Ryan Carrington: Blue Collar Defender

Ryan Carrington is the workingman’s artist.  Considering the context of his work over the years and you would agree as well.  There is a deep appreciation for the hard work that blue-collar workers put into their daily work lives and it’s that sweat and determination that seeps into the screws and fabric that permeate through Carrington’s creations.

Carrington earned his BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was immediately accepted into the ceramic artist-in-residency program at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center.  Now everyone knows once you graduate from college you don’t necessarily know what you can do with your degree and it was this opportunity in Snowmass, Colorado that Carrington honed his skills into a medium with a message. “This shift allowed me to develop into an interdisciplinary artist, and became the foundation on which all of my work is made today.”  Said Carrington.

Being from Wisconsin, Carrington came from a working class family where he worked a variety of jobs such as a landscaper, maintenance man and even a construction worker and said he “gained an appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the labor force.”  Carrington walked in the very shoes of the workers he now represents in art pieces, so one could say there is a little bit of his own history reflected in what he makes.  

After earning his MFA at San Jose State University he was hired as a lecturer to teach the classes at the University’s foundry metal works facility located south of the campus.  It was here that he was able to make cast metal sculptures casting objects that symbolize the American blue-collar worker.  Leather gloves, a brimmed hat, work boots, even a life size bale of hay all with realistic clarity that makes you believe when you pick them up they won’t weight five pounds or more. 

Now currently working at Santa Clara University as an Full-Time Adjunct Lecturer in the Art Department, Carrington teaches sculpture and 3D Design classes.  It is here that he has found new opportunities through grants and personal research, and soon through a brand new state-of-the-art Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History building set to open in the Fall of 2016.  Nestled in his office/studio Carrington has created a work area to create his current body of work ‘Flag Series’ where he creates American Flags with men’s suits and Carhartt workman’s pants, many of which Carrington wore out himself.  Carrington said “The act of sewing these two different types of clothing together into this hopeful and proud icon is meant to be a call for coming together as a union, and asking for greater understanding and empathy across our ever-widening class system.” 

Carrington will be showing these flags in his first solo show ‘Made in America’ at JCO’s Place in Los Gatos, California opening reception June 25, 2015 from 7pm-9pm and running from June 23-July 19, 2015.   To see more of his work visit his site www.ryancarringtonart.com and follow him on Instagram @ryan_carrington.  

 

A colored grouping of rolled up ties lay rolled up on a table so that Carrington can see the color play happening in order to incorporate them into a flag.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A colored grouping of rolled up ties lay rolled up on a table so that Carrington can see the color play happening in order to incorporate them into a flag.  Photo © Aimee Santos

America is going through an enormous transition period, and the shift in the public perspective towards the culturally defined roles of blue and white-collar workers is what I’m interested in addressing.
— Ryan Carrington
Carrington works on one of his flags in his office/studio space at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA.  In the background hangs one of his Chalk Line drawings using a carpenter's Chalk Snap-Line tool.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Carrington works on one of his flags in his office/studio space at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA.  In the background hangs one of his Chalk Line drawings using a carpenter's Chalk Snap-Line tool.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Flag #1' in Carrington's Flag Series show layers of men's suits and Carhartt workman's pants as the strips and men's ties as the stars.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Flag #1' in Carrington's Flag Series show layers of men's suits and Carhartt workman's pants as the strips and men's ties as the stars.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Standard" Aluminum, Found Object 38"x9"x16" 2009.  Image courtesy of the Artist Ryan Carrington.

'Standard" Aluminum, Found Object 38"x9"x16" 2009.  Image courtesy of the Artist Ryan Carrington.

A detail of cast off fabric on the floor of Carrington's office/studio at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA. Photo © Aimee Santos

A detail of cast off fabric on the floor of Carrington's office/studio at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA. Photo © Aimee Santos

Fabric is everywhere in Carrington's office/studio at Santa Clara University as he works on his Flag Series project for his upcoming solo show at JCO's Place in Los Gatos, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Fabric is everywhere in Carrington's office/studio at Santa Clara University as he works on his Flag Series project for his upcoming solo show at JCO's Place in Los Gatos, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

"Screw Relief #3" Screws and Plywood 26"x22"x3" 2013.  Image courtesy of the Artist Ryan Carrington.

"Screw Relief #3" Screws and Plywood 26"x22"x3" 2013.  Image courtesy of the Artist Ryan Carrington.

