Lori Goldman

- Knitting

- Felting

- Spinning

- Wearable Art

- Sculptures & Wall hangings

Interview Highlights: 

-San Francisco in the 60s

-The wearable art movement

-Balancing motherhood & art work

I drove up the winding roads into Sonoma where Lori [Hansen] Goldman's studio, a cabin-like building, is nestled in the trees. As you walk up, charming statues and furniture pieces peak out from plants that have grown around them like a magical jungle of greenery. Lori's large open studio has a small green space with bamboo trees in the back and feels cozy, remote, and quiet even though the building is shared with other artists. Its brightly lit and displays her work, houses her supplies and tools, memories and inspiration like a living gallery exhibit of her life and work to date. 

Lori's work began during her childhood growing up in San Francisco during a time of intense cultural change, the DIY clothing movement, and the beginnings of a new surge in textile interest. After high school graduation she traveled to Europe, which had a marked effect on her perspective, solidifying her vision of becoming a working artist. She attended college first at CCA(C) then transferred to San Francisco State. She took some time away from her work to raise her kids and started a sweater label Camillian with Janet Lipkin and Amy Rothberg, which you can read about here. Then, taught and mentored college students in textiles before returning full focus back to her gallery work, wearable art, and knitting workshops.

 

 

What was your childhood like, growing up in San Francisco during the 60s? 

 

It was wild and crazy and I was exposed to a lot of drugs at a young age. Both the Hells Angels and Black Panther Party were living on the street I grew up on. I babysat for Country Joe's kids of Country Joe and the Fish... I remember seeing Jimi Hendrix in person and thinking 'I am to young to even understand how significant this is.'  He was electric… He had a feather boa around his neck and purple bell bottoms. I would see Janis Joplin at my mother’s bank.

 

In the PBS special on Janis Joplin , Little Girl Blue , there’s an image of me at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. They scanned the audience and I was in the crowd with this guy, Bobby, who later ended up passing away of a drug overdose.... I'm thinking of writing a book on all my experiences. 

You should... I bet you have so many stories I would love to read. 

How did your journey in fiber arts begin? 

I started knitting when I was 12, and Ive had this obsession with it ever since. I don't think I realize at the time that it was a form of meditation and a way to soothe my whole body. It was something I needed to do. As a teenager I would make sweaters for my friends, using paper patterns out of a garbage bag and then knit to the pattern. 

Growing up in the 60s, we were influenced by texture, color, things hanging loosely on the body, inspired by other styles from cultures around the world. After high school, I went on a trip to study in Europe and came back knowing  I wanted to be a fiber artist.  When I was in Denmark I noticed how the government supports artists— its so hard to imagine for us in the US now that you could be a weaver and there is money for your projects. It seemed like such a romantic thing and I thought 'I want to learn to weave.' 

 

When I came back to the States, I got a job at a knitting store called the Yarn Depot for $1.75 an hour. Then, I decided to go to CCA(C) because I really wanted to study with weaver Trude Guermonprez. It cost $700 a semester— which is hard to imagine now, but that was a lot of money for my parents, especially compared to San Francisco State which was $90 a semester. I transferred to San Francisco State in 1970 after a semester at CCA(C) and majored in textiles with a lot of anthropology courses. I was very drawn to learning about celebration and ritual. I feel a strong connection to the men and women of the world that make things.

 

A film we watched in class that stayed with me all these years was called Dead Birds about people in New Guinea who weave strips to wrap around the bodies of the dead using knot-less netting. Eventually I switched to the sculpture department and studied with Karen Breschi because the sculpture department was more about ideas and concepts at the time, whereas the textile department felt more focused on techniques for flat wall pieces. I wanted to do more three dimensional, sculptural pieces.

 

Two teachers that stood out at San Francisco State as mentors for me were: 

 

Steven De Steabler [1933-2011] a ceramic artist who worked very figuratively. He triggered my interest in felt when he said “I don’t like the rows in fiber, could you come up with a way to make something without the rows?”  He loved that felt was like ceramic in a way, like a skin. I got my Masters with him.

