Talk Crafty to Me – An inside look into Arrowmont instructors’ connection to craft, Gatlinburg and studio practice.
Artist-in-Residence Grant Benoit interviews instructors Jennifer Reis and Sara Sally LaGrand. Reis and LaGrand co-taught “Flameworking + Fiber = Mixing Media” during the two-week session at Arrowmont, June 26 – July 9.
What is something you learned about yourself or your practice at Arrowmont?
Sara: I first met Jennifer at Arrowmont while we were both teaching class. This time around has really been a learning experience. I haven’t picked up a needle since high school so we’ve both been teaching each other. But that’s really the thing about Arrowmont…I’ve met all these people from other disciplines and the now have this opportunity to collaborate and make.
Jennifer: This is my fifth workshop at Arrowmont. First I was a student, then teaching here, participating in Pentaculum and the SDA conference. I respond to the collaborative nature of Arrowmont and in close proximity to other creative people and how they think and make. Personally, it allows a longer leash on my creative practice and for me to be more intuitive and playful with my work. At home base, being an administrator and teaching that playfulness gets lost sometimes. Here, I don’t have to worry about groceries or letting the dogs out.
Sara: Well hopefully someone is letting the dogs out while you are here…
Jennifer: I convinced my husband to. I’m getting him a tee shirt.
Does religion or spirituality play an active role in your work?
Sara: So, Its a long convoluted story… But Sister Conseula always said ‘if you didn’t use your God given talents, you were are going to hell’— so I’ve been on a quest not to get there…
Jennifer: I think Sara has a ‘catholic aesthetic in how she memorializes and ritualizes nature. My influences come from my upbringing and the interiors and atlas of churches in Germany. Kay Turner Beautiful necessities. Catholicism creeps into my work and its interesting how people compare them to modern iconography. But I’m also interested in Haitian religious culture and how Catholicism layers and evolves with native practices and religion. I think its always interesting how people translate my work and imagery in their own perspective.
What is best piece of advice you’ve been given or could give?
Sara: Diversify revenue! Be flexible. I learned this from Phil Donahue. But really thats what happened to Pittsburgh. Once the steel left, there was this panic of what would replace it. Also…Be nice to everyone. Because next week they may be your boss. Don’t burn bridges.
Jennifer: You have to develop internal motivation. Its not something you ‘just have’. You can’t just rely on external motivation because there are so many distractions and road blocks and negativity — and if you are relying on praise and attention, that can be far and few between at times.
Tell us a guilty pleasure or secret hobby of yours.
Jennifer: All things grey garden. I have several old fur coats in my office and threaten to put the sweater on my head some day. All I want to be is Little Edie. And also Diane Rehm. She should be president.
Sara: When we first met, I heard someone talking about Grey Gardens and I thought —Oh my god, I’m not the only one.
Any shows or exhibitions coming up?
Sara: I’m moving my basement flame working school into a larger space. Public Glassworks will be a public access glass working art studio to be housed in the new InterUrban Art House. The InterUrban Art House is a public access art space now being built in the refurbished post office building in Downtown Overland Park, KS.
Student Recap: What is something you learned or gained from your two week session at Arrowmont?
“I’ve been coming to Arrowmont for six or seven years. It’s a time to learn new things and have freedom to explore. I’ve been doing beadwork and flame working but in previous lives I was a medical technologist, microbiologist and vet. My husband is a woodturner and had taken classes at Arrowmont. I decided to look in the catalog and found a class and it’s become our getaway.” – Kathy Driggers
“In my case. Everything. Staying and learning with people and exchanging with artists and with people with different life experiences/ages brought me back here. Being from another country and living here for 7 years I enjoy the perspectives of others.” – Karen Prerira
For more information about Jennifer Reis and her work, visit: www.jenniferareis.com or follow her on instagram @jenniferareis.
For more information about Sara Sally LaGrand, visit: www.sarasallylagrand.com.