Next up on our Artist Spotlight Interviews is Michelle Wilson. You may remember meeting her and collaborator Anne Beck at San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in early 2018. Together they work as the Rhinoceros Project.
— What drew you to the fiber art medium over others?
"Fiber art was never an art form I studied in undergraduate art school. The beginnings of what I know today as a fiber artist was knowledge I learned from my mother; and like many art students, we’re convinced that that the teachings of our mothers are not “real” or “serious” art. I trained as a painter and a printmaker, and while I still make prints, I’ve abandoned painting as a practice entirely. I had to unlearn that my mother’s knowledge wasn’t real.
What finally convinced me that I not a painter was how still I had to be to paint. I’m a person who’s almost always in motion as my natural state; I talk with my hands (even on the phone); I pace when I have to wait somewhere for something; I’m a master fidgeter. Sitting or standing still to paint left my mind wandering, I wasn’t able to focus on the work. When my hands and body are engaged, I’m present, I’m calmer, I feel more like myself. I know there are painters who are very physical, but that wasn’t something I could tap into.
But making paper is very physical. So much of what I do is rooted in body knowledge and memory. It’s said a person must pull 1000 sheets of handmade paper before they can make consistent ones. I’ve been making paper in some form since 2005, I’ve probably passed my first 1000 sheets a few years ago. So my body remembers the movement, it’s almost like a dance I’ve practiced over and over again and now I don’t think about the motions consciously."
Read the full interview at https://www.sjquiltmuseum.org/blog/michelle-wilson