The Textile Society of America has given the 2012 Branford/Elliott Award for Excellence in Fiber Art to contemporary lace artist Olivia Valentine. The award, named for Joanne Segal Brandford and Lillian Elliott, recognizes emerging fiber artists. The 2012 winner was announced at the September 22nd banquet of the TSA Biennial Symposium in Washington D.C. Nominees for the award are chosen by three anonymous nominators who each invite three artists to apply. The award board reviews applications and selects an artist with an eye toward their willingness to take creative risks.
Olivia Valentine, the 2012 winner, was one of the Powerhouse Love Lace finalists. She is a Chicago based artist whose work has a strong architectural component, looking at threshold spaces in both buildings and textiles. See how she uses architectural drawing materials as bobbinlace patterns. Olivia could not attend the awards banquet since she is now in Turkey studying Oya lace. But LaceNews reached her for a short interview.
LaceNews: Congratulations on the award! What will this mean for your future career?
Valentine: Receiving the Brandford/Elliott award will provide me with essential additional funding to complete my project in Turkey, currently titled “Nakıs and the Edge”. I believe that this project will be a cornerstone for me in my work as an artist and my ongoing investigations into the correlations between textiles and architecture. I am thrilled to have this funding for the project, which will make it possible to complete to the full extent of my vision for the project.
LaceNews: What attracts you to contemporary lace as art?
Valentine: I have spent the last 6 years engaged with different lacemaking techniques as a way to understand connections between architectural and textile constructions and motifs. I first came to knitting and crochet during my brief interlude as an architecture school student, and started using it actively in my art practice after completing my BFA. After completing several large scale doilies, where I was using architectural drawing techniques to create support structures for my textile constructions, I came to more traditional lace techniques through my research as a graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The history of the emergence of needle lace from embroidery has inspired a lot of my work. And the discovery of the relationships between drawing and construction in bobbin lace has been an ongoing interest for me.
LaceNews Your piece ‘Punto in Aria’ at the Powerhouse competition was wonderful, and very architectural. Will you continue with this theme in the future?
Valentine: Creating relationships between different modes of construction is fundamental in my practice as an artist. My project in Turkey, supported by the Brandford/Elliott Award, will be based in research into the relationship of Anatolian architecture and textiles, particularly in the province of Nevşehir, also know as Cappadocia. I am drawn to this landscape because of the blurred boundaries between landscape and architecture, and also its nomadic history, where many of these relationships get their beginning.
LaceNews: You are now in Turkey studying Oya lace under a Fulbright scholarship. What attracts you to this particular lace with its very fine, sculptural motifs? Also, recent publications on Oya include not only the knotted needlelace technique, but also variations in crochet and tatting. Will you be studying them all?
Valentine: I will be looking at all three methods of Oya (needle, hook and shuttle), but will likely focus on the techniques that the women around me practice. I have ample experience with a crochet hook, and will be able to pick this oya technique quickly on my own. I have not tatted in the past, and my needle skills are less developed. I am primarily interested in the Oya that village women use to adorn their headscarves, which seem to be primarily “igne oyası”, or needle oya. I am drawn to this edging Oya because of its coloration and adornment with beads and sequins and also its existence as a “flower language” between women in Anatolia. The edge of a scarf is an important mode of communication, and also a place of transition from interior to exterior. Through my investigations of Oya, I will be making a series of large scale installations in the landscape, specifically addressing this edging as a space of transition between interior and exterior spaces, and also the blurred boundaries between landscape and architecture that occur in Cappadocia.