The Soros Arts and Culture Program recently awarded Clifton Meador, Melissa Potter, and Miriam Schaer to work in the Republic of Georgia, from mid-December 2012 until the end of January 2013. The funded project, Crafting Women’s Stories, Lives in Georgian Felt, brings together groups of women in Kakheti, an agricultural area of Republic of Georgia, to learn about artists’ books, a lesser known art form, in combination with handmade felt, an indigenous craft. The goal is to make unique artists’ books with felt pages that incorporate family stories, personal histories, or other forms of storytelling based on local symbols and mythologies.
The three are faculty in the Columbia College Interdisciplinary MFA program in Book and Paper Arts. Project partners include Tbilisi-based organizations, Women’s Fund of Georgia, and GeoAIR. The Women’s Fund identified and located the project participants, and is conducting a workshop for project leaders on gender issues in the Kakheti region.
Meador, Potter, and Schaer have been running workshops in four locations in Kakheti: Alvani, Akhmeta, Naphareuli and Telavi. They’ve also been visitng artists in their studios, and investigating and documenting the daily use of the arts in women’s lives in Georgia. “I think of this as an exchange of skills and ideas in artistic expression,” says Miriam Schaer.
During their trip, they are contributing to the Tumblr blog Felt Reports. It’s a running diary of the entire project and journeys: the ins and outs, ups and downs, highs and lows, and the experiments, confusions, and connections that are the hidden gems of artistic exchange programs.
Says Potter, “What we include in our workshop will most likely equal what we learn from the women who take our workshops… and probably more.”
Visit the Felt Reports blog for more photos and stories of the project.