For many years robe companies used the same basic pattern to make traditional wraparound robes, but as chenille robes started to lose favor in the 1950s—as national fashions changed and as carpet became the dominant tufted product in northwestern Georgia—robe manufacturers introduced a variety of different styles to try to maintain market share. Richman even wrote an article for the Tufted Textile Manufacturers Association Directory in 1954 addressing how the production of robes had shifted from employing single-needle machines (as multi-needle machines that could produce tufted yardage were common by that time) and one pattern that was used for years with just some variation in the decorative motifs to an industry with “constantly changing” styles requiring “new patterns... to keep pace with the trend.” He pointed out that the small changes, including the buttons and buttonholes and various trimmings, required additional materials and labor.

During the 1950s duster robes surpassed the popularity of traditional wraparound robes. These new robes, typically three-quarter-length, could be styled a variety of ways and appealed to the growing youth market. Chenille robes, though, never regained their former prominence and began to fall out of fashion. Art-Rich diversified its offerings, adding terrycloth robes. Shortly before Arthur Richman died in 1965, his son Martin Richman (1929-2007) took over the company. Art-Rich continued experimenting with new styles
and other materials, but could not compete as cheaper imported goods hit the market, and closed in the early 1980s.

MARILYN WOLF AND THE CHENILLE REVIVAL

POSTCARD of children’s recycled chenille bathrobes, 1997. Photograph by Michael Scott Studio, New York City. Marilyn Wolf Designs, collection of the artist.

      Chenille fashion experienced a revival towards the end of the twentieth century. Beginning by the early 1970s, crafters and designers began cutting up old tufted bedspreads to make new products, especially garments including jackets, robes, bloomers, aprons, bibs, skirts, pullover blouses, and hats. Many were motivated by nostalgia as well as an interest in recycling encouraged by the burgeoning environmental movement.

One of the designers to repurpose old spreads was Marilyn Wolf of Narberth, Pennsylvania. She had established a small manufacturing business around 1970 and in the mid-1990s she made a small collection of chenille robes using chenille yardage she had purchased from a close-out sale. Then, through an acquaintance who happened to own a rag factory (a business that collected leftover fabrics from thrift stores and other sources), she gained access to a seemingly limitless supply of vintage spreads. By the 1980s and 1990s, as many original owners of tufted bedspreads downsized their homes, secondary markets were flooded with inexpensive materials.

MARILYN WOLF JACKETS FLYER, “Jackets fashioned from vintage chenille,” circa 1997. Marilyn Wolf Designs, collection of the artist.

      Wolf used these to make colorful one-of-a-kind robes and jackets for women, as well as teddy bears and baby blankets, that are notable for their playful patchwork aesthetic and postmodern profusion of colors and patterns. As the supplies of chenille dwindled and material became more precious, and, she notes, as the market for high-end art clothing for children increased, Wolf turned her attention to small robes, rompers, and jackets for children. She often added non-chenille materials like marabou or vintage buttons. She sold her designs through exclusive stores including Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s and in children’s boutiques across the country. When she could no longer find adequate supplies of quality chenille, she turned to other materials.  

 

Though the tufted textile industry was centered in the South, it became a national phenomenon. While Hollywood helped cement the iconic status of the chenille robe—with appearances ranging from glamorous actresses like Katharine Hepburn in Holiday in 1938 to Oscar-winner Shirley Booth’s downtrodden character in Come Back, Little Sheba in 1952 to Michael Douglas as a creative writing professor in the Wonder Boys in 2000—its presence in the lives of everyday Americans led to innumerable personal stories and memories about the material. In sharing my research for Southern Tufts, I have heard many recollections—about a mother’s favorite aqua robe with flowers, a child’s fascination with the rows of tufts on a bedspread, a family member who devoted a lifetime to the industry—and I welcome more stories and encourage the preservation of tufted textiles and their histories.



SUGGESTED READING
Alvic, Philis. Weavers of the Southern Highlands. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2003.
Callahan, Ashley. “From Roadside to Runway: A History of Chenille in Fashion.” Ornament 34.4: 26-31, 2011.
The Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia. Images of America: The West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2015.
Deaton, Thomas M. Bedspreads to Broadloom: The Story of the Tufted Carpet Industry. Acton, Massachusetts: Tapestry Press, 1993.
Gordon, Beverly. “Costumed Representations of Early America: A Gendered Portrayal, 1850-1940.” Dress 30: 3-20, 2003.

