Interview with Meredith Morrison on “Dreamwork” Solo Exhibition Opening on July 7th

Interview with Meredith Morrison on “Dreamwork” Solo Exhibition Opening on July 7th

Meredith Morrison’s solo exhibition, Dreamwork, focuses on the meditative aspect of her bead-working practice as the focus to slowly create what she refers to as “meditation cloths.” The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, July 7th from 6-9pm at 2845 Gratiot Avenue.

Until recently, her work has been firmly rooted in memory, archiving, or the preservation of materials she finds significant. Her latest series deviates from this by focusing on the meditation and process of slowly building these meditation cloths, rather than the manipulation of significant materials. The use of transparent beads references the loss of information within her memory landscape, as they simultaneously crystallize the information reflected upon.

Morrison working on a memory cloth. Image courtesy of gallery.

Her large-scale cloth sculptures serve as markers or shrines, fleeting phantoms of time and space— unresolved fractured figments that while missing information, still hold energy that is poured into them through her rumination. As objects, they are unable to communicate the memory that has been reflected over, but through the investment in the ritual action of beading and meditation, they themselves become vessels, phantoms, and testaments to what cannot be outwardly expressed.

Morrison’s work is informed by her love for craft and the development of processes, however, she also utilizes design-thinking strategies to create the hardware and fasteners to display these beaded cloths.

“My time spent as a designer in the home furnishings industry heavily influences the way I approach object-making. It is because of this background that I oscillate between fast and slow methods of building, using handcraft, manufacturing, and production technologies.” For example, she utilizes both hand-beaded work and machine embroidery work, as well as metal and resin mold fabrication, in addition to laser-cutting and hand-printing. Her memory landscapes are supported with furniture forms and fixtures that reference home and domesticity to enhance the presentation of sites of intimacy and vulnerability.

“By creating sculptures that approach liminality, I rely on composite assemblage methods that seek to generate an object that feels both familiar and foreign. Existing somewhere between the archive and preservation, these sculptures acknowledge the fleeting nature of time and utilize reflection as a space to generate future relics. The objects work together to create an affective space of memory markers or metaphorical portals that honor the transient nature of life and embrace the romance of non fixity.”

Morrison working on a memory cloth. Image courtesy of gallery.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I can’t remember a specific point that I identified myself as an artist, but I’ve always invested in creative pursuits. When I was younger, ballet and dance were passions of mine. I also had a really wild and enveloping imagination; I had lots of imaginary friends and enjoyed building stories and universes for them. 

Art and creating always have had active roles in my life. Since I can remember, my hands were constantly moving- making friendship bracelets, journaling, choreographing dance routines, painting, drawing or otherwise.

I was constantly surrounded by other modes of creativity through my Father, an architect, and my Grandmother, a gardener and hobbyist painter, who both encouraged me to find beauty in ‘the everyday,’ and to actively contribute to that beauty. It wasn’t until I was in high school and I took an art history class, that I really understood the way that art and culture work hand-in-hand, and that really excited me.

Morrison in her studio. Image courtesy of gallery.

What concept or medium are you most interested in currently?

For the past few years, I’ve been interested in themes around memory, the memory archives, and the way that information alters over time. This interest has grown and shifted into other spaces. I spend a lot of time thinking about memory markers, semiotics, and the way that nostalgia not only calls us back into memory, but can also play into dream-making and the dreamscape.

I find dreams to be this really interesting and invigorating collision space, often confusing, where memories functionally archive, and new ideas can emerge. 

I’ve also been really interested in the concept of Saudadde- feelings of intense longing and fond reflection over something that likely won’t exist again. What kind of power that can hold and how to harness it to produce something that towards the future.

What is it about using beading that is of most interest to you?

I’ve always been drawn to the meticulousness of embellishment. Over time, that became more focused on beadwork. I tend to narrow in on the details, and enjoy breaking things down to the smallest component. Repetition is also some thing I value with beading – this could likely come from my background and dance, and the comfort and familiarity that comes with performing an action over and over again with great intention.

Tools used for creating custom sequins. Image courtesy of gallery.

I remember growing up watching my mom embellish rhinestones onto all of my dance costumes before competitions. It was always my favorite component of the outfits and what made them stand out to me. 

I’m attracted to taking something that can be perceived as small and seemingly insignificant when viewed in isolation and seeing how it can transform into something special when amassed.

What is the biggest challenge? 

In regards to beadwork, the biggest challenge is often how to essentially, embellish the embellishment. The cloths I make require me to think through how to approach combining narrative aspects of personal experiences into fragments in thoughtful, intentional ways.

Meredith Morrison in her studio. Image courtesy of gallery.

Sometimes this means manipulating materials to produce a bead or sequin that gets attached to the cloth, and more recently it has required attention to images and photos, which is something I haven’t utilized much in the past.

Though I tend to have a pretty definitive and developed visual language, incorporating imagery into the work as well as becoming more thoughtful about the ways that structural fixtures and hardwares interact with the cloths to frame them have been exciting challenges.

How does the process begin, and how long do your large cloths take to create from concept to execution?

The process of building these meditation cloths is pretty simple and straightforward. You don’t need a lot of materials. It’s simply a needle, thread and seed beads.  I tend to meditate over specific memories, experiences, or dreams that I feel are significant. I’ll often simultaneously log thoughts in a journal that I keep next to me as I bead- reflecting on specific memory points, materials, visual icons etc.

