Arts & Culture, Interview

Five Questions with Iris Nectar


Meet Iris Nectar, the creative force behind the upcoming traveling exhibit, Feminist Fiber Art. The concept for the project has been brewing on Nectar’s back burner for a couple of years now, so it’s very exciting that it will finally debut at Washington St. later this month before moving on to other locations. Although she’s been very busy prepping for the show (and putting the finishing touches on her own embroidery piece that will be on view alongside local and international women fiber artists), Iris took a few moments to chat with us about Sculpey clay, Icelandic artists, and the work that goes into organizing such an ambitious exhibition. Read more below!


1. What was the inspiration behind the Feminist Fiber Art Exhibition? How did you meet and select the talented international female (and male!) artists included in the show?

I have been interested in fiber art as long as I can remember (when I was little my favorite sweater had a garden embroidered on it). I started to come across fiber art more and more online and in exhibitions during the past couple years and my interest in the medium grew. I was particularly inspired by the ICA‘s exhibit Fiber: Sculpture 1960—present and the work of our featured artist, Ýrúrarí. Ýrúrarí is an emerging artist studying textile design in Iceland, at Reykjavík’s School of Visual Arts, and I came across her work on Tumblr last year. I was so inspired by her colorful, whimsical work that I featured her on my blog and we began chatting and have stayed in touch. When I decided to organize a DIY exhibit this past February, it really only made sense to focus on fiber!

I’ve been toying with the idea of organizing my own exhibit for a few years now. I studied art history and art leadership at Boston University, and curated a small exhibit on campus at the Rubin Frankel Gallery during my junior year. I greatly enjoyed the research involved and working with local artists, and it gave me a taste for the fun that is organizing art events. By the time I graduated last May, I had organized the exhibit and two craft fairs to benefit charity on campus, and I knew that I wanted to be a community organizer when I graduated. Instead of waiting around for someone else to feature my ideas, I decided to just do my own thing and organize my own exhibit. As I mentioned, I had been in contact with the talented Ýrúrarí for a while, and after she agreed to be a major part of the exhibit, I was inspired to just go for it and reach out to all of the talented artists I had been following online for years. I didn’t expect that anyone would really get back to me or take me seriously, but I was pleasantly surprised that numerous artists did respond and were willing to be a part of my project and take on the risks associated with DIY events. I confirmed these first few very talented artists and then left the rest to our call for art! Our call circulated via word-of-mouth and online through my art blog, and we received over 130 submissions for our first deadline! I chose our final lineup of artists for the gallery opening art crawl by picking pieces that worked well with the artwork we had already accepted from our first few fairly internet-famous artists. The exciting thing about choosing pieces for a traveling exhibit is that even if I fell in love with an artist’s work and it didn’t make sense in one of the first spaces, I could still accept it and make plans to feature it in a future location!

2. Generally you work with polymer clay as a sculptural material. When did you first introduce fiber art into your work? What drew you to it, and is it taking your work in any new directions?

The first medium that I latched onto when I was a kid and exploring art was Sculpey polymer clay. I started playing with it when I was eight-years-old, and I haven’t really put it down since then….until I started embroidering in 2013. I was always drawn to how tactile and colorful polymer clay is, but embroidery floss is just as much so! And way more portable! I’ve always liked carrying around art projects with me so that I can steal a minute of work when the train is delayed, or I have downtime at work, and I have discovered that embroidery is one of the most portable art forms, which makes it even more appealing to me. I had incorporated embroidery floss into my polymer clay sculptures for years (I used to make dioramas of community scenes, like farmer’s markets, etc., with creepy little people with floss for hair) but hadn’t really used it as a primary medium until last year. I studied abroad in London during the fall of 2013, and needed an art project to keep me busy during downtime, but didn’t really have any supplies with me. The U.K. is incredibly supportive of the crafting community and has little craft supply shops all around town, so on a whim I popped into one and picked up some floss and needles. I immediately fell in love. I am still working on the tedious project I started in London and will reveal it at the gallery opening on August 14th ; )

Fiber is definitely taking my work in a new direction! I have discovered how incredibly versatile, tactile, and colorful the medium is and do not intend to stop stitchin’ any time soon.

3. I read you’re minoring in “Arts Leadership” at Boston University. What does that course of study entail and how is it informing your work?

I actually graduated from Boston University in May of ’14 with a major in art history and a minor in arts leadership. The minor is taught through BU’s College of Fine Arts and encourages students to get involved in the community. Students fulfill the minor’s requirements through seminars focusing on the administrative and entrepreneurial skills needed to successfully run community events and initiatives. I had already started to build the foundation of these skills through my work as president of BU’s Art History Association, but the minor was great at reinforcing these skills, encouraging networking, and emphasizing the importance of leadership in the arts.

4. What are the benefits and constraints of living and working in a city like Boston and how does it influence your art and curatorial work?

I’m actually moving away from Boston, to Philadelphia, this September. I have lived here for five years, and another reason I decided to organize the exhibit was to execute a big final project as kind of a last hurrah before I move away. Unfortunately, the biggest limitation to being an artist in Boston is the incredibly high cost of living, which is the main reason that I am moving. Obviously, it can still be done though and I encourage Boston artists to support themselves by taking advantage of the amazing resources Boston has for selling artwork like the SoWa markets, Newbury Handmade Market, and even campus craft fairs. The biggest benefit of working in Boston is the immense talent that the city attracts, as I have met some wonderfully talented artists during my time here! The city is also home to numerous inspiring institutions like the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, all of which have encouraged me to keep creating over the years.

5. Are there any projects (personal, curatorial or community-based) on Iris Nectar Studio’s horizon you’re really looking forward to?

I am really looking forward to the future of Feminist Fiber Art. In six months it has grown from just an idea to a legitimate traveling exhibit featuring the work of artists from all over the world. I have decided to keep the exhibit traveling for as long as it has momentum, and plan to move it to Philadelphia in January of 2016, with hopes of bringing it to New York, Portland, Toronto, and even London some day. I have met so many incredible artists from around the world through this project and I would like to bring the exhibit to their cities. I love traveling to new places, meeting new people, and want to share our feminist campaign through art in as many places as possible! I am so inspired by the artists that I have been working with and try to find time to work on my own fiber art as much as possible. I intend to create a series of large embroideries to travel along with the exhibit . . . fingers crossed that I will be able to find time to get everything done on time!

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