In anticipation of the Walker’s Jewelry & Accessory Makers Mart this Saturday, we’re highlighting a few of the 20 artists and 10 accessory designers whose hand-crafted designs will be on display.
Textile artist and designer Maggie Thompson founded Makwa Studio in 2014. Named after the Ojibwe word for “bear,” Makwa Studio—pronounced “mukwa”—is a creative space focused on textiles, art, and fashion. Much of Thompson’s work is influenced by her heritage (Fond du Lac Ojibwe), which is subtly referenced in her patterns and design work. As Thompson says, the studio “is passionate about creating high quality made goods and how our practice contributes to the discussion of contemporary Native art and fashion.”
How did you find Makwa Studio?
I officially started Makwa in 2014, but spent the year before developing patterns and work samples. I was only working at a coffee shop at the time. I really needed the flexibility to be there for my dad after he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and wasn’t having any luck in finding a job in textiles in Minnesota., so I just decided to go for it and start my own business.
Why did you want to become an accessory artist?
Some of my patterns spring from my conceptual art, which I was interested in making more accessible to the community as something functional and wearable.
How do you incorporate Native American tradition with Makwa Studio?
I am influenced by the bold colors and designs found in beadwork.
What is your favorite tool and why?
I really love my latch hook tool, which is used for casting off stitches on the knitting machine along with catching fallen stitches. I love it because it’s the final tool you use before experiencing the satisfaction of taking a finished piece of the knitting machine. It’s also satisfying learning how to fix your own mistakes.
Why do you think it is important to create discussion in art?
I like to challenge the ideas of what “textiles” and “Native art” are typically considered to be. It’s amazing how many people here in Minnesota aren’t aware of the large Native population that exists here in the Twin Cities, and the history that comes with. Art is another form of communication. It can evoke a physical response from someone, which I find to be pretty amazing. It’s also a way for communities to document their own histories and stories.
What do you do to creatively recharge?
I take time to read and research, which involves everything from reading actual books, looking up visual material in magazines, taking photos, listening to music, sketching, writing, and exploring materials.
What person influenced you the most?
My best friend Jacob Riley Wasserman, who graduated from RISD with me in the Furniture program. He taught me the true meaning of what love can be in a friendship. He had a big heart and a creative mind that was uniquely whimsical and smart. He approached everything with an open mind and willingness to learn. In 2013, Jacob was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. With the support of his family, he approached his diagnoses with a passion to learn the science behind his treatments and what was happening to him physically.
Jacob was also a huge advocate for play, especially in adult education. As I’ve grown older I see many adults forgetting what it means to play. Jacob was a thinker and an explorer and always approached life in a playful manner. With a fairly busy work schedule, taking time to play is something that I value most and am working hard to incorporate more in to my schedule both in and outside of work.
After we graduated, Jacob worked with Areaware to produce the Star Spangled Spatula and after his diagnosis he founded Flip4Cancer.com, an organization that raises money to fund cancer research. He then passed away in January 2016.
Jacob never stopped creating, though, which I find really courageous.