December 2, 2021


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In this issue:

Landscapes by Ojibwe Painter George Morrison Adorn 2022 USPS Stamps
How pandemic burnout sparked a knitting revival
Artists Sunday organizers ‘not resting’ until the day is as well-known as Black Friday
Art of making paper revived by Marshfield's Erin Merchant MacAllister




Landscapes by Ojibwe Painter George Morrison Adorn 2022 USPS Stamps
The modernist “challenged prevailing ideas of what Native American art should be,” says the US Postal Service.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is unveiling a new collection of stamps honoring distinguished Ojibwe artist George Morrison, whose abstract expressionist works defied the largely exoticist expectations for Native American art and cracked open its formalist possibilities. Five reproductions of Morrison’s landscape paintings will be featured in the spring 2022 Forever Stamp release.

In the announcement made on the first day of National Native American Heritage Month, USPS named Morrison as one of the “greatest modernist artists and a founding figure of Native American modernism,” who “challenged prevailing ideas of what Native American art should be, arguing that an artist’s identity can exist independently from the nature of the art he creates.”

Born Wah Wah Teh Go Nay Ga Bo (Standing in the Northern Lights) in Minnesota’s Grand Portage Reservation on the shores of Lake Superior, an era when Native Americans were barred from both voting and citizenship, Morrison attended the Hayward Indian School in Wisconsin, before returning to Minnesota due to poor health. In 1943, he graduated from the Minnesota School of Art and received the Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Traveling Scholarship to study at New York’s Art Students League. After receiving a Fulbright scholarship to study in Paris and Cote d’Azur in 1952, Morrison flitted between professorships across the country, before finally returning to Minnesota until his death in 2000.

Morrison’s career was marked by his formal experimentation with painting, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking. Exhibiting with New York School painters Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline, Morrison imbued his avant-garde works with the spirit of the landscape. Rejecting pictorial realism in favor of a formalism rooted in cubism and surrealism, Morrison’s colorful expressionist works and found wood collages sought to represent both organic figures and the persistence of both personal and cultural memory through abstract forms.

“I believe in going back to the magic of the earth and the lake, the sky and the universe,” he declared in his memoir Turning the Feather Around: My Life in Art. “That kind of magic, that kind of religion…A religion of the rocks, the lake, the water, the sky. Yes, that’s what I believe in.”

Although he described his intangible works as images with “no evidence of sentiment,” his horizon paintings — saturated with bright colors and sinuous lines — contain a radical sentimentality. To notice the changes in the sky and the earth and then regurgitate them back on the canvas to depict the natural world as a shimmering barrage of color is no small thing. “I can see the lake change by the hour, from blue to yellow to rose,” Morrison said of the lake outside of his studio along Lake Superior. “The basic thing in all paintings is the horizon line which identifies each little work as a broad expanse of a segment of the earth.”

The stamps feature miniature reproductions that will be unveiled by USPS at a ceremony slated for early 2022. “As always, the program offers a variety of subjects celebrating American culture and history. The vivid colors and unique designs of this year’s selections will add a special touch of beauty on your envelopes,” USPS Stamp Services Director William Gicker said in the press release. Hyperallergic

 

How pandemic burnout sparked a knitting revival
"I was on maternity leave and stuck in lockdown, so, for me, it really provided a way to ease my anxiety, keep busy and feel a sense of achievement," says Alice Smith, 34, who spent almost four months locked down in Sydney, Australia earlier this year.

If 2020 was the year of baking banana bread and sourdough, for many like Alice, 2021 was the year of knitting and crafts.

With much of the world facing travel restrictions and in need of a break from doomscrolling and Netflix, many turned to hobbies as a way to soothe their work-from-home burnout.

Ms Smith explains how her new found enthusiasm for knit-one-purl-one takes her mind away from worrying or multi-tasking. "It also uses your hands - so you can't look at your phone."

UK retailer John Lewis reported demand for needles and wool spiked nearly 90% in August - helped along by pictures of British diver Tom Daley happily knitting poolside at the Tokyo Olympics.

A craft that many thought peaked in the mid-20th century is booming - there's hope it may even give the beleaguered wool price a lift too.

LoveCrafts, a British company with offices in Germany, the Ukraine and the US, reports a 166% jump in orders year-on-year as people turned to sewing and knitting during repeated lockdowns.

John Lewis also saw gains in sales from its craft department, with sales of crochet hooks up 36% in August - not traditionally a popular month for wool products in the UK - while yarn sales rose 14%.

Meanwhile, data from market research firm, Mintel, show crafting has also seen a surge in engagement in the US. According to its most recent Arts and Crafts Consumer Market Report, younger consumers were driving sales of yarn.

Mintel also found knitting and crochet products particularly benefited from a revival of "home décor trends skewing towards comfortable bohemian design".

The woolly trend has spurred growth for some smaller fashion businesses.

One of these is Melbourne-based Cardigang, founded in late 2020 by friends Morgan Collins and Kat Bloxsom, after they taught themselves to knit during the pandemic.

"We launched in December 2020 in the middle of the Australian summer - the hottest day of the year!" Ms Collins tells the BBC.

Both in their early thirties, Cardigang started as a side hustle in addition to their day jobs in marketing. "In our first six months, if we could sell 100 kits a month we'd be doing well," Ms Collins says.

But now they're selling over 100 kits a week at roughly $A200 (£109) each, to countries as far afield as the US, UK, Norway and Finland. They are hoping to soon be able to quit their day jobs.

Demand has come from male customers as well as women, and the company is launching a men's range.

"We've had a lot of guys contact us asking to modify our patterns. They saw their girlfriends knitting and they got jealous," Ms Collins explains.

Australia is still one of the world's biggest wool producers. A post-war wool boom led to overproduction and a glut of supply, eventually causing Australia's Wool Crisis in 1990-1991 when prices crashed. Since then, with the arrival of cheaper synthetic fabrics and blends, global wool prices have never fully recovered.

However, this year, although volatile, the wool price in some markets has picked up a little, rising almost 15% since January - so much so that it's made business planning tricky for start-up Cardigang.

"Global wool prices are in constant fluctuation," Ms Collins tells the BBC. "This is something we're constantly assessing, and it is a bit of a gamble with knowing when to invest, versus holding off in the hope that the prices will drop, or the Australian dollar will improve."

The company - which sources its needles from China and sends wool there for processing - has also been hit by the global supply chain crisis.

Still, as Australia approaches it's summer, Cardigang is moving into patterns for warmer weather, as well as sourcing yarn for cotton and sleeveless clothing.

Speaking of unlikely climates for chunky-knit enthusiasts, there's also been a surge in popularity in humid, balmy Singapore.

"There's definitely been an increase in interest," says Elsie Lin of Elsie Departmental Store in Singapore. Her parents named the small craft store after her when they started it more than three decades ago.

She explains that while the 1980s was knitting's heyday, it's definitely making a comeback. "At the moment, everyone is so excited to do it because they can get something out of it. And many parents are encouraging it as they don't think digital is very good."

Ms Lin's sales have increased 30% since the pandemic began. Her knitting and crochet classes, which operate on a first-come-first-served basis, are near impossible to get into.

"Crochet and knitting have been a very beautiful experience and craft for many people. It helps them de-stress," she says. "Doctors need to recommend it more - then more people will be interested in it."

One doctor that would recommend it is Meaghan Miller-McConochie, who used it to cope with burnout while working in the medical system in New Zealand during the pandemic.

"This has helped me to slow down, develop a sense of calm, improve my concentration, allowed me a sense of fulfilment and enjoyment and overall has just assisted in improving my wellbeing."

Alice Smith agrees, saying it's a skill she'll return to throughout her life:

"I think it will be something I pick up every now and then if I'm going through an anxious patch and I need to calm that busy part of my mind." BBC

 

Artists Sunday organizers ‘not resting’ until the day is as well-known as Black Friday

You’ve heard of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, but artists based in Seattle and elsewhere want to add a new shopping day to your calendar: Artists Sunday.

The campaign launched last year as a national public information effort to support local artists by encouraging people to buy local art on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

“The goal is to make Artists Sunday a part of the consumer consciousness, so it’s Black Friday, it’s Small Business Saturday, it’s Artists Sunday and Cyber Monday, and we’re not resting until that message is kind of universal,” said Chris Sherman, a Marion, Iowa-based photographer.

Artists Sunday, a volunteer effort run by Sherman and Seattle-based artist Cynthia Freese, gives artists and arts organizations access to free marketing materials to promote the day. They can also register to be featured in the searchable online directory of artists and organizations at artistssunday.com.

This year, more than 4,500 artists are signed up across the country — including 405 in Washington state and 121 in Seattle — for Artists Sunday on Nov. 28.

“We’re very thrilled with the number of artists across the country that are working with us,” Sherman said. “We love to work with communities, not necessarily just the artists, because the communities have a deep reach.”

Among the changes from last year, organizers streamlined the “tool kit” of marketing materials, including graphics for social media and posters, to be easier to access.

There were just shy of 4,000 artists signed up for 2020’s Artists Sunday, Freese said. After the holiday weekend, she sent out a survey to those that participated.

“We did send a survey out afterwards to ask how were your sales this year compared to last year and if they had a boost, and we had really overwhelming, happy replies from people saying the tool kit really helped them out and they noticed sales increased,” Freese said.

Sherman said the American Craft Council, a nonprofit located in Minneapolis, reported that on Artists Sunday last year, they saw five times the sales compared to a normal day of business.

Artists and organizations across the country can register on the Artists Sunday website for free and will be given access to marketing materials and a listing on the site’s artist directory, patron directory or partner directory.

Those interested in purchasing art this year can search for participating artists, galleries and organizations in their area from the directory on the website.

“The whole idea behind Artists Sunday is: Look, embrace this day as your own, and here’s the marketing materials,” Sherman said. “It’s really not about promoting us. We just want to be an enabler, we want [the artists] to be able to promote themselves and use the tools we give them to do that.”

Sherman said he got the idea after seeing an uptick in sales on his own site after Thanksgiving in 2019. He teamed up with Freese last year to launch Artists Sunday out of Seattle.

“Art is the connecting tissue for our local communities, it supports local economies, you know,” Sherman said. “Artists are local, they buy local, they spend that money local. So supporting artists is supporting that local community.” The Seattle Times

 

Art of making paper revived by Marshfield's Erin Merchant MacAllister

Erin Merchant MacAllister was born to be a papermaker.

It's a lost art not many understand, she said, but it was as if her life led her directly to the unique and complicated hobby of creating paper from natural fibers. An artist for as long as she can remember, MacAllister stumbled upon a papermaking class while studying at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts in college. Then, her grandfather offered his basement to serve as her sprawling studio.

As she worked more and more on what she called a "lost art," it became clear that it was a practice she would never give up.

"I love what you can do with it, that you can just fill a book with anything or sculpt with it," MacAllister said. "It's so much more than people realize. ... You can do so much with paper and really turn it into anything."

Now a mom of two still who works full time, MacAllister makes and sells her wares on the side as The Paper Merchant. She and her family live in the Marshfield home that was once her grandfather's, where her papermaking takes up the entirety of its three-room basement.

Making paper is a messy, complicated and time-consuming process that most choose to forgo in favor of a quick trip to Staples or an online order. It takes hours for a single sheet of paper to be fully ready for use, and days for that paper to be turned into one of MacAllister's photo albums, notebooks or paper lanterns.

Unlike commercially produced paper, no two sheets of MacAllister's paper are the same. When examined closely, the papers are different even from one side to the other. But no matter their texture, thickness, color or pattern, they're all unique and delicate.

"People tell me they're so hesitant to write in a book or use a page, but it's just paper," MacAllister said. "It's meant to be written on. I like to consider a book an empty vessel."

All paper starts with some type of natural fiber like Philippine gampi, Thai kozo, bamboo or denim. Once the raw material arrives, MacAllister cuts it, soaks it and boils it to break down the fibers. A 1-pound bundle of fibers will make roughly 100 pieces of paper.

She then transfers that to a homemade beater her husband made, which turns it into a wet, goopy pulp. It's at the pulp stage that color or other ingredients – like banana peels or seaweed – can be added to give the paper pattern and dimension. The pulp then goes into a flat bin with water and a formation aid.

Once that mixture is ready, MacAllister strains it through a very fine mesh, transfers it to interfacing fabric and then transfers it again to a massive piece of acrylic on the wall. There, it will dry and, 12 hours later, peel off as a sheet of paper. It can take MacAllister up to two hours to make 24 pieces of paper – as many she includes in a standard notebook – not including the process to make the book covers and bind them all together.

"I love the process, she said. "When I'm just pulling page after page, it's soothing. It's messy and gross and sloppy, but you just go with it."

The third and most set-back room in the basement is filled with at least eight paper cutters, binding supplies, wooden lamp frames and other materials to turn raw sheets of paper into usable objects.

"It's a very long, involved process," she explained. "I start with the raw materials and then have to do something with the paper once I have it. It becomes a book or a lamp. There are a lot of steps."

MacAllister takes custom orders and sells her products at Hingham's Artisans in the Square. She can be reached at [email protected] yahoo!news





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