This is an interview with Francesca Capone, an interdisciplinary artist whose book and gallery exhibition, Writing in Threads, was recently on view and released. Writing in Threads is the continuation of a long term project, Weaving Language, in which Capone has been researching and experimenting with the crossovers between weaving and writing, uncovering historical overlappings and developing new forms of combination between the two. To learn more, visit Capone’s website or follow her on Twitter @franny_capone.
When and how did you begin integrating writing with textiles?
I had been interested in writing long before I started weaving. In the way that any writer’s life experience comes through in their work, my weaving appeared in my writing instantaneously as I was beginning to learn about it. Then eventually when I started designing jacquard fabrics, my writing appeared in my weaving. The technology of the jacquard loom (based on binary code) accommodates for complex and illustrative designs that cannot be achieved on a floor loom. On the particular jacquard loom I was working on [at RISD], there were specific restrictions: a repeat every 13.5 inches across the width of the loom, occurring four times, with no repeat necessary for the length.
There are often regulations of this sort for mechanical looms, as repeating yardage is an important economical component of the textile industry. But don’t those regulations sound like a writing prompt to you? It certainly did to me. The loom demands particular metrics, which one could also see applying to poetic form. Opportunities for the inter-poetics of writing and weaving have continued to reveal themselves so long as I’ve continued to seek them out.
When did you first begin weaving? What other textile work do you make?
I started weaving about eight years ago at the Rhode Island School of Design. My practice at the time was more geared towards functionality, and my professional career as a commercial textile designer reflects that–over the course of the past six years, I’ve designed fabrics for Coach, Marc Jacobs, and Nike, among other brands. Textiles that I’ve designed are walking around on several different continents right now. It’s quite surreal to think about participating in this kind of global cultural influence, and to think about what message is communicated through the kinds of textiles we wear. My work as an artist and academic is concerned with a very different conversation than my commercial work, though I’m sure these parallel practices–meaning created discretely but occurring simultaneously, a term I learned recently from someone–still inform one another.
You have many books out. Can you tell us about your most recent, Writing in Threads? How did you select the writers whose work you source in this book?
Writing in Threads is the continuation of a long term project, Weaving Language, which I began in 2012. Throughout Weaving Language, I’ve been researching and experimenting with crossovers between weaving and writing, uncovering historical overlappings as well as developing new forms of combination between the two. The initial work on Weaving Language resulted in a translation method from textiles to written language inspired by Emmett Williams’ technique in translating An Anthology of Concrete Poetry. I began using this method to interpret textiles into poems. Through conversation with my friend, the poet and translator Kit Schluter, I began thinking more broadly about the meaning of the language I had created. Language means very little if it’s not shared. Language can be a space for an individual to cycle through and evolve their thoughts and ideas, but without an audience, one only communes with oneself. I suppose this point can be debated, but for me, language is something that occurs between people. I invited fifteen writers to participate in Writing in Threads because I wanted to experiment with Weaving Language in a community, and see if it could function as a dialogue. The writers involved in the project are all connected to me through one way or the other, they are my creative peers in New York City and abroad.
Unfortunately I’m not currently in NYC, so I couldn’t go to your 99c Plus Gallery Exhibit or your Printed Matter talk. Can you explain what the show at the gallery involved as well as what your Printed Matter talk entailed?
The exhibition at 99c Plus Gallery and the reading at Printed Matter were both iterations of the Writing in Threads project. The work at 99c Plus Gallery were weavings that I created while I was artist in residence at the Anni and Josef Albers Foundation in Bethany, CT, in the summer of 2014. I created each weaving with a writer in mind, and then initiated a dialogue around the weavings with the writers both through email and postal mail. Each writer was mailed a package with my initial research from the Weaving Language project, including the translation method, as well as images of their weaving, windings of the yarns I used, notes on the construction method, and of course, an invitation to respond. In the gallery, the weavings were exhibited on plexiglass mounts with a booklet sitting on a plexiglass shelf below each one. The booklets were bound by the threads used in the weaving, and they contained both the email exchanges I had with each writer as well as their written response to the weaving. The publication launch and reading at Printed Matter was really wonderful because the writers read their responses aloud as they stood beside a projection of the weaving they responded to. Most of the writers I was communicating with live in New York, so it was perfect having the reading there so that the majority of the project could be represented by the individuals involved in it. I had read from the project at NADA last spring, but it was so much more meaningful to listen to the work coming from the writers themselves.
What / who are your artistic influences?
I’ve been long-term inspired by Anni Albers. She was a writer, artist, and textile designer as well, and she did all three so gracefully. Her writing is a keystone for any textile-maker, but it’s also incredibly valuable from a literary perspective. As a German speaker, she has a unique and extra-articulate way of describing things, as well as poetic insights into the significance of textiles in history and everyday life. I’m also inspired by Guy de Cointet. He came to LA from France in the 1970’s and created aesthetic objects that became the vehicle for language in performance. He invented and published complex and beautiful codes. His work treats language like an object and objects like language. His aesthetics are stunning and his playful personality comes through in all of his work. A few more influences are Dieter Rot, Jen Bervin, and Rosmarie Waldrop.
On what are you currently working? Is there anything you’re hoping to work on the future that you have not yet started?
I’ve been working on a long form poem Oblique Archive, which stems from a project I exhibited in Brooklyn at Peninsula Art Space in 2014. The poem is created by integrating processes of painting and writing. Through manipulation on a scanner, I digitally recombine fragments of the books I have been reading from my research. The poem is concerned with the experience of language itself; it’s sound, it’s visual effect, it’s place in books, as well as what happens to it when it is absorbed into the web. I’m looking forward to sharing my progress on Oblique Archive at a reading in January at Segue.