Editorial Encomium: In Praise of Patricia

Most SDA members know that after 18 years of service, Patricia Malarcher has stepped down as editor of Surface Design Journal (effective January 1, 2012).

While many know Patricia as editor, writer, conference panelist and textile artist, I have known her in my role as SDA administrator and colleague. For me, Patricia’s contribution to the evolution of SDA is clearly illustrated in each and every journal she produced. Over 72 issues communicated her belief that Surface Design Journal should offer readers intelligent, engaging and informative coverage of the latest innovations in fiber media – and beyond.

Due in no small part to Patricia’s editorial vision, contemporary textiles and their makers have received greater acceptance, wider visibility and stronger recognition in the spheres of both art and design. She deftly showed us, via hundreds of different profiles, that magical alteration materials undergo as mind and hand transform them into the mysterious and poetic. With thoughtful text and spectacular images, she pulled back the curtain to reveal how the unexpected grows out of the ordinary when extraordinary concepts and skills are applied. Issue after issue, Patricia inspired us with examples of collaboration, of mixing media, of pushing across the boundaries of technique, technology and process. Patricia illuminated layering, accumulation, embellishment – what Eva Hesse identified as accretion — and how the tension between order and experimentation is resolved in remarkable works that invoke a collective aesthetic experience.

This legacy will guide us; there could not be a better one for Patricia to leave to us. We will miss her perspective, informed by her active participation in – and shaping of – the history of textile arts across the markets of art, craft and design. We will miss her insights into the creative process and innovation, especially across disciplines. On a personal note, I shall miss our weekly dialogues, which often ranged from practical matters to art theory to new works by emerging artists.

Thank you, Patricia, for the gift of the Surface Design Journal and for the gift of your friendship to me – and to all members of our community.

Ann Brockette, SDA Executive Director
(with thanks to SDA Digital News editor Leesa Hubbell for suggestions about style/content and to incoming SD Journal editor Marci McDade for harvesting several tributes that follow, below):

Jason Pollen, SDA President Emeritus
When Patricia Malarcher took over as editor of SDA, I knew the journal would fast become the leading fiber-related publication in this country. Although I had input as to how the journal and newsletter should look and helped determine the focus of each issue, Patricia was fully in charge of content. She chose who would be best to write the articles and sections and which artists would provide the most potent images. She always got the best from her writers and maintained the high quality associated with the organization. Her own articles (as well as her own work) always balanced the essentials of head, heart, and hand. It was a joy to work with Patricia. I was always able to count on her and always eagerly awaited her next publication. What Patricia Malarcher created is a role model that set the highest of standards.

Candace Edgerley, SDA President
Patricia’s enthusiasm and energy never ceased to amaze me as we would review her list of proposed Journal themes.  Her talent for taking us on journeys to foreign lands to explore and share the rich traditions and contemporary textile cultures has inspired us.  Her talent for cultivating some of today’s most interesting writers in the field has excited us. Patricia has left us with a beautiful, insightful history of the last 2 decades through the pages of the Journal.  Thank you Patricia for your dedication to SDA and the field of fiber.

Joy Stocksdale, SDA Finance Director
It has been a privilege to work with Patricia Malarcher. Her wealth of knowledge from years of involvement in the fiber and art world qualified her to remind us of both the place creativity has in our lives and how it affects the way we view the world. Being an accomplished artist herself enabled her sensitivity when writing about others’ work and influenced her ever-fresh approach. I am inspired by how she sees and what she understands. I will miss our ongoing chats, her humor and thoughtfulness. I couldn’t have asked for a more loyal, supportive SDA staff member. She will always be a part of the SDA family – and my family.

Jessica Hemmings, Deputy Director of Research, Edinburgh College of Art
Patricia commissioned my first piece of published writing, for which I will always be grateful. The commission came at a time when I did not even know that my interest in writing could be combined with my love of textiles.

Margaret Miller, Executive Director, Textile Center Minneapolis
Patricia Malarcher has been an invisible giant in the field, producing the best fiber art publication in the world. Working behind the scenes she has sought out and spotlighted the most amazing artists from around the world. Her eye for the unique, out-of-the-box design and aesthetic virtuosity has elevated the field dramatically. Her work as an editor has had a tremendous impact that all fiber artists will feel for years to come. We are all indebted to her.