 

Barbara Shawcroft - is an artist from England, known for making giant installations with rope. There was one at the Embarcadero BART station. She taught us a knot-less netting technique where we would use this looping technique with waxed linen and other fibers.

"These were a part of my graduate student work. The one on the right was called “Inner Tree” because I was obsessed with how the bloodstream looked like a tree. 

The heart piece was silk and I spun all the yarn, it opened and closed. But later I was in a show at the Mission Cultural Center and got stolen!  They gave me like $200 for it or something."

 [ See Inner Tree today, below ]  

After school I got married and unfortunately gave birth to a baby that died, so my work began to take a back seat. When my first daughter was born, I made a [knit] hand to represent how mothers need a third hand to help them.

 

When I started the sweater company Camillian with Amy Rothberg &  Janet Lipkin in 1979, I was working creatively but my own personal work got put aside to focus on that and raising my family.  In Camillian, my role was to oversee production because I had a background in knitting.

What advice would you give those who are trying to find balance between the demands of their lives and their artwork, particularly for mothers? 

I really think its important as an artist to consider who you align yourself with, to make sure you are in a supportive environment. It was really challenging being married to a type A person who wasn’t an artist and raise children, while being an artist. Thinking back now about the past, I see that I really should have lived near Janet and have been around her all time to have that support system.

 

In those days when you graduated from college they just cut you loose and didn’t offer guidance on how to actually support yourself.  When I was teaching at Academy of Art University, I discussed with students how to create a portfolio, continue meeting with fellow artists, and really value their work. All of it matters— even  knitted swatches can be done in an aesthetic way that could be part of your presentation. I wish someone had said that with me. The world doesn't support art or value the quiet down time that art requires. Its important to create a community for yourself. 

I can only imagine that for artists that are mothers there is a real tension between being needed by your family and also needing to find support for yourself. Did having to step back from the art world to care for your kids during a peak time of the Art-To-Wear movement cause difficultly in getting acknowledgement for your work? Did you ever feel overlooked?  

 

Yes, I think so. In the earlier days, I didn’t promote myself a lot and I made slower work so I didn't pump out as many pieces as other artists. I’m actually feeling more excitement and energy toward my work now in my later years and I'm very focused on making more work and connecting with galleries. 

 

To be a mother who is an artist, you have to be willing to sacrifice some of your time and energy… you may only get to grab an hour or two here or there and you can’t attend every party. But, if you can find two hours, four days a week for your art practice it adds up.  

 

I’ve read books that have really supported me through my practice and helped me to remember how to keep life juicy. I really loved reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. 

Having this studio now to get out of the house feels really incredible. I can really focus and create here.

Are there any exciting career moments you reflect upon from the beginning fo the Artwear movement?

There was a real hub of excitement around textile art in the 70s… Fiberworks, Pacific Basin Textiles, and Dharma Trading were thriving. Ed Rossbach and his his wife Katherine Westphal was a big influence on all of us in the Bay Area. There were artists working on big installations, like Debra Rapoport and Barbara Shawcroft. Shops like White Duck Workshop on College and Ashby and Persimmon on Solano Ave, in Berkeley. There was a rich community of textile art here.

I really loved participating in the Discarded to Divine show where artists would make incredible pieces from scrap materials and have a really amazing runway show. Barbara Shawcroft commissioned me to make a coat for her for one of her openings. I also had pieces in a show at the Oakland Museum called Bodywear, which was really fun. 

I didn't connect with many of the Art-to-Wear crew until later on [Janet Lipkin, Jean Cacicedo, etc] because they started on the East Coast and I was on the West Coast.  But its interesting because were making parallel work before we met one another. 

Did you think of yourself at the forefront of a movement at any time during the 1960s-80s ?  Did it feel like a close-knit scene?

I don't think we soaked it in enough. We were isolated in a way, working, just making things. I think we didn't value our work as much as we should of….

