Studio Visit: Ann Coddington Rast, 46, of Champaign

Studio Visit: Ann Coddington Rast, 46, of Champaign

Q: How did you feel when you saw the photograph of your piece in The New York Times (on Jan. 10)?

A: I was really shocked and glad. I wasn't expecting it because the show was outside New York – it was in New Jersey. I was really glad the show got that much press.

Q: Where was the show?

A: At the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton.

Q: What was it called, and did you see it?

A: "Knitted, Knotted, Netted." No, and I wish I could have. The Hunterdon had seen my work at a gallery I show at in Philadelphia, the Snyderman-Works Galleries. They had a piece of mine that was half twined, which is a basket-making technique, so the Hunterdon told me they were going to put this piece in their show.

Q: What was its title?

A: "Fading Away." It's a twined hand on top and a netted hand coming down from it, like the mirror image in reverse.

I started netting about two years ago because I feel like moving toward a simpler and simpler approach to my art-making – not simpler in terms of concept but simpler in terms of technology. It's one of the simplest ways of constructing a flat fiber object but I do it in sculptural forms.

In some ways I embrace technology and I teach projects on the computer. In my art-making, though, I've never been drawn to materials that are toxic. If I'm going to work on something for weeks on end I want it to be something I touch. I don't mind repetition – doing the exact same thing over and over.

Q: You mainly work with materials considered feminine in our culture, don't you?

A: Any time you work with textiles and fiber in our culture it's considered a woman's tradition. In addition to commenting on those kinds of feminine trajectories, I just love the materials. I love string and wax and hair and wood and bending wicker branches. These materials are really benign. It's not like working with fiberglass. They're really tactile.

Another reason I use these materials is that people in their daily lives are so accustomed to using them that they feel an immediate connection to my work.

Q: What do you think you're saying with your art?

A: A lot of my work is about the fragility of life, the temporal nature of our existence. I'm also interested in applying biological processes to non-biological phenomenon like the hair growing out of that rock. I'm also really interested in the human body and the way it changes over time.

Q: You show a lot outside C-U, don't you?

A: Yes, a lot. I'm trying to take a hiatus right now to make some new work. I just got done with a solo show at the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis, and they have one of my pieces, a 20-foot netted boat, hanging in their atrium. I'm also in another show in St. Louis, called "Hot Tea" (through Feb. 28 at the Craft Alliance in the Loop.) I was in another teapot show at the Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Mass. I had six or eight shows last year.

Q: Those drawings are nice. Do you do a lot of drawing?

A: Yes, but I don't show my drawings a lot. I just tuck them away. The places where I show expect my woven work. If I have a solo show I might include a drawing.

Q: Where did you go to school?

A: Here (University of Illinois). I got an MFA in sculpture.

Q: Do you know yet if you've been granted tenure at Eastern Illinois University? How long have you been there?

A: I turned in my tenure materials a couple of weeks ago, and they won't let me know until April. I'm in the middle of my sixth year. Can you believe it?