Meet the Rising Star Weaving a New Narrative
Weaver Dee Clements braids social history and traditional craft
My early baskets were very tight and small and finished,” says Dee Clements of Studio Herron, lightly scolding her past perfectionist self. “That was my design brain.” Since enrolling in the master’s furniture program at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, however, she’s been fighting that impulse. “I want to shake up the language of basketry.”
These days she’s succeeding, judging from the bulbous, pudgy, and slightly anthropomorphic forms that animate her Chicago studio. “I want people to see this craft in a new and elevated way,” she says, standing next to a tall, curvaceous, multicolored work in progress. And soon people will. That sculptural pseudo vessel and six other pieces, among them a light fixture and an outdoor rug, will star in Clements’s first solo show at Nina Johnson gallery in Miami. Opening June 1, the exhibition marks her turn into conceptual territory.
Clements—who is also working with Salon 94 Design in New York—creates her pieces using thin reeds, which she dyes by hand and sometimes paints with gouache. Her process often begins using a traditional mold, but she lets the material guide her, keeping the reeds wet as she weaves so that they can be sculpted and clamped into the desired shape. “It’s almost like making a clay pot,” she explains of the slow and steady method, which culminates in a coat of polyurethane and sometimes the addition of a weighted ceramic base. “The material has a memory.”
She might as well be speaking about weaving in general. As one of the world’s oldest artisanal techniques, basketry tells a long social history, particularly with regard to women’s work and division of labor. Hence the exhibition title, “The Future Has an Ancient Heart,” taken from a book by Carlo Levi. “Right now in our society, it feels like we’re looking back in order to move forward,” Clements says. “That’s a really important part of my work.” studioherron.com