Mitchell Frank – Shaker Heights, OH
In college, which I attended from 2004-2008, I studied creative writing and theater. After graduating I worked as a freelance theatrical technician in NYC for about 2 years.
Around 2010 I got my first job in the apparel industry in NY, and from then until February of 2020 I held various positions at independent menswear companies, mainly in sales and production management but ranging into fabric design and manufacturing. Around 2012 is when I took a fabric design/weaving course at FIT and I’ve been active with hand weaving to various degrees since then.
Returning to school after 10 or more years working in industry, I have a lot to learn about creating finished pieces and documenting my work. I don’t have a “body of work” to speak of yet; I didn’t really engage in making visual art objects until coming to school last semester.
My creative practice collates production-oriented design planning with the vital “yes, and” of improvisational performance: when a challenge arises while making something, what is the solution that not only resolves the issue but acknowledges and even amplifies it, so that the challenge contributes to the resonance of the finished piece?
I acknowledge the extractive nature of my creative work, weaving with secondhand or biodynamic yarns that I dye with plants and minerals I often gather myself. I adhere to a “waste not, want not” ethic and incorporate unconventional and reused materials, leftover components from previous projects, and lint from my weaving studio floor into my finished pieces. A student of antique fabrics and historical production processes, I am interested in interrogating commerciality, luxury, and functionality through my devotion to handicraft.
Bashōfu is the tradition of weaving with banana leaf fiber naive to Okinawa, the southernmost (and most cultural autonomous) island of Japan. Traditional bashōfu is characterized by the slinky texture of bast fiber yarn and kasuri-dyed designs.
Using the materials at my disposal — hemp yarn that I dyed with materials I gathered myself — I designed a pattern inspired by the aesthetics of Okinawan banana fiber cloth. Knowing that single-ply yarn is prone to breaking under tension, I sized the yarns in a corn starch solution to increased its strength and rigidity. This treatment amplifies the stiff texture of hemp yarn.
Some kasuri weavers in Japan will pull a weft yarn to the left or right to correctly register the dyed portion of the yarn, creating dramatically uneven selvedges. Inspired by this aesthetic, I intentionally left long warps and wefts in the finished piece, creating a weaving the extends outside of its own grid.
Techniques Used: Dyeing, Weaving, Sizing (washing yarn with starch to increase strength and rigidity)
Materials Sourced From Nature: Fiber: Hemp singly-ply yarn; Dyes: Alder cones and Mulberry
Other Materials Used: N/a
Measurements: 24" x 8" x 0"