museums

MiM 006 – Museum of Design Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia

Confession:  I love product design.

As a product manager, my world revolves around products and how they’re designed.  When I tell people that my day job is a product manager, the usual response is, “What is that?”  I’m not even sure my family completely understands it.  A product manager’s job is to figure out what customers want and then work with the engineering team to develop new products and launch them into the market.  However, there is a huge gulf of understanding (or misunderstanding) between concept, launch, and ultimately whether a product is successful.

What is “good” design?  And how does design affect us in our daily lives?  And how can there be a museum about something as subjective as design?  What is the difference between design and art?

On this episode I sit down with Laura Flusche, Executive Director, of the Museum of Design Atlanta — which you’ll also hear referenced as MODA.  Located in Atlanta, Georgia, MODA is a museum dedicated to the world of design.  Laura defines design as, “a creative process that inspires change, transforms lives and makes the world a better place.”  I love the idea of exploring the abstract concept of what design is and then the reality of how we interpret and interact with design every day.

Front of the MODA building

Front of the MODA building

Inside the lobby at MODA

Inside the lobby at MODA. Who wants one of those chairs in their house?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum Highlights:

Normally, this is where I include images from the museum’s collection, but we’re changing the format this time.  Why the deviation?  Reflecting the fluidity of what design is, MODA is unique in that it doesn’t have a permanent collection, but rotates a different exhibit every 3-4 months.  So the exhibit they had on display when I visited – Craftivism – closed the week after I was there.  The next exhibit Design for Good:  Architecture for Everyone will be on display when this episode airs, but if you’re listening to this in the future, there will be an entirely different exhibit on display then.   In that spirit, below are some images of the museum and a few from the Craftivism exhibit to give you an idea of the space, but when you visit the Craftivism exhibit will be gone and a new one in its place.

Actually this constant change reflects the larger, overarching mission of the museum — how design impacts the world and inspires change.  That story flows through the museum regardless of the specific exhibit on display.  In this podcast episode you’ll hear Laura share the stories about the impact of many different exhibits – past, present and future – and how design affects people’s lives.  

Vintage purses with statements like me too, vote, nevertheless she persisted and girl power

Vintage purses make a statement in more than one way

Michele Pred – utilizing vintage purses, artist Michele Pred inscribes words and phrases with electroluminescent wire on this iconic female symbol.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ehren Tool – a Marine veteran of the Gulf War, Ehren Tool makes ceramic cups that reflect his military experiences.  According to Tool, “whether you are for or against a particular war, the point is to look at what is actually going on and not look away.”

Ceramic cups feature imagery reflecting the artist's military experiences

Ceramic cups feature imagery reflecting the artist’s military experiences

Close-up of the ceramic cups featuring the artist's military experiences

Close-up of the ceramic cups featuring the artist’s military experiences

 

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy – reminiscent of lace doilies that you might see on the back of your grandmother’s chair, this artist takes this decorative, homemaker art and gives it a new perspective by cutting out images of Chernobyl, Fukushima, Deep Water Horizon and Three Mile Island reminding us of the fragile balance that sustains our existence.

Paper doilies combine an everyday household item with modern environmental disasters

Paper doilies combine an everyday household item with modern environmental disasters

Doily depicting Three Mile Island

Doily depicting Three Mile Island

 

 

 

Scraps of fabric with text from social media tweets and posts

Exploring whether we are truly engaged if we tweet, post, or like on social media

Jeana Eve Klein – this piece makes a statement about the passivity of social media as an activist tool and whether we are taking real action or just the illusion of it when we send a tweet, like a post, or add an emoji.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image of Welcome Blankets hung on the wall welcoming immigrants and letting them know that someone cares

Welcome Blanket project welcoming immigrants and letting them know that someone cares

Tag from one of the Welcome Blankets hung on the wall

Tag from one of the Welcome Blankets hung on the wall

Welcome Blanket Project – as part of their community outreach with the Craftivism exhibit, the Welcome Blanket project asked individuals to sew, quilt, crochet or knit 40 inch x 40 inch blankets and then add their own immigration, migration or relocation story.   At the end of the exhibition, all of the blankets received at MODA will be distributed to immigrants and refugees along with the notes of welcome written by their makers.  The Welcome Blanket project will continue beyond the MODA exhibition.  For more information and how to donate a blanket, check out their website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifesize magnetic poetry on the wall of the women's bathroom

