An Interview with Isabelle Brace

By Samantha Metzner

I sat down with Isabelle on a rainy afternoon at the Greenleaf Coffee Co-op to discuss her piece Dendrochronology, which is featured in the 2014 issue of the Greenleaf Review. It is a unique sculpture, made out of a bicycle wheel and various other materials weaved in and out of the spokes. She created it as part of the art department’s event “Art in the Dark.” Below is a brief interview I did with her