Monday, November 26, 2012

Julie Sirek - Paper and Textile Artist

A Family Matter (Installation) 
2010 Handmade gampi
Julie Sirek

Name: Julie Sirek
City/State: Edina MN
Website: www/ profile: 

Julie Sirek is a visual artist who lives and works in Edina, Minnesota. She received her BFA in Print Paper Book from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She was the recipient of the 2010 Minnesota Center for Book Arts/Minneapolis College of Art and Design Collegiate Fellowship and the Mary Beason Bishop and Francis Sumner Merrit Scholarship at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. Her work has been exhibited national and internationally.

Julie uses crochet, embroidery, handmade paper and Joomchi (paper felting), to create two and three-dimensional works of art that bridge traditional techniques and contemporary aesthetics. The context of her work promotes awareness of domestic violence. By bringing attention to this issue, she hopes to increase awareness and create change.

A Family Matter (Detail) 2010 Handmade gampi, thread

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
At the age of 7, I witnessed my father hitting my mother. This type of behavior continued and escalated for the next 15 years. I now incorporate my experiences and the violent experiences of women and girls throughout the world into my work.

I am currently working on two projects. The first involves victims of domestic homicides in the United Sates in 2011. I began by screen-printing blank toe tags onto old tablecloths. A toe tag is normally attached with string to the big toe of a deceased person in a morgue. It is used for identification purposes. I am now in the process of embroidering one toe tag for each decedent with her name, age, gender, and relationship to perpetrator, plus the date, place, and cause of death. At the end of this project, I will have embroidered approximately 1500 toe tags that will be combined into an installation.

The second project also revolves around the theme of domestic violence. This piece will consist of six to eight articles of intimate apparel created from Joomchi textiles, threads, and yarns. Joomchi is a 500-year-old Korean papermaking technique. A single sheet of paper is formed from many layers of Korean mulberry paper, using water and hours of hand agitation. I will also incorporate spun paper thread and yarn into the work. I will use these threads and yarns for sewing, embellishing, knitting, and crocheting. I will be making a scarf, gloves, panties, a slip, and handkerchief. Each will be wrapped or draped on an individual wire hanger. The items will also show signs of distress representing the hardships women endure in their lives. This installation will bear witness to the atrocities being committed against women all around the world.

A Family Matter (Detail) 2010 Handmade gampi, thread, staining

How did you decide to become an artist?
Art has been a constant element in my life since childhood. After graduating from high school, I went to cosmetology school and became a hair stylist. After doing that for a period of time, I started making made holiday ornaments that were sold nationally and internationally. After ten years of making approximately 10,000 items per year, I was totally burned out. I felt like a factory. One day I could not bear it any longer and decided to become a "real" artist. I had always wanted to go to art school and I did not want to regret that I had not gone. I started taking continuing studies classes at Minneapolis College of Art and Design to develop my portfolio. Two years later, I applied and was accepted into their BFA program.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist? 
The best advice has been to follow your heart, not your head. It is easier getting up in the morning when you love what you are doing. I am consistently motivated by the desire to do the things I love and the success I get from doing them is simply a bonus. We have all heard it before but it bears repeating. You only live once and life is too short to be wasting time doing things you do not want to do.

Femicide Garden (Installation) 2011 Mulberry paper

Many artists struggle to find ways to sell their art.  How do you sell your work?  How do you market yourself? 
Making a living as an artist is the dream of almost every artist. You need to be persistent and learn how to market yourself and your work. In today's world, documenting your work is extremely important. If you do not have good visual reproductions, you will find it difficult to get into juried shows or have a good presence on the Internet. Business cards, postcards and my website ( are vital in presenting my work. I apply to a lot of shows as a way of getting my work seen in multiple venues. Also, I cannot over emphasis the importance of a current mailing list. Everyone in your database is a potential buyer.

I do not sell a lot of art. I tend to make larger installation pieces that are not generally fancied by the casual buyer or collector. At this stage in my career, I am still able to take advantage of the MCAD Art Sale each fall. However, I need to make specific items to sell at this outlet.

I rely on the people that I know in the art world. They know my work, my work ethic, and they are able to recommend me for projects and grants. They know I will not let them down. For example, these contacts help me secure the commission of creating the cover dress for Mpls St Paul Magazine’s 40th anniversary issue. Without having a network of individuals who know me, it never would have happened.

Dissolving Dream 2011 Mulberry paper

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?  
I respond to the work of Erica Spitzer Rasmussen (, and Karen Searle ( These women use thread, wire, fabric and handmade paper to create 3-dimensional objects. To me one of the most important elements in art is the aesthetic. This is what draws me into a piece and makes me take another look. Not only does their work have an element of beauty, but also it is skillfully constructed and has meaning. Both women's work demonstrates a high level of technical skill. I feel the workmanship put into a piece shows the artist’s dedication and thought process.

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?
Walker Art Center (
Minneapolis Institute of Arts ( )
Highpoint Center for Printmaking (
Minnesota Center for Book Arts ( )
Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art (
Textile Center (

In addition to, where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise? 
I do a lot of web surfing. I am a big fan of the news reader "Zite". I enjoy randomly scanning artists, galleries and museums from  (, (, and Colossal (

Secrets From My Closet 2011 Mulberry paper

Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?
My work "A Family Matter" will be the featured work in the "Family Closet" show at the Altered Esthetics Gallery from December 6, 2012 – December 20, 2012.
I have also been selected to participate in the 2013 Fiberart International Exhibition of Contemporary Fiber Art, at the Society for Contemporary Craft and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, from April 19 to August 18, 2013.
Julie Sirek

Altered Esthetics

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