A detail of sawdust that lines a crevas in a four foot wooden sculpture of a Construction worker's hat.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A detail of sawdust that lines a crevas in a four foot wooden sculpture of a Construction worker's hat.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Sawdust from a short day's work on Carrington's four foot wooden Construction worker's hat.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Sawdust from a short day's work on Carrington's four foot wooden Construction worker's hat.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The sun sets on Carrington's four foot Contruction Worker's hat showing the layers of plywood used to make up this massive sculpture.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The sun sets on Carrington's four foot Contruction Worker's hat showing the layers of plywood used to make up this massive sculpture.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Carrington kneels on pads to help ease the pain after long hours working on his four foot wooden Construction worker's hat.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Carrington kneels on pads to help ease the pain after long hours working on his four foot wooden Construction worker's hat.  Photo © Aimee Santos

I had multiple teachers and mentors who inspired me through their own commitment and dedication to their practice, and I hope to share that same example with my students.
— Ryan Carrington
As a previous professor of sculpture at San Jose State University Carrington helped students learn about welding and metal works, pictured on the left, he watches a student practice a tig weld at the Foundry Metal Works in San Jose, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

As a previous professor of sculpture at San Jose State University Carrington helped students learn about welding and metal works, pictured on the left, he watches a student practice a tig weld at the Foundry Metal Works in San Jose, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Carrington, on the left, manages the flow of iron during a past iron pour at the San Jose State University Metal Works Foundry.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Carrington, on the left, manages the flow of iron during a past iron pour at the San Jose State University Metal Works Foundry.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Carrington leaves a screw higher than the others to test out the aesthetics before adding more to a Screw Relief Drawing.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Carrington leaves a screw higher than the others to test out the aesthetics before adding more to a Screw Relief Drawing.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Henry Carrington watches his father Ryan work on his Screw Relief Drawings on the kitchen table.  Normally Ryan works on these pieces after Henry has gone to sleep so this is the first time his son has been present to see the creation of his father's art.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Henry Carrington watches his father Ryan work on his Screw Relief Drawings on the kitchen table.  Normally Ryan works on these pieces after Henry has gone to sleep so this is the first time his son has been present to see the creation of his father's art.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Julie Kornblum: Knitting Activist

From the moment you arrive at Julie Kornblum's home/studio you know a creative individual lives there.  A beautifully large tree graces her front yard and slowly encapsulating it is dozens and dozens of knitted swatches that make the viewer want to give it a giant hug.
Walking into her home there are creations everywhere from the walls to the spare bedrooms but all with purpose and organization.  Kornblum emits the mother vibe.  You know the feeling, the one you get when you are with your mom.  And it's no surprise that with that nurturing nature she has turned her passion into using materials that normally get thrown away.  Mothers were some of the first Environmentalists you know.  Kornblum is reusing to not just make art but to make a statement.  The environment, the community it all has a symbiotic relationship that becomes a little more beautiful when you introduce the art of knitting.  Making with one's hands and learning from others who know the craft can create a bond that Kornblum has worked towards for years.  Her work with YBLA (Yarn Bombing Los Angeles) has elevated her connection to the community and allowed her to share her creations with an audience that would not normally walk into a gallery.  And let's be honest seeking a bench or large planter covered in yarn would put a smile on anyone's face.

To see Julie Kornblum's work in person check out her upcoming shows.
April 17-19, 2015: She'll have an artist exhibition booth at Vogue Knitting LIVE at the Pasadena Convention Center where she will be yarn bombing the booth.
April 25, 2015: She'll be creating a yarn bomb installation in a pop-up canopy at Topanga Vintage Market, at Pierce College in Woodland Hills
May 29-31, 2015:  YBLA (Yarn Bombing Los Angeles) will be doing a similar installation at Dwell on Design at the Los Angeles Convention Center. 
June 27, 2015: Loft at Liz's Diverted Destruction 8 - Unraveled: The Fabric Edition

Julie Kornblum creates a sculpture utilizing her basket weaving skills in her studio in Woodland Hills surrounded by fabric, found objects and non-traditional textile materials.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Julie Kornblum creates a sculpture utilizing her basket weaving skills in her studio in Woodland Hills surrounded by fabric, found objects and non-traditional textile materials.  Photo © Aimee Santos

 When did you first realize that your craft was leading you into a life as an artist?
I was pretty young, like in elementary school. Of course there was an assumption that being an artist meant painting and drawing, but I was never attracted enough to those medias. I had these “how to draw a dog or a horse” books, I remember looking through them repeatedly, but I never felt compelled to grab a pencil and paper. On the other hand, I always grabbed random stuff that was around the house to make things out of. I couldn’t keep my hands off of the scissors, fabric scraps, and stuff like that.

