Happily Ever After?: Interview with Artist Linda Rettich

“Happily Ever After?” is a solo art exhibition featuring the work of bead & textile artist Linda Rettich which is on display in September of 2020 at the Garage Art Center in Bayside, New York. There will be a “Beaded Earrings Workshop” led by the artist for the registered participants during the exhibition.

“Happily Ever After?” was inspired by classic fairy tales that offer insights into human behavior, frailties, and consequences. It also comments on the fact that everyone might not end up living a

“happily ever after” life. In the featured works, Linda incorporated pieces from her personal collections to craft collaged dioramas that are based on age-old fairy tales and folktales.

According to the official press release:
Artist’s editions of Snow White, The Princess and the Pea, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood will be presented along with beautifully designed wearable beaded art pieces. The dioramas inspired by well-known fairy tales presented in this show reveal alternate endings regenerated by artist Linda Rettich’s meticulous beaded touches.

Linda Rettich earned a BFA from the Pratt Institute and worked as art director for the American Management Association, Air France, Guideposts, Random House, and more. She produced book cover jacket designs for Macmillan Book Clubs where she also created promotional materials and direct marketing packages. Linda was a founding member of the Ukiyo-e Society of America (which later became the Japanese Art Society of America) and she is an active member of the Long Island Craft Guild. She has also served as a board member of The Textile Study Group of New York.

Upon closing her design business, Linda picked up her childhood interests in textiles and embroidery that were largely inspired by her love of all Japanese art forms and combined them with her new interest in creating jewelry and dioramas with beads. Rettich, became a beading innovator and has written several articles for “Bead and Button Magazine” on new beading techniques that she developed. She has participated in and won awards for her art at several juried shows and her work has been exhibited in the Voelker Orth Museum, The Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery, the Islip Museum, the Phoenix Gallery, The Broome Street Gallery in SOFA Chicago, and the Snyderman-Works Gallery.

Linda recently discussed this new exhibition via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in becoming an artist and how did you develop your own unique style?

Linda Rettich (LR): As a child, I always had a love of ethnic textiles. I always enjoyed designing and sewing clothes, doing embroidery work, pastel work, printmaking, and painting. I loved getting the “National Geographic” magazine with all of its wonderful articles full of exciting photography. I loved examining the traditional garb of indigenous peoples from different cultures. When I retired from work, I found myself re-discovering these interests as an adult who spent her life as a designer. I am now a textile and bead artist and my approach to beading is through my interest in textiles. I find it interesting to take a technique from one media and interpret it in another. For instance, my reversible beaded collars refer to African Kente cloth, clan tartans, and more. The sewing technique of smocking added an extra dimension to my beadwork which I have not seen elsewhere in the world of beading. I enjoy developing new structures and techniques in my work.

MM: Why do the multimedia and found objects medium appeal to you and would you say it’s your primary artistic principle?

LR: I am primarily interested in creating multi-media pieces that combine my love of embroidery, beadwork, collected ethnic textiles from my travels, antiques from my collections, and storytelling. It’s sort of a 3D collage of my life-long interests combined with my artwork.

MM: What is it about fairy tales that inspire you and which stories have the biggest impact on your work?

LR: Recently I had been reading some of the Grimm Brothers versions of popular fairytales and thought that the subject would make a good theme for the exhibition at the Garage Art Center. It would allow me to combine pieces from my various collections of antiques and ethnic textiles with my own beadwork and embroidery to tell an ageless tale.

Fairytales have a moral message, and while created centuries ago, the messages conveyed then are as relevant today for they talk about human issues. I was interested to find variations on the endings of many of the fairytales I was reading. I also thought that many other types of endings were alluded to as well.

For instance, “Little Red Riding Hood” could have been a scary story for a child: the wolf eats Little Red Riding Hood up. But perhaps a young woman might read the tale and think that there could be other types of wolves — even charming ones but never the less equally dangerous.

MM: How did you plan and develop the pieces that are to be included in this exhibition?

LR: Once I decided on the theme of fairytales, I came up with the title, “Happily Ever After?” then I started to create new pieces under this theme. I had several meetings, both over the phone and in-person, with Stephanie during the process of making pieces. Stephanie visited a couple of times to my studio and we discussed the progress and details of the work.

At the beginning of the creation, I searched an inventory of my collections and found items that could be useful for a particular tale. For instance, I was gifted with a lovely antique hand-carved wooden tower that was intended to house a pocket watch. I thought that it could make a wonderful tower that would imprison Rapunzel. So, I used it!

In reviewing my group of ethnic textiles, I thought it would be interesting to use them to create a pile of mattresses for the Princess from “The Princess and the Pea” to sleep on. I embroidered the top indigo blue blanket using a traditional Japanese ‘Sashiko’ pattern and added a small ‘Yo-Yo quilt’ of my own creation and placed it at the end of the bed. An Indian ‘Kantha quilt’ was draped over the top.

By using these textiles, it indicated the Prince did travel far and wide to find his true love. Perhaps he brought these beautiful woven pieces back from his travels thus showing his appreciation and sensitivity for these unique items.

MM: How did you find out about The Garage Art Center and secure a show with them?

LR: I visited one of the exhibitions Stephanie Lee curated at the Flushing Town Hall. We talked briefly and found that we both live in the Bayside. I sent her a link to my website. She saw my works and visited my solo show held at the Voelker Orth Museum, then offered me a show at the Garage Art Center.

MM: How many pieces are in the show and do you have any personal favorites? If so, which pieces are your favorites and why?

LR: A total of 14 pieces are displayed in the gallery. There are 5 reversible beaded collars. The ‘Kente Cloth Reversible Collar’ is my favorite. Among the 5 dioramas, it is hard for me to choose a favorite. I like all of them for very different reasons. Besides the fairytale pieces, I have one piece called ‘Storyteller doll’ with a ‘Sashiko’ embroidered skirt and beaded hair which I am especially fond of.

MM: What has been the highlight of your artist’s career so far?

LR: I have won various awards as a graphic designer, and for my textile and beadwork. I recently had a wonderful show of my work at the Voelker Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary and Victorian Garden. It was a totally wonderful experience.

MM: What events, projects, or other exhibitions are coming up soon, and is there anything else that you would like to discuss?

LR: There are plans in the works for another show on Long Island. Since my work takes a great deal of time to complete, it has taken me quite a while to develop a good body of work. I haven’t minded the time spent on creating these time-consuming pieces because I love the process. Each new work offers me a unique adventure as it evolves. I am now ready to begin showing my work more often.

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To learn more about Linda’s exhibition, visit the official website of the Garage Art Center: http://garageartcenter.org/event-single-linda.html

Schedule your visit by email at contact@garageartcenter.org

To see more of Linda’s artwork, visit her website: www.lindarettichdesign.artspan.com