TAC interviews designer Whitney Crutchfield
Lucky us. So not only are we fortunate enough to have textile designer Whitney Crutchfield as an instructor and as a former resident here at the Textile Arts Center, but we also had the opportunity to interview her!
When she is not creating and masterminding her own creations, she is teaching classes at TAC or working freelance for Martha Stewert & Henri Bendel. She gives us insight on how to master a screenprint (all while maintaining a true giddiness when she talks about the art), and divulges what inspires her, whether it is ornamental molding on a wall or the great works from artists and architects of the past.
Textile Arts Center: So.. I noticed you are active in all realms of textile production; including screen printing, woven and thread works, and even CAD for patterns. Which is your favorite and why?
Whitney Crutchfield: Screen printing. Despite the fact that there is a lot of prep work that goes into it, when you actually get to a point of putting color on the fabric, it’s like instant gratification- instantly seeing the results of your physical efforts and also your mental and design efforts, too. When you get to that point, it’s immediate- and you can see if it’s great or you can see if it’s terrible.
TAC: You studied Artistic Exploration of Gender Studies & Modern Greece for your undergrad at University of Michigan. Phew! That is a mouthful. How (if at all) has that affected your work?
WC: Going to a big university, with a big focus on liberal arts, allowed me to create my own major. I was taking a lot of Greek classes- both language and culture- as well as women’s studies and studio arts class. So then I was like, “Well, how can I combine all of these things?”. So I basically made up my title (of major). I had to write a thesis at the end. I had to pick a topic which ended up being “Weaving Traditions Among Women from Ancient to Modern Greece”, which was something I was very interested in and let me explore the academic side, as well as the creative side.
TAC: Has your focus changed since graduating with your MFA in Fiber Arts?
WC: Yes it has. I would say that has a lot to do with moving to New York City from Colorado (which is where I received my MFA). So my focus has changed more commercial industry opposed to the fine Art direction, although I definitely hold fine art really dear to my work. My thought processes have changed a bit, instead of thinking solely on the aesthetic value, I am finding that I am thinking about a future piece keeping in mind more of what kind of consumer market it could work within.
TAC: What type of art or artists inspire you?
WC: Things that involve a lot of color and shape, that are very vibrant and alive- those are the things that directly inform what I do. I’ve also always been a big (Henri) Matisse fan, he is just a master of color and form throughout his life- from early on with his paintings- of figures and interiors and especially later with his paper cuts. I look at a lot of interior designers now, and recently a lot of paper artists- using cut paper as their medium. I am also inspired by very minimalist architecture, such as Le Corbusier. Or Frank Lloyd Wright. He is very minimalist, yet also very decorative. I have a deep interest in the idea of ornament, and how it shapes how we interact with one another. It might seems like something that fades away into the background. I have done some research on the history of ornament and what an ornamental aspect of something says. Say a molded trim on a wall: like how that happened to be what is was, and what that says about the person who chose it, and where they stand in society, and what they mean to say with that choice- for example. Those decorative objects are everywhere, but sometimes we don’t see them because we have become so used to them- but how they effect us is so interesting.
TAC: I’ve never thought about it that way! But you’re right. Every move an architect makes is completely intentional- just never thought about why they chose it…
WC: Exactly. It can be intentional in the name of function, or it can chosen purely for the visual pleasure of it.
TAC: So what is going to be your next project?
WC: There has been this idea that I have actually done samples for and have been toying with for about a year and a half. There are these illustrations I did based on photographs of interiors and exteriors, very much focused on what I was talking about with ornament and objects. I am going to do screen prints of those illustration- a series of 9. These are actually old family photographs- except I want to take the people out and focus things like the wallpaper or the vase that sits in the corner. The ideas if someone were looking at them they can really relate this idea of a family’s living room or their grandmother’s dining room- bringing feelings of nostalgia and how these objects define the memory of it.
TAC: Aside from flexing creative muscle in your own textile production, you are also a freelance crafter at Martha Stewert and at Henri Bendel, assisting with the visual displays. What do they entail?
WC: Oh, well a lot of things. It can include anything from a greeting card or a glitter hurricane vase, tissue paper pom-pom or a chandelier made out of coffee cups. It is fun! I get to learn a lot of the directive purposes involved, and creating things by working with my hands.
TAC: When I took the screen printing with dyes class with you, I noticed that you had many tricks with dyes and screen printing. Any advice to give to aspiring and current dyers & screen printers?
WC: As you learned in the class, you can’t always know exactly what the dye is going to look like when it goes through all of the processes- and I think that is the case with emersion with dyes or printing with dyes. My advice would be to be flexible with you expectations about color, because a lot of times those things that you didn’t really plan for end up being really nice. For screen printing with dyes or inks, my two major tips would be: prepare, prepare, prepare; and work as cleanly as you possible can without making a mess. Oh, and of course have fun! Those two things, dying and printing- you are only doing them because you hope to enjoy them so don’t forget that is the main goal.
TAC: What can future classes look forward to?
WC: The opportunity to explore your own ideas when it comes to design. For Introduction (to Screenprinting) classes, just understanding that pride and all around joy that can come out of making an own idea that has been living in your own head for a long time get onto paper or fabric- and can become this repeatable or individual image. Which I think is really exciting. With Screenprinting with Dyes, I think learning this completely new medium can really open a lot doors, either working with dyes alone or make use of the dyes with other mediums. Printing in repeat is just exciting to get an idea laid out on the fabric. There is an amazing sense joy that happens when you realize you’ve gotten everything right. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get there. But seeing everything line up and understanding that you did that is definitely something to look forward to.
Don’t miss your chance to take a class with Whitney! Sign up today!
or visit Whitney at www.whitneycrutchfield.com !