Hi, Jamie Boyle here, one of the artists-in-residence in the Fibers/Mixed Media studio at Contemporary Craft. The primary craft I work in is weaving; I am devoted to it. I love the many weaving techniques that I have tried, and I am always learning more; it is an ancient craft practiced in many different ways with many different developments, hand-to-hand, tool-to-tool, over millennia. There is a lot to learn! And, I love knowing that I will only ever come to know the smallest bit about weaving, despite my devotion and studying. I also sometimes make art in other ways—performances, sculpture, writing.
I recently moved back to Pittsburgh from New York City. In New York, I thought I would (and did for a while) work in dance and performance, and somewhere along the way….I became a weaver! It was a surprise to me, sort of. However it happened, I feel so lucky to have met the craft!
My residency at Contemporary Craft began in January and will go through June. Six months sounds like a long time, but the days are flying. I’m going to say this at the beginning here: I am in the studio most Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and I would love it so much if you visited! I love talking about weaving, and art in general, and I would be so happy to meet you.
It is a joy to be able to work in the studio at Contemporary Craft. Every day, I feel so lucky to be surrounded by the work of incredible artists and to be in the company of the brilliant Contemporary Craft community—staff, volunteers, teachers, artists, students, visitors. In the past three months, I have had several impactful encounters and many brief and joyous and deep conversations and exchanges.
I’d love to tell you a story about something that happened during my first week here at Contemporary Craft. I think it is a wild story about connection, and it feels like a miracle to me. I hope you see in this story what I am talking about, about the incredible folks who comprise the Contemporary Craft community.
Oh wait! Before I start, I have to tell you something else! In the fibers/mixed media studio, when the sun shines brightly, around about midday lately (it’s April as I write), the light filters through the glass display shelves in the window (which hold beautiful objects made by amazing artists, by the way) and sends ribbons and washes of rainbows throughout the room. It is an exquisite feature of the studio.
OK, back to this encounter that I want to tell you about. On my first Saturday in the studio, Pam Morrison, long time Contemporary Craft volunteer introduced herself to me. We talked for a while about weaving, and then she told me that she was a calligrapher. And, I said, oh wow, that my late mother, Marlene Boyle, had been a calligrapher. Pam had known my mom! In fact, they had studied together with Arnold Bank. She said that she remembered visiting once, and that my mother (my mother?) had prepared cherry tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad for their visit! I thought, “hmmmm, my mom was a meticulous and skillful artist, but I am not sure I know that person who would’ve stuffed tiny tomatoes with tuna salad. That visit must’ve happened when I was very young.” And then, oh my goodness, dots connected…
When I was a small child, my mom’s friend Pam visited after having returned from travels. Pam had with her a collection of sheets of toilet paper, amassed during her time abroad and carefully, lovingly preserved (in sheets of glassine, a detail my brother Jeremy recalls). She showed this collection to us—my mom, me, and Jeremy (for whom this was also a formative experience!). I don’t remember much of the details, though I can still feel myself sitting on the living room floor, and I remember the feeling of the encounter—wonder—and I remember the focus on details. Probably we talked of texture, quilted patterns, maybe colors. I think there were some laughs. And, I will never forget that we were focused on the details… of toilet paper! I have drafted artist statements that refer to this experience! Pam tuned my young attention to the creative potential—the miraculous—in details of ordinary experience, otherwise easily passed by. It is not an overstatement to say that Pam and that collection are a formative part of how I am as an artist.
So I asked a strange and maybe risky (too weird?) question of a new acquaintance, “you wouldn’t happen to have travelled extensively in the 80s and collected various examples of toilet paper from different locations?” Pam said that she hadn’t thought of that collection in a long time, but yes, she had done that! And, there I was newly returned to Pittsburgh, and while standing near a loom, I was reconnected with someone I never thought I would be able to thank in person for helping to open my eyes to some of the beauty and wonder possible in this world. Thank you, Pam!
And, thank you for letting me share that story with you. I hope a little of the amazement I still feel about this encounter transferred through the screen to you.
Again, I am here in the studio most Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays through June. Please stop by and say hello! I’d love to tell you more of these stories! Also, on view through June 4, is an exhibition of my work in the Gerri Kay Exhibition Cases here at Contemporary Craft in Lawrenceville. The exhibition, what it is, was curated by the hugely talented Kate Dockery and features a selection of work created between 2016 and now. It includes a tapestry weaving made here in a rainbow room at Contemporary Craft this past winter!