Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Feature: Houston Artist Kristi Rae Wilson

I recently stumbled upon an article in the Houston Chronicle about a Houston artist who "upcycles" vintage textiles and creates them into beautiful wearable artwork. Kristi Rae Wilson is a girl after my own heart...I was instantly intrigued by the way she transformed these remnants into interesting pieces while telling the story of the women behind the heirlooms in the process.

I recently interviewed Kristi for the Winter 2011 issue of Sawdust magazine. She was such a pleasure to talk to, and her story inspired me to keep creating. You can see the magazine spread here, page 10, or read the full story below. Enjoy!

{ Photos by Hardy Meredith}

Great and Grand

by Kayli Steger Head

Professional artist and jeweler Kristi Rae Wilson ’06 has made a career of breathing new life into simple objects, transforming them into wearable works of art and telling a story in the process.
Interesting textiles, family heirlooms and vintage collectibles are among the vehicles Wilson uses to create a unique narrative about familial roles of women, among other subjects. She recently completed a yearlong stint as an Artist in Residence at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, where she had the opportunity to experiment with and exhibit unconventional wearable art. A recent feature story in the Houston Chronicle celebrated her craftsmanship and timeliness, saying that her pieces are “right on trend.” Her work is now housed in the hip Winter Street Studios, home to one of the largest group of fine artists in the Houston area.
The Houston native changed her major from psychology and began to analyze a new medium in art metals/jewelry after seeing a unique necklace on a fellow student. In addition to her artwork, Wilson now teaches 3D Design at the Houston Community College.
From a young age, Wilson was interested in making things. Her grandmother, Viola, was influential in her sewing craft, and days in the crafting room at an aunt’s farm cultivated her creativity. Her first job as a sign-making assistant led her to a love of machinery, discovering how things work, and the tactile components that would inspire future work. She later inherited a sewing machine while working as a caretaker for a grandmother in Nacogdoches, and always felt a connection to her legacy as she created new works of art.
Wilson has been known to call herself a storyteller, materialsmith, jeweler and most recently, a hospice for things. Wilson’s inspiration stems from a wide range of sources: from her grandmother’s quilting blocks, to watching her father fix cars. This later led to her deconstruction of a car—screw by screw—an art piece that she successfully completed in graduate school.  
“I was very much invested in understanding why people are attached to things and it fascinated me that the things we own require maintenance, just like a body.”
Wilson said her part-time job at Buffalo Exchange, a secondhand retail store, not only provided a treasure trove of vintage materials, but also connected her to the people and stories associated with the castoff clothing.
Her latest collection, “Homage to the Greats and Grands,” showcases homespun crafts from Houston-area grandmothers who introduced the art forms of quilting, embroidering and tatting to their families. She transformed the heirlooms into large-scale jewelry, and guests can listen to interviews of family members who describe the woman behind the craft. The work is part of the exhibit Beyond Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft, which is on view at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft until January.
“For me, the fabric is a way to tap into a time where women lived to work rather than today where we work to live,” Wilson explained.
“To use these fabrics in jewelry only makes sense. It is such an intimate experience to get to wear these materials on the body—to be a part of the hands that worked so labor intensively on a hand-crafted object.”
xoxo Kayli

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