Today’s guest hails from NYC and she is Abigail Doan, an extraordinary artist, writer and the director of her own creative agency, Lost in Fiber. Abigail is an avid collector of art objects, artifacts and textiles and splits her time between New York and Europe where she creates studio projects and events that promote cultural and environmental preservation. Her most recent exhibition titled ‘Toolshedding‘ explores the visual archiving and preservation of culturally endangered agricultural and textile objects, including shepherd bells from Bulgaria, braided tent rope from Turkey, hand-spun wool from the Hudson Valley, woven banners from Bohemia, folkloric costume elements, and recycled fibers from the studios of her artist and designer friends. A preview of Abigail’s other collections and installations can be found here.
On a recent trip to NYC I paid Abigail a visit at the Upper East Side abode she shares with her husband and eight-year-old twin boys. Similar to her work, her home is an impressive collection of beautiful art and worldly objects in a style I would describe as “sophisticate, boho, eclectic, and chic”, but more eloquently stated by Abigail as “old European, organic, ethnic, textured and archival-obsessed”. I could’ve spent hours admiring every gorgeous detail and talking to her about travel and our shared passion for collecting tools from craftsmen we meet. She is a lovely woman to know and I hope you also enjoy getting to know her, a bit more about nyc, and this little glimpse into her home.
First question for Abigail…
How would you describe your work?
My work is centered around ideas that explore materials in a variety of contexts. This might include actual sculptural forms, drawings, collages, and prints, but also installations that juxtapose artifacts and objects in unexpected ways. My studio practice is definitely process-oriented, and I spend a lot of time simply collecting and documenting materials in order to explore the possible relationships between forms and surfaces.
How did you get started with fibers and textiles?
I studied art and design at university but never really focused on fibers and textiles per se. After graduation I worked as a researcher in documentary film as well as an art director for an educational media company.
I have always been more interested in the connective tissue between various materials and methods, and I eventually found that fiber and textiles provided an ideal language for my creative projects and collaborative ideas. I think that it helps that my grandparents were biologists and botanists. Roaming their studios as a child made me think about the classification and evolution of form in a whole new way.
Where is your studio? Where do you work on your pieces?
While in NYC, I have a home studio so that I can have flexibility during the day to be near my children’s school and dovetail with their busy schedules. For projects that require specific production techniques, I will seek out a dye lab, ceramics or wood studio, or simply a local work space where certain objects might be fabricated.
I move around quite a bit, so my studio practice is, by necessity, somewhat nomadic. I have resorted to well-edited ‘kits of materials’ that I bring along with me during my travels as ‘tools’ for creating site-specific dialogues. These days, I feel as if my yearly schedule dictates what my actual studio looks like. The home kitchen with all burners going is definitely my free space for thinking about future projects.
You’ve lived in NYC, Bulgaria, Tuscany…where else? Any other place you’d like to live and why?
I have also lived in New Mexico for a few seasons as well as the Hudson Valley of New York State. I would love to set up house in Sweden for a period of time, as I am completely smitten with the modern Scandinavian design aesthetic and their use of natural materials. I have a long-term fantasy of creating a glassware and textile retreat center in the Stockholm archipelago – only accessible by wooden boat.
Currently you reside on the Upper East Side of NYC. What are some must-visit gems in your neighborhood?
The *new* Cooper Hewitt | Smithsonian Design Museum and the Neue Galerie (the hot chocolate at Café Sabarsky is amazingly rich). The Metropolitan Museum of Art (especially the rooftop on a weekday morning) and brunch and the bold design hues at The Wright | Guggenheim Museum provide for a good uptown re-charging station. I often take vegan friends to Candle 79 in my neighborhood.
What do you show family and friends when they visit?
I love strolling along the High Line to see how the color and texture of vegetation changes throughout the seasons. I also hideout during the winter months in a fireside nook at the Marlton Hotel. I love the good vibes and healthy menu at Dimes NYC and their floral arrangements by Meta Flora also blow me away every time. If time permits, I also like to travel up the Hudson River by train to visit Dia Beacon or to go antiquing in Hudson, NY.
Where do you seek inspiration and tranquility in NYC?
I love Wave Hill’s stately gardens and Glyndor Gallery situated high above the Hudson River, just north of Manhattan. I often sneak off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to visit the Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art — this feeds my academically nerdy side and my ongoing need to study objects as a way to decode their historic attributes and design relevance in modern life – specifically the true quality of craft.
What is your favorite room in your home and why?
I definitely love our library as it is filled with an assortment of art and history books from our travels. My antique desk looks north to a small corner of the Guggenheim Museum. This is a room where I often sit at the end of a long day or when I am writing an article or story that requires total concentration.
Next dream getaway?
A troglodytically chic stay in the white-washed, cave-like trulli of Puglia, Italy. Or perhaps some art viewing and desert hiking in Marfa, Texas – with an excursion to Big Bend National Monument. I love the light there, and the Chinati Foundation is one of my favorite places on the planet.
What do you bring back from all your travels?
Always textiles, a handmade tool, and books or catalogues from art museums and galleries. I also like to collect stones, shells, threads and interesting scraps of papers for future archiving and design inspiration (this might include hotel stationery).
You never leave home without…
My iPhone, pocket-sized toys for my boys, a golden notepad by poppin, loads of pens, and lip gloss.
Other artists and makers you’re currently admiring?
I love the Guatemalan woven pillows of Archive New York, fiber and metalwork jewelry of Erin Considine, ceramics and metal objects of Maryam Riazi and throw blankets by NURAXI. The recent show entitled ‘Inward Turn’ by Julian Hoeber at Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco is also really blowing me away currently.
Any hidden talents or others you’d like to master?
I am told that I am a very good editor. I can also twirl a baton. I would like to return to studying the flute as well as modern dance.
Recent and upcoming projects? Where can we see your work next?
Recently I had an installation titled ‘Toolshedding’ at Weaving Hand Gallery in Brooklyn. I will be taking this project on the road in the U.S. this winter and then on to Europe during the late spring/summer of 2016. Details to be announced soon. I am in the final stages of releasing a new series of Lost in Fiber print/publications that will dovetail with upcoming material design collaborations and travels. My artist website will provide details about this initiative over the week(s) to come.
In addition to my studio projects, I am also the archivist and outreach coordinator for our small family foundation, the Haemimont Foundation based in NYC, Sofia, Bulgaria, and Italy. We have new cultural publications underway as well as hopes for future residencies for like-minded designers and researchers.
• all photography by leslie santarina.