Tag Archives: Surface Design Association

Marking the Change

As we move into September the days are becoming noticeably shorter and our evening temps here in Vermont have already dipped into the 40’s, making for great sleeping weather.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I know that many bemoan the last days of August, perhaps more so than the end of any other season, but I am happy for the change. I find comfort, not just in the reminder of natural rhythms and cycles beyond my control, but also in welcoming the chance to get back to activities I enjoy without the guilt of feeling I ought to be outside taking advantage of summer’s fleeting sun and warmth.


It’s time to bring in the harvest in earnest and to start putting some of the bounty up for winter enjoyment. It’s been a great year in my garden for garlic, blueberries, carrots, beans, herbs, and greens. My tomatoes, on the other hand, are slow to ripen and have had a relatively weak showing — a result, I’m sure, of all the rain and relatively cool days we’ve had on our hill this year. I’ve come to accept the fluctuation between what does well from one year to the next, and look to that variation as an opportunity to explore new recipes and to evade any sense of being caught in a rut.

Bookended tools

Bookended     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

When summer arrives, I’m ready for a break from the kitchen and try to avoid too much time cooking. But when we begin to see signs that the transition to fall is taking hold, it feels good to pull out my pots for “putting food by” and to get back in the swing of creating with food. It doesn’t hurt that there are endless opportunities for happenstance still-lives along the way, making sketching just another gratifying perk of the job.


Balanced     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

These drawings mark the beans that were blanched, the batches of pesto mixed up, the turkey broth simmered & flavored with fresh herbs, carrots, and garlic…and of course the resulting piles of dishes, before and after washing.

Years ago my mother gave me a copy of the book Putting Food By. It’s a keeper; a trusty resource that never goes out of date. This link is to the most recent edition.

Also, for a bit of meaty reading, artist Anne Sherwood Pundyk recently contributed an essay entitled The Beholder’s Share to the online magazine artcritical. Pundyk discusses the neuroscience of abstraction and figuration, drawing on personal and professional experience in conjunction with consideration of two books on recent scientific findings: My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor (2006) and Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric R. Kandel (2016). Fascinating! …I found it particularly resonating bearing in mind my ongoing interest in straddling a line between the two (abstraction and figuration) through composition and values.

Finally, a bit of gratifying news and shameless self-promotion: my piece “It Isn’t That Simple” was picked-up and used by the Surface Design Association to illustrate their Friday Fibers Roundup blog last week.

Outside the Studio

Happy June!    …month of the summer solstice and the Beta Taurids meteor shower.

I am really looking forward to being part of two exhibitions that open this month, one here in Vermont and another in Portland, Maine. No matter the venue, there is always a sense of liberation in getting work out of the studio and in front of public eyes. I am particularly excited about the Maine exhibit because it’s my first opportunity to show in Maine’s “big city”, the town next door to where I grew up.

Wild Fibers

Wild Fiberswhich opens locally on June 2, will be on view through July 9 at the Emile A. Gruppe Gallery in Jericho. It’s a collection of work from members of the Vermont chapter of the Surface Design Association, an international organization focused on “inspiring creativity, encouraging innovation, and advocating for artistic excellence … in textile-inspired art and design”.

We who are part of SDA Vermont are fortunate to have a very active committee that has devoted countless volunteer hours securing and organizing exhibitions across the state in an effort to expose the public to the wide range of possibility that exists within the world of surface design.* I think the growth of our membership can be directly attributed to the success of these shows. I am always amazed at the breadth of skills among our members, so if you have a chance to stop by the Gruppe Gallery in the next 5 weeks, I’m sure you too will be struck by the diversity of work and process on display.

For those of you who might be interested in activist artists who use knitting as a means of voicing their ideas and concerns about the world, let me give a quick plug to my friend and fellow SDA member, Eve Jacobs-Carnahan, who will be presenting the talk “25 Years of Knitters Speaking Out” in conjunction with Wild Fibers. Her talk will be on Friday, June 16th from 6:30-7:30pm, also at the Gruppe Gallery.


Knitters at Town Meeting Day, Waterbury, VT     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram

Next week I will be shipping five pieces to Able Baker Contemporary for the upcoming show Selvedge, which runs from June 16 to August 5, 2017. If your travels take you anywhere near Portland this summer, I hope you will stop in. Curator Tessa Greene O’Brien has assembled work from nine artists, all of whom incorporate textiles in their practice while strongly maintaining a fine-art approach. The work is process-driven and carries a strong conceptual component. I’m thrilled to have been included and can’t wait to head to Portland in July to experience the show in person.


Able Baker Contemporary is on the Portland Stage block, within 300 yards of The Maine College of Art, Space Gallery, and Space Studios and the Portland Museum of Art, (where I’m excited to see Hans Hofmann; Works on Paper will be showing from June 16 to September 3), — in other words, a cultural hotbed that, combined with Portland’s fine restaurants and oceanside location, makes for an excellent weekend getaway!

Meanwhile, back to the unglamorous…I am slogging my way through an update of my website, and, as is probably to be expected, it’s way more time-consuming than I’d anticipated. There’s no escaping computer chores! However, to leave you on a happy note, I came across this  worthy diversion — a wonderful mix of metaphors and animation by Greg Condon that made me smile; I hope it will amuse you as well.