A section of Kornblum's tree that is slowly being covered with knitting creations in her front yard of Woodland Hills, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A section of Kornblum's tree that is slowly being covered with knitting creations in her front yard of Woodland Hills, CA.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Plastic in the Trees' 42"x43",  Overshot Weaving; Surplus yarn with used plastic bags.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

'Plastic in the Trees' 42"x43",  Overshot Weaving; Surplus yarn with used plastic bags.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

Is the emotional act of creation on a public object like a tree or bike rack different than when creating a functional craft piece?  Does it feel different?
I don’t think the emotional aspect of creating is different if it’s my own work as an individual. If it’s a functional or sellable piece, there are different practical considerations, such as how the clasp on a bracelet works, how the ends of yarn are tucked in on a scarf. But these are also part of the design challenges along with choosing the color and texture palette, and working out the composition.
There are practical considerations in the creative process of all work. When you make a woven wall piece, you have to figure out how to hang it, unless you attach a textile piece to stretcher bars with a hanging wire, like a painting.  I’ve learned to consider the practical along with the artistic. Early on, I would make a piece, and then find I had problems with hanging when it got to the gallery.

Hubcaps, some of which her son finds, are not immune to the creative creations that Kornblum imagines.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Hubcaps, some of which her son finds, are not immune to the creative creations that Kornblum imagines.  Photo © Aimee Santos

But it does feel like I’m shifting gears mentally. I’ll be thinking about the composition, colors, materials, how the elements relate to the meaning or message then, at a certain point, I’ll make the shift to how to construct the piece for shipping and hanging. For a coiled basket/sculptural piece, I need to consider the structural practical aspects almost at the same time as the aesthetic. It’s like, “ok, it will stand without falling over, now I have to step back and make sure it looks good,” or the reverse, “I like how this looks, I’d better set it down to make sure it will not fall over.”  
The tree cover or bike rack have some similarities with the shawl or bracelet, its mostly a question of scale. I have to take measurements, calculate how much to subtract for stretch – this goes back to my garment design experience. Its essentially the same process, one must consider how the piece will look (sometimes from all angles) and how it will be attached. 

Street Bench, Newhall, CA. July 2014. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Street Bench, Newhall, CA. July 2014. Photo courtesy of the artist.

How has your work with YBLA (Yarn Bombing Los Angeles) changed your overall art practice?
Working with YBLA has taken my work into whole new areas for me. I was always content to be a solitary artist in my own studio. Now I work with a team, and it’s a very satisfying collaboration. We can accomplish much larger scale works than I would have done on my own; and that’s really fun. I have enjoyed doing larger and larger works.

With all the materials in Kornblum's home there is a sense of organization to it all.  Photo © Aimee Santos

With all the materials in Kornblum's home there is a sense of organization to it all.  Photo © Aimee Santos

'Pacific Rim' 20" x 24" x 24" Coiling with used and discarded plastic objects and packaging.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

'Pacific Rim' 20" x 24" x 24" Coiling with used and discarded plastic objects and packaging.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

When did you start knitting with various materials such as wire and plastic grocery bags?  And what challenges have you come across?
It started when I was in school working on my degree in Art, with a concentration in fiber and textile art. I was learning things like weaving and basketry, and I started using “non-traditional” materials that were around. There were lots of unusual surplus materials that had been donated to the art department for students to use. I wove and made baskets with wire and plastic bags. Then, when I revived my knitting and crocheting practice, I just kept using the surplus, non-traditional materials.

One of the biggest challenges is that these things are difficult to work with. They don’t stretch and give like nice, new yarn does. I have to be careful to protect my hands, take breaks, do stretches and exercises. The worst thing about surplus, discarded, and found materials is they are often dirty. I got my stock of colored plastic bags from an artist who had used them for outdoor installations. They’re dirty just from the air outside. The wire is dirty from being in a recycling yard. The hubcaps are black with road soot on the inside. I wash things and I wear scruffy clothes when I’m working I also wash my hands a lot. 