Probably one of the coolest museum bathrooms I’ve been in

MODA Bathroom – if you visit, and you’re female, you need to check out the women’s bathroom in the museum.  Where else but a design museum would you have a giant magnetic poetry kit on the wall? (By the way, I believe this bathroom was also featured in a movie.  Bonus points for anyone who can tell me what movie it was!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Museum of Design Atlanta gives us a behind-the-scenes look at design, how it affects every person every day, and explores both the functional and aesthetic sides of design.  Transforming the intangible, creative world of design into tangible processes and products is incredibly hard, but is so valuable.  Understanding the thought process behind design allows us to appreciate what is involved in developing a product, and why some products work and some don’t.  The next time you use a product and wonder, “what were they thinking?” – good or bad – well, you’ll have a better answer to that question after listening to this podcast episode and/or visiting MODA.  I am so thankful that I found this museum and was able to share their stories with you.

If you’re a museum nerd like me, then add this museum to your “must-see” list and tell them, “I heard about you on the Made in Museums podcast.”

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email.

Resources:

Museum of Design Atlanta website 

Classes and Workshops – if you’re in the Atlanta area, MODA offers a variety of classes, workshops as well as a dedicated workspace with hands-on activities tied to the current exhibit.  Professional lectures are also scheduled throughout the year.

In the episode, Laura referenced the next exhibit, Architecture for Good, and the companion book Design for Good:  A New Era of Architecture for Everyone by John Cary.  If you can’t make it to the museum, but still want to check out the book, here is a link to find out more information.  

Want to learn more about how design works?  Check out the excellent 99% Invisible podcast.

MiM 005 – Embroidery Museum in Louisville, Kentucky

Confession:  I have never even tried embroidery.

I’ve done some crocheting when I was younger.  Took up knitting when I was older, but I have never gotten the hang of working with a needle and thread.  The closest was sewing lessons, but all I made was an apron and I was done.  The pinnacle of my needle and thread work is being able to sew a button on a shirt really, really good (I mean, like, that button is never coming off again).

I have always loved artisan crafts and admire the skill involved in producing a functional work of art by a master.  A friend introduced me to the John C. Campbell Folk School and I love to flip through their catalog of classes each year, but always figured I just don’t have the skills necessary to master any of these classes.  Recently though, I’ve become intrigued by Temari balls.  I had no idea of their connection to the art of needlecraft until I visited the Embroidery Museum in Louisville, Kentucky when Gwen shared with me how Temari balls were her gateway into the art of embroidery and needlecraft.

Sitting down with Gwen Nelson, past president of the Embroiderer’s Guild of America (EGA) and Cynthia Welch, EGA Administrator, opened my eyes to the beautiful world of embroidery and needlecraft.   The EGA operates the Embroidery Museum, which is both a museum and the headquarters of EGA.  The museum is small, and when you enter, you feel like you’re walking into a private art gallery.  And after you listen to this episode, I think you’ll agree that the amazing work and creativity by the embroiderers in this collection showcase how what started as a functional craft can be transformed into art.

Embroidery Museum front door

Embroidery Museum entrance

Embroidery Museum building

Embroidery Museum building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum Highlights:

Doll House – created by multiple members of EGA, this is the penultimate doll house.  The “tiniest” details are embroidered into the furnishings – from the EGA logo in the chair cushion to the A-B-C sampler on the wall.

3 story doll house with hand embroidered furnishings

Doll house with hand embroidered furnishings

Doll house chair with EGA logo embroidered into seat cushion

Doll house chair with EGA logo embroidered into seat cushion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Room inside doll house - check out the A-B-C sampler on the wall

Room inside doll house – check out the tiny A-B-C sampler above the fireplace

Doll house couch with hand embroidered coverings

Doll house couch with hand embroidered coverings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harold Gordon Band Sampler – featuring one of the “men of EGA” Harold Gordon’s love of embroidery started in 1944 when he was wounded and lying in a hospital bed.  A Red Cross nurse brought in some embroidery for patients to do (maybe to keep them quiet?).  In his later years, while visiting his wife in the hospital every day, Harold re-awakened his love of embroidery and created this sampler.  Note his 3-ring binder that is filled with his practice stitches.  Since samplers were considered practice pieces, who knew you had to practice before the practice?

Harold Gordon band sampler showcasing different practice stitches

Harold Gordon band sampler

Close-up of stitches in one band of Harold Gordon's band sampler

Close-up of stitches in one band of Harold Gordon’s band sampler

Harold Gordon's practice book of stitches

Harold Gordon’s practice book of stitches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackwork example stitch (although technically it's not blackwork because it's using blue thread)

Blackwork example stitch (although technically it’s not blackwork because it’s using blue thread)

Blackwork – a type of running, open stitch where the back should look the same as the front, blackwork is shown in this band sampler (although this is using blue thread).  There is also red work (red thread on white fabric) and white work (white thread on white fabric).  This is just the beginning of the wide variety of stitches and techniques used throughout the years in embroidery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muriel Baker “Stumpwork”stumpwork is a raised form of embroidery where stitched figures are raised from the surface resulting in a 3-D raised effect.  This piece shows that effect in both the figures of the man and woman in the design.

