-Artist Profile by Julia Rai
The first thing that struck me about mixed media artist Gail Crosman Moore’s work was the wonderful organic quality she achieves with the media she employs. From the warm softness of felt to the cool solidity of glass and metal, she captures flowing natural forms in a wonderfully eclectic body of work.
Born and brought up in Cape Cod, she now lives with her husband on 10 acres in the rolling hills of north central Massachusetts. “We live on the New Hampshire border,” she says. “It is here that we raised our two beautiful daughters who couldn’t wait to leave the area. Alas, the pendulum swings from rural to city for the eldest, Olive, and back to rural for Lily who is at Bennington College in Vermont. We raise bees and chickens, so honey and eggs are staples.”
Gail primarily sees herself as an “artist, motivator, pod mother” which is apt as much of her work utilizes the pod form. “My main influences are nature, rhythm, balance, light,” she explains. “People, places, things…. all distilled into the mystery of the pod form, representing life, love, surprise! I believe my ‘style’ lays in the interpretation and abstraction of nature’s bountiful forms.”
Gail’s early life and upbringing started her on a creative path. “I was always surrounded by handwork and creativity; luckily it was honored in my home,” she told me. “My grandmothers and great aunts were always involved in crewel embroidery, rug hooking/braiding, etc. My grandfather was an amazing portrait artist who illustrated for The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s and McCall’s and also designed bank notes that then would be engraved.”
When she was seven, Gail’s family moved from Cape Cod. “We relocated to State College, Pennsylvania, where Happy Valley thrives and offered me art classes on a weekly basis with the art education students from Pennsylvania State University. The best thing my Mom ever did was to enroll me in those 10-week-long classes in printmaking, sculpture, and jewelry making,” she explained.
“When I was 12 my sister brought home the tools to do pysanky (a traditional Ukrainian technique for decorating Easter eggs) and this is where I really ‘got it’, the connection of mind to hand to heart and how time can stand still and stress can be alleviated and suspended,” she told me. “I spent from 12–30 years of age in a grey zone of worthiness. I didn’t feel as though I deserved the title of ‘Artist’ so I ran in a million other directions, including two years at Pennsylvania State University studying horticulture. The funny part of that is I was just preparing for a lifelong obsession with the pod form and the right time to declare myself an ‘Artist’ and pursue a degree.”
Gail hasn’t always earned her living in artistic pursuits. “I spent my 20s in the fish business, taking whole fish and turning them into perfect fillets primarily to be shipped out of Logan Airport twice a week to land in Colorado and Florida,” she says. “You say ‘Florida, why would you need to ship fresh fish there?’ It was because so many northerners relocate and still want the beautiful white fish from northern waters. It was during this time that I would get up at 3:30 AM to make some art before I went off to work, leading me to the acceptance that I had the ‘heart of an artist’ and this is what made me feel good which led me to applying to the Massachusetts College of Art at age 30 and gaining a BFA!”
Gail discovered metal clay soon after it was launched. “I bought a package of PMC and made a bead and a coffee bean,” she explained. “What I really needed at that point was communication with other experimenters; it felt too precious to experiment with. That didn’t happen and I left it on the shelf for several years. In 2001 I started covering my borosilicate beads with a layer of PMC and made a collection of pendants strung together that earned second place in the metal clay category of the Saul Bell Design Awards in 2009.”
In addition to her Saul Bell Design Award, Gail also won an A.R.T. (Art Renewal for Teachers) grant in 2001. “My proposal was to learn all I could about the ancient art of felt making. I won, which started me down the road of adding fiber to my body of work. That has been a very fulfilling juxtaposition of the relationship between hard and soft, cool and warm, absorptive and reflective. The forgiving nature of the wool has been a welcome fact and a real plus in the classroom.”
