The Interview: Textile Artist Kristin Jeanette Petiford

Kristin Petiford is an emerging textile feminist artist based in Oakland, California. She recently had received her BFA in Textile at CCA Oakland. She does needlework, weaving, sculpture, drawing, painting, and screen printing.

Rae: Any cool nicknames you’ve been given?

Kristin: My school friends call me Kiki! My sister calls me Poopy, but that’s not very cool.

Rae: Which cities have you lived in?

Kristin: I grew up in L.A. and Orange Country, then moved to Berkeley and eventually settled in Oakland. So far, I love Oakland the most!

Rae: What influenced you to work with textiles? What do you love about it?

Kristin: I had always been into sewing, but I fell in love with Textiles as a whole during an Intro to Textiles course I took at CCA. I loved the tediousness of it and the manipulation of the fibers: the repetition and the tactility. And the history! When you pick up a needle, you are tapping into this huge expanse of history in women’s work and feminist art and that’s just so exciting! Rozsika Parker’s The Subversive Stitch is a great book on that subject.

Rae: I’m going to have to check that book out myself! Did you have role models that you were aspiring to emulate? If so, who? And Why?

Kristin: I’ve had the opportunity to study under some amazing people at CCA, so I think I aspire to be a mish-mash of them, my mom (she’s the nicest person alive), Louise Bourgeois (I am just obsessed with her pink marble sculptures and their bodily forms), Ghada Amer (I love her use of text and the way she describes embroidery as a feminine language), Alison Smith (for her collections), Kathleen Hanna (who wouldn’t want to be like her!) and Lena Corwin (for living the dream of making cute things, having a great blog and doing it with substance)

Rae: Why did you pick CCA Oakland to get your BFA in Textiles? What is it about their program that enticed you to go there?

Kristin: I actually went to CCA for Illustration, but took Intro to Textiles as an elective my first semester there. After falling head over heels for Textiles, I switched majors! I like the freedom of the Textiles program at CCA….you can really tailor it to fit your interests. There is a lot of versatility in being able to use different processes (weaving, embroidery, lace making, screen printing, fiber sculpture) to express what it is you want to express. I feel like I was able to get a very well rounded education. The faculty is really great too. And CCA is basically the hub of Craft theory right now!

”]Rae: Any new upcoming projects you are working on?

Kristin: I have decided to spend the summer reading all the books I have accumulated on my “to-read” list: Carol Gilligan’s The Birth of Pleasure is the first! I am doing the Renegade Craft Fair for the first time in July…I’m making some very ladylike prints and accoutrements to sell. I’m currently collaborating on a zine called Girly Magazine that’s about femininity and feminism. We’re making an online version and we’ll be distributing it locally soon! As far as art-making goes I’m working on some material studies in wood and silk..I was able to create some fleshy forms through wood-turning for my show and I am itching to do more with that through carving. Lace and silk are two of my favorite things so I am interested in snagging and tearing the threads of silk fabric, inspired by Reticella, to create lace-like structures. Ok, I have a lot of upcoming projects.

Rae: How have your expectations changed over the years?

Kristin: I think I was a little bit afraid of the art world for a long time. I loved to paint and draw for myself, but I always figured I’d go into design or illustration. After doing some of that, I realized that I am so much happier making art…at least for now. So, my expectations for myself have changed quite a bit and will continue to change, I’m sure.

Rae: I really like the statement you made about your BFA thesis exhibition.  Why did you pick this topic, and what influenced you in commenting about ladies and their roles in society?

"Clean & Dainty" installation view

Kristin: Thanks! Oh, I could talk about this for hours….but I’ll give you the abridged version. I had been doing work that was about heirlooms and ideas of femininity passed from woman to woman…feminine lineage. I sent letters to the women in my life asking them about their views of femininity and my Granny sent me this long story about how when she went to college, they had social advisors who made sure the girls were turning out to be “proper and educated southern belles.” So I became really interested in etiquette and how women and girls are constantly being told what to do, how to look, and how to be. The name for my show, Clean & Dainty, came from Joan Brumberg’s The Body Project, in her chapter about the way American girls have learned to menstruate (sorry to the boys reading this right now!) She talks about how girls are not taught about the sexual and emotional changes in becoming a woman, but are instead taught to be clean and dainty. She also describes how girls’ bodies have become public….how magazines and advertisements have weaseled their way into being the authority on girls’ looks and demeanors: teaching girls to sit pretty and be decorative objects, basically. So the exhibition was a critique on that, but it was also an homage to the feminine, and a celebration of being able to subscribe to these “rules,” but doing so in a way that is personal and empowering. As I wrote in the statement, the show became “a space of conflicting morals: where modestly hosed legs sit beneath raised hemlines and perfectly polished nails grasp glasses of whiskey.”

Rae: Wow, that sounds intense, heavy, and interesting. I’m going to have to check out that book as well! Did your family encourage your creativity?

Kristin: Yes! My mom majored in Art at Cal State Long Beach, so she always encouraged me to paint and draw and sew. My sisters have always been very supportive as well…my older sister still has a pen & ink drawing displayed in her house that I did 10 years ago! My aunt does some amazing watercolors and just gifted me her old Glimakra table loom, yay!

Rae: What will you be doing now, having graduated from CCA?

Kristin: I want to be involved in some group shows! I’m also really looking forward to taking classes at community college…like Anthropology or French. I’m looking forward to playing my ukulele more. Grad school is on my mind, too…..

Rae: What do you consider to be the key factors to be an emerging artist in today’s world?

Kristin: The one thing that I am always trying to keep in mind is to have confidence in what you are doing. If you are doing it, you are doing it for a reason! And to know at least some of the history of what you’re doing. I am also learning that it is very important (and kind of fun!) to have a web presence…I just got the internet in my apartment, so I’m snazzing up my website and my blog a bit!

Rae: And lastly, music is a huge help with my art-making. What type of music or bands do you listen to while making art?

Kristin: I really like listening to Motown when I work!

Rae: Thanks for the interview Kristin. Check out her website at

http://kristinpetiford.com/home.html

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