By Patricia Belyea
EDISON WA There’s a word in Japanese— ikagai—that roughly translates to “the thing you live for” or “why you get up in the morning.” Finding one’s own ikagai can become confusing for many once they retire from a rich and meaningful career.
Not so for Caryn Friedlander, once an art professor at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham. Since leaving her post two years ago, she has become a seeker, a prolific artist, and, most surprising to Caryn herself, a stitcher.
I met up with Caryn at the opening of her shared show at Smith & Vallee Gallery in Edison, Washington.
Newly retired, Caryn took a workshop at Maiwa called Intuitive Stitching with Christine Mauersberger. There she heard about eco-dyeing. Intrigued, Caryn explored this method of contact printing with plant matter on textiles—taking workshops and refining her approach with online research. The errant nature of the results completely captivated Caryn.
Working with long strips of white silk, Caryn eco-dyed the fabric and began adding delicate hand stitching to her organic monoprints. Using just one ply of Soie d’Alger silk floss, the stitches whisper a story. What story? One of living in the present, fully experiencing the Zen moment of creation.
Caryn lived in Kyoto for five years as a UW student studying calligraphy for her MA in Asian Art History. Her new silk works reminded her of kakejiku, Japanese scroll paintings mounted on paper. Caryn chose to mount her works similarly but on fabric instead of paper, in the manner of a Tibetan thangka painting.
To manifest her concept, Caryn borrowed a sewing machine, learned how to use it, and began the process of finishing her stitched art with natural linen borders. (Six months ago, Caryn bought her own machine.)
Also a painter, the Smith & Vallee show included 18 small works of hands by Caryn—ink and paint on claybord. These sweet paintings show how hands are used to craft so many things.
Another installation by Caryn is a series of mixed-media on eco-dyed paperworks. My favs are the ones produced on genuine Japanese fan paper.
For me, the most striking pieces in Caryn’s bevy of recent work are the textile scrolls. I truly appreciated her explanation of becoming a stitcher through exploration and understanding of the media. A combination of discernment and personal revelation pushed her forward.
One of Caryn’s scrolls sported a red dot by the end of the opening. From the proceeds, Caryn announced that she’s going to buy all 620 colors of Soie d’Alger silk floss. She’s hooked!
To visit Caryn’s website +click here
To visit the Smith & Vallee Gallery website +click here
To visit the website of Hedgerow, one of my favorite shops in Edison +click here