Gail has a studio space built to accommodate the diverse media she uses. “In 2004 my husband, along with a few friends, built a new structure on our property, a post and beam house in the style of a full Cape, in keeping with the already existing 1760 Cape house which is our home,” she explained. “Here I have a divided space; one side includes a wood stove that supplies my heat. It is in this room that my lampworking, metal studio and bead storage lie. A slightly larger room houses a large felting table and an encaustic/painting studio as well as storage for many supplies, really too many supplies to keep tame and in their place!” she laughs. “I pretty much spend all of my waking time in the studio, I am a compulsive maker. This studio has been the best thing. It is beautiful and serene, and I look out at the bee hives and beyond to cows in the field next door and nature in all her glory.”
I asked Gail if she had any favourite tools. “All of them,” she laughs. “Torches are critical, I am in love with my tungsten tweezers and my flush cutters are never far from reach. Sometimes when I can’t lay my hands on a critical piece of equipment I fantasize about the pluses and minuses of being equipped like Edward Scissorhands!”
Gail sells her work and also teaches. “I am on the road at least 150 days a year either teaching or showing my work,” she explained. “I attend craft shows and trade shows and teach in schools, stores and at conferences. I have had the enormous good fortune to have received invitations for several overseas teaching opportunities which have sent me to Japan, Switzerland, Great Britain, Denmark, Holland and Lithuania.”
“I teach many methods and materials,” she went on. “I teach lampworking, metal clay, felt making, and anything else that strikes my fancy that I feel people would have fun with and benefit from. I love to share what I am passionate about. Art making has paved the way for a happy life for me and if I can share a kernel of that with other like-minded people it just reinforces my joy.”
As a successful artist and teacher, I asked Gail what she would advise someone wanting to sell their own work. “Be true to yourself, ask yourself what you are trying to ‘say’ and develop this notion.” I also asked her what skills she felt people working with metal clay needed: “Patience, time, and curiosity.”
With such a variety of media in her repertoire it’s not surprising that Gail has had work published in a wide range of places. “My work has been featured in several publications: Ornament, Beadwork, Bead&Button, The Flow and LaMagga have all included my work, as well as several books including Masters: Glass Beads: Major Works by Leading Artists by Larry Scott and 1000 Glass Beads, both published by Lark Books, and several contemporary craft books on felt making, mixed media and bookbinding.
I asked Gail about her creative process. “My process is usually materials-driven, keeping in mind the juxtaposition and contrast of surface that I spoke of earlier,” she explained. “Occasionally I will make a model if the structure calls for some tricky dimension or angle, but I usually just dig right in and start moving material around. The ‘less precious’ clays have been wonderful additions to my tool box and mean I am more willing to experiment. I can build skills in the process, so I recommend it to everyone! I find it interesting that when the finished piece doesn’t match up with my intention I initially deem it a ‘failure.’ The failures go into a box. Inevitably when I revisit the box and I have lost track of my vision and intention I can judge the work freshly. Often times it is of solid design and comes back out into the ‘working component’ collection after I have lost touch with what I deemed ‘wrong’ with it.”
She went on, “I fabricate out of sheet metal using traditional techniques and also incorporate found objects and vintage brass stampings. I am NOT a purist; I will use whatever strikes my fancy and then rework it to fit into my idea. Incorporating these things often calls for a revision or an adaptation of the original object.”
I asked Gail what she’d like to achieve creatively in the next five years. “A level of ease in the leap between media,” she said. “It is evident to me that I will always be incorporating new materials and methods in my work. I am always striving for the perfect surface to express my ideas; they vary and change, I strive to keep up!” As far as metal clay is concerned, Gail says, “I just desire to continue using this incredible material when my work calls for what only metal clay can do!”
It was a pleasure discovering Gail’s work and finding out a bit about her as an artist. Check out her work and her teaching schedule on her website –www.gailcrosmanmoore.com
JULIA RAI is a teacher and artist working in a variety of media. She finds inspiration in science fiction and fantasy and loves a good story where disbelief can be suspended in favour of wonder. Her practical and ultra-organised side is always vying for attention alongside her creative and messy side. Each is trying hard to learn from the other and live in harmony.