The cloths are built using an off loom beading technique where I rely on a rhizome pattern of ongoing circles to organically build structure to the cloths. The larger pieces can sometimes take a month to build out. Some of the larger pieces hold around 300 x 15 inches of beadwork which isn’t always apparent due to the way they fold and overlap when draped. I’m drawn to this method of display for this specific reason though. The way that the cloth collapses on itself feels akin to the way memories overlap and intertwine in such ways that beginning and endpoints are sometimes unknown.

In creating these cloths, repetitive actions of beadwork provide a rhythm and a generative space to reinforce meditation and activate memory archiving. It’s in this space that I also consider how to treat the cloth— how it’s presented, how it hangs, what materials or visual components to use in association with it— and sometimes how to both frame and embellish the cloths.

Detail view, Meredith Morrison’s studio. Image courtesy of gallery.

How does your background in design and textiles influence your artistic practice?

My background in design is definitely influential to my practice. There was a time that I felt burdened by being identified as a designer and was seeking to somewhat shed that aspect within my work. Now, I very actively embrace its role within my practice. I see it as an asset that informs the methodology of my making and the intuitive ways that I build objects and problem solve. I love inhabiting a space that works against firm delineations. Existing at the center point of design, craft, and art, is really exciting to me. 

Prior to my shift into fine art, I was a product designer for a home furnishings company for several years. Especially as I become more focused on creating these meditation cloths, I am thinking through different ways to approach the hardware’s and supportive structures used to present them. And in doing this, I’m always engaging with my design sensibilities, which are often informed by the world of home furnishings and the layered development of fabrication processes I utilized while in that space. 

Textiles specifically have always held significance in my life. Not only do I come from a state with a deep history in textile manufacturing, but I’ve grown up seeing generations of women in my family invested in handwork— smocking, crochet, cross-stitch, tailoring among other techniques— often used to produce a sentimental item that’s held onto and treasured. Being surrounded by this kind of making instilled a deep appreciation for the laborious nature of these crafts, their history, and the care that it takes to employ them. 

Meredith Morrison’s studio. Image courtesy of gallery.

Do you have a favorite technique? 

Beadwork will always be at the center point of my practice, but I am forever interested in layering different techniques and developing a process. I am often oscillating between fast and slow methods of building though to accommodate my own personal states of change. I’m constantly producing beaded cloths which require slow building handwork, but also exercise quicker modes of execution such as machine embroidery, sublimation printing, laser-cutting, and so on to satisfy my need for variety and curiosity around materials and processes.

Meredith’s workspace; studio assistant, Lune. Image courtesy of gallery.

What about your creative process have you found to be the most successful for you?

My creative process tends to be a cyclical push and pull. While beadwork is always constant, my impulsivity leans into spiraling into other modes of working, sometimes haphazardly to curiously investigate new ways to build forms or combine materials and methods.

Sometimes these investments generate really interesting and successful results to move forward with, while other times they don’t work out. In either case, the exercise and investigation into process and developing ideas and processes fulfills a really critical need that I have to simply direct my energy towards the production of something new.

My practice has always served as an important way for me to process the world around me and engage with my emotions in a way that connects me to others, while also challenging me to embrace the vulnerability that comes with pursuing questions that have no definitive answers.

What are you working on and looking forward to in the near future?

I’m looking forward to continuing to build and push my memory cloth pieces. I’m interested to concentrate on color, considering the significance of color, and different techniques for its application.

Translucence has always felt like a very important component to the work— translucent seed beads have become significant in their  symbolic reference to memories or information that is lost over time, or allusion to time. Now, I’m thinking through ways I can add/use color intentionally to build visual and conceptual depth to work.

Detail view, “Memory Cloth,” Meredith Morrison, 2023.

How long have you lived in Detroit?

I moved to Detroit almost four years ago from Chicago to pursue grad school. I did not have intentions initially to stick around after the program ended, but I really felt a connection with the city and being here has provided a generous space for me to thoughtfully invest in my practice.

I’ve really enjoyed the artist community here and find that it feels more like home every day.

Meredith Morrison in her studio. Image courtesy of gallery.

Meredith Morrison (b. 1989) is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice seeks to negotiate and sustain memory-material relationships. Morrison’s work is process-based and experimental, embedding itself in traditional fiber and craft techniques. She often calls upon intuition, meditative labor, and repetition to collect and build beaded cloths and designed objects in a systematic composition.

In 2013, she received her Bachelor of Art in Art and Design concentrating in Fiber, and a Bachelor of Science in Textile Technology from North Carolina State University. Influenced by the economy of her home state of North Carolina, and the complicated overlapping of agriculture and textile labor she moved to Chicago, Illinois in 2013 to pursue liaison building between art, craft, and the textile industry.

After honing design skills in home furnishings and textile product design she traded the efficiency and scale of manufacturing to consider the slow, hand-building techniques of embellishment.

In 2021, she completed her Master of Fine Art in Fiber at Cranbrook Academy of Art, focusing in beadwork and object building. She has since rooted her studio in Detroit, Michigan where she continues to collect and respond to the material attachments of the Midwest. In 2022, Morrison was selected to be a PLAYGROUND DETROIT Emerging Artist Fellow.

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