Meet our Teachers: Beatrice Perron Dahlen

Things are moving along at a rapid pace at A Gathering, which accounts for the lag in posts here. I apologise for not being on top of that. I'm not a huge fan of people who apologise for their blog post frequency. I figure, it's your blog, you post when you want... But in this case, I get it. You guys who are reading this want to know what's going on behind the door at AGOS, and I'm the one to tell you about it.  You can get a small picture on the Facebook page if that's a place you hang out. (and judging by our ever climbing 'likes' some of you must be...), I do post more regularly there, even if they are short and sweet. 

I am up to my eyeballs in details and fine tuning of the space. For all intents and purposes the painting is done. Hallelujah for that! Some small straggling pockets to do and then the painting paraphernalia can be moved out. The book shelves are painted, cured, secured to the wall and ready for books. It will be so nice to get the small but lovely library that we have already accumulated out of boxes and on to shelves. More books will arrive in the next month or so, as the library fleshes itself out. The tables are in and sited, a couple of them need one more coat of polyurethane. The windows are getting washed. The floor swept, vacuumed and mopped. The last of the IKEA haul should be set up Monday and then, hopefully, filled with equipment (which was ordered last week). A window decal has been secured and as soon at the window is cleaned, it will be applied. Woohoo!  A sign is being constructed, a really beautiful sign, being made by one of our delightful tenants (still discovering all these hidden talents in the room). The washer/dryer is installed, as are both sinks and the exposure unit.  We're just waiting for the darkroom timer and the glass top to make that last piece operational. We are braining our way through the wash down area, still needs some figuring, but it will be ready by next weekend when the first screen printing workshop takes place.

The workshop room is coming together nicely. Track lights are up, the table is in and the counter installed. Shelving will go up on Tuesday. A big piece of homosote is attached to the wall, just waiting for it's flannel covering. With three windows, that room is quite lovely to hang out in. Oh how nice it will be to gather round that table and learn new skills/hone old ones.... Our very first workshop will be Dee Clements' Dive Into Embroidery two day intensive next weekend. I already have a wonderful mental picture of a group seated around that table, with perfect Northern light, learning stitches in hoops..... There is still room available in that workshop if you are toying with the idea. Below is the link to the workshop listing of you want to check out the description and consider signing up. It can all be done online, with our fancy schmancy website....

This brings me to the real purpose of this post, another teacher introduction! Dee is teaching the above workshop, and we are thrilled to have her, but then she has decided to move back to Chicago in September. As the universe is good at fixing imbalances, Beatrice entered the scene a couple of weeks back as a fabulous replacement for Dee. I am so happy to have her on the AGOS team and looking forward to seeing all the cool things she will do here. Read on for more about this newest addition to our family!

Beatrice Perron Dahlen is a mixed media artist, a knitter, sewist, stitcher and has dabbled in almost every textile related craft.  She received a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art where she studied fibers and sculpture and dabbled in printmaking and photography.  She also holds a MEd from Antioch University in Integrated Learning and works part time as a farm-based educator.  Her work often incorporates textiles, embroidery, printmaking and installation.  She enjoys making beautiful things, being outside with her young son and enjoying the abundance of fresh, local food in Maine.  Recently she launched a new etsy shop called Thread & Ladle and blogs at www.threadandladle.com.  She lives in Portland Maine.

 

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 • AGOS:  What made you first take up knitting/sewing/embroidering?

•  BPD:  I learned to sew and embroider as a child from my mother and grandmother.  My grandmother was trained as a seamstress in Germany before moving to the United States.  She has such immaculate craft when it comes to creating garments.  She never let me bend the rules, and I'm thankful to have learned the right way to do things. In high school I loved making my own clothes and would stay up far into the night stitching.  My sixteenth birthday present from my grandmother was my very own- and first- sewing machine. 

My first memory of embroidery was watching my mother stitch in the car on a long car ride.  (As a military family we had a lot of long car rides.)  I watched her make the little french knots, and then asked if I could try.  When she tried to show me how, I shushed her and did it all on my own.  I was so intrigued by what she was doing that I had figured out how to make them just by observing her. 

My husband was the one to teach me to knit.  I love that I can share my exciting knitting discoveries with him.  A few years ago we went to Iceland and the women in the Alafoss Factory just giggled at us with our stacks and stacks of wool and pattern books.  We came prepared and brought empty pieces of luggage that we filled with wool to take back.

When I got to art school I dabbled in photography and printmaking, but ultimately my heart has always been in textile arts.  I spent a lot of time in the fibers department dyeing, silk-screening, weaving, stitching; making giant fabric sculptures or tiny embroidered pieces.  Though I ultimately majored in sculpture, my work usually has an element of the fiber arts in it- if not entirely textiles based.

• AGOS:  Did you learn from someone dear or important to you? 

• BPD:  See above.

• AGOS:  Do you have a favorite project, something that you are particularly proud of?

• BPD:  I wouldn't know where to start!  I do so much stitching and knitting, but often for me it is about the process and the calm and clarity it brings me rather than the finished object.  I can't sit still, and so I always have something in my hands to work on. Much of my fine art work is textile based, but I also love making functional objects. Lately I've really enjoyed sewing and knitting clothes for my son and making items for my new etsy shop.  I also have a fine arts/installation piece that is mostly embroidery based that I've been working on bit by bit.  (Things are slow going when you have a toddler at home.)  When it's finally finished I'll be excited to share it.

• AGOS: Why do you knit/sew/dye/embroider?

• BPD:  In college there was a sculpture major (a male) who worked mostly in large metals who scoffed and asked me why all these women were both working in fibers, a traditional media, and also talking about feminism in their work.  He didn't see how you could talk about progress while being entrenched in something so traditionally female. 

My response to him was that this was the media I was comfortable with, that I loved. Should I change that just to prove a point?  Furthermore, isn't history an important part of progress?  Why can't one hold onto a beautiful tradition, and do new things with it, rather than leaving it behind as antiquated?  I can't leave behind the fact that I'm a woman, that these have traditionally been women's skills, or that I learned them from a very young age.  They are a part of me.  I have no interest in working in metals or wood, but there are other women who are and who do.  Both are important roles, I think.

The history of textiles is beautiful.  Whether I'm weaving, spinning, knitting, sewing or stitching, I feel somehow connected to all the women throughout history who have done these very things for survival.  Who have sat in the sands of New Mexico making beautiful rugs for their families, who have sat in castles in Europe stitching intricate embellishments for beautiful clothes, or who have sat at home in a rocking chair knitting a sweater to keep someone they love warm.  The textile arts are ripe with history, and I love that.  It connects me to millions of women in a way that transcends time and place.  And it connects me to the people in my life now- my grandmother who helped me make my wedding dress, my husband who knits Christmas gifts with me and my little sister who I give spinning, knitting and sewing lessons to.

• AGOS: Who are your design influences? 

 • BPD:  As far as fine arts, I adore Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith.  Louise is one of the most multi-faceted artists, and I love that she uses anything from a needle and thread to a foundry to make amazing and important art work.  I find Kiki's work incredibly intriguing.  If we're talking design, there are so, so many everyday people, knitters, silk screeners, etc. who make lovely things.  I love having functional beautiful objects in my home and in my wardrobe that aren't pretentious, just lovely and totally useable on a daily basis.  Those everyday designers, knitters, sewers, quilters are inspirational to me.  They create everyday functional beauty.

• AGOS:  Do you have a favorite material to work with? 

• BPD:  How could I choose a favorite?!?!  Naturally, I love wool.  But beautiful cotton prints often make their way onto my sewing table.  I do love to find new ways to incorporate textiles, and especially embroidery, into fine arts and have dabbled with incorporating embroidery with printmaking.  I've been working on some knitting patterns for a little while now, and I'm very excited to release them this fall.  So I suppose, my favorite is whatever I'm working with at the moment. 

• AGOS: Tea or coffee?

• BPD: Tough choice.  Once in my life I was a staunch tea drinker and wouldn't touch anything else.  (I even worked at a fancy tea bar!)  Then I commuted to a job for a couple of years, and made the switch to coffee on those long morning drives.  I've never come back to tea, but there's still hope.

 

Thanks Beatrice!