Michel Radyk, is an artist and designer whose sculptures, work and textiles have been exhibited both nationally and internationally. He’s exhibited at the PMA Craft Show several times in addition to participating with his students from the Kutztown University program.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m originally from Western, Pennsylvania, but moved to Philadelphia to attend University of the Arts and then Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. I graduated with a bachelor of Fine Arts focusing in on textiles, fiber arts, and art history. I lived and worked in Philadelphia for about twenty-five years before leaving for grad school. In addition to my own work with textiles and sculptures, I am a textiles professor at Kutztown University in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
What made you want to pursue art as a career?
Growing up, I developed an appreciation for the arts early on. My grandma was a weaver and I was close with a few of my older cousins who were graphic designers. Seeing my family members practicing their craft really influenced and inspired me to be more involved in the arts. My family did a lot of “home crafts” so when I went off to college and realized I could major in a related field; it was a revelation.
How did you originally hear about the PMA Craft Show?
Living and working in the area, it was hard to miss! I would see the banners go up every year around the city, although most of my fellow art students weren’t people who were necessarily interested in being commercial craftspeople. As I started to develop my art and refine my interests I became much more aware of craft shows, especially the PMA Craft Show.
You use the themes of dualities and overlapping in your work. When did you start incorporating these patterns and qualities into your work? Did it happen in a moment of inspiration or did it evolve over time and experience?
What really started my exploration into this theme was the “05 series,” which consisted of large woven quilted pieces with embroidery layered on top. I originally set out to do a series of ten, each connected to an overarching theme, but this idea of dualities is something that stuck with me. I think part of the reason dichotomies appear frequently in my work is because of a hand injury I suffered early on in my career. I worked through it with art therapists using various references and resources as part of my recovery. The healing process helped me realize the importance of these motifs in my work.
You took something that could have been a huge setback, an injury, and turned it into a positive.
Exactly. The injury was both a blessing and a curse. I wasn’t really able to do much for a year and a half; I had to get the use of my hand and arm back to normal. It ended up helping me refine my work and find a more personalized focus. In a way this was the catalyst for me going to grad school.
In grad school at Rhode Island School of Design I was able to put these themes to work in my thesis, which focused on coloring, layering, and overlapping.
When did you first appear in the Show? How has your style of art changed since your initial appearance in the Show?
I first exhibited in the Show as an artist about twenty years ago with my clothing; before grad school I was more focused on wearable garments such as embroidered jackets and scarves. In 2010, I was selected again, but this time with my fine art pieces in both the fiber wearable and fiber decorative categories. I presented a variety of pieces that year: wall hangings, scarves, shawls, and other textiles.
You’ve exhibited in many craft shows across the nation, what makes the PMA Show so special?
I think one of the great things about the Philadelphia show is the commitment the Women’s Committee (of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) has to run it. There is a real personal connection which can be hard to find; when you see them it’s like seeing old friends. I also love that the profits allow the Museum to purchase crafts and put on special exhibits and events.
As an educator, do you come into the Show with a different perspective?
You could say I look at the Show with multiple eyes. I see it first and foremost as a teacher. I’m introducing students and alumni to diverse audiences, new techniques, and different ways to present their pieces. In this sense, I think about the Show as a way of professional development and personal transformation, which is something that excites me. Being an educator, I am constantly looking at the Show as an outlet for artists to develop their soft and hard skills as well as seeing what other artists are doing.
It’s also been wonderful to introduce my students to this community of invaluable supporters. It’s great to see the community support and form relationships with my students; we’ve had instances where customers ask me where a certain students’ work is, only to find out they’ve graduated!
Of course, I come as a shopper and a friend. I’m always looking at what’s new in my field, and there is always so much talent at the Show.
What do you tell your students in preparation for the Show?
The main thing I stress to them is scheduling, especially a production schedule. They have to seriously think about things like price point, color theme, and the pieces’ overall impact as a whole. This should all tie in with their more business-y aspects, branding, business cards, booth layout, etc.
Then, I have them look back at their work and instead of discarding what they’re unhappy with, we encourage them to transform or redo pieces for the Show. When doing this, they aren’t working out as many of the technical issues, but instead focusing on creating work that’s at the next level. This is something we work on a lot in the classes I teach, continuing to refine and re-examine work. In fact, my upper level production students have a project where they create something, then redo it five times. This helps them prepare for a career in this field; if they want to be at the next level, they need to be able to recreate their work.
Has the Show inspired your teaching at all?
Yes! In fact, this year I am planning the first ever “Craft in Hand.” which is inspired by our college’s participation in the Show. The Kutztown University Foundation's Director, Tracey Thompson, our new president, Dr. Kenneth Hawkinson, and his wife, Ann Marie Hawkinson-Hayes, attended the Show last fall and were highly impressed. We put our planning hats on to come up with an event that would highlight our students and alumni here on campus and take the program out of the classroom. We’re really excited for its opening on September 24th!
You’ve talked about the importance of the emerging artist category in the Show. Which artists or fields are exciting you currently?
Emerging artist Heather Stief, is a graduate of Kutztown before my time. Her work really struck me; it’s graphic, with a clean and neat presentation. I met her at the Show and we’ve since formed a great connection. Just a few weeks ago, she spoke to one of my classes on how to be a craftsperson and how to have a productive home studio. Younger artists like Heather are not only great ambassadors for the field, but have been instrumental in assisting the next generation.
What artists currently serve as inspirations to you?
I’m a textile person at heart, so I’m always looking toward that field for inspiration. I like to travel to see various exhibits and shows; places like the Museum of Modern Art and Design in New York, Washington DC’s Textile Museum and of course the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There’s a show right now at the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco that features the work of Kay Sekimachi, a Japanese American textile artist that I’m really excited about.
Your work Swan Point #2 was recently acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art. What was that experience like?
It was a two-year process that started with an exhibition called Focus: Fiber in 2014, which was sponsored by the Textile Art Alliance. Similar to the Women’s Committee, this group consists of collectors, artists, and enthusiasts who raise funds to purchase pieces for the Cleveland Museum of Art. I was fortunate enough to not only win the President’s Prize at their show, but have my work considered for the Museum.
It was a wonderful journey that included trips to the Museum, meeting the curator, lecturing on my pieces, and of course many, many emails. I was so grateful for this experience and the support I received from the Textile Art Alliance, the Museum, and Lousie Mackey, the curator of textiles and Islamic art at the museum.
To learn more about Kutztown University’s history with the PMA Craft Show please visit http://bit.ly/1SF94SZ