Kaci Smith Weaves Colorful Patterns into Miniature Looms Fashioned from Wishbones and Branches
In autumn of 2020, artist Kaci Smith was faced with a compound dilemma: daily life was still affected by the pandemic while devastating wildfires spread around her home in Northern California. “The air was so filled with smoke that even my studio became off limits,” she says. “The first branch weaving was just a way to pass some time and do something creative while being stuck indoors.” Smith had previously turned to the craft as a calming and meditative complement to her collage and painting practice, so when she began to forage for twigs that she could transform into delicate looms, she was excited about the possibilities and a new challenge.
Weaving colorful weft threads through plain warp threads, Smith’s interventions suspend web-like miniature tapestries in natural frames. Depending on the size of the branch or the complexity of the pattern, a piece can take several days to complete. A few months ago, she was inspired to utilize a leftover wishbone as “a way to honor the turkey that fed my family on Thanksgiving,” she says, and sources additional pieces online as byproducts of the poultry industry. “Even though tapestry is basically ‘painting with yarn,’ you can never rush it. The very nature of it teaches patience, and there is a special rhythm in the repetition.”
Find more of Smith’s work on her website and Instagram.
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Crochet Your Next Big Catch with Free Patterns from the National Park Service
If angling isn’t your strong suit, the National Park Service has a solution to reeling in your next big catch. Swap your fishing line for yarn and crochet a halibut or walleye with simple patterns courtesy of ranger Hailey Burley. Referencing the aquatic inhabitants of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and Voyageurs National Park, the DIY projects to offer a playful way to engage with the environment and the creatures living in these regions.
The two freshwater fish are part of a growing collection of patterns designed by rangers, including a round, ridged pillow to mimic the lava flow of El Malpais National Monument and another to stitch the crustacean known as Triops.
Burley tells Colossal that she’s working in Glacier Bay National Park this summer and hopes to release additional patterns reflective of the Alaskan environment. Keep an eye on the service’s site for updates.
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Lively Botanicals and Organic Forms Cloak Juz Kitson’s Ceramic Vessels in Dense Topographies
Focused on movement and vitality, artist Juz Kitson sculpts supple vessels that harness the lively qualities of Earth’s landscapes. Densely packed with pieces mimicking flowers, fungi, moss, coral, and other organisms, the shapely works “feel like they are pulsating, giving inanimate material a spark of life,” Kitson tells Colossal. Medium and subject matter both nod to the natural process of regeneration and rebirth, with the “malleable, composite of Earth, water, and fire inherently (carrying) the imprint of memory.”
After many years of an itinerant practice that allowed her to travel frequently, Kitson settled in Milton, New South Wales, at the beginning of the pandemic. Given mass uncertainty and closed borders, she simultaneously had to shutter the studio she occupied for nearly a decade in Jingdezhen, China. Much of her work reflects a mélange of these two environments.
Often sculpted from Jingdezhen porcelain, the vessels are topographic and evoke the rugged coastlines and bush of the artist’s native Australia alongside the mountains and lush jungles of East Asia. “I have a deep fascination and attention to detail, constantly observing, exploring, walking through landscapes and creating visual mind maps of surfaces, layers, crevices, and abundant metamorphic forms that will later feed into the works I make,” she says.
Often monochromatic, many of the sculptures are glazed in a clear coat, blush, or black. The latter, especially on Kitson’s urn-like vessels, directly connects to the charred remains of Australia’s bush following the disastrous fires of 2019. At the time, the artist had just purchased her house and studio, which she refused to abandon despite mass evacuations. She shares:
I had just bought my first home, and here I was, standing protecting it by drenching it with a hose, watering my house and soon-to-be studio to protect it from the flames that were only three kilometers away…(I started) a series of funerary urns as a lament for the summer wildfires that devastated the landscape and has seen a region still mourning the loss of vegetation, homes, animals, and lives lost in which the pandemic overshadowed.
If you’re in Australia, there are several opportunities to view Kitson’s works in person, including a July solo exhibition at Sophie Gannon Gallery in Richmond, Victoria, and group shows at Craft Victoria opening in May, Hazelhurst Arts Centre in July, and Sydney Contemporary Art Fair in September. You can also find more on her site and Instagram.
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Flower Press Studio’s Colorful Compositions Preserve Botanicals and Bouquets for Posterity
Knowing that flowers only blossom for a short time, there is romance in their ephemerality. Naturally, we want to preserve their characteristics; we bottle up floral fragrances, and the practice of pressing flowers dates back to time immemorial. It’s thought that the Japanese first elevated the process to an art form with a 16th-century tradition known as oshibana. The practice spread worldwide, and by the late 19th century, it was a popular pastime in England and the U.S. Flower Press Studio keeps this tradition alive through preserving delicate petals, stems, and fronds beneath glass.
A thriving small business run by Rachel Parri and Keith Kralik, Flower Press Studio began as a hobby that quickly blossomed into a full-time occupation. In 2019, they purchased a house in Denver and xeriscaped the front yard, a landscaping method that reduces the need for irrigation by planting flora naturally suited to drier climates. They planted vegetables, flowers, and added two beehives. By the summer of 2021, the garden was producing quantities of calendulas, sunflowers, poppies, and other wildflowers, and Kralik began to press them. He then started designing and gluing the flattened blossoms onto paper and constructing hardwood frames. By the end of that year, demand had grown to a point where the business was formally born.
“Wildflowers are our favorite, but that’s probably because we are in a state that grows absolutely sensational wildflowers,” the pair tells Colossal. “But really anything with color—we look for variety. Size, shape of petals, dying flowers, straight stems versus twisty-turny ones, foliages… non-perfect flowers are some of the best.” A bridal bouquet, for example, typically takes about three hours to deconstruct piece by piece, then it takes several days—often weeks—to make sure the flowers have properly dried and flattened into the desired shape: “We check the presses regularly throughout the first week, going through every page of flowers and adjusting petals, changing out all paper, chipboard, cardboard, and using alternative methods to get excess moisture out.”
Parri and Kralik want to make sure their work remains sustainable and environmentally responsible, and they often practice on flowers that would otherwise be discarded after weddings. The pair look forward to working with flower farms both locally and further afield, collaborating with other makers and designers, and focusing on producing limited-edition prints and online workshops.
You can follow updates on Instagram, where the studio often shares before-and-after images of the elaborate, reinterpreted bouquets.
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Who Are You Calling Peanut Brain? A Series of Quirky Dolls Imbues Snacks with Enigmatic Personalities
In her ongoing series of delightful fabric dolls, Ukrainian artist Yulia reimagines meals and snacks with playful personalities. Often conceived as families or groups united by a common theme like vegetables, tea bags, or breakfast items, her friendly figures don patterned apparel in a variety of colorful fabrics. Whether their heads are shaped like macaroni, ginger root, or bacon, all of the artist’s characters share beady, wide-set eyes and enigmatically sweet smiles.
Yulia occasionally releases new editions in her Etsy shop, and you can follow updates on Instagram.
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Art Craft Documentary
A Book and New Documentary Explore the Possibilities of Ink-Making in Urban Environments
Jason Logan’s entry into ink-making started with a black walnut tree he encountered while biking through a local Toronto park. After gathering the fallen seeds and bringing them home, he boiled the green nuts until they produced a rich brown pigment. Now nearly ten years ago, this moment became the catalyst for what’s grown into an expansive network of projects exploring the possibilities of color and foraging in the most unlikely spaces.
Logan founded The Toronto Ink Company in 2014 and began to create pigments from materials gathered around the Canadian city, including the aforementioned black walnut but also street detritus like cigarette butts, soot, and rust. The idea was to create more environmentally conscious products and extend foraging into urban environments. “You start seeking out hopeful green spaces under a highway overpass or in a back alley,” Logan said in an interview. “A rusty nail becomes a possible ink or a penny with greenish oxidation on it.”
These discoveries led to Make Ink, his 2018 guidebook for scavenging with recipes and tips on creating pigments at home. Organized by color, the 192-page volume encompasses history and science and focuses on the alchemy behind his work. The book is also the predecessor to the artist’s latest project, a feature-length documentary that delves into his harvesting and production process.
Currently screening in Canada, The Colour of Ink follows Logan as he gathers organic and human-made substances and transforms them into usable goods. Featuring artists and writers like Margaret Atwood, Kōji Kakinuma, and Heidi Gustafson (previously), the film highlights the connection to the earth and emphasizes the lively qualities of the material. “The ink I make is unpredictable. It’s fugitive. It’s on the run,” Logan says in the trailer.” “What I’m hoping to do is draw people’s attention to minute differences.”
Pick up a copy of Make Ink on Bookshop, and follow Logan on Instagram for updates on additional documentary screenings, which are likely to happen in Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, and throughout the U.S. in the coming months.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
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