Art That’s Fit to Wear: ARTWEAR at the de Young

On Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3, the de Young will host its sixth annual ARTWEAR event, where visitors can browse and take home pieces of original, wearable art. Featuring designs from 16 skilled Bay Area textile and jewelry artisans, ARTWEAR offers a colorful variety of apparel and accessories that are entirely handcrafted.

A women wearing a black glass necklace

Marna Clark, the creator of ARTWEAR, first introduced the event in 2008 at the 49 Geary Street art galleries in San Francisco, as a benefit for the Textile Arts Council (TAC). ARTWEAR was later relocated to the de Young, where it still operates in partnership with TAC and supports the textile and costume arts collections and related exhibitions. ARTWEAR is a truly unique event, featuring “one-of-a-kind items that you just can’t find everywhere,” says Clark, who selects the participating artists each year. She describes the pieces  as “sophisticated, well-constructed, and the top-of-the-line.”

A woman wearing a scarf that looks like a pink and yellow rose.

Jenne Giles

As a community-driven event, ARTWEAR focuses on giving Bay Area artists exposure, and supporting local arts institutions. This ongoing mission is inspired largely by Clark’s background as an artist, combined with her experience working in development and fundraising at arts organizations like the San Francisco Opera and SFMOMA.

A woman wearing purple in a studio with glass-blowing tools

Describing herself as a lifelong maker, Clark grew up surrounded by art as the daughter of gallery owner Ruth Braunstein of Braunstein/Quay. Clark’s own first artistic inclination was in textiles. In addition to creating wearable textile pieces herself, she also ran a cooperative boutique in Berkeley for original clothing art, called Sew What. Now Clark focuses on crafting glass jewelry pieces at her home studio in Berkeley, using a technique called flameworking.

Moulded glass and scissors atop a work bench

Holding glass over a flame or torch to soften it, she carefully bends, twists, and blows the pliable material into abstract shapes for necklaces and earrings.

Two hands carefully position a piece of glass over a small blow torch

“Glass lends itself to nature and organic [forms],” says Clark. “I like to build my own vocabulary. Glass is very fluid and natural looking, and I never want anything to be the same. I don’t find a fern and try to duplicate that.”

An orange and magenta piece of twisted glass

This careful attention involved in handmade art truly shows in the individuality and beauty of every piece at ARTWEAR. No two items are the same, and each artist exemplifies a distinct style and finesse in her craft. “Everyone that works [at ARTWEAR] considers themselves artisans, and this is their fulltime goal. This is their vision,” says Clark. “This is the cream of the crop.”

The textile and jewelry artisans exhibiting at this year’s ARTWEAR are: Laura Bruland, Marna Clark, Deborah Cross, Angelina DeAntonis, Shaya Durbin, Susan Eastman, Jenne Gilles, Ellen Hauptli, Susan Kinzig, Hiroko Kurihara, Elisa Ligon, Barbara McKinder, Heidi Paul, Sarah Richardson, Alice Roche and Carol Lee Shanks.

ARTWEAR takes place on Friday, May 2, 9:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. and Saturday, May 3, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the de Young’s Piazzoni Murals Room. Admission is free. Museum members will receive a 10% discount on all ARTWEAR purchases.

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