An example of "stumpwork" which creates a 3-D effect

An example of “stumpwork” which creates a 3-D effect

An example of "stumpwork" which creates a 3-D effect

Side view of stumpwork to better see the raised, 3-D effect of the man and woman figures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucy Chase Canvas – dated to 1834, Lucy was 8-years-old when she completed this embroidery canvas.  Lucy’s granddaughter donated this piece to the museum.  8 years old — are you kidding me?  The details and shading in this piece are amazing.  What was I doing at 8 years old?  Probably riding my bike, reading, and just generally goofing off.  Certainly not creating works of art.

Lucy Chase canvas - created when she was 8 years old

Lucy Chase canvas – created when she was 8 years old

Details of Lucy Chase's canvas showing exquisite shading with the thread

Details of Lucy Chase’s canvas showing subtle shading with the thread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting Scene – the silk thread in this 1820 hunting scene from Austria brings a sheen to the piece and is an example of surface embroidery where the threads are stitched on top of the fabric or canvas instead of through it.  The detail in this hunting scene is fantastic – you could almost feel the hair on the horse and the delicate wings of the butterfly.

Hunting scene using the surface embroidery technique

Hunting scene using the surface embroidery technique

Hunting scene detail of butterfly and bird

Hunting scene detail of butterfly and bird

Hunting scene detail of horse and rider

Hunting scene detail of horse and rider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An example of crewelwork - one of my favorite pieces

An example of crewelwork – one of my favorite pieces

Crewelwork – Margaret Parshall, first president of EGA, in the 1940s created this example of crewelwork.  I really liked the look of this piece.  A beautiful dusty blue color, this technique is also referred to as the Jacobean style, which is a type of embroidery using wool giving the piece a slightly fuzzy look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crane on blue background

Crane on blue background

Crane on Blue Background – created by Dr. Young Chung, this is another example of surface embroidery.  The piece the museum has is about 6” x 6” and is incredibly fine, detailed work.  What’s even more amazing?  Dr. Chung actually has the original wall-sized piece in her studio (yes, wall-sized).  Who has the patience to embroider a piece the size of a wall?

 

 

 

 

 

Mourning sampler as indicated by the harp scene

Mourning sampler as indicated by the harp scene

Mourning Sampler – this sampler is unique because it’s obviously a work-in-progress.  The designs are at odd angles, you can tell the designer is trying out stitches.  It’s a “mourning” sampler due to the harp.  Although the artist isn’t known for sure, it has been dated to the 1870s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam & Eve samplers - done by yet another impressive 8 year old

Adam & Eve samplers – done by yet another impressive 8 year old

Adam & Eve Sampler – also done by an 8-year-old (seriously, these 8-year-olds are impressive) and dated to 1789, this sampler shows Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Unique to this garden though is a picket fence.   I think that’s known as creative license.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Village Belle – stunning in both the size (29” x 19”) and the emotion radiating from the female figure, this is an amazing example of the power of embroidery in the hands of contemporary artist Liesl Cotta De Souza.  The subtle shading in the background is a form of “needle painting” and this technique also brings out the flesh tones and the richness of the fabric in her dress.

Village Belle - magnificent emotive piece; even the background is embroidered

Village Belle – magnificent emotive piece; even the background is embroidered

Close-up of Village Belle piece showing stitching detail

Close-up of Village Belle piece showing stitching detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebikhil – this seems like an odd piece at first.  On the front side is a man framed random threads just tangled and interweaving a frame around the central figure.  Flip it over though and all those random threads suddenly forms people, mountains, trees, fish, a sunrise, and numerous other animals.  I cannot even begin to figure out how to the creator figured this out and made this work.  Mind blowing.

Front side of piece - notice all the "random" threads framing the central figure

Front side of piece – notice all the “random” threads framing the central figure

Back side of the same piece - all the "random" threads are now animals, people, fish, and mountains

Back side of the same piece – all the “random” threads are now animals, people, fish, and mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audrey Francini bench showcasing crewelwork

Audrey Francini bench showcasing crewelwork

Audrey Francini Bench – another example of crewelwork, works by this artist are sold at auction for thousands of dollars.  Proof that this craft has arrived as a legitimate art form and is recognized as such by others.

