Terry Jarrard-Dimond: Seeing the connections
Driven by the art of making, Terry Jarrard-Dimond creates abstract mixed-media work that spans a multitude of techniques. After working as an art teacher and textile industry designer she earned an MFA degree from Clemson University and became a full-time artist.
In our interview with Terry we talk about the experience of ‘doing’, her openness to different techniques and why it felt right to return to education.
Igniting an interest
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Terry Jarrard-Dimond: I think my first serious involvement with textile art began when I took a backstrap weaving class. This class ignited an interest in spinning, dying and learning all types of woven techniques. I went from the backstrap loom to several other larger looms and much later this interest in structure developed into sculpture. Now I am back to flat structured fabric. I have always found that I am pulled along by the materials and processes I use and fiber just keeps showing me new things.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
I was not surrounded by art or artists as a child but I did love to make things and the art I had in elementary school was my favorite part of the day. My tiny school did not have art classes above 6th grade. I did not put a foot in an art museum until I was in college and had met only one artist before that time and that meeting did not involve art. Despite the lack of direct involvement with art I was very taken with the romantic idea of being “an artist”. I really didn’t have a clue what being an artists involved beyond the activity but I knew I felt engaged when painting or sewing or doing any activity which incorporated making something.
What was your route to becoming an artist? (Formal training or another pathway?)
I majored in art in undergraduate school at Winthrop University where I earned a BS and 10 years later attended Clemson University where I earned my Master of Fine Arts degree. During the 10 years between these educational experiences I continued to try and find my way with painting. My husband is a painter and he was working and showing which helped introduce me to the world of art and artist. Tom also taught art and then became the director of the art gallery at Clemson University. This association sparked my interest in going back to school and getting my MFA. Being in that program as a slightly older student was special and I have always felt it was the right time for me to be in that type program.
Dyed or stained
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
My medium at this point is fabric. Sometimes the fabric might be dyed or stained or used as a drawing surface. I am exploring the use of paint, discharge, printing, heavy stitching, piecing, applique and more. I’m open to any technique which furthers my knowledge of what I can do with fabric. While this work is active, I am also at the beginning of working with encaustic and hope to develop a body of work with that medium that is consistent with my fabric work. In theory I believe an artist should be able to do whatever they like. Use any combination of materials they like but I confess that I do hold back at times and I think it is due to my personal esthetic. There are things I can accept in other people’s work that I don’t care for in my own work.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
I feel my work sits comfortably in the broader world of art making and not solely textiles. I’m very aware of the interest in mark making, texture and pattern, and assemblage that feeds much work today in painting and drawing and perhaps even sculpture. In one way or another my work could be described as using these techniques or approaches I mentioned.
I am like many artists in that I often begin a work with only a vague idea of when the process will take me. Only in the doing do I realize the content of the work. I describe my work as a physical documentation of the experience I have had making the work. It is a documentation of all the many choices one must make when creating a work of art. It is unique to that time and what I was thinking but hopefully there is that something special that we all bring to our work that sets it apart from the work of other people and marks it as mine.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I have three workspaces. Our home is almost 100 years old so most of the rooms are a nice size and the downstairs has 10 foot ceilings. I have a sewing studio just off my living room and a room upstairs for my mid-arm machine. Tom and I share a studio building in the rear of our home and that is where I do wet work. We share the space but we are seldom in the studio at the same time. We both prefer our privacy.
I make lots of fabrics with various processes which are then used as the raw materials for work. I believe one of my strengths is seeing the connections and I begin by pinning fabrics of interest on my design wall and begin to cut and arrange. Sometimes the work seems to arrange itself and other times I just have to allow time to look and ponder what I’m seeing. I try to give myself time to really SEE the work.
Scraps and snippets
Do you use a sketchbook?
