March 2021 | By Emily Stehle
12 Hearts and Minds Working Together
– a Collaboration and Installation
. . .
Did I tell you about a collaboration and installation I did two summers ago with 11 complete strangers at National Basketry Organization‘s Biennial Conference? We met in an open two-story room – a blank space with large glass windows with our notebooks and pens.
Our supplies: Coils and coils of natural reed in big sizes that I never or rarely use. We’re talking #10, #5, smaller #4 round reed and one-inch wide flat reed.
The Cycle of Life, Gravity, Nest?
A BIG BASKET, OF COURSE
Guided by workshop leader Sculptor Gina Telcocci, “weavers” Ann Tompkins, Fern Tompkins Benson, Mia deBethune, Alex McClay, Jeanne Flanagan, Arlene Eubanks, Sarita Westrup, Amie Adelman, Howard Peller, Ann McClellan and I brainstormed, talked about and drew pictures to flesh out our ideas.
We settled on our first shape. Of course, it was a basket. A big basket that would float in the space. Would our exhibit be astral? Strange alien shapes? Would it tell a story? We decided to just go ahead and start weaving, inspired by the materials and each other!
Situated around the room in a circle, we grabbed “supplies,” connectors, #5, #4, #3 reed and just started weaving. After about 15 minutes, we handed our piece to the person to the right. It was round robin weaving (as Artist Mentor Gabriel pointed out later, “The Exquisite Corpse” art project) with everyone adding to another’s form.
They weren’t all structured as a vessel – our 20 or so randomly woven pieces each became its own sculpture.
About 3-4 of us broke off from the circle and began to weave the big net/nest. Over four days we wove. We added color to the natural fiber with green plastic strips and strips of cardboard from a Cheez-It cracker box.
We taught each other different weaving techniques and began planning the placement and installation of each sculptural piece.
Amazingly, we worked pretty much in silence. Our group became one unit collaborating on a project but working as individuals. We found ourselves “finishing up” each other’s pieces. Some of us added another detail or turned the piece around. . . upside down. Others added them as part of another sculpture.
Those who had experience with hanging cables, set them up. Others jumped on ladders to start hanging. Eventually, we all were up on ladders or moving pedestals or hammering on walls to install our All-4-1 exhibit.
Images of strange, exotic fish, alien birds, faraway planets? To this day I’m not sure what we created. Perhaps a lyrical (the reed was flowing), fantastical world of otherworldly creatures that were under the sea or originated from another universe. It elicited awe!