Deborah Kruger: A transformation of the materials
Artist Deborah Kruger’s innovative work is crafted using a combination of fiber, encaustic and digital media. Although she was born and educated in the USA, Deborah now lives in Chapala, Mexico.
She is an award-winning artist who has exhibited throughout Mexico and across North America, where her work can be found in a number of esteemed private collections.
In our interview with Deborah she talks about her passion for wildlife conservation, gives us a peak into her daily working routine and tells us about her artist and writer’s residency program in Mexico.
Background and influences
TextileArtist.org: What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
Deborah Kruger: I think I have textiles in my genetic code. My grandparents were textile workers in Eastern Europe and New York City. I sewed all my clothes until I had my first job. I spent my childhood enamored of the masks from West Africa, especially the hairy ones. When I saw paintings in a museum for the first time at age 5, I knew in my bones that I was an artist.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I went to Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City and graduated from their Textile Design program. I spent the next 8 years working in the trades as a wallpaper designer. Everyone thought this was a dream job except me. I hated having someone else tell me what to design. Eventually, I left commercial art and opted for working in the financial world because it left me free to create my own artwork.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
My particular obsession is with the plight of birds and butterflies whose food sources and nesting areas are threatened across the globe by habitat destruction. The growth of our human population has proportionally decreased bird populations. Their loss is ours in spirit and in fact as we face the ensuing domino effect through our culture and food chain. The grand migrations that humbly inspire our imagination and remind us of our place deserve our protection. My work is dedicated to raising awareness about our interconnectedness with the gorgeous flying creatures who are fast disappearing.
Artists whose work makes me quiver are Olga de Amaral from Colombia, El Anatsui from Nigeria and William Morris from Seattle. Their excellence, originality and scope inspire me deeply.
Artwork and inspiration
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
For the last 10 years I have been making art out of feathers that I fabricate from fiber, encaustic, waxed linen thread, wire and horsehair. The pieces are deeply influenced by indigenous art from the Amazon, which often incorporate parrot feathers in their ceremonial objects.
Recently, I have begun scanning my feathers and printing them digitally on paper, fiber and metal. This is opening up wonderful possibilities of creating work in the round and that can hang in space.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
Happily, the contemporary art world is finally beginning to embrace fiber and textiles as serious art materials instead of craft. For me, textiles ARE art and there has never been a conflict in using these materials. My work reads as sculpture, installation and wall relief.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
Like many artists, I like to work on several pieces simultaneously. Ideas from one piece drift into the next and soon a series is born. I keep a journal of ideas and sketches and have learned not to try to fit too many ideas into any one piece. I note new ideas as they emerge, and eventually incorporate them in subsequent pieces.
I am very fortunate to have a dream studio here in Chapala, Mexico where I live. I retired early so that I could devote myself to my art and I live here because it is extremely affordable and has a nearly perfect year-round climate.
How do you organize your time?
Even though I am retired, there is so much involved in having an art career that I still struggle to organize my time efficiently. I begin my day at the gym, running or doing yoga because being strong and healthy is essential especially as my work grows larger (and I grow older!). I tend to be rather compartmentalized and prefer to spend most of my day either in the studio focused on the work or on the computer handling the administrative side. The business side of art includes updating my website, answering email, applying for shows/grants, re-sizing photos, researching materials and galleries, and ordering supplies. I don’t generally socialize during the day and wait until the evening to spend time with my partner or with friends.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
Since I worry about a world with decreasing resources and so many threats, I try to reduce my dependence on equipment and enjoy the challenge of using the materials at hand. Although I enjoy technology (Epson 3000 Printer), some of my most fulfilling moments in the studio are when I am tying knots and sewing with waxed linen thread. At these times, I feel at one with the world and with all the millions of textile makers that preceded me.
Tell us about a favorite piece of work and why?
