NorCal Musings

I’ve been working with a great group of graduate students at CCA this Spring in a Studio Research Lab entitled NorCal Musings. We’ve been spending time at the ForSite Foundation near Nevada City in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and at the Headlands Center for the Arts in the Marin Headlands. You can follow along on our explorations and see the works we are making in process at the new blog we’re creating.

NorCal Musings

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CCA Furniture Program

We’ve just finished producing a short video introducing the Furniture Design Program at CCA. It features Russ Baldon (chair of the program), myself and many of our current students and alumni. There’s always something new posted on the website too, including an article on last semester’s highly successful Engage Studio to design furniture for the YBCA foyer.


Gabriel Russo – Icon

This week my CCA Craft Lab class had the pleasure of visiting and, more importantly, playing in the studio my old friend and esteemed artisan and designer Gabriel Russo.

Gabriel is an incredibly talented and experienced clothing pattern-maker and designer with decades of industry experience in New York, LA and the Bayarea. He produces his own clothing lines in his densely packed studio in Richmond. You can read his tales of a life lived in the rag trade on his blog. Scott Constable wrote about Gabriel on his Deep Craft blog a few months ago – you can read that post here. The folks at  Artidocs are compiling a great video that captures a hint of his humor and style – here’s a preview.


We were at Gabriel’s to tap his knowledge and love for Indigo – that mysterious and spectacular dyestuff that is so much a part of Indian, Japanese, and West African culture. Craft Lab is developing a performance dyeing event for CCA’s Craft Forward conference to be held at CCA over the forthcoming first weekend of April. I plan to post about both the conference and our event over the weekend.

Gabriel revealed some of the strange properties of natural indigo dye and then let us loose is in his studio where we experimented with dyeing paper, wood, wool, porcelain, threads and all sorts of woven fabrics. We want to entrap text on either paper or fabric at our event so we tried a variety of resist techniques including, tying, selective dipping, wax and sewing as well as writing directly onto fabric with the dye. We did everything we could think of – all at once. Gabriel was very tolerant as we went berserk in his space.

In the moments between we wandered around his densely layered studio and enjoyed his tools, artifacts, clothing, assemblages and good taste in music.

Gabriel with indigo dyed hands and matching jacket with pocket pattern stitch resist.

Indigo brew

Healthy bloom on the dyepot - ready for action

Let's see what's in the pot? Carol Koffel and Johanna Friedman look on.

Gabriel and Johanna talking shop

Some of Gabriel's men's clothing racked and ready for his next sale.

Paper patterns


Tools of the trade - huge pelican shears on the gramophone

Dyed thread at that moment when the fresh green dye oxidizes to blue

Samples drying in the sun

Its hard not to wax poetic

Paper loves indigo

Stitch resist samples

Its always such a pleasure being in another artisan’s studio, learning new techniques and  talking story.

Thank you Gabriel for opening the doors!