 

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Ashley Callahan is an independent scholar and curator in Athens, Georgia, with a specialty in modern and contemporary American decorative arts. The University of Georgia Press published her book Southern Tufts: The Regional Origins and National Craze for Chenille Fashion in December 2015. She grew up in Dalton—known over time as both the Bedspread Capital of the World and the Carpet Capital of the World—and is pleased to be able to share information about the tufted textile industry’s history and about her home state’s contributions to American fashion.

Yves Saint Laurent Volume 39.3

The legendary Yves Saint Laurent designed clothing for his glamorous mother and created exquisite wardrobes for paper dolls when he was still in his teens. Though he grew up in Oran, Algeria, far from Paris, the world’s fashion capital, Saint Laurent at seventeen won the Woolmark Prize competition, a prestigious international fashion industry award. A year later he was handpicked by Christian Dior, the sun king of 1950s haute couture, to be Dior’s second in command. From his start as a design prodigy until the closing of his heralded haute couture maison in 2002, Saint Laurent’s remarkable clothing redefined what it meant for women to be stylish and contemporary.

 

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Robin Updike has followed fashion in one way or another for most of her life. As a teenager she sewed most of her own clothes and in those years Vogue Patterns carried designs from major international designers, including Yves Saint Laurent. Updike still owns a prized Vogue Pattern for the famous YSL tuxedo for women and she was delighted to able to spend time at the Seattle Art Museum’s gorgeous homage to the legendary designer. Based in Seattle, Washington, Updike, a regular contributor to Ornament, writes about art, style and wine.

JOLI! Sierra Leone Headdresses Volume 39.3

JOLI! A Fancy Masquerade From Sierra Leone

The Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, is extremely fortunate to have a rare group of eleven Joli headdresses from Sierra Leone, which are on view in the museum’s Focus Gallery through July 16, 2017. Joli headdresses are among the most complex and elaborately configured masquerade structures we know from sub-Saharan Africa, and the Joli masquerade was performed only in the port city of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, during the 1970s.

      Following Sierra Leone’s independence, achieved in 1961 after over one hundred fifty years of British colonial rule, a wave of young migrants from the countryside—mostly members of the Temne ethnic group—moved to Freetown in hopes of finding greater opportunities and a better future. This gave rise to socioeconomic concerns about how best to integrate this influx of newly arrived young people into the city. Charitable organizations in Freetown—among them the Zorrow Unity Society and the Young Men’s Muslim Association (YMMA)—offered them food and shelter. These organizations also sponsored a variety of guided activities to help them adjust to urban life.

MASQUERADE HEADDRESS of wood, pigment, wire, fabric, fringe, braid, polyurethane foam, metal, 58.4 x 55.9 x 68.6 centimeters, Freetown, Sierra Leone, circa 1970s. Images courtesy of the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

      Notable among these efforts was the sponsorship of masquerades. Zorrow Unity and YMMA formed the Joli Society to produce a citywide parade festival to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, as well as other festive occasions. Members of the society were tasked with helping to create the spectacular headdresses that they would wear during these occasions. The word “fancy,” used to describe the events, seems to have come from its appearance in advertisements for yardage in local newspapers, as ornate brocades, damask, lace, and fringe were key materials used to create Joli headdresses. The term may also have entered the lexicon because “fancy costumes” were worn at balls during the British colonial era.

Deeper antecedents of the Joli masquerade may reside in a lantern festival celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr that seems to have originated in the 1930s and may have been inspired by a Gambian festival celebrating the Christmas season. Over time, the handheld lanterns morphed into large motorized floats constructed with bent and twisted wire, bamboo and wood. These wire frameworks were covered with layers of fabric and paper. In the 1970s Joli headdresses were made using the same materials and techniques and adopted many of the themes that had been used in the floats, becoming a sort of portable equivalent. The elusive water spirit Mami Wata, who represents beauty and fertility, was frequently represented on headdresses. She often wears an elaborate crown, which may represent her own power or be a holdover from British royal iconography. A rampant lion and unicorn, symbols of the British crown, are also commonly featured on Joli headdresses. As Sierra Leone was and still is predominantly Muslim, it is not surprising that superstructures also portray mosques or Al-Buraq, the magical horse with a human face who carried Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem and back. Elephants, biplanes and other fanciful imagery are also common.