I have used traditional sketchbooks but currently my sketchbook is more in the form of scraps and snippets which are pinned to the side edge of my design wall. I make notes about things I want to do. Sometimes these notes are all in one place but many times they just float around. It’s hard to keep track of the fabrics I’ve made so it’s always interesting to open a container and look at things that have been stored for a while but this activity is often as good as a sketchbook because it sparks ideas.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
This is hard for me to talk about. There are artists who have inspired me, Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, Lenore Tawney, Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Louise Nevelson, Alice Neal, Anni Albers, Miriam Shapiro, Nancy Crow and Dorothy Caldwell, as well as numerous male artists. Those listed inspired me in many different ways that range from what they made to what they had to overcome to be an artist.
Currently I am most inspired by what I see in the very wide world of art found through the web. I have Pinterest pages and as I have collected images for those pages I am blown away by the outpouring of creativity. I see many many works which reflect my interest. I think we could possibly get a bit depressed at seeing so much fabulous work or work that is very aligned with our own but I’ve decided to think of it in terms of validation for what I am doing. This work might be made by beginners or very professional artists. It doesn’t matter. What matters is whether or not it interest me. I think we are influenced by all that we see on some level so looking is important.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
Early on I made a work titled The Big Red Dog. I was working in a tight space at that time and couldn’t get very far away from the piece. I was having trouble looking at the work and not at all sure it was finished or if it was working. I asked Tom to come and look at it with me. We sat as far away from the design wall as possible and as he studied the work he said he saw a big red dog. I was very surprised by this. My perception of what was in this work did not include “a dog” but once he pointed it out to me it was very clear.
This showed me in a very real way how important it is to view your work in as good a situation as you can arrange and not to rush to judgement about a piece that you are unclear about. The piece was shown several times in competitive shows and won a design award.
The surface of fabric
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
My early work was constructed of hand dyed fabric which I dyed and the work relied primarily on color and shapes which were pieced. I am good with that technique but I grew to need a wider variety of ways to work with the fabric. This need developed into my desire to learn different ways to work with the surface of fabric. My early work was often very spare with large shapes and flat color, my work now is still spare in the number of pieces of fabric in a work but with a very complex surface. I don’t know where my work will go but I can guarantee it will change as I love exploration.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
My advice for aspiring textile artists is to stay open as long as you can and don’t settle in to one area too soon. I’d also encourage artists to show in a wider realm than shows which only feature textiles. We need to mix and mingle and put our work with work of all mediums. In order to be seen as something other than very insular we have to be willing to perhaps step outside our comfort zones.
What other resources do you use? Blogs, websites, magazines etc.
I have written a blog for about 5 years and the writing of that blog has been an education. It gives you an opportunity to connect with people all over the world. I have read many blogs but right now I’m more interested in Pinterest which I mentioned before. I have a collection of art books which I enjoy reviewing from time to time. These are books which cut across art mediums.
Exhibitions and classes
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
I have been teaching workshops for several years and you can find the current listings on my website.
For summer 2014 I will be at Quilting by the Lake and at the Crow Timberframe Barn. I also teach 2 & 3 day workshops for guilds.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I have participated in many juried shows over the years along with showing in galleries, museums and commercial spaces. I am most interested in the work being shown well which means clean walls, good lighting and professional presentation. I expect the show to be advertised with mailings, emails and any other avenues they use such as web postings or magazine listings. I also want the work to be well cared for while it is being installed as well as while it is on display.
Where can readers see your work this year?
Currently I have a solo show at Upstairs Artspace in Tryon, NC which will be up until June 20th. The show is titled Textile Constructions: 2014 and you can read about this show at: upstairsartspace.org
Also currently running is Quilts: The New Geometry at the Museum of Geometric and MADI Art in Dallas, TX. The show will be up until July 6th and you can find out more information at: geometricmadimuseum.org
I will be part of a two person show titled Contemporary Textiles at the Alamance County Arts Council in Graham, NC which opens July 24th -September 5th. You can find out more at: www.artsalamance.com
In August I will be part of a three person show featuring painting by Tom Dimond, prints by Sydney Cross and my textile constructions. The show is being held on the Greer Campus of Greenville Technical College and at Riverworks Gallery in downtown Greenville, SC. I will be announcing more details on my website closer to the opening.
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