Fran Reed Artist Statement

In 1966 while still attending the University of Oregon, in Eugene, I was asked to teach beginning weaving at a local art school. Since I had taken two years of weaving I thought I could handle the challenge, thus the beginning of my involvement in the fiber art arena. I graduated in 1967 and continued to teach weaving until 1969 when my husband and I moved to Fairbanks. On a visit to the university art department, I asked about their weaving classes and was told there were looms but no teacher. I said I was a teacher and was told to contact their short course program. I did so and was hired as their weaving teacher. I taught weaving and other related fiber arts from 1970 to 1986 for the Tanana Valley Community College. After 20 years of teaching there are many of my students still working on their looms.

The year 1986 was a turning point in my life. My husband was taking a job in Anchorage, my children were graduating from high school, the oil money was falling and the university wanted to cut back on programs especially those like the weaving class. It was also that year when Pat Hickman arrived in Fairbanks to curate her show Innerskins/Outerskins: Gut & Fishskin. She encouraged me to move from loom weaving to basketry. I gathered Ďriver killí from the Chena River and purchased hog gut from the local meat market. My first creation was exhibited in Ms. Hickmanís show at the San Francisco Folk Art Museum in 1987. The following year we moved to Anchorage and I found myself in the midst of fish country. I received fish from my husband and friends, the Earth handout, the garbage at 10th & M Fish Market and occasionally purchased a nice halibut from the fish trucks on the corner of Northern Lights and C St. Part of the art process for me is in the acquisition of materials.

In 1993 I was awarded a Western States/NEA Regional Fellowship for Visual Artists and shortly thereafter I was asked to give a workshop, lecture and exhibit my work at the Tempe Arts Center. To supplement my lecture I went to the Anchorage Museum of History and Art and began research in their collections of gut and fish skin items. I have researched this topic at many museums including The Smithsonian, British Museum and Ethnographic Museum in Berlin. I was selected to receive the Lila Wallace-Readerís Digest Artist in Giverny where I had the privilege of living and working for three months at the Claude Monet home and gardens from April through June 1996. In 1997 I was commissioned to make the Governorís Arts Awards. I am a member of the Northwest Designer Craftsmen organization and the Friends of FiberArts International.

My artistic career has involved the creation of sculptural forms using fish skin and gut (hog casing) materials. I have exhibited my work in numerous shows throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe. Two galleries - The Sitka Rose Gallery, Sitka, AK and The Thirteen Moons Gallery, Santa Fe, NM, represent me. I have lectured at the Alaska State AIA Conference as their guest speaker where I drew comparisons between my work and indigenous Alaskan architecture.

My work consists of using materials from my environment. It is in response to Alaska and its people, the desire to recycle and the ongoing curiosity of exploration. Fishskin, gut, driftwood, seaweed, and willow all combine to form an inner skin, a skeleton and an outer skin. Within the structure these materials form a connection with history and todayís lifestyle, a sense of rebirth and a striving for a balance between texture and simplicity of line and form.