We had the good fortune of connecting with Julie Kornblum and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julie, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Pursuing an artistic/creative career was almost not a choice. I was one of those kids who was always making things, and I never felt a pull to do any other kind of work.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a contemporary artist. I practice very old art forms with long traditions often used to make everyday, functional objects, and often not thought of as “art”, but as “craft.” I weave, knit, crochet, and make baskets from the stuff we all throw away: disposable packaging, abandoned plastic objects, and industrial surplus. I collect plastic bags and bits of packaging that were trashed after one use. I have gathered boxes of audio and video cassette tapes. I pick up broken hubcaps and five-gallon-container lids from gutters and sidewalks. These materials did not exist physically nor conceptually until the latter half of the 20th century. Physically, they are by-products of industrialization. Conceptually, the notions of one-time-use, disposability, and surplus, are modern inventions. My awareness of these issues grew while I was an art student at California State University Northridge. I began to discover there are literally tons of waste material around, at the same time I was developing my body of work in basketry and weaving. I am continually reminded that many people do not want to just throw stuff in the trash, and they love to give it away to someone who will use it. At CSUN we had lots of wonderful yarns and other things that people had donated for the students to use. I love the concept of combining some of the oldest hand crafting processes with the surplus of some of the newest industrial by-products. Historically, these ancient arts were utterly essential throughout human society. Textiles and baskets pre-date the making of glass and ceramics. They were our containers and fasteners for tens of thousands of years. Now they are not so necessary, just like the heaps of (plastic) materials we have developed to replace things like baskets and textiles. This intersection of New-Yet-Disposable and Ancient-But-Not-Obsolete is at the core of my work. Over the past 15 years, I have exhibited widely, have been published in books and magazines, and have curated art exhibitions. I speak about the plastic pollution crisis that informs my artwork and I teach workshops. My love of fiber arts is rooted among my earliest memories of my mother at the sewing machine as I played with fabric scraps on the couch across the room. My grandmother knit and crocheted constantly and taught me to crochet during one of my family’s summer visits from Arizona to our hometown in Pennsylvania. I learned to sew in Junior High, and it was like I was born to do it. All they had to do was show me the instructions and the tools and I knew what to do. From then through my senior year in high school I sewed all the time. I also explored embroidery, crochet, macramé, batik. When I arrived in LA at the age of twenty, the only real skill I had was sewing. Sewing for income lead to the Fashion Design program at Los Angeles Trade Technical College and becoming a pattern maker in the garment industry. Marriage and children followed a few years later while teaching Fashion Design at Otis College of Art and Design and attending night classes to complete my AA degree. I taught at Otis for seven years and transferred to California State University Northridge to complete My bachelor’s degree in Art. The years when my children were young were not easy, but I had a great deal of support and help from my husband, family and friends.I have certain basic principles that guide me. If I was giving advice to someone younger, this is what I would say to prioritize: 1 – Be on time. Figure out how long it should take to get there. Be aware of traffic conditions and allow an extra 20 minutes to an hour for travel time, especially in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. 2 – Meet deadlines. Don’t make excuses. If you genuinely need more time, let your contact know and ask for more time. 3 – Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t blow things off. Again, don’t make excuses, not even to yourself. 4 – This is the hardest to do: Know when to say no, you can’t or won’t do something. Know when to not commit to something. I am also constantly learning and updating my knowledge, everyone needs to be these days.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is a fantasy trip with no traffic, time has no meaning and the pandemic is over, Day 1 Breakfast is at Bobby’s Cafe, then we head over Topanga Canyon to the PCH and Santa Monica. We stop at Top o’ Topanga to enjoy the incredible view of the SFV. If this is a knitting friend, we continue to Wildfiber Yarn Studio in Santa Monica. We back track to downtown Santa Monica to get a view of the beach from the upper terrace at Santa Monica Place. Lunch will be at Gilbert’s El Indio – that’s not even a choice. Then we’ll go to Bergamot Station to see some art. we head back up the coast to the Getty Villa to see more art and antiquities and magnificent Pacific views. We find a place in Malibu for dinner, then head home to discuss what we bought at Wildfiber and maybe cast something on. Day 2 Breakfast at CiCi’s Cafe, then head over to Palms to the Museum of Jurassic Technonogy. We go to Culver City to see an art exhibition in one or more galleries there, and on to the Craft and Folk Art Museum. Lunch will be at The Counter or Calendars – not the food trucks on Wilshire. If LACMA is open (not under construction), we go there and the Japanese Pavillion. Next we go to Freehand and the Craft in America Center on 3rd St. Dinner will be in Hollywood within walking distance of the Pantages (perhaps at the W across the street), where we see a play in the evening. Day 3 – Breakfast is at More Than Waffles, and we head downtown to Exposition Park. We visit the African American Museum, see the Space Shuttle Endeavour and visit the Natural History Museum. Lunch will be in Downtown, we’ll probably Yelp to find a place near 5th and Spring. We go to The Last Bookstore, the shops upstairs and To Gather yarn shop. We have dinner at The Palm and go to Staples to see the Sparks play basketball. Day 4 – Breakfast is at Jinky’s in Agoura, the we go to Santa Barbara. We shop, eat, and see a movie at the Arlington Theater. Day 5- Breakfast is at Nat’s West, then we head for Pasadena. We take a tour of the Gamble House, have lunch in Old Town, and visit Huntington Library & Gardens. We head back to the Valley to have a hot pastrami sandwich at Brent’s. We head to the park & ride lot in Studio City to catch the shuttle to the Hollywood Bowl for the evening’s performance. Day 6 – Breakfast is at El Tapatio on Victory Blvd. We head to Beverly Hills for shopping/window shopping in the morning, We’ll head to Sawtelle for lunch and more shopping. We’ll enjoy the afternoon at The Getty Center, then go into Westwood Village for dinner and a beer at Broxton Brewery before seeing a play at the Geffen Playhouse or a performance at Royce Hall. Day 7 – Breakfast is at Marmelade Cafe in Calabasas. We stop at Studio Chanel Islands Art Center in Camarillo to see the exhibition in the gallery. We do some shopping along Main Street in Ventura abd have lunch at Finney’s Crafthouse before going to Ojai. We visit Cattywampus Crafts and stop for a coffee and a snack at Beacon Coffee. We head out of the valley to see the exhibit at the Beatrice Woods Art Center, then come back to Ojai to pick from many excellent places for dinner. The next day a car picks my friend up to take her to the airport and I lay on the couch all day. I only go out to get lunch at Thai Fusion Bistro in Woodland Hills. I order enough to have leftovers for dinner. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
California State University Northridge Department of Art, and Professor Bee (Bernice) Colman, ret. Southern California Handweavers Guild Designing Weavers Surface Art Association Studio Chanel Islands Art Center Southern California Women’s Caucus for Art, and the Eco Art Group 11:11 A Creative Collective, Erin Stone & Addy Gonzalez Renteria San Fernando Valley Arts Council Paul Moshay, photographer California Fibers Surface Design Association The Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles Los Angeles World Airports Art Program Yarnbombing Los Angeles StitchspaceLA
Youtube: Knitting Around LA
Plastic in the Trees & Plastic in the Oceans – Paul Moshay
All other photos, Julie Kornblum