Faculty Profile

Frances Butler
Professor Emerita

Artist’s Statement: After a conventional education reading history at the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University, I switched course, educated myself as a book designer and calligrapher, taking the last letterpress class offered at Oakland’s Laney Trade School and studying with the calligrapher Arne Wolf.

I continued to hang around academies, eventually becoming a Professor in the Department of Environmental Design at the University of California, at Berkeley, then at Davis.

I won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, was a visiting artist at various institutions, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Jan Van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht, and my work was collected by museums: the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Museum of Modern Art in New York. I won commissions for public art projects and I wrote articles for design journals and book arts publications. But my main creative impulse has always been the exploration of the margins of commercial production, outside academic institutions or the art world, leaving a field as it became assimilated.

My mother taught me to sew and I began by sewing garments for sale, as an early practitioner of “art for wearing”. I opened a fabric printing workshop, Goodstuffs Handprinted Fabrics, in 1969, to enhance my fashion production. But instead I produced running yardage, wall-hangings and then fabric sculpture projects. I set up Poltroon Press in 1975, with Alastair Johnston. At first I combined books and fabric projects, including making a series of garments as “reading environments”. I closed Goodstuffs in 1979, and concentrated on producing books, posters, and ephemera at Poltroon Press for another decade. Poltroon Press is still ongoing. However, despite still housing, financing, and occasionally working at the press, I have gone on myself, first working on various public art sculptural projects for hospitals and colleges, and now working on a large mosaic-covered poetry garden project called Cuts on my farm in South-Western France.

Statement courtesy of Frances Butler, posted at http://clara.nmwa.org/index.php?g=entity_detail&entity_id=1093

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