With experience in everything from photography to ceramics and, of course, textiles, Paige French brings an unique approach to art. French will be leading a four-part series of studio-based courses at the Georgia Museum of Art that will explore weaving and fiber arts through various techniques and materials. The class is open to artists of all levels.
We spoke with French this week to learn more about the upcoming workshop and her own works as an artist, and we were met with both answers and engaging stories.
How did you come to work with textiles as an artist?
I taught myself how to sew. I would steal my mom’s sewing machine, because when I was 13 I realized clothes didn’t fit me, but all these other girls, their clothes fit them. I ruined a lot of clothing, which my mom was not happy about, but that started my interest in seamstress work and design. I think there are principles across so many art forms like composition, color theory and the rule of thirds that can even be applied to fashion. The concept of how things present based on what textures are combined and what colors are used, all of those things are relevant no matter what media you’re working within.
Paige has continued to sew, weave and interact with textiles throughout her life. These interests are often incorporated into her commercial and personal work such as shoots she has done for books on interior design. Paige has also featured her textile works over the years on her early professional blogs, at her own home and on more modern platforms such as Instagram. As she has said herself, some artistic concepts transcend all types of art. The care and manner in which she brings her art into the world suggests that her works are not limited by context.
How does a visit to the museum inspire your work?
I am incredibly floored, entering into a museum is like a spiritual experience. Especially at the Georgia Museum of Art because of the way it’s designed, with the outdoor patio and sculpture garden, it really does invite you in. It’s so sparse and minimal, which allows you to have a really powerful interaction with the pieces.
Is there a particular Georgia Museum of Art exhibit that has evoked this feeling for you?
I remember I was invited to photograph the Ann Bonfoey Taylor exhibit at the museum in 2013. Having the opportunity to come into the museum and photograph these artifacts — artifacts in the sense of lives lived and time spent rather than physical age — was huge for me because of the work that I’m doing. In the context of this digital age, it can seem like I put [what I create] out there and “poof,” it’s gone. But that exhibit helped me to realize no, it’s actually lasting and it matters.
What can people look forward to doing and learning in this workshop?
The first day is going to be personal introductions, going up and observing the works and then talking about how we’ll be studying circular and rectangular compositions. The second day, participants will be making sketches of what we want to bring to life; weaving based on paintings, sculptures or whatever else is on display or that we look at from the archives. From there, participants will learn basic weaving knots and stitches, and begin to create their pieces throughout the rest of the workshop.
The workshop is supposed to draw inspiration from museum pieces on display and in the archives; what is your favorite (or a few favorites) of what you’ve pulled for the students?
The specific pieces are still to be determined, but Paige states there will likely be an emphasis on abstracts.
One of my goals with looking at pulled works and at the current MFA exhibit will be to see those concepts of color theory, composition and texture. Really just honing the students’ eyes to what is applicable across so many different formats of art. That’s my ideal; I want to introduce them to the fact that you can do this.
What sort of ways do you see these pieces inspiring the class?
The students will be making sketches of the exhibits to find out what they want to bring to life in the weavings they will make later in the class.
Paige plans to show students how to recognize patterns and themes in any kind of art, and to use those elements in works, specifically textile works, of their own. In the past, she has taught a number of workshops on everything from weaving to cyanotypes with students of all ages. Often, those classes also began with looking at art or art books to inspire students. She explained her reasoning for me, showing just how important this component is in terms of creating art:
“Let’s look at these [art books], spend some time with them and then make notes about what stands out. What is compelling to you, and why? If you could make any type of art in the world, what would it look like and how would you get to that point?” I kind of just asked them to open up the books and their selves with the firm belief that “Hey, I believe you have the potential to create art just as much as any other human being.”
“Studio Workshop: Fiber Arts” with Paige French begins May 3. The cost of the course is a $15 materials fee, which will cover all necessary supplies for all sessions (May 3, 10, 17 and 24). Call 706.542.8863 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register. Limited to 15 participants.
Savannah GuenthnerIntern, Department of Communications