Lin Bentley Keeling
During my childhood, I was a serious piano student. Playing the piano and listening to music always filled my mind with beautiful colors dancing and interacting. As a college student, I attempted to write music but discovered that, while music helped me create flowing colors in my mind, the reverse was not true. Growing up in Arizona, I was aware from a young age of the basketry and weavings of Native American artists and was inspired to create embroidered ‘tapestries’ that reflected the flowing colors I experienced through music. I had originally planned to work on flat, two-dimensional cloth, but after creating a large coiled basket using jute and yarns to store my various tools and threads, my husband said, “That’s great, why don’t you make another?” and my work as a coiled basketmaker began. That was more than 30 years ago. I detoured for a while into anthropology, earning a BA and an MA, but I continued to work on my coiled vessels as time permitted. In 2011, I returned my focus to my studio work and started weaving on a loom, but coiling is still my first love as a fiber medium.
While I am designing a piece, I think about the harmonies between colors, the tonal qualities of particular combinations, the melodies and counterpoint of different design elements working together. Blended yarns are a characteristic trait of my pieces as I often blend three to six different colors of threads together in the needle at any given time. This allows me to create subtle or dramatic shifts in color across the vessel’s surface. My designs are strongly influenced by jazz, ambient and classical music, as well as by artworks from many cultures and the many inspiring designs found in nature. When I begin designing a new piece, I often start with a variegated yarn or a combination of solid colors that catches my eye. I sketch loosely with pastels and colored pencils creating an abstract design on paper to serve as a map as I work. None of my pieces are fully mapped out; the design process continues during the coiling or weaving itself and my sketch serves as the “score” that I work from. Each piece evolves and changes through the coiling process and improvisation comes into play as well while I’m working. Creating with fibers is a joy, a necessity, a passion and a constant experiment for me, with each piece building in some way technically and aesthetically upon the pieces before it as I ask my favorite question, ‘what if?’
I believe the visual arts should be able to move us in the same instinctual, non-verbal ways that music moves us.
I believe the visual arts should be able to move us in the same instinctual, non-verbal ways that music moves us. I also believe that grace and beauty have great value and I want to create objects that emphasize, that express grace and beauty and bring a measure of contemplative stillness into our cultural plain. That is my goal, my aim: to move people deeply, internally and to touch them with a small measure of calm and restfulness. The scale of my work is intentionally intimate to draw my viewers in so that they experience it more directly.
Through my coiled vessels, I seek to awaken reflection and provide a momentary respite for quiet contemplation.
Through my coiled vessels, I seek to awaken reflection and provide a momentary respite for quiet contemplation. The French dramatist, Jean Anouilh once said, “The object of art is to give life a shape.” The question then becomes, “what shape do we want life to take?” My answer is within my work. I believe that life’s shape should be quiet, peaceful, graceful, and beautiful, grounded in a place away from and beyond the fray allowing us room to rest and strengthen ourselves for our interactions with the larger world. As I design my pieces and quietly create them in my studio, I seek balance within each piece and for myself within the world. I hope as I complete each vessel or tapestry that the quiet stillness I seek permeates the work and takes those emotions, that centering spirit into the world with it to touch and, hopefully, enrich the lives of others.
Return to Featured Artists