X-RAY OF MASQUERADE HEADDRESS shown above depicting the structural engineering of the object primarily using wires of different gauges. CT scan and X-Ray made possible with the cooperation of the UCLA Radiology Department, Translational Research Imaging Center.    

      Joli headdresses were produced in several stages, each undertaken by individuals with different skills. During the course of exhibition preparation and research, the Fowler arranged with the UCLA Radiology Department, Translational Research Imaging Center, to have one of its headdresses examined using Computed Tomography (CT), which employs computer-processed combinations of many X-ray images taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional images, allowing the viewer to see inside an object without cutting or dismantling.

As the CT scan reveals, the first and innermost layer provided the headdress’s structural foundation or armature and was made from bent and twisted wire of different gauges. A second layer was composed primarily of polyurethane padding, which was in turn overlaid with a wide array of materials: cloth printed with floral motifs or animal prints, gingham, shimmering brocades, lush velvets, beaded veils, and embellishments including Christmas tinsel, garlands, plastic flowers, cowrie shells, fringes, rickrack, lace, and mirrors.

One or more wooden masks were attached to the fancy superstructure, giving a face to the Joli headdress. The coiffures of these carved wooden masks were painted a high-luster black, which helped to reflect the light, and the use of pink, violet, red, and other vibrant colors to paint their faces is evocative of masking traditions of southeastern Nigeria, especially those of the Ibibio peoples. The entire headdress was worn on top of the head. The Joli masquerade performer completed the ensemble with a full-body costume made of printed cloth, with white gloves and knee-high white socks to cover his hands and feet.

MASQUERADE HEADDRESS of wood, pigment, wire, fabric, tinsel, fringe, ribbon, metal, 91.5 x 68.6 x 55.8 centimeters, Freetown, Sierra Leone, circa 1970s. MASQUERADE HEADDRESS of wood, pigment, wire, fabric, tinsel mirrors, fringe, ribbon, metal, 64.7 x 53.3 x 16.73 centimeters, Freetown, Sierra Leone, circa 1970s. MASQUERADE HEADDRESS of wood, pigment, wire, fabric, tinsel, fringe, ribbon, metal, 91.5 x 68.6 x 55.8 centimeters, Freetown, Sierra Leone, circa 1970s.

 

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Gassia Armenian is Curatorial and Research Associate and Editorial Assistant at the Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she conducts collections and database research to facilitate curatorial and scholarly endeavors and manages various aspects of planning and organizing museum exhibitions. Prior to her work at the Fowler Museum, Armenian was a Consultant-Project Coordinator at the US Agency for International Development—for Junior Achievement of Armenia where she developed and implemented civics-education training programs and teaching methodologies for principals and teachers from the Republic of Armenia in the United States and in Armenia. In this issue, she writes about the Fowler’s exhibition on Sierra Leone headdresses.

The Tucson Shows 2017 Volume 39.3

PETER VAN DE WIJNGAART, FLOOR KASPARS, ROBERT WILLIAMS, BERNIE LAWITZ, AND HIS DAUGHTER HANNAH LAWITZ at the Silk Road Gem & Jewelry Show off of Grant Road, in the former Grant Inn, now the Grand Luxe Hotel and Resort. Van de Wijngaart and Kaspars are Dutch bead lovers who visit Tucson every year. Lawitz is the former owner of recently closed Beads Galore.  Photographs by Robert K. Liu and Patrick R. Benesh-Liu.

PETER VAN DE WIJNGAART, FLOOR KASPARS, ROBERT WILLIAMS, BERNIE LAWITZ, AND HIS DAUGHTER HANNAH LAWITZ at the Silk Road Gem & Jewelry Show off of Grant Road, in the former Grant Inn, now the Grand Luxe Hotel and Resort. Van de Wijngaart and Kaspars are Dutch bead lovers who visit Tucson every year. Lawitz is the former owner of recently closed Beads Galore. Photographs by Robert K. Liu and Patrick R. Benesh-Liu.

