Jodi Waltier—Expressive in Both Dye and Ink

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Although Jodi Waltier (at Shift through Feb. 28) is always associated with intricately dyed fabrics presented as 2-D pieces, she thinks of herself as equal parts textile artist and printmaker.

“When I’m working with fiber I’m constantly thinking that what I’m doing would be great to try on paper,” she said. “I also love working with brayers.  I have taken the information I’ve learned from print-making and used it in my fiber practice.”

You could say that both ink and dye run through Jodi’s blood.

Descended from a European weaving tradition, Jodi was a girl who delighted in prowling through her aunt’s extensive collection of sewing fabrics and notions. In college she wove herself—3-D sculptures.  At 12, the costume she designed and sewed in a Singer Sewing Machine class was such an elaborate combination of hounds-tooth culottes, wool vest and a fancy, high-colored shirt that when she wore it she said she resembled a member of Paul Revere and the Raiders.  No one who knows Jodi would be surprised.

“The sewing machine was the paint brush,” she said.  “I was just moving it around.”

On the way to also becoming a printmaker, Jodi grew up the daughter of a Seattle commercial lithographer who would bring home the smell of ink and end rolls of paper on which she would draw and doodle for hours.

Yet she hardly realized what other art forms existed until she was around 10, since she attended a parochial school devoid of an art program.  But that summer everything changed.

At a summer day camp at White Center, she said her mind was blown by the simple experience of winding and gluing variegated colored string around an orange juice can to make a colorful vessel.  She was entranced with way the colors lined up and the patterns emerged in the process. “I was a goner,” she said.  “My mom asked me how the day was and I knew that whatever that was I wanted to do that for the rest of my life.”

By high school she was weaving a wire and found object firmament for the ceiling of her bedroom that she was disappointed she couldn’t take to college.

In college, both at WSU and later at UW, Jodi was exposed to the full gamut of art courses but she hadn’t settled on a firm direction.  Then, during a UW figure-drawing class, a teacher’s assistant who noticed the textures she was putting into her nudes suggested she take a class in surface design pattern.  As a result she graduated with a BFA in fiber arts and hasn’t looked back.

After college, and before settling into a long and varied art-making and teaching career herself, Jodi travelled to places like Thailand, Indonesia, New Zealand, Fiji, Mexico and Central America  “to get a feel for what cloth means to those people.  It crossed social, political and religious boundaries.”

Jodi also spent years honing her cross-medium approach to art at both the famous, crafts-oriented Penland School in North Carolina and also the Snow Farm in Massachusetts.  The experience was “the equivalence of the metalsmith using wire and knitting with it,” she said. “You borrow from one discipline’s approach to work in another.  That’s what craft schools taught me.”

As well, Jodi was a resident for the Washington State Arts Commission—a position that led her to a variety of interesting art jobs, like painting Seattle bus stops or gigantic murals for the City of Anacortes.  She has taught art and been an art consultant for a number of local primary schools and for many years, recently retiring to focus full-time on her own art.  But she still finds time to continue teaching textile techniques at Pratt—always with a printmaking twist.

This summer, for instance, she and Kerstin Graudins will offer a silkscreen on fabric class there.  The idea of this printmaking approach to fabric still gets her excited.  “It’s pure joy.  It’s what I was looking for all this time,” she said. “It’s the same element of discovery as with the colored string wrapped around the orange juice can when the colors lined up.”