ORNAMENT Volume 33 No. 4

Helen Shirk. Illuminating the Possible
Lisa Gralnick. The Gold Standard
Koos Van Den Akker. Sewing Up a Storm
Ascher Scarves. Fine Art Meets Fashion


Spotlight: Wabanaki Textiles


While seeking to rescue from oblivion “one of North America’s most dynamic indigenous textile traditions,” the Maine State Museum exhibition organizers also wished to highlight the current efforts to revive native traditions. Acknowledging that basketmaking is the central focus of contemporary Wabanaki artists, they also highlight the increasing interest in beadwork and ribbon appliqué among tribal artisans, as well as the recovery of the lost art of birch bark canoe building.


At San Diego State University’s opening reception for Points of Departure: Helen Shirk and Alumni of SDSU, Shirk’s students from as far back as thirty years ago came to celebrate her career and contributions as Professor and Head of the Jewelry and Metalwork department. Some arrived wearing pieces they created in Shirk’s classes, others shared memories of working under her demanding but ever-encouraging tutelage.


Lisa Gralnick has spent her career working with gold as a goldsmith, jewelrymaker and art professor. But it was not until 2002 when she decided to buy a house in Madison, Wisconsin, that it occurred to her to consider the economic implications of owning gold.
She had accepted a position as a professor of art at the University of Wisconsin the year before and she wanted to buy a home in Madison.


Koos Van Den Akker is a textile collage artist whose canvas is a garment. From the time he was a child growing up in Holland, he took whatever was around him—crepe paper, unstrung fake pearls, bed sheets—and created something dreamlike and beautiful. He continues to look intently and touch and gather material instinctively, whether he is walking in New York’s Garment District, traveling abroad or at a street fair. The fabric may be five dollars or seventy-five dollars a yard. “It makes no difference to me,” he says pointing to a pile of burlap wheat sacks in his Manhattan workroom. “I can make something out of nothing.”


Wearable art has long had its share of accomplished artists who lent their talents to
the medium of fabric intended as personal adornment. Thanks to Zika and Lida Ascher, the likes of Henry Moore, Henri Matisse and Alexander Calder can be added to their company. These artists’ designs are among those featured on Ascher scarves, a project of the famed Ascher textile workshop in London.