Member Spotlight: Jennifer Lee Morrow
July 22, 2020
This month’s member spotlight is on Jennifer Lee Morrow. Based in Westbrook, Maine, Jennifer’s uses found and altered papers and other found materials to create incredibly detailed and intricate three-dimensional collage works.
Alchemy, Tinkering, and Stitching: Transforming the Mundane
I was raised near Niagara Falls where my family ran an independent bookstore. No one close to me sewed or had any particular interest in crafts, though my grandmother crocheted afghans and toilet paper covers. Early on, I identified as an artist and took all the art classes available to me–mostly step-by-step painting and ceramics. With this limited background and understanding, I decided to attend Rhode Island School of Design. My freshman year was a revelation, transitioning from weekly 40-minute art classes in high school to five-hour studio sessions each day plus hours of homework. During my second semester, I made a soft sculpture for a 3D design class and declared myself a textile design major. I taught myself to sew and explored spinning, dying, weaving, silkscreening, repeat patterning, fabric painting, and fabric manipulation through my coursework.
The summer after earning my BFA, I took an afternoon workshop on making paper from recycled egg cartons and notebook paper. Almost immediately, my chosen substrate changed from fabric to paper. I went on to attend a three-week session at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts taught by Peggy Prentice, one of the twins of Twinrocker Paper. Several years later, I went to the University of Kansas at Lawrence for my masters degree. For 25 years after school, I lived and worked in exquisite Deer Isle, Maine. In 2017, I moved to Westbrook where I have a studio in the home I share with my wife.
Since delving into paper, I have explored Western and Eastern hand papermaking, paper sculpture, paper decoration, paper cutting and piecing, collage, and now bricolage–the art of creating with a diverse range of available objects and materials. Whereas at one time, I would carefully cook, clean, and hand beat kozo or gampi before spending hours pulling sheets, now I am as likely to snag an interesting scrap from the ground on my daily walks. My textile sensibilities have always influenced my work. For example, I use repetitive actions from stitching to stapling to wrapping to build surfaces and structure.
My current constructions utilize found and altered papers and sometimes, appropriated art, with fabric, wood, and metal. I tell stories about relationships, gender dynamics, mothering, family history and secrets, and personal growth through symbols and patterns individual to me, but open to universal interpretation I begin by intuitively combining materials, creating depth though layers, and then proceed to determine the structure and guide the content. The process reveals personal links between my collected and often quite mundane materials which I use to illustrate my narrative. Decorated sides, alcoves, and reflective surfaces reward the viewer from different distances and vantage points. Surprising juxtapositions and repurposing of materials encourages exploration and adds mystery–not all is as it may first appear–a critical part of my work.
Titling the work allows me to further hint at my narrative as it serves as a journal; recording a blend of my thoughts, the influence of my surroundings, and current global concerns. I am on individual journey but one I hope resonates with others and creates objects of beauty.
Be sure to check out the summer edition of Surface Design Journal, The Potential of Paper for more amazing work exploring the materials, history, and processes of papermaking.