Wonderland of Warp, Weft + Work
Summer intern Sydney Foreman 18 TX works in the Brooklyn studio of textiles artist Liz Collins 91 TX/MFA 99.
The D train was sweltering in early July as I traveled past 22 subway stops on my way to the Brooklyn studio of contemporary textiles artist Liz Collins 91 TX/MFA 99. Looking around the D, I noticed that everyone seemed to be wearing elaborate prints, Doc Martens and/or visible paint stains. It was the first day of my nine-week summer internship and I was nervous, anxious and excited.
Not surprisingly, the other arty types and I all got off at the same stop and headed toward a trendy-looking block of buildings and restaurants. My enthusiasm for the internship only increased when I saw that one of Liz’s pieces adorns the main walkway of the subway station.
Studio manager and fellow RISD grad Zev Schwartz 12 AP greeted me at the door to the large studio, which is clearly Liz’s space: a well-organized wonderland of colorful yarns, knitted fabrics and wacky furniture. I immediately recognized her signature use of bright colors and sharp lines and peered around the room, finding samples of her WW3 (Warp Weft 3) series, which I would later get the opportunity to work on.
Liz primarily hired me to assist with a new installation that opened on September 27 at the New Museum in Manhattan as part of Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon. My first task involved sourcing materials. I was on the hunt for mesh fencing, a quest that led me through the Park Slope and Sunset Park neighborhoods of Brooklyn, where I encountered an eccentric hardware store owner and a talkative bus driver who complained bitterly about the city’s increasing traffic problems.
I was happy to collaborate with Liz, but was also excited that my friend Felix Beaudry 18 TX landed a summer internship at the studio, too. We were both psyched to brainstorm ideas for the New Museum show.
Later that week Liz assigned me exactly the kind of work I had hoped I’d be doing. Once she explained that she wanted to use stills from the weird 1982 film classic Liquid Sky to create a carpet for the exhibition, I spent weeks piecing together images in Photoshop and was happy to apply the skills I learned in my CAD in Textiles class last spring. We worked with an industrial carpet producer to finalize the design and select just the right swatches to match the film’s color palette.
Another highlight of the internship was going to the New Museum with Liz to mock up her plan for the installation. After seeing countless museum exhibitions where the designs seem so self-evident, it was great to get a behind-the-scenes look at the planning process and to be included in conversations about the overall cohesiveness of the show and what was working and what wasn’t.
Thanks to our shared backgrounds in RISD’s Textiles department, Liz and I were able to work well together. Throughout the internship she knew exactly what I was capable of and precisely how to communicate what she expected.
Now that I’m back in Providence, I’m digging through the huge bag of yarn Liz gave me for my senior thesis project and reflecting on my summer in New York. I’m excited to get back to my own work but also happy to know how satisfying it can be to work for a professional artist and help bring his or her ideas to light. And it was reassuring to learn that even after I graduate in the spring, the RISD community is likely to still be an important part of my life.
—Sydney Foreman 18 TX / photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH
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