Cheesecake #1, 2019. Textiles and ceramics from CSULB ceramic program, 12 x 12 x 13 in. Photo: David Schmitz, Courtesy the artist and Patricia Sweetow Gallery

Held Firm: A Conversation with Ramekon O’Arwisters

Sculptor and social practice artist Ramekon O’Arwisters has lived in the Bay Area since the early 1990s, but he was born and raised in North Carolina. In 2012, his deep connection to African American craft traditions led him to develop the Crochet Jam, an experience of shared making using outsize crochet hooks and strips of recycled fabric that focuses on centering and relaxation. As O’Arwisters puts it, “Crochet Jam…engenders compassion and warmth. I want participants to be in a creative mindset without anyone dictating the creative process or worrying about the finished product. Crochet Jam is how I make liberation a form of art.” At the same time that hundreds of participants have “jammed’” with him across the United States, O’Arwisters has developed a unique studio practice, exhibiting his work in galleries and museums and receiving wide recognition for his unique multimedia sculptures, including a spring 2020 project residency at Headlands Center for the Arts.

Maria Porges: Your gallery work combines crochet with fragments of ceramic in what I would describe as a “mending” relationship. How did you come to make these works, and how have they evolved?
Ramekon O’Arwisters: It started when I was at Recology, doing a residency in the fall of 2016. At first I was collecting a lot of stuff . . .

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