 

We weren’t hanging out much socially, we were pretty focused on our work. I remember Janet and I sunbathing nude on the deck while we were working [laughs] but it wasn’t like a social scene.  I feel more celebrated lately than I did at that time. And I've internalized it more for myself retrospect. I now see: 'oh yeah, I have a language here with my work' 

Did you feel a part of the fiber community and what was the dynamic at that time between bay area fiber artists? 

 

I definitely felt a part of a community. We would buy from each other and especially trade. I would trade back and forth with friends like Janet Lipkin and Carol Lee Shanks.

 

Carol and I were represented by a small gallery that was called Cicile Moochnek Gallery. She really appreciated our artistic perspective with fiber and included us in shows with artists of other mediums. She once had a show with me and artist Michael Shemchuk who is a painter. She really did a great job juxtaposing our work in an interesting way. I wasn’t boxed in as a textile artist. In some ways my work should just be experienced as art. I never quite fit in any place, my work is kind of in between worlds. I think we can marginalize our work a little by being stuck in a genre. 

How do you balance artistry and the business side of your work?  Making creations that are unique and 'exist between worlds', as you said, and also working with clients, showing, and selling work. 

 

I was never as focused on the showing and selling of it as I should be. Its hard to make money at it. One thing might take me two weeks to make, but will someone be willing to pay the actual cost to create one? Its almost like you have to become well known as an artist for your work to take on value. 

I had other jobs along the way: I taught at the Academy of Art University, worked at yarn shops like Straw into Gold/Crystal Palace in the East Bay and The Yarn Depot in San Francisco. I've had part time jobs in the restaurant industry, and now I teach knitting workshops and make button bracelets on the side with rare antique buttons. I was also always knitting things to give away as gifts.

 

Yeah, its tough. As maker or artist selling labor-intensive pieces, you may have to include price scheme in design. You might price one at $1000 based on labor and materials, but considering the smaller size and scale, they feel like a set together, so people may not want one, they may only want them as a set. Selling in the $5k range might feel like tougher selling so then you offer a discount for the set and you've cut your labor cost. There's always this push-pull involved between creating exactly what you want to create and creating something with a buyer in mind. 

 

Its tricky. Sometimes it feels like I’d rather live with the pieces than sell them for less than their value. I was showing pieces and someone asked to buy a linen top I made, but when I told her the price she said no. The yarn was from Japan, the materials alone cost around $90 and it was hand-dyed and everything, so it took a lot of time and material cost. 

 

Its like people have a sticker shock when you tell them the price but it really reveals how people have learned to devalue certain types of labor. Everyone has become accustomed to the devaluation of certain types of labor—even people who lived through past eras like the 70s where garments cost proportionately far more than today. There is a new kind of experience-valued culture where people who have disposable income would easily drop $150 on a brunch that would last 3 hours and not bat and eye, but act shocked to spend $150 on a handmade accessory that would last them 3 years or more. 

Yes!  What is that? …Well, you’re talking about values. Its tricky…

 

Right. I just would love to make people aware of fair labor prices in industries that are devalued and to check the general attitude that is behind balking at handmade prices. This attitude that people who prepare food should be paid a living wage but people who make clothes shouldn’t.  It is like a lot of us in fiber arts have to be very creative as a businessman/woman as well because our work is so labor intensive.

Its a really interesting political question you are bringing up. I love buying things from friends like Carol Lee Shanks, because when I invest in a pricer pieces from artist friends, I can wear them for 10 years. 

 

I think you have to find your niche. There are events or situations where people will purchase more for handmade, such as bridal wear or corporate interior design. You have find the type of person who wants your work. 

I just want to keep making.

 

A lot of people I know have been really hot on traveling, but I want to stay here and make more. I am a grandmother now 

so I'm finding balance between being an artist and spending time with my family.

 

From years of being stimulated by so many things but unable to spend as much time as I wanted on my work, I think a lot of creative energy is coming out of me now.  "

Lori Goldman

Website: https://www.lorigoldman.com/

For Workshop Information/Bookings: 

https://www.lorigoldman.com/contact

Instagram: @Goldman7882

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Oakland, Ca

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