First Harvest     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

*Surface design encompasses the coloring, patterning, and structuring of fiber and fabric. This involves creative exploration of processes such as dyeing, painting, printing, stitching, embellishing, quilting, weaving, knitting, felting, and paper-making.

Words of Wisdom in 15 Digestible Bites

One of the few attributes of long travel days, despite the many hours spent in airports and on planes, is that there’s not much to do but read (and sketch, of course). How many days in a given year does one have the luxury of being able to sit with a book for hours on end?


Waiting 1 ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                                         Airport gate areas are a terrific place to draw

A couple of weeks ago, while heading back and forth to and from California — after I’d had enough of my book, and the people I was drawing in the waiting area had all begun to look the same — I caught up on several months of articles I had saved to Pocket. Do you know about Pocket? If not, you should. It’s an app that offers a way to save all the items you come across on the web but don’t have time to read right away, making it possible to access them when you do have time — across all your devices…and it’s free!


Waiting 2 ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                                    Most waiting travelers, regardless of age, are plugged into their devices. The advantage is they are oblivious to a lonely sketcher. The downside is there is little variation in body posture as most have nearly the same bend of the neck and hand placement while looking at their phones or tablets.

Aside from the ongoing slew of links that I stockpile, digest, and then discard, I have a few items saved in my Pocket that I’ll keep permanently. I hold onto them to reread from time to time because they’re just that good.


Water ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                   Sketching my water bottle, poking out of the seat pocket in front of me, helped to pass the time during a 5 hour flight.

Entrepreneur and writer James Altucher’s excellent post entitled What I Learned About Life After Interviewing 80 Highly Successful People is one such piece. I am happy to return to it from time to time, not just as a means of giving me a bit of a boost when needed, but also to help me remember to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. It contains 15 short maxims; points that seem appropriate no matter where we stand as we strive to keep moving forward with our goals. It’s too lengthly for me to transcribe here, so please follow the above link. I think it’s well-worth sharing and hope you agree.


Pen Cap ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                       …and then I moved on to drawing my own left hand – and covertly, the hands of the passenger to my right who was lost in his newspaper.

Do these ideas resonate with you as well? I keep coming back to “Many moments of small positive, personal interactions build an extraordinary career”… or, one might also say “life”… don’t you think?

In case you can go: This month members of the Vermont chapter of the Surface Design Association are exhibiting at Frog Hollow, Vermont State Craft Center in Burlington, in a show entitled “Material Matters”. We have an active and motivated group across the state and the show reflects that commitment.


Parterre 2 ©2015 Elizabeth Fram

The term “surface design” was coined to identify “manipulations of textiles that go beyond woven constructions”. Legendary textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen explained the term best by expressing his opinion that surface designers are interested in fabric as geography, in providing unlimited options for dimensional and structural enhancements, greater possibilities for opening interior spaces, and more opportunities for experimenting with color, texture, and design.

Frog Hollow has created this catalog of the exhibit, which you can browse through at your leisure. It offers an idea of the breadth of work on view and includes information about the participating artists.

Interpreting the Surface

I first discovered the Surface Design Association through their journal in 1996. The bold cover of that issue immediately grabbed my attention — a close-up of irregularly shaped, hand-dyed fabrics overlaid with a web of machine stitching. The only words were the heading “SURFACE” and the small subtitle “Quilts”.


Flipping through the pages,  the breadth of articles and the quality of images hooked me right away.

Fram Vacuum Series

Elizabeth Fram

Having completed my first “art quilt” three years before, I was in full-on learning mode and constantly on the lookout for more information about other artists and potential processes.


Karen Kamenetzky

Since I was just beginning to find my way as an artist, it was a thrill find a publication that was the product of an organization whose stated mission was “to provide leadership in the field of surface design by:

  • stimulating…professional opportunities and education
  • improving communication…among artists, designers, educators and industry
  • acting as a resource to people seeking access to galleries, studios, workshops, small business and education
  • supporting and encouraging exhibition opportunities
  • providing a forum for exchange and evolution of ideas…”

Marilyn Gillis

My education in surface design began in earnest with the purchase of that journal and, almost 20 years later, I am ever-grateful for the way SDA has come through for me on all the bullet points above.


Rosalind Daniels

But above and beyond that, it is the people I have met through SDA that have been the ultimate benefit. As an international organization, its reach is far and wide, so exposure to what is happening globally is fantastic. But closer to home, both the critique groups I’ve joined since the mid-90’s have included other SDA members, so I think of SDA as a great source of connection for sharing both knowledge and friendship.


Karen Henderson

Currently I am enjoying being part of a show appropriately entitled Interpreting the Surface at the Furchgotte Sourdiffe Gallery in Shelburne, VT, along with seven other Vermont SDA members.


Catherine Hall

The variety and scope of the work speaks for itself.  These images represent a selection from each artist.


Dianne Shullenberger

I hope that if you are within driving distance, you will go to check out the show in person. My photos don’t begin to do justice to the beauty and details of these works, which can only be fully appreciated “in the flesh”.


Jackie Abrams

In case you live too far away or don’t have the opportunity to see the show before it closes on May 26, here is a link to the review that recently appeared in 7 Days.


Elizabeth Fram