I have just completed one of my largest pieces titled Migration. This piece (6’ x 12’) is composed of hundreds of digitally printed feathers of various sizes that are stitched together with waxed linen, wire, and smaller feathers made from fiber and encaustic. Although there are no birds in the piece, the components evoke a migration of birds in flight.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
When I was raising a family, my work was necessarily small since I had so little studio time. I love working large and as my time has expanded, so has the size of my work. I just acquired an Epson 3000 Printer and am learning how to print on all kinds of interesting surfaces (paper, fiber and metal). This technology will help me to produce the components I need in order to create larger and more complex three-dimensional work.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
This question could generate another whole article! There are two basic factors to consider:
1. What galleries have a demonstrated aesthetic that make them a good fit for my work?
2. What audience do I want to reach?
Identifying galleries that fit the criteria of #1 requires ongoing research by an artist. You must explore a galleries’ exhibition track record and look critically at the artists they show in order to determine whether your work fits their curatorial interests. Issue #2 requires a deep level of honesty about your work, who you want to see it and why.
Art Philosophy and advice
What artist philosophy do you live by?
I would start with “To thine own self be true.” Although there is nothing new under the sun, for me, outstanding art requires a transformation of the materials so that the piece becomes a unique alchemy of what it is made from combined with your vision. I am always trying to push my work so that the media, meaning and techniques continue to become increasingly complex. I aspire to make art that is both stunning and thought-provoking.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Shadow or be mentored by an artist that you like and admire. Learn as much about the fiber world as you can by seeing shows, meeting artists, reading books/ blogs/magazines and attending conferences. Follow your bliss and passion and find something that you absolutely love to do. Be humble and find qualified people to give you feedback about your work so that you can grow and develop a distinctive voice.
What other resources do you use? Blogs, websites, magazines etc.
My favorite magazine by far is the Surface Design Journal, the gorgeous quarterly put out by the Surface Design Association (now available digitally at www.surfacedesign.org). I also read these magazines: Crafts, Sculpture Magazine, Fiber Art Now, Textile Forum.
Coming up soon
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
I founded 360 Xochi Quetzal, a free one-month artist and writer’s residency program here in Chapala, Mexico. We offer winter and summer residencies for International visual artists, fiber artists, photographers, writers and new media makers who may apply through CAFÉ. Please visit our website for more detailed information: www.deborahkruger.com or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where can readers see your work this year?
My newest piece, Migration, is now on view in an international fiber exhibition titled Flight Patterns. Curated by Dot Moye, this year-long show can be seen at the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport in Georgia, USA (the highest traffic airport in the US). The show will travel to Welsh Gallery at Georgia State University from May-August 2015 and other possible venues are under discussion. Let me know if you want to receive announcements about this and other upcoming exhibitions: email@example.com
For more information on Deborah Kruger please visit her website: www.deborahkruger.com
32 comments on “Deborah Kruger: A transformation of the materials”
Wonderful interview! I have established a very special relationship with Deborah over the last 2 years and am thrilled to hear more about her work in this venue.
Your work is very intricate and meditative. Very unusual and intrepid technique. Impressive!
Yay, Deborah! Wonderful to see you featured here! Great interview!
Fabulous original work and interview. Congratulations.
It’s so great to see the images AND get behind them in the artist’s words. This interview is both grounded and moving. Even though I work with words and not concrete materials, this intention is what I want to live by as an artist: “transformation of the materials so that the piece becomes a unique alchemy of what it is made from combined with your vision.” Thank you!
Looking forward to seeing some of your work in NYC. Please send me an invitation. Inspiring work!
And this is the young woman that moved into the house on the corner of my block..wearing overalls and riding a bike…or walking the community.
Not only an artistic transformation but also a personal one. My most
Sincere congratulations on all your achievements. I’m looking forward to the next installment!
Viva la Mexico!
Great interview Sam, and thanks Cobra for giving it. Your work is stunning. Brava!
i have known deborah for a very long time and still i learned so much about her work in this interview. she is a truly inspiring artist… i love her vision, her sensibility, and the warmth of her work. i’m so glad to know that others will learn about her.
Thank you for an inspiring article about an amazing artist. Her work is spectacular.
It’s wonderful to read about how Deborah’s work is evolving. Lovely interview and beautiful work!
What an amazing interview! Deborah’s work is truly incredible, even moreso in person than on the computer screen. As someone who spends time in the Mexico community where Deborah lives, I can highly recommend the residency program that Deborah operates–for the climate, the support, the sunlight, the inspiration that is available there.
Having an insight into your inspiration and process adds to the pleasure of viewing your gorgeous, complex work. Thank you for sharing it, Deborah!
How proud I am to be able to say “I knew her when.” Your pieces are imaginative, unusual, beautiful, delightful, moving. I’ve run out of adjectives.
