Interview with Marcie Farwell aka Zora Jane

(All photos by Marcie Farwell:A self-portrait.)

There are so many enchanting traits about Marcie Farwell that I’m not sure where to begin! Marcie and I met nearly 6 years ago at the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn, NY where we spent our shifts stocking organic vegetables and sweeping up the bulk aisle while comparing knitting, sewing, and gardening notes. Since then, Marcie and I have both left Brooklyn and she’s currently living in the Hudson River Valley in NY.

Aside from her ongoing craft projects, Marcie is in the midst of making two original "art dresses" for a dance performance at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY. The performance runs this weekend from Thursday, March 27 through Sunday, March 30. Marcie seems to embody the nature of interdisciplinary artwork that continually inspires me as she's equal parts crafter, artist, and thinker. Dear friends, I bring you the lovely and talented Marcie Farwell to share a sneak peek into her current studio life.

("Red and Black I")

Hello Marcie! Thanks for taking the time for this interview. I'm super interested in your current “art dresses” project and would love to know more about it. I know you've combined photography, quilting, sewing, and embroidery to some astounding effects in previous projects. How are you combining disciplines this time?

The new piece, "The East Wind in the Petticoat", is a collaboration between myself and my friend Lindsay Gilmour, an amazing dancer and dance instructor. I'm still working on the idea of "art dresses" but this time I wanted to add the element of movement; a different form of inhabitation than the "T^nts" show at RPS Gallery in Oakland, CA in 2007. Lindsay and I came up with the concept based around the dresses and the questions of identity that they represent. Since it will be shown in a live dance performance, we had to think about music, lighting, and stage design all of which are new to me. It forced me to think differently about the dress itself-- to allow for movement, a body, and a message that is no longer in embroidered details but in the dance between Lindsay and the other two dresses on stage. The purpose of the dresses for me has always been to tell the story of the wearer. I think dance can add to that in a really visual way.


You and I first collaborated in 2007 when you made a dress for the "Dresses/ Objects" project, inspired by (among other things) the blurring lines between art and craft. You've made one other "art dress" since then and you're currently working on a third and fourth. How does the concept continue to evolve?

It's strange, I feel like a light went off when you asked me to make a dress for your project. I had been making dresses for years, recycling old pieces to make new, adding patchwork-- even working for a wedding dress designer but I had never been part of a "concept piece" and in a sense finally crossed that line from craft into art with “Dresses/ Objects”. I had been sewing, quilting, knitting, embroidering, and crocheting for years and here was a way to start combining them into one complete idea. The "Wede" dress came from that place as well. How does one make a mourning dress that is a tent? How do you use the skills you have to show grief, pain, identity, redemption, and hope? How do you incorporate poetry, literature, history, and fairy stories? The use of "crafts" by way of embroidered and letterpress words, a knitted climbing flowering vine, a crocheted brier, the choice of fabrics and how you use them, the style of dress and pattern-- allow you to do just that.

(For "Dresses/ Objects")

I'm most fascinated by your work having firm roots in traditional "crafting" skills like sewing, knitting, and dressmaking and how you are adapting those "craft" skills for a fine arts medium. Now that your work has been shown in galleries and theaters, are you finding any subtle shifts in how you identify as a crafter vs. an artist?

One of my favorite architects I studied in college was Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a famous member of the Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the last century along with his wife, Margaret, an amazingly creative person in her own right. They came from the school of thought that said that the things inside a building are as important as the building itself so doors, textiles, lamps, and china were all designed and hand crafted. I like to think that I can be both a "crafter" and an "artist”. For me, there is an intention to use the two together, through a thought process, the use of materials, and certain skills to bring about something that fits into both categories. My hope is that perhaps those of us who identify as both crafters and artists can create a new Arts and Crafts movement.

("The East Wind in the Petticoat" on stage at Ithaca College.)

Your "art dresses" are so incredibly detailed in their design, hand work, and craftsmanship. Can you guide us through your creative process and tell us what part of the process is the most inspiring for you and which parts are more labored or harder to sustain?

For my second art dress, "Wede" it began with the idea of making an inhabitable dress that was a solid color-- those were the exhibition guidelines-- and I had already been thinking about mourning, inspired in large part by The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. So I began thinking about mourning and where it went, why did it disappear? Why was this mostly a woman's role to play and what did that say about women and society? What were my own feelings on the subject? The research is fun for me and the detailed work of embroidery, knitting, and piecing I like too. The end is ALWAYS hard for me and I can be bad at pacing myself and over-thinking so I leave a lot of work to the end when the brain has to stop and let the hands take over. I sometimes have to will myself to get things done and to let go of the idea of perfection. I am definitely my own worst critic. After these latest two dresses I'm ready for something small. I think I'm going to start making little girls' dresses next.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this introduction... the dresses are absolutely astounding!


    and thank you so very much for compliment on my artwork... it lit up my heart...


    Have a beautiful weekend,


Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.