Editor’s Note: We’re so in love with Marykate’s profiles that we had to run another which appeared in A Yarn Tale on April 2013. What made this even more of a special treat was that it featured a Q&A with Adrienne Sloane a HAND/EYE Magazine reader and contributor.
If you've been to the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA recently, you may have noticed the work of Massachusetts fiber artist Adrienne Sloane in the show Game Changers: Fiber Artist Masters and Innovators. The Lexington-based sculptor began her career in yarn as a milliner, crafting machine-knit hats throughout the eighties and nineties. When a fire destroyed her studio, Sloane took a break from fiber. When she returned to the knitting machine in 2004, a new kind of work began to emerge. Sloane tells us about her creative shift and her recent body of work.
Your present work seems markedly different from your pre-fire work, mostly in that it reads more as art than craft (in thinking of craft as a usable art, as in the case of your hats) and is intensely political. What spurred this change of creative pace?
While I loved playing with color and design in the sculptural hats I knit until losing my studio to a fire in 1999, the fire provided a clean break and an obvious time to reexamine the focus and intent of my work. During the five year hiatus which followed, I became chair of the Watertown Cultural Council as well as help found our local arts center, Arsenal Center for the Arts (arsenalarts.org). As long dried yarns worked their way up from the cellar to my dining room, it became clear that it was time to look for a studio. As I fully reengaged with fiber, it also was clear to me that I wanted my work to be more meaningful.
When you sit down to work, do you begin with the medium, the form, or the message? Are you working toward an image/form and creating a pattern to get there, as in more traditional garment/knitwear design or is there more tactile exploration happening along the way?
Generally, one piece informs the next, with a lot of tactile exploration along the way. Currently, I am playing with linear elements in a variety of ways with particular focus on non-traditional ways to use I-cord as a drawing medium. Though I have dry periods, what I enjoy so much in the creative process is just when I think that I have exhausted the possibilities, a new way of working seems to evolve leading down yet a new path of exploration.
Similarly, how do the construction techniques used effect the final object and the meaning inherent in it as a made object? For example, are there differences between those pieces that are machine knit as opposed to those that are done by hand? Do you use both techniques in a single piece?
I have occasionally mixed machine and hand knitting. However, there is a subtle interplay between material and message and I try to choose the most appropriate medium for the piece I have in mind. At the moment, I am doing much less machine knitting than I have done in the past.
Do you have a favorite piece that you've made? That someone else has? What artists do you look to and admire?
My favorite pieces are the ones that are the most evocative, where the material, subject matter and overall execution sync well. These pieces sing to me; Truth to Power and Sea Change, to name two.
There are so many artists whom I admire; four of whom I invited to the Artworks show. They include Beatrice Coron, Nancy Crasco, Nathalie Miebach and Ruth Marshall.
You have said, “I knit to rejoin the frayed and unraveled places around me.” That is so lovely. But does this driving force of making art to make sense of things around you ever make things more difficult? Do you ever become consumed or bogged down by the stream of (often bad) news you keep playing in the studio or are you able to shut it off during other parts of your day? Do you create work from narratives more directly involving your personal life and do these pieces also get shown or do they remain personal?
The fiber world is not infrequently inwardly focused, however, my interest is on conveying my visceral responses to the world around me. I do not have a body of work that is for my eyes only. I am always very pleased then when my work resonates with others.
On a much lighter note, you are a fiber artist, but do you also consider yourself a knitter in the more traditional sense? Do you frequent your local yarn shop, spend time on Ravelry, and make yourself knits to wear, or is your knitting mostly sculptural?
Thanks so much for asking. At this point in my career, I am really more of a sculptor and do not frequent yarn shops, spend much time on ravelry or knit wearables. I am more likely to look for new and interesting linear elements at the hardware store or take material inspiration other media.
In addition to her piece at the Fuller Craft Museum, Sloane has work currently on view at the George Marshall Gallery in York, ME as part of the show, Unravelled. As well as in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport's exhibition, Flight Patterns. If you are interested in learning more about sculptural knitting, you might consider taking one of Sloane's workshops at the Fuller Craft Museum, Metalwerx, or Snow Farm, all in Massachusetts. If you're not in New England, check out her full listing of classes here. You can see more of Sloane's work online at her website or on her blog.