Artist in Residence

How to Foster Intimacy with the Land

Slow Fashion artist and writer Katrina Rodabaugh, was Instar Lodge's September artist-in-residence.  Below is her open letter describing her experience and beautiful experiments undertaken during the month. 

  Katrina hanging samples of natural dyed fibers in the studio, from her Medicinal Dye Workshop

Katrina hanging samples of natural dyed fibers in the studio, from her Medicinal Dye Workshop

I was honored to be an artist-in-residence for the month of September at InstarLodge in Germantown, NY. As a local artist who just moved to the area two years ago, after more than a decade in Oakland, CA, I was eager to engage with a local arts space that might foster a deeper inquiry into my own creative practice in this local environment while simultaneously creating opportunities to connect with the local arts community.

When I met with the director, Dawn Breeze, to discuss my ideas for the residency I mentioned that I really just wanted time to explore the connection between artists and the environment; to collaborate; to experiment; to delver deeper. Dawn suggested I simply frame the month as an artist’s laboratory or a creative experiment without any pressure to produce results. This suggestion felt like liberation. The permission to focus on the process of the work and not just the end product was a huge gift but also a huge relief.

Several years ago I shifted my fiber arts work from mixed media installations into social practice projects—oftentimes resulting in workshops, public events, or ongoing collaborations and not consistently creating objects that might be easily exhibited or shared. With a background in environmental studies and nearly two decades of work in urban nonprofit arts organizations the potential for social practice to focus on community engagement, “art as action”, process as important as product, and particularly embracing creativity through an activist’s lens was a very welcome shift in my fiber work.

But sometimes sharing this work with the public can seem like the greatest challenge. Particularly when curators, galleries, event spaces, and artists all need to consider how best to cover their financial needs and that can be unclear with social practice. Not impossible, of course, just less obvious than a finished object that can ultimately be sold through exhibition.

Dawn’s enthusiasm for inquiry and experimentation was a gift. It allowed me to organize my month around a Medicinal Dye Workshop, a few days of collaborating with local artists, and a closing celebration with an open studio and public talk. My question led the residency: How best to create intimacy with the land that might result in stewardship, protection, or ultimately love?

  The amazing colors and hues of the Hopi sunflower dye

The amazing colors and hues of the Hopi sunflower dye

As my work currently focuses in sustainable fashion primarily through the actions of mending, growing and foraging natural dye plants, and redesigning or rejuvenating existing garments this question is always at the forefront of my time in the studio. How do I articulate this intersection between land and fiber? How do I create opportunities to engage with creative practice, slow fashion, and connection with the environment? How do I foster stewardship that might result in protection or love? How do I allow deeper intersections between my studio, my classes, and my dye garden?

While the objects weren’t the focus of this residency, of course, there were objects that resulted from a month of working in the space. Each day upon entering the studio I’d chart the phase of the moon, the date, and make a quick moon sketch to pin to the wall. This became a study for a larger fiber piece of moon phases stitched to indigo dyed fabric. As it was a month-long residency it was also gratifying to see the phases move from full moon through waning gibbous, last quarter, waning crescent, new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous and back to full—making one full rotation in my time in the studio.

  A stitchwork in progress, using small pieces of natural dyed fabrics

A stitchwork in progress, using small pieces of natural dyed fabrics

I collected various dye plants from my landscape—both grown in my garden and collected from the nearby fields, woods, and parks—and these plants were pinned to the wall as specimens and samples great for plant identification with visitors. I created a community altar and invited workshop participants and collaborators to add to the altar when they visited. I co-taught a class with Good Fight Herb Co community herbalist, Lauren Giambrone, where we considered the intersection of medicinal plants and dye plants—resulting in an afternoon of making remedies and fiber samples with goldenrod, black walnut, peppermint, and Hopi Black Dye Sunflowers alongside other locally harvested herbs.

From this collaboration with Lauren I went on to two more days of testing seasonal dye plants that ultimately resulted in dyeing a secondhand silk top with sunflower seeds and a secondhand wool sweater with goldenrod—both finished projects present at the final open studio. I also had time to dive into a fiber art commission; spend a few days with local artists as we walked, dyed, stitched, shared resources, considered our own entrance into sustainable art and our priorities going forward; and shared an evening discussion with the public at the closing celebration.

