|Conference Report from Megan A. Coyan||| Print ||
In January, I had the opportunity to attend the conference Inspired Design: Jacquard & Entrepreneurial Textiles, which accompanied the textile exhibit of the same name, organized by The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design in Hendersonville, North Carolina. As a self-employed artist and designer, I went there with a primary interest in the entrepreneurial side of Jacquard weaving.
As a textile design student at Parsons School of Design in the early 1990’s, I was not fortunate enough to have access to a Jacquard loom. Upon graduating, I made the difficult decision not to go into the industry, but rather to work various jobs while pursuing my own artwork. But a few years ago, I finally had my introduction to Jacquard weaving, and it reawakened my love of textile design. To tell a very abridged story, I quit my day job and started my own textile design studio.
Prior to my arrival at the conference, I could count the number of attendees that I knew or had previously met on one hand. Living in Columbus, Ohio, as I do, I sometimes feel rather isolated from my textile peers. I don’t work in academia, so I don’t have the interaction with other instructors or with students, and I work alone from my home studio. In my city, I know fiber artists and have met hand weavers, but I’ve yet to meet any art weavers or weave designers here. Every time I attend a Jacquard class or workshop, it’s refreshing to be able to meet others with whom I share this common interest. So, when I first heard about the Inspired Design conference, I was very excited about the prospect of going to it and having the opportunity to meet many more people. Upon arriving at the opening reception, I was impressed by the large number of people who were in attendance. It was wonderful to see so many people come together for the love of textiles.
In the days that followed, I enjoyed listening to the speakers who were there to discuss the various topics and to share their artwork, and I was very inspired in regards to my own work. It wasn’t direct inspiration from any one artist, but rather inspiration through the collective energy of having many artists together in one room. Collaboration was spoken of quite frequently throughout the conference, and it’s that idea of creative symbiosis that was exciting.
For me, one of the highlights of the conference was listening to Bethanne Knudson speak of the founding of The Oriole Mill and the difficulties and obstacles that she and Stephen Michelson have faced while working to make the mill operational and financially viable. It is something that I can really relate to, as I experience many of the same trials in establishing my own studio, although on a far smaller scale. I was very happy to hear someone who was willing to admit how tough being an entrepreneur really can be at times.
Another of my conference favorites was Andrew Wagner, Editor in Chief of American Craft magazine. After reading the magazine for the last decade, I liked the shift in energy and attitude that occurred with the publication’s redesign, and with its new online presence, it seems far more accessible to artists at all levels. As an artist in her 30’s, I feel at times as if I’m in a sort of limbo. I’m not a student and my work doesn’t always fit into the whole DYI scene, yet I also don’t fit into the group of older, established artists and designers. I could write at length on the subject, but suffice it to say, I’m not the only artist who out there who feels that way. I have a lot of respect and gratitude for Andrew Wagner, as when asked about how he viewed “Etsy people”, he was so positive and enthusiastic about the new and innovative changes in both modern art/craft and the marketing of it, and I felt as if he was coming to the defense of artists such as me and many of my friends.
I am very glad that I decided to attend the conference. I made some new friends, established some new working relationships, and I returned home with a refreshed enthusiasm for my fabrics and a re-energizing of this entrepreneur’s spirit.
after the Conference Megan returned the Jacquard Center in Hendersonville to work on a series of news designs based on wrought iron grill work. She provided these Photographs and they are used with permission.
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