A macro detail of standard vinyl tubing that Kornblum stuffed fabric into which shows how detailed she can get with incorporating textiles and her sewing skills into any piece.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A macro detail of standard vinyl tubing that Kornblum stuffed fabric into which shows how detailed she can get with incorporating textiles and her sewing skills into any piece.  Photo © Aimee Santos

In addition to knitting Kornblum makes jewelry utilizing the same method just using different materials.  Photo © Aimee Santos

In addition to knitting Kornblum makes jewelry utilizing the same method just using different materials.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Crochet Wire Jewelry.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

Crochet Wire Jewelry.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

One of Kornblum's largest pieces  'Don’t Disappear My Habitat' hangs in her living room.  Photo © Aimee Santos

One of Kornblum's largest pieces 'Don’t Disappear My Habitat' hangs in her living room.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The interior of one of her front rooms shows a method to the madness of multiple rooms dedicated to creating.  The room above not only holds her industrial sewing machine but other items that can be worn all knitted and created by Kornblum's own hand.  Photo © Aimee Santos

The interior of one of her front rooms shows a method to the madness of multiple rooms dedicated to creating.  The room above not only holds her industrial sewing machine but other items that can be worn all knitted and created by Kornblum's own hand.  Photo © Aimee Santos

You have multiple rooms in your home set up as studios.  Does each room represent a different project as well as an emotional feeling that is represented by their environment?
I have tried to place the different types of work in the different rooms: all the yarn, weaving, knitting & crochet in one room; and the wire, coiling and jewelry in the other. But when I get to working, the organization breaks down rather quickly. The practical considerations like lighting and storage space are really what determines where I work, and I actually work all over the house. Each room really just represents what is happening at that moment. 

Continental Art Supplies; 7044 Reseda Blvd, Reseda, Los Angeles, CA. Oct 31, 2014.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

Continental Art Supplies; 7044 Reseda Blvd, Reseda, Los Angeles, CA. Oct 31, 2014.  Photo courtesy of the artist.

You do a lot of work with the community.  Do you see your work as part social practice and/or participatory?

I see my work with YBLA that way. When I think of myself as an individual artist, I’m still solitary in my studio. I enjoy both. I like doing things that are all my own, and I enjoy the crowd sourced, networked, collaborative pieces. 

A detail of a piece hanging in Kornblum's dining room shows there is not object too strange or nonconforming that she won't use in her sculptures.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A detail of a piece hanging in Kornblum's dining room shows there is not object too strange or nonconforming that she won't use in her sculptures.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Among your experiences working with people and yarn have you noticed that the practice of knitting brings people out of their emotional shells and can be used as a cathartic act for people of all ages?

Oh, yes. This is well documented. In our monthly community workshops at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, we see this happening all the time. It’s kind of a magical thing, all kinds of people make connections with one another. 

A piece in it's inception involves bottle caps, plastic bags and wire as well as time punching holes into the larger pieces to allow for a smooth transition in the weaving process.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A piece in it's inception involves bottle caps, plastic bags and wire as well as time punching holes into the larger pieces to allow for a smooth transition in the weaving process.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Kornblum works on a piece in one of her many project rooms dedicated to the creation of fiber arts.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Kornblum works on a piece in one of her many project rooms dedicated to the creation of fiber arts.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Your front yard has a beautiful tree that is currently being covered by you and your yarn creations.  When did you get the idea to start doing this and how has your neighborhood reacted to it?
The neighbors love it. I’ve gotten only positive comments. I’ve seen people in cars slow down to look at it. Some people from up the street were out walking and their little kids ran up to touch the tree. I did that tree because I had gone through a phase of doing yarnbombs in the Valley, and they were disappearing rather quickly. When I put something up in public, uninvited, I know it’s a possibility it will getting taken down. One has to be prepared for this. I was invited to do a yarnbomb on the street in front of a store, on some planters that belonged to the store. Those only stayed up two weeks, and it was pretty disappointing. So I decided to do something that I knew wouldn’t get taken down. I had been eyeballing that tree for months, and I went ahead and covered it. 

Kornblum had been eyeing the tree in her front yard for awhile and finally started covering it with her knitted creations.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Kornblum had been eyeing the tree in her front yard for awhile and finally started covering it with her knitted creations.  Photo © Aimee Santos