I always loved your work Deborah! It is so great to read more about you and your process!
Success to you!
wonderful to read your in-depth reflections on your practice Deborah – congratulations! This statement really resonated with me “…outstanding art requires a transformation of the materials so that the piece becomes a unique alchemy of what it is made from combined with your vision. I am always trying to push my work so that the media, meaning and techniques continue to become increasingly complex…”
with best wishes
Thank you so much for sharing your creative process. I particularly appreciate that you identify self-awareness as the base of expression–within a context of minimal environmental impact. To get to such technically and aesthetically successful pieces is wondrous. THANK YOU!
How terrific to read an interview with Deborah Kruger and learn how migrations of endangered species, among other things, have influenced her work. It’s thrilling to see her “feathers” on display on your magazine’s pages — and also to see the link to Flight Patterns, the exhibition at Atlanta’s international airport, which features her work as well as those of other fiber artists.
Linda Brandt Myers
How thrilling to read about Deborah Kruger in your interview. I especially liked reading about how migration patterns of endangered birds and butterflies have been an influences. It’s wonderful to see how far her “feathers” are taking her.
Linda Brandt Myers
This is a wonderful interview that give insight into the motivation behind Deborah’s work. I am fortunate enough to have seen some of the actual pieces and they are stunning. Anyone getting an opportunity to attend one of her residencies in Chapala is indeed a lucky person. Deborah extends herself so much to see that the attendees have a special time in Mexico.
A rich interview; rounded up the points-of-entry very nicely: who has inspired DK, brief artistic background, current work environment and organization, by what she is impassioned. All good. Nice teaser on the tech side (I owned an Epson r1800 – LOVED that printer!). As usual, I find sculpture –esp. delicately constructed work– a bit frustrating to regard in photographic form, but these images are about as good as it gets. One small suggestion: scale and/or size would be helpful. You know that all sculpture is read as larger (much larger) or smaller than the body/hand that beholds it.
Just waiting for the day when I can put on a glove and ‘touch’ the work on the Web.
Thank you for letting me know the article was up.
Carry on …fabulous interview! Am watching your adventures.
I have been following Deborah’s wrk for quite some time and feel it is as authentic and electric as she is in person! As this interview reflects, she has the unique ability to seamlessly weave simplicity with complexity within a medium that is accessible to a dynamic range of audiences! I have a gorgeous piece of Deborah’s in my home which never fails to spark intrigue and conversation to visiting guests. If you have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing her work in person, I highly recommend supporting this innovative artist and her incredible work!
Beautiful art with a purpose, to keep awareness of the plight of birds and butterflies and the dangers they face in our ever changing World. They were in the millions and now we see them in the thousands and years to come perhaps in only the hundreds.
Congratulations Cobra great interview and keep up the good work!
Great article! It’s always so motivational and inspirational to see what other artists are creating! Cheryl Kontor
Always a pleasure to see & hear about Deborah’s projects…wonderful work, great interview!
I really enjoyed reading the interview.
Very insightful thoughts on work and working practice .
A wonderful and revealing interview with Deborah Kruger. I have known Deborah and her work for several years and am fascinated by the themes she incorporates in her fiber constructions. She is certainly one of the most interesting textile artists creating and exhibiting today and carries on the tradition of the textile movement that began in the late ’50. I was especially intrigued by her concern for the environment and her contribution to raise consiousness about the plight of migratory birds and butterflies and the stuggle they will face as we continue to populate the earth and invade their nesting spaces.
I am always fascinated by the back story – the inspiration behind the work. Thank you for a wonderful article on Deborah and her work.
Fantastic interview! I love hearing about all of your successes and seeing your art evolve in such beautiful ways. As always, your thoughts behind your art is so enlightening and the emotional connection you have with them is truly inspiring.
what can a mother say?! I,m delighted that you were always an individual and “different”!
This was a delightful “read.” Excellent questions and first-rate answers–answers to remember; answers to inscribe in the mind and heart!
I did not know very much about Ms. Kruger’s kind of art before reading this article. I’m more about wordsmithing. But, Deborah’s insights and descriptions, as well as the samples of her work here, inspire me to learn more. Certainly, her approach to her own art, her concern for our ecosystem, her sense of our “interconnectedness” has universal applications, relevance and power.