Oral history interview with Michael James, 2003 January 4-5
James, Michael Francis, 1949-
Lyon, David, 1949-
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America
Place of publication, production, or execution:
Transcript: 91 pages.
Originally recorded on 6 sound discs. Reformated in 2010 as 9 digital wav files. Duration is 6 hr., 35 min.
Access Note / Rights:
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
An interview of Michael James conducted 2003 January 4-5, by Patricia Harris and David Lyon, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Lincoln, Nebraska.
James speaks of his childhood in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in a large Catholic French-Canadian family; his parochial school experience; the early influence of French language and textiles; his undergraduate studies at Southeastern Massachusetts University and graduate studies at Rochester Institute of Technology in painting and printmaking; his first exposure to the craft world; transitioning from painting to quilts while starting a family; his first teaching jobs and shift to self employment; he discusses his books Quiltmaker's Handbook I and II; being male in the women's world of quiltmaking; he comments on the importance of fiber as a means of expression; his artistic influences; his 1990 residency in Switzerland; creating fabrics by hand-painting and digital printing; representational imagery in his work and themes; commissions; the impact of religion, spirituality, mortality, politics and social issues on his quilts; his working environment in Somerset, Massachusetts, and Lincoln, Nebraska; teaching at the University of Nebraska, and the International Quilt Study Center there; his wife Judy and her art; quiltmakers inside and outside academia; the value of quilts as "art"; crafts schools; his involvement in national and regional craft organizations; his early exhibitions; his relationships with dealers; the state of the art market; the lack of critical reception in the quiltmaking field; his own writings; how American fiber arts rank on an international scale; and new uses of technology in his work. He also recalls Jon Gnagy, Donald Krueger, Susan Russo, Faith Ringgold, Mickey Lawler, Ulysses Dietz, Robert and Ardis James, Florence Dionne, Lois Martin, Diane Itter, Hilda Raz, and others.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Michael James, 2003 January 4-5. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Transcript available on line.
Funding for this interview was provided by the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America. Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
Michael James (1949- ) is a fiber artist from Lincoln, Nebraska. Patricia Harris and David Lyon are art critics from Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001