Susan Taber Avila, Professor of Design,
University of California-Davis

Over the past 30 years, Surface Design Journal has helped shape and define the field in a beautiful and sophisticated manner. As editor of the Journal, Patricia Malarcher demonstrated an outstanding sense of the zeitgeist with her uncanny ability to identify and present artists at the cutting edge of textile art and design. She gave us artists beyond the classic parameters of those trained in fiber media and helped us recognize connections between art, design and craft as vital interdisciplinary topics. Her high standards were evident in every issue; she leaves a brilliant legacy and resource for generations to come. To Patricia I say: congratulations on your retirement and thank you for your inspirational guidance!

Amy Orr, Director, FiberPhiladelphia and Faculty, Moore College of Art & Design
I shall especially remember and honor Patricia for the attention she has always given to emerging artists. When I was a young artist, she promoted my work in the Exposure section and later in a feature article. Thank you, Patricia, for building and maintaining an important publication with world focus on outstanding art.

Bean Gilsdorf, Artist/Writer
I always loved how welcoming Patricia was with SDA Journal,  from the Exposure section to ideas for new articles. When I was just getting my start in textiles she was very supportive and I was and am grateful for her continued enthusiasm. Patricia’s contributions to the field of surface design are too numerous to count, but what has always stayed with me is her fine example of what can be accomplished when someone believes in you.

Barbara Lee Smith, Artist/Educator/Author
I learned that first sentences are the hardest to write; harder than last sentences that usually write themselves. I learned that from Patricia Malarcher. Start in the middle; work backwards and forwards. That sometimes does the trick.
I’ll start in the middle. Patricia has been the voice of the Surface Design Association for many years, and I have enjoyed every issue of the Journal that she shaped. I keep the Journals.
Patricia has a way of speaking her thoughts slowly, deliberately and firmly. I learned to listen. Interruptions upset the flow and my presumption of what she was about to say was generally off the mark. I closed my mouth. I listened and learned, enjoying the notion that I would have plenty to chew over once we hung up the phones.
So back to my first sentence: Patricia Malarcher has set a standard of excellence for the Surface Design Journal – or any journal, for that matter. And a personal note to Patricia: Enjoy the time to make your art, but don’t stop writing!

Rebecca A. T. Stevens, Consulting Curator, Contemporary Textiles, The Textile Museum (Washington, DC)
I first knew Patricia Malarcher not as a writer but as an artist, whose work was on view at the art gallery of the Catholic University of America (Washington, DC).  She was then, as always, pushing the boundaries of art thinking both technically and conceptually. The date was 1974 or maybe 1975. The exact date is elusive but the visual impression of the exhibition is fresh and sharp. I remember the lively stitched and pieced artworks sparkling with metallic fabric, thread, and paint which almost danced on the gallery walls. These were works of the hand created for the visual delight of the eye.

I was reacquainted with Patricia several years later when she became one of the first two recipients of the James Renwick Fellowship in American Craft, researching craft art history while a graduate student.  She never completed her dissertation but instead was persuaded to shift direction and step in as editor of Surface Design Journal.

The rest is fiber art history. Under Patricia’s talented leadership, Surface Design has become an important international voice documenting art, artists, and the education of fiber artists worldwide. In this magazine, she has explored the depth and the breath of the genre, helping to shape the contemporary discourse in the field. I am certain that all readers of SD Journal will join me in saying “THANK YOU, Patricia” for your insightful commentary over the years.

While Patricia’s voice will be missed, she leaves the magazine in good hands. She will continue to travel, write, and think about fiber art.  And, best of all, she continues to be an active artist, creating 21st century works that sparkle and dance.

Patricia’s recent work is included in Textile Study Group of New York’s Crossing Lines: the Many Faces of Fiber, December 8, 2011 – April 1, 2012, at the Courtyard Gallery of the World Financial Center (NYC).

(Editor’s Note: Take a trip back in time to discover the origin of the SDA name itself in this undated interview Patricia conducted with Jack Lenor Larsen.)

Ann H. Brockette, Ph.D. is an author, business woman and creative thinker who has spent her career in the service of the arts and culture.

She began her career as a teacher in Couva, Trinidad and has since taught at every level of education. She has also trained executives in written communication and created a method for drafting business correspondence that ensures greater efficiency, accuracy, and concision. She has worked with nonprofits for over 20 years, first as Professor of Communications at Amberton University (Dallas) where she taught grant writing and raised over $2m for local nonprofit agencies. A graduate of the Dallas Committee for the Arts Leadership Program, she has served on the board of Creative Arts Center (Dallas) and as Board President for Platform Shoes Forum (Maine). She came to the Surface Design Association as an advisor in strategic planning and remained to serve as Executive Director.

1 Comment

  • Mary Ruth Smith says

    February 1, 2012 at 9:40 am

    What a wonderful article and tribute to an editor extraordinaire!

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