Delighted by surprises, lifelong artist Dianne Koppisch Hricko finds the fluidity and endless possibilities of applying dyes to silk opens more than enough creative doors to inspire her next fiber art creation. And with 12-foot ceilings in her studio, she can let her imagination soar to great heights. The element of surprise when dye meets fiber delights this improvisation-loving artist, and it spurs Dianne to experiment with new approaches to her work.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I am the youngest of three daughters and my family was always very supportive of my interest in art. My sisters are 10 and 8 years older than me and went to college or got married while I was still in middle school. I got a small room in our house to use as my studio at this time. I also remember receiving oil paints after I graduated from paint by numbers.
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My mother made lots of my clothing and all my Barbie and Madame Alexander dolls’ clothes. She also made gorgeous hooked rugs that she dyed the wool for. To this day the smell of warm vinegar baths takes me back to her vats of brewing wool.
My father was an aeronautical engineer and taught me how to make kites and also encouraged making inventive floating devices. I grew up in Islip, NY, a block from the Great South Bay of Long Island, and I think being near the water had an impact on my work. The fluidity of it as well as the sense of movement.
Who or what are your main influences and inspirations?
I went off to SUNY College at Buffalo (at that time it was one of only 2 NY state schools that offered art) and studied Art Education. Because I had to pay for my own education, the NY State system was my ticket. I was most interested in painting and printmaking but was totally smitten when I finally took a fibers class my junior year. Studying with Nancy Belfer opened my eyes to many of the techniques I still pursue.
I thought I was going to be a weaver, but was astounded when I realized that I am just in no way a linear thinker and found weaving required lots of preplanning and preparation. So while I really liked the actual sitting and weaving and greatly admired what I could produce, the planning and warping were not as comfortable a fit. Nancy introduced me to batik and stitching and both those processes work well with my more improvisational work habits. At that time I was interested in Lenore Davis, and I also discovered the arts of Japan and became involved in making one of a kind caftans. Julie of Julie Artisan’s Gallery helped me find homes for these hand painted silks.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
Perhaps the fluidity of my imagery. I am also very interested in how different surfaces reflect back the light in their own unique fashions. I began making one of a kind clothing in the early 70’s and kept at that until I had to give up my studio in the early 80’s. While I continued to teach fiber techniques to my high school students, I no longer worked on them in my tiny row house rooms. I reverted to my interests in painting and printmaking.
It was a chance meeting with Kerr Grabowski at the Philadelphia Craft Show in 2000 and a subsequent stint with her at Peter’s Valley that reinvigorated my desire to work with dyes and silks. Kerr’s deconstructed silk screen technique jump started my re-entry. My retirement and subsequent acquisition of a large airy studio in 2006 cemented this exploration. I studied with Tamara Laird in Italy that summer and made several scarves to take with me for the trip. They attracted a lot of attention and cemented my re-entry to dye work.
Silk is my substrate of choice. It has a huge range of surface, takes dyes beautifully and works well with both Fiber Reactive dyes and Acid dyes. It also allows me to explore the range of transparent, translucent and opaque materials that I frequently bring into play in my work.
Is there an overarching theme that connects all of your work?
Rhythm, movement , color.
Is there a part of your process you enjoy working with most? Why?
Unwrapping itajime shibori is always like opening Christmas presents. Finally seeing the pieces finished and on the wall or body is also gratifying. But probably most exciting is waking up in the middle of the night with an idea that I can’t wait to get at the next day is best of all.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
Improviser almost exclusively.
How does your studio organization contribute to your work process?
It’s big and allows for two large padded tables. I also have a sink and washer and dryer. I have “dyed” and gone, if not to heaven, at least to a fabulous work space in the Crane. The former warehouse for Crane Plumbing supply now houses 50+ artists studios.
How do you prepare yourself for a session of creative work?
I walk my dog to the studio and spend the 1/2 mile commute thinking of what I can get into that day. Despite continuing to teach, I seldom miss more than a day in the studio.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio?
The luxury of space. My husband built me my padded table that is 4′ x 12′ and low enough that I can easily screen print on it. I have a freestanding wall that I can use for looking at work in progress and also push out of the way if I need to make the table longer. When I made the 14′ backdrop for my daughter’s wedding, I needed that extra space. I have a sink and a washer and dryer and both a serger and standard sewing machine.
The gift of a European drying rack means that I can raise work up to the 12′ ceiling. I used it to create the 10 panels for Winter Foliage. For the first one I had to climb a ladder and drip dye down the silk that I suspended from my heating duct with magnets. Age and the good fortune of the drying rack allowed me to see the foolishness of climbing ladders.
How do they improve your work?
I am not restricted in what I can work on and how.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I record the dyes I use to create my work, but in general I do not preplan. My process is much more call and response.
I will begin by stretching the fabric and then applying the first layer of color and pattern. Once that is down I react to what I am seeing. If I am profoundly disappointed by a piece, I wash it and put it away in the drawer “for ugly adolescents”. I find that a few months or years provide me with a clearer vision. If I am still disappointed I can always cut it up and use it for appliqué.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence?
The last 4 years have almost cured me of my addiction to NPR and so currently it is silence or reggae.
Tell us about a time when you truly stretched yourself as an artist.
I had the opportunity to expand and reinstall Winter Foliage in a beautiful setting , but I had only 3 weeks to complete it. Another push was the opportunity to represent the Surface Design Association at the Buyers Market in Philadelphia. I agreed to making a new piece while walking the dog and had less than a month start to finish. Urban Rhythm is the result of that opportunity.
If you could live during a different artistic movement other than now, which one would you choose? Why?
I’m happy with my current time.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
As a die hard teacher I have to believe that we all have a natural propensity toward being creative. It was what kept my job interesting for 35 years and continues to inspire me to teach.
How do you think one can expand one’s creative mind and abilities?
Practice, practice, practice and patience with yourself.
What advice would you give to emerging artists?
See above and be alert to what appeals to you and then explore why.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
Yes … email or website is a great way to reach me.
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
A better understanding of me as an artist and what can be done in the materials I work with.
Interview posted April 2021
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