Thursday, October 31, 2013

Clean Hands Crafting: SPOTLIGHT on Nadia Severns

Despite our furious preparations for the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef’s exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the IFF continues its blog tributes to our most prolific core contributors. This month we spoke with Nadia Severns, a New Jersey-based crafter who is definitively our most skilled contributor. She is innovative, as well—known ‘Reef-wide’ for her delicate crocheting around discarded plastic bottles, Nadia was kind enough to speak with us from her home on the east coast. We discussed her extensive professional experience, her radicalization as a crafter and citizen, and other various topics including her family, Quakerism, and disparate communities brought together through embodied experience.

Until fairly recently, Nadia had an extensive and varied career writing knitting and crochet patterns for large commercial companies. She did this for many years, in addition to her business making custom knit garments (seen by many on The Cosby Show!) and jewelry. Of late Nadia has worked for much smaller organizations, including one group of Uruguayan women who spin and dye their own wool. Nadia creates patterns from which crafters who buy the wool from Uruguay can work. Engaging with a company that helps women achieve financial independence is very meaningful to Nadia. Indeed, when you talk with her for any length of time, you come to understand that crafting is not only a professional and artistic activity for this thoughtful artisan, but also a feminist undertaking that allows her to keep the company of other strong women!

Nadia very much appreciates the ‘eco-consciousness’ of the Reef project, and long before she became involved with the HCCR, she was tuned into environmental issues and how her craft relates to the planet and how we occupy it. Nadia’s community in New Jersey is particularly sensitive to these topics, as a nearby missile base contaminated local ground water. This, combined with present-day consumption of bottled water, puts water issues at the fore for Nadia and her neighbors. Thus Nadia’s inventive re-use of plastic water bottles, as well as her predilection for incorporating bubble wrap and dry cleaning bags into her pieces. A new item for possible incorporation into her crochet are pipettes used for in-vitro fertilization! Form and function are always given equal weight by Nadia; she is constantly balancing her interests in maths and science with her materials-based inspiration and eco-mindedness.

A practicing Quaker, Nadia always considers the utilitarianism of the Quakers when working in her various crafting realms. To this end she expresses pleasure that she found the Reef (and it found her!), as the HCCR is an enterprise in which beautiful forms carry in them messages about important and timely politics. When she creates new coral, Nadia can work intuitively and in response to materials, all the while giving voice to her ideas and beliefs about conservation. Nadia’s varied experiences, considerable skills, and thoughtful studio practice synergize to make her an extremely beloved friend of the IFF. She’s a wonderful person to get to know.

Photos of both finished and in-process works from Nadia's studio kindly provided by the artist.

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