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tennessee technological university

Appalachian Center for Craft

Artist in Residence - Fibers
Kelsey Wiskirchen

Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen received her Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Fibers from Truman State University, and her Masters of Fine Arts in Fibers at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University. In 2010, she spent a month volunteering in Bolivia with Projecto Artesania Zona Andina (PAZA), a women’s weaving cooperative consisting of three generations of women weaving and sewing together to support their families. In 2011, she was awarded a Nathan Cummings Travel Grant to spend the summer in Limpopo, South Africa to volunteer with Mapusha, a women’s cooperative with a similar purpose of empowerment for women by creating income through weaving and creation of artisan products. Before moving to the Craft Center, Kelsey was living in St. Louis, Missouri, teaching outreach and community classes in textiles. Continuing to learn and to teach others has become her focus, and these experiences filter in to her studio practice.

Artist Statement
When I was seven, my grandmother taught me how to embroider images onto cloth. For practice, she drew on fabric with pencil and I stitched over her lines. Around the same time, my mother taught me how to use her sewing machine. The time these women spent teaching me to sew was focused not only on the physical task but was also a time for sharing stories.

In communities worldwide, women have found camaraderie and empowerment through the creation of textiles. While each geography holds particularities, the creation of cloth is universal. When I weave and sew, I become aware of my connection to people across cultures and to those who create textiles as an act of survival. Thread is a symbol of duality— representative of individual fragility and strength when woven into cloth. In my work, it is a unifying factor serving as connection between the people and stories represented. Through the materiality of thread and physical dimension of the stitched line, I hope to bring a sense of both the individual and the collective memory.

We are dependent upon one another and on the world in which we live. The power of cooperative efforts is a solution to many of today’s global problems. As time passes, some details fade from memory. In this way, true stories are fundamentally delicate. They become more fragile and more precious with time. There is poetry in the truth of sharing conversation, laughter, and time with others. My purpose as an artist is to examine the experiences we share: stories, skills, and traditions passed on to younger generations.