There is a thrill to treasure-hunting that transcends the humdrum routine of everyday life. It is the feeling that comes from encountering the unknown, and even more alluringly, the ability to somehow take that home with you.

      There exists a place where that is possible. It is called the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, which is somewhat of a misnomer in that instead of being one, singular show, it is more like if one occupied a small city with tents, pop-up tables, booths, and mini-vans. During the months of January and February, Tucson undergoes just such a transformation. Roughly fifty shows, fairs and festivals spring up around the city, some featuring just a dozen exhibitors, others hosting hundreds of vendors. It is not just gems and minerals that are for sale. Tribal and ethnographic art, ancient artifacts, crafting tools and supplies, hand-blown glass beads, jewelry, clothing, baskets, purses, backpacks, fossils, giant sculptures—it really is easier to list what you will not find at the Tucson Shows. Which is to say you can find almost everything there.

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Patrick R. Benesh-Liu is Associate Editor of Ornament and continues to find time to enjoy craft in between writing, travel and tech support. This January he and Robert travel to Tucson to visit the Gem & Mineral Show, where they will see old friends, make new ones, and cover all the wonders of that worldly bazaar. In this issue he describes one small corner of the vast market, and encourages readers to indulge in their inner explorer and visit the show themselves. As Ornament’s reporter, he also provides a zesty compilation of the latest news in craft, where you can find out what is happening with art to wear in the global neighborhood.

Vlisco. African Fashion Volume 39.3

African Fashion
On A Global Stage

We tend to talk about “globalization” as though it were a relatively recent development in our history. Particularly in relation to the textile industry, it is also seen (often justifiably) as an exploitative process aimed at producing cheap wearable goods for mass consumption in the West. The reality, of course, is that it is older and more complex than we imagine and can sometimes involve connections forged over many decades among far-flung cultures, leading to creative collaborations that reflect both global networks and local and regional innovations.

      A case in point is Vlisco, the Dutch company whose vibrant textiles, based on Indonesian batik wax-resist techniques for printing color on cotton cloth, have for a century and a half enjoyed enormous popularity throughout West Africa. In the hands of local dressmakers, these Dutch Wax (or Wax Hollandaise) prints are transformed into gorgeously designed garments that reflect the tastes, traditions and trends of the region’s various cultures.

A generous sampling of the products of this intercontinental collaboration can be found in “Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage,” on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through January 22, 2017. The show is a key component of “Creative Africa,” a suite of exhibitions at the museum surveying African art across multiple mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, and textiles, with an emphasis on the contemporary.

 

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David Updike is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. A regular contributor to Ornament, he most recently previewed the 2016 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. In these pages, he reviews “Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage,” an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that showcases the creative synergy of West African fashion designers crafting beautiful formal wear from “Dutch Wax” printed textiles. Next up in Ornament is Updike’s feature article on jeweler Barbara Heinrich from Pittsford, New York.

Sandy Swirnoff Volume 39.3

Sandy Swirnoff

Knotted Fiber Jewelry

FRIDA of nylon thread, Tibetan coral, glass seed beads, Indonesian silver beads, 2006. Collection of Grace Stewart. Photographs by Katie Gardner, courtesy of Mingei International Museum.

Sandy Swirnoff creates necklaces of intricately knotted nylon thread in colorful hues, embedding them with beads of all kinds, and sometimes with rescued shards of Art Nouveau glass. Thirty of these unique and wearable works of art are on view in Sandy Swirnoff—Knotted Fiber Jewelry, an exhibition presented by Mingei International Museum in San Diego, from January 14 to June 4, 2017. Swirnoff’s knotting process is a spontaneous style of macramé. According to the artist, “The best way to create free-form knotting is to watch carefully which direction the cords naturally want to go, to see if there is a pattern forming, a new shape wanting to appear, or some connection between areas that is graceful and has movement.”

 

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Christine Knoke Hietbrink is Director of Exhibitions and Chief Curator at Mingei International Museum in San Diego, California’s Balboa Park, which she joined in June 2010. Her most recent curatorial projects include “Sandy Swirnoff: Knotted Fiber Jewelry,” “American and European Folk Art from the Permanent Collection” and “Black Dolls from the Collection of Deborah Neff.” Knoke holds a BA in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an MA in Art History and Museum Studies from University of Southern California.