 

 

 

Wall Tapestry of the U.S. – Made of multiple panels worked on by stitchers across the U.S.A., each person worked on the part of the U.S. they were from and then the pieces were put together over six years.  All different techniques are shown.  My favorite?  The gopher is pretty cute, and I’ve always been partial to beaded snakes.

Wall tapestry of the U.S.A. made by stitchers from all across the country

Wall tapestry of the U.S.A. made by stitchers from all across the country

Wall tapestry close-up; check out the gopher

Wall tapestry close-up; check out the gopher

Wall tapestry close-up; check out the gopher

Wall tapestry close-up showing a 3-D butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wall tapestry close-up; many different techniques are shown including beading in this snake

Wall tapestry close-up; many different techniques are shown including beading in this snake

Wall tapestry of the midwest section

Wall tapestry of the Midwest section

Wall tapestry showing needle-lace trees

Wall tapestry showing needle-lace trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese portrait – when I first saw this piece, I actually thought it was a black and white photograph of a woman from the 1940’s.  I thought maybe it was the artist that created the piece next to it.  Nope.  Created in 2000 by the artist Huijun, this is an embroidered portrait of her grandmother from a 1940s photograph.  The technique used in this piece of silk embroidery is a style from China called Su Embroidery that was celebrated, banned and then resurrected.  What makes this style so realistic?  The silk thread is split and then split and then split again so it’s barely the width of a human hair.  Wow.  For more information on this form of embroidery, check out this article from the Art of Silk.

Absolutely stunning example of Chinese Su embroidery using silk threads the width of a human hair

Absolutely stunning example of Chinese Su embroidery using silk threads the width of a human hair

Close-up of Su embroidery technique

Close-up of Su embroidery technique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could not capture a good picture, but this Tiger is a gorgeous example of thread painting

I could not capture a good picture, but this Tiger is a gorgeous example of thread painting

Tiger – a stunning example of thread painting by Jan Jellins, I could not get a good picture of this piece due to reflections on the glass.  However, it’s aptly named “thread painting” because it literally looks like a painting.  The tiger is fantastic and very life-like and stares right back at you.  As Cynthia noted in the episode, there are six different colors in the eyes alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florentine Sampler – if you’re a little intimidated, this piece should reassure you that not everything needs to be perfect.  Listen to the episode to hear Rand Duren from EGA share why he likes this piece, which hangs right by his desk at work.   Just a little reminder everyday that we’re not always perfect, but we’re still beautiful.  And if you want to see a picture of the Florentine sampler, EGA actually has notecards available to purchase online using the colorful blocks from this design.

"Needlework done by the mouth" - find out what that means in the episode

“Needlework done by the mouth” – find out what that means in the episode

“Needlework done with the Mouth” – If you listen all the way to the end, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible story of how Martha A. Honeywell made this piece.  An incredible story showcasing how someone’s love for the craft didn’t stop them from creating beautiful, delicate pieces despite a physical handicap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Embroidery Museum highlights my love for artisan crafts.  Combining both the functional and artistic sides, embroidery embellishes and personalizes everyday objects.  Not just for “little old ladies sitting on their front porch” this museum showcases where the craft started, how people engaged with it over time, and contemporary artists that are pushing the boundaries of what it can be.  I am so thankful that I found this museum and was able to share their stories with you.

If you’re a museum nerd like me, then you have got to add this museum to your “must-see” list and tell them, “I heard about you on the Made in Museums podcast.”

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email.

Resources:

Embroiderer’s Guild of America website

Find a Chapter – want to learn more about embroidery or any type of needlecraft?  Check out EGA’s website for a list of chapters to find a local chapter close to you.

Classes – EGA offers in-person classes at their annual event, through correspondence courses, or online.  Check out their full list and maybe find something that you’ve always wanted to try (there’s even a course for Temari balls!).

60th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee – if you’re in the Louisville, Kentucky area on October 3-7, 2018, then check out their 60th celebration.  We talk about some of the activities in this episode, but we don’t even begin to scratch the surface.

Travel Guide – I’ve created a travel guide for this museum highlighting the “must-see” items in the collection and any other information I thought might be helpful when planning your visit to this incredible museum.

Gift Shop – as part of supporting these great independent museums, check out the online gift shop.  Rand mentions the Florentine notecards in this episode, but check out their great online gift shop to find everything they offer.

If you are visiting the Embroidery Museum, don’t forget to check out the Museum for the American Printing House for the Blind also located in Louisville, Kentucky.  Check out that podcast episode and show notes for details.