  The marvelous layers of color found in our Upstate NY landscape

The marvelous layers of color found in our Upstate NY landscape

But aside from the physical time in the space, the time to teach, to collaborate, to share work—the thing I valued most about my time at Instar was the opportunity to focus on one question and let that question lead my work for the entire month. At every step of this month-long inquiry I felt supported by the folks at Instar Lodge and the folks I’d welcomed into my studio as local collaborators.

As a working mother with limited childcare most of my work hours are diligently organized around deadlines, workshops, and upcoming events. But having this time to return to the bigger questions at the core of my work; the space to explore these questions with other artists and the public; and the creative support to prioritize time to consider the direction I want my work to grow—that was the greatest gift.  Thank you, Instar Lodge!

Bio:

I’m an artist, writer, and crafter working across disciplines to explore environmental and social issues through traditional craft techniques. My artwork, writing, and designs have appeared in various galleries, magazines, theaters, juried craft fairs, and alternative arts venues. I published my first book, The Paper Playhouse: Awesome Art Projects for Kids Using Paper, Boxes, and Books in January 2015. I’ve received artist awards, grants, and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Puffin Foundation, and Creative Capacity Fund among others. My blog, Made by Katrina, won the Country Living Blue Ribbon Blogger Award.

I received my BA in Environmental Studies from Ithaca College and my MFA in Creative Writing/ Poetry from Mills College where I trained and taught in the Book Arts Studio. My work fuses sustainability and creativity sometimes in surprising ways like my current focus on sustainable fashion and mending. My work ranges from large-scale mixed media installations, to social practice projects, to cross-disciplinary collaborations, to textile and fiber objects, to small-batch handmade crafts sold in my online shop.

I teach workshops online and in-person including visible mending, natural dyes, sustainable fashion, fiber arts, and also through social practice projects that engage the public in experimental and hands-on approaches. For over 15 years I’ve worked with nonprofit arts galleries and theaters managing programs, special events, fundraising, and mentoring artists to create successful projects and strengthen professional practices. Ultimately, I believe collaboration fosters meaningful communication that can lead to social action–so I often collaborate with artists and organizations to engage in this practice.

Originally from the small town of Horseheads, NY, I spent the majority of the last two decades in major cities of San Francisco, CA; Brooklyn, NY; and Oakland, CA. In fall 2015, my husband and I bought a 200-year-old farmhouse in the Hudson Valley and we’re currently DIY renovating the house, re-establishing the gardens, and converting an existing carriage barn into art studios. When I’m not in the studio or preparing for upcoming workshops I’m usually busy with my two young sons. For inquiries regarding teaching, collaborations, or commissions please use contact me by email through the contact form on this site. IG @katrinarodabaugh

The Space Between Two Bridges: Katie Grove

The Background: Where it Started

Antique objects with stories untold. The thrill of opening a drawer in an abandoned house that hasn’t been touched in a hundred years. The creativity that comes with combining ideas, words, and objects in novel ways to create new stories with old materials.

These are the things that inspired me to create the installation: The Space Between Two Bridges, while participating as an artist in residence at Instar Lodge. A combination of antique objects, book forms, matte medium image transfers, and typewritten text, this installation tells the story of ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice (born 1883) all while conveying a sense of curiosity and mystery about the past.

My focus at the residency began with the idea of creating an alternative biography of Margaret Morse Nice that would be based both on facts from her life as well as my own creative interpretations. It was her story, as a female scientist during a time when the field was primarily male dominated, that carried me through the residency. However, it was her book series, Studios in the Life History of the Song Sparrow, that first inspired me. Years ago I randomly pulled it off the shelf in a dusty library and the detailed charts and graphs, filled with data about hundreds of individual birds’ lives, immediately caught my attention.

Now, six years later, thanks to the opportunity to spend a month at Instar Lodge, I was finally able to dedicate the time and energy needed to this project. Throughout the month I witnessed my project shift, grow, and change as I dove deeper into both Nice’s autobiography, as well as into simply playing with materials without overthinking it.

The Process

I begun, just as the birds do, with collecting a large amount of material. I surrounded myself with photocopies of charts, text, and images from Nice’s books, a plethora of small antique sewing objects and furniture, fabric, papers, and of course, my typewriter. I wanted to create an installation that looked almost as if it could have been her office. At first glance you would see a file drawer or a piece of furniture, but open looking closer the drawers would be filled with pieces of a bird’s nest, text, and image transfers from her books.

