Tuesday, March 16, 2010

treasured item

Some members of the Handmade Division are talking about the question, "What item have you created that you most treasure and why?". This is a collection of items, my MFA thesis installation from 2001 at the Memphis College of Art. Titled Risen, it was an homage to the struggle of textile workers of the past and present.

There were three red velvet capes, each trimmed with with hundreds of keys and embossed with images of bread loaves, wheat, and roses. Cornell University gave me an audio recording of an interview with a survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, and her voice emanated from one of the capes. 146 people died in the Shirtwaist fire because they were locked in the factory, many jumped to their deaths from the windows. From another came Utah Phillips telling labor camp stories and singing Bread and Roses, a famous protest song from the Lawrence textile mills strike.

keys make the capes very heavy

hat pins form a pattern on the interior

stamped with the names of US designers
and the Chinese cities where their factories reside

A nine foot banner hung on the wall, made from fabric, clothing labels, sewing pins, and hundreds of black buttons spelling From Nimble Fingers a Fist. A pile of mens white dress shirts sat in the center of the gallery.

A black protest armband was displayed on a pedestal. The black seed beads spell the names of clothing designers who produce their lines in China. I was honored when this piece was purchased by Marilyn Lanfear, whose work I so admire.

I'm not sure if treasure is the right way to describe how I feel about these pieces, the few that remain were stashed in the attic long ago using non-archival methods. But I truly treasure having had the experience of immersing myself in art and academia for two solid years with not much to distract me, and the opportunity to grow creatively and find the discipline to create a cohesive body of work that really meant something to me.

Please visit the other artists talking about this topic:

ArtJewel Designs
Jewelry by Natsuko
Alice Istanbul Designs

Bill Martin - Purified Art

Rosy Revolver
Andes Cruz Designs


  1. This is an AMAZING installation. I so wish I could have been there. Fantastic work. I'm really honored to be on the team with you.

  2. Right back at you, Rosy! Thank you!!!! I think your work is stellar and you seem to run a great business. I was on your blog earlier this morning, I need to go back and leave everyone some comments.

  3. So glad you joined in! Wow, I cannot believe the fine detail in those pieces. I would love to have seen them in person. You are such an artist.

  4. Thank you, Alice! I really appreciate your comments. I'm looking forward to the next time we do this, it's great learning more about folks in the network.

  5. wow~!!!!
    you continue to amaze me Tomi! How did I not know you went to art school?? amazing installation. and I am so glad you decided to jump in and share. Definitely a treasure :)

  6. Thank you, woman! And thanks for coming up with this great topic, and network, for that matter. Looking forward to the next one!

  7. Thanks Marilyn, I hope to see you at the CBU show!

  8. I'm so impressed by your work, Tomi. A visual-concept statement can be such a potent art form. For me, your elaboration of the various elements and details summons up a dramatic historical sense of real trauma.

    "A (picture) conceptual art statement is worth a thousand words." Your vests stand before us like ghosts, asking what will be done about this as the injustice continues today! The struggle isn't over yet...a horrible but real fact.

    Thank you for deciding to share this with us. It expresses so beautifully your broad range as an artist.

  9. amazing details! very impressive!! I'm glad that you join to talk about:)

  10. Wow! Love the keys. What a fabulous effect! Beutiful collection!

  11. Hello Jan, dear friend, Thank you for your words, they always mean so much to me.

    Thank you also Natsuko and Watto, I look forward to seeing more of your work!