Kicking off our artist interviews in preparation for our Art. Work. event is local textile artist and owner of The Enamel Project, Angela Malchionno! Come check out Angela's work and more on February 20th!
1. Is teaching your textile craft to others a large part of your creative practice? Do you feel obligated to pass on these textile traditions you work with?
I do feel obligated - the traditions I find most engaging are slow, requiring care and attention. When I teach these things, I feel like I’m imparting not only the technique itself, but also proposing that we slow down. There’s definitely a spiritual element to it for me. My background is in printmaking, and I think textile arts share with that field the idea of community and connectivity. There’s also an inherent practicality to both that I feel keeps me grounded. For example, weaving to make cloth, printing as a means of reproduction. This practicality makes these mediums accessible to people because they feel there is a purpose to the work, and possibly an application to the results of their labor. What I love to see most from my students are the moments they depart from these practical foundations and riff on the conceptual implications of labor and craft.
2. To what extent do you follow ancient textile traditions and to what extent do you develop your own practice?
I’m very fascinated with traditional Japanese Shibori, particularly in Arimatsu and the basket weaving of the Washoe, a Native American tribe from Nevada. It’s really amazing how specialized some aspects of these crafts can be - one person has been tying a particular pattern into cloth for decades. It makes you feel like a dilettante, but also gives you something to aspire to. It also makes me think about how long it really takes to perfect something, the care and years of experience necessary. In many ways researching traditional craft becomes a kind of balm for the headiness and cerebrality of postmodern practices. Contemporary art often treats labor as a performance, or proposes time as a working material in and of itself. I find the results of these efforts to read as somewhat stillborn at times, displayed in rarified settings, accessible to some. I don’t want to sound like a hater about contemporary work...but I’m interested in the places where the hierarchies between art and craft are perpetuated or broken down.
3. How does working in a communal space influence your work?
Enamel is communal when there are workshops or events happening, but for the most part I’m working solo. I will say that since I’ve engaged more with what we’re calling the “maker” community versus the fine art world, I’ve worked a lot more collaboratively. When I talk to other artists we usually recommend artists to look at, or a show you could get into, but my maker friends are always excited for ways our different mediums could meet. Like making light that is part turned wood and part fiber.
4. Can you tell us a little about the work you’re preparing for the Art. Work. show? Or your window exhibition?
Wall hangings...and more wall hangings! I’m also working on a limited edition of hanging baskets that will only be available at Westminster for the duration of the show, and they’ll be one of a kind - lots of ikat thread, color mashups and weird shapes. The collaborative piece Hillary and me are working on is interesting. We imagined a piece for the window that would blur the line between painting and weaving, where we both make little woven pieces and use them as marks for a larger composition. It’s super labor intensive, and I’m hoping to generate a discussion about traditional crafts largely made by anonymous women, versus painting as a male dominated field where names are everything. It brings me back to the idea of hierarchy: who gets recognized and why. I was thinking a lot about the #oscarssowhite hashtag, because the conversation it created about the relevancy of the Oscars. Do we need academies and organizations to tell us what’s good? Who are the people who make these decisions? Am I as a woman, person of color, LGBT person recognized? Do I need to be, or can I make my own way? Anyways, rhetorical questions aside, I think about all these things when I work, and if just a bit of that comes across (or someone buys a basket) I’m happy.