At first I thought large, creating two installation pieces involving an antique sewing machine and a file drawer. I experimented with quilt forms, watercolors, and other pieces, creating an environment using fabric, nest materials, and embroidery. However, as I kept working I found myself focusing smaller and smaller, finding the most interest in creating tiny one-of-a-kind artist books using antique objects with Nice’s text and charts imposed onto them. I loved getting into the creative flow of choosing strange objects, deciding what part of Nice’s story it could tell, and figuring out technically how to turn objects like a bobbin or a tape measure into a book.

The result is 12 completely unique artist books (and many more in progress). Each one consists of an an antique object imbued with charts, images, and phrases from Nice’s writing, which taken out of context create a whole new story. The books, in addition to the larger pieces in progress, have allowed me to make more progress on this project in four weeks than I have in the past year.

 

Continuing to Weave the Nest

The most valuable part of my residency at Instar has been simply giving my work the space to evolve naturally. If I were making this on my regular studio schedule I never would have had the time and freedom to simply let it become something new, without pressure. Now I have a new body of work that is  the culmination of both brand new inspirations and ideas and themes that have been bubbling up for years. I look forward to incorporating sound, diving into research on local scientists and naturalists of the 19th century, and finding even more interesting objects that are begging to be made into books! I am so grateful to have had the time, space, and inspiration provided by Instar and can’t wait to see what comes next in this series.

 

Artist Statement

This series explores the push and pull between ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice’s passion for research, and the demands of being a wife and mother in the early 1900s. These themes come to the forefront in this installation as traditional feminine items, such as a sewing machine, are overtaken by charts, words, and text from Nice’s books. In The Meaning of the Nest, the pieces of a sparrow’s nest interwoven with Nice’s words are spilling out of a drawer, unable to be contained. In the small book Measuring Hours, a quote from her autobiography describing her relentless dedication to research is transposed over and over on a tape measurer. Her love of studying and recording data is subtly emerging throughout these everyday items. These phrases and charts, when taken out of context and combined with curious old objects, create a whole new story saturated with mystery. The combination of Nice’s writings, image transfers of her charts and maps, and antique items with my own drawings and creative interpretations results in an unconventional and whimsical biography of a female scientist who fundamentally shifted the field of ornithology with her work.

 

Artist Bio

A deep connection to nature and a curiosity to learn is what drives Hudson Valley artist Katie Grove. Her perceptive drawings, etchings, and mixed-media sculptures reflect her interest in combining art and the scientific study of nature. From detailed drawings of the hundreds of pieces in a bird’s nest to whimsical biographies of female naturalists of the 19th century, her work has a strong sense of storytelling. She draws on her backgrounds in printmaking, watercolor, and textile techniques including quilting, plant dyes, book arts and basketry to create a wide range of work. Grove has a BFA in Printmaking from SUNY New Paltz and currently resides in Rosendale, NY. She regularly exhibits her artwork regionally and teaches workshops on art techniques using natural materials. She is a recipient of the Ora B Schneider Regional Artist Residency at Women’s Studio Workshop and has been awarded a 2017 Residency at Instar Lodge. No matter which medium she explores, her work always reflects an awe and appreciation of the natural world and tells a story about our relationship with it. 
www.http://katiegrovestudios.com/

Katie Grove Studio

In the studio with artist Katie Grove, Rebekah Resident Artist

"This series, The Space Between Two Bridges, explores the push and pull between ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice’s passion for research, and the demands of being a wife and mother in the early 1900s. Her 1937 book, Studies in the Life History of the Song Sparrow, which culminates eight years of studying the minute details of  hundreds of  birds’ lives, provides a jumping off point for the series. It also illustrates her need to observe and record, her pure love of nature, and the struggle for balance between home and work. These themes come to the forefront in this installation as traditional feminine items (sewing machines, tape measure, etc) are overtaken by charts, words, and elements of Nice’s studies of the song sparrows. In The Meaning of the Nest, the pieces of a sparrow’s nest interwoven with Nice’s words are literally spilling out of a drawer, unable to be contained. In Measuring Hours, a quote from her autobiography describing her relentless dedication to research is transposed over and over on a tape measurer. Her need to study and record is so powerful that it is subtly emerging in all aspects of the feminine life. The combination of Nice’s writings, image transfers of her charts and maps, and antique items with my own drawings and creative interpretations results in an unconventional and whimsical biography of a female scientist who fundamentally shifted the field of ornithology with her work."  Katie Grove