by lisa horak
our first impressions are right on the money.
year the first thing I noticed in my daughters preschool classroom
was the bright, whimsical mural on the wall. I was charmed by a blue
and purple house flanked by huge flowers, in the center of which were
each childs handprints. It was exactly what a preschool classroom
should be: fun, inviting, happy, and warm. When I learned it was the
teacher, Lynne Caldwell, who had created it, I knew that both the school
and the teacher were going to be a good fit for my child. As a teacher,
and indeed in all she does, her work embodies her true self. The art
and the artist are one and the same.
soon found out that painting murals is just one of Lynnes many
talents. First and foremost, she is a fiber artist, a weaver of extraordinary
silk fabric called ikat weavings, which originated in Indonesia and
Central Asia. By definition, ikat involves a complicated, multi-stage
process. For Lynne, it is a labor of love. She mixes her own dyes, individually
dyes each stand of yarn, and actually wraps and re-wraps (sort of like
tye-dying) the yarn to create a resistareas where the color doesnt
penetrate. After dyeing, the wrapping, is removed, and the procedure
is repeated for subsequent colors. The colorful, patterned threads are
then woven together on a loom. Sometimes Lynne embroiders the cloth
to produces subtle changes to the colors. The final step involves wetting
the cloth and beetling it by beating it with a mallet on
a hard, smooth surface to give it the patina of age and distress.
this seems labor intensive, consider the history at stake in each ikat
weaving. They are special because they are historical documents as well
as beautiful art. Ikat was used in ritual and trade, with generations-old
stories depicted on cloth. Long after the stories were forgotten, patterns
and designs remained, linked to their origins, Lynne explains.
The stunning, vibrant patterns are recognized from village to village.
how did this native of Atlanta, Texas, evolve into a nationally known
ikat expert? Although she enjoyed art as a child, she originally wanted
to be a teacher. She went to the University of the South in Sewanee,
TN, where she studied English and art history, with a strong interest
in fabric. She then received a Masters in Fine Arts in Fibers from the
Savannah College of Art and Design. I took a History of
Textiles class and I loved it, she says. I realized
I needed to make art that meant something. So I decided to use my background
in literature as the point of departure for my weavings. I try to visually
represent a poem, so that even if the details of a story or poem fade
from my memory, the mood remains.
maybe the English and the art are not so far apart. There is a
link between the verbal and the visual, since both rely heavily on metaphor
and form, says Lynne. The names of her weavings are as colorful
as the cloths themselves: The World Imagined, Look
at Me, and As Far As Cho-Fu-Sa, to name a few.
received national recognition for her weavings. She has taught ikat
workshops at The Textile Museum in Washington, DC and the Smithsonians
Sackler Gallery, as well as at NC State University and East Carolina
University. She has received commissions from UNC in Chapel Hill, Caldwell
Memorial Hospital (no relation), the Freeman Center for Jewish Living
at Duke University, and the Duke Medical Center. She has had numerous
exhibitions of her work and has even made a Christmas ornament for the
is often the case, however, fate intervenes and alters ones plans.
When her son Graham was born four years ago there was suddenly much
less time to work on her weavings. Ikats can take months or even years
to complete, especially for a major commission.
and her family moved to Asheville a week before September 11, 2001,
a day that prompted her to reevaluate her priorities. In an attempt
to juggle motherhood and life as an artist, she began teaching pre-school
(where she could see Graham and know he was in good hands) and giving
art lessons. After a year she realized that although teaching made both
dollars and good sense, she didnt have enough time for her son
or for her artwork. Time to go back to plan A: pursue her art and be
a more present mom, and to find that delicate balance between creativity
and financial security.
that she is no longer teaching, she is busy with a variety of projects
that she works on from her studio in her home in North Asheville. Along
with her ikat weavings, Lynne is illustrating several childrens
books for friends and family, a collaborative process that she finds
particularly rewarding. One book, entitled My Mommys Midwife,
will be published in Spring of 2004. Lark Books is including her work,
along with that of several other artists, in its book The Artful
Egg and one on decorative t-shirts.
most exciting, Lynne and fellow Sewanee alum Jodie Williford have started
a company called Two Friends Off The Wall. Together they
paint murals (often in childrens rooms) and faux finishes in houses,
as well as signs for commercial spaces like Va Bene downtown. In addition,
they also make jewelry, custom pillows, and other decorative objects.
We are having so much fun, says Lynne. We feel like
we can do anything. We have such similar interests and talents and we
love to bring our creativity into peoples homes. We may do a job
twice if were not happy with it the first time, but we know were
eventually going to get it just right.
unique style and wide range of talents, Lynne is a busy woman. Still
and all, ikat remains her passion. My dream, she says, is
to have a lot of commissions for weavings and painting projects, and
to have lots of time to hang out with my family.
Lynne Caldwell at email@example.com.
is a stay-at-home mom raising two young daughters, Molly and Isabel.
She has written for non-profit organizations and is the co-editor of
Heart of the Land and Off the Beaten Path, a fiction and non-fiction
anthology of nature writing for The Nature Conservancy.