Here is the text from the Winter 2011 article on me from Carolina Home and Garden magazine.
Thank you Naomi for a wonderful interview experience and for your excellent skills at boiling down all my ravings as an artist and hopeless idealist.
A Cosmic Connection
Selinde Lanier’s cultural journey comes together in the loom
by Naomi Johnson
Photo by Naomi Johnson
Textile designer Selinde Lanier was inspired by an old Appalachian pattern, “Sun, Moon and Stars,” that she spotted in a home decor magazine years ago. She has created numerous versions of the same motif on her looms.
Selinde Lanier still has the photograph that changed her life. It’s a page from a decorating magazine, now a bit tattered with age — she used to read such things, back when she was designing upholstery for high-end furniture. It features a fancy drawing room (gilt, columns, mounted animal heads) and is intended to advertise the artfully draped bits of fabric in the foreground. But what caught Lanier’s eye was an afterthought: the weaving that covers the billiard table in the background, a spare geometric coverlet.
Something about it captured her imagination. Little did she know that she would find herself, nine years later, in a light-filled studio at Marshall High, surrounded by her own handwoven iterations of that same design, which turned out to be called “Sun, Moon, and Stars.”
“It’s a traditional Appalachian coverlet pattern which was popular about a hundred years ago,” she explains, showing the first swatch she made on her small four-harness loom, then subsequent versions made after she upgraded to a large dobby loom for the express purpose of recreating more nearly the pattern she saw in that original photo. The new loom allows her to double weave, creating “two very fine layers that interlace by means of the motifs, leaving pockets between the ground areas,” as she explains in her blog. The weavings, made of wool and alpaca, are light and luminous, hand-dyed in subtle colors she creates with natural materials: black walnut hulls for the warm brown, goldenrod for yellow, tansy for a range of soft greens.
Talking with Lanier, who holds an MFA in Textile Design from Savannah College of Art and Design, is an education in all things weaving-related, ranging from the science of plant dyes, to the cultural anthropology of weaving in this region (it was often done by itinerant weavers moving from town to town), to the weavers of Greek mythology (Penelope, for example — Odysseus’ wife who held off unwanted suitors with nightly un-weaving), and the early history of computers (which were based on the punchcard-using jacquard loom). This erudition is balanced by an exceedingly down-to-earth creative process: She gathers roadside plants for dyes and spends weeks at the laborious task of putting the warp on the loom. “There’s really something yummy about the crafting, the hands-on, the making,” she says thoughtfully. She expands on this in her artist’s statement: “The idea of weaving as a magical process to mete out time is a universal one, and to think that I am weaving the sun, moon and stars, the day into the night and back out again, well … it’s a powerful thing for me.”
Until recently, this inner process, an exploration of her own interests, had been the primary driver of Lanier’s journey with the “Sun, Moon, and Stars” — she’s focused entirely on versions of this same motif, experimenting with altering it and deconstructing it. “I sometimes wonder, what if I only ever make this one design?” she says with a laugh.
The past year, though, has brought a new element into her process: the public. Along with six other women artists and craftspeople, she helped form Flow gallery in downtown Marshall, thus bringing the audience into what she describes as “a dialogue” — and she’s still not sure how that may influence her work. She cites a workshop she attended which crystallized her understanding of what that audience may be looking for, especially in this social-media age: “People want to connect with the maker. They feel so unconnected to the human touch. They want to ‘drink from the cup of the sage weaver.’ They want to touch that magic that is the handmade thing. And you need to sort of stand up and be that.”
So she’s not quite sure where all this is headed: will it be “design” for production, will it be “fine art” by commission? There’s no saying, yet. But the process seems to have its own mysterious intelligence, invisible but palpably there: the pattern that’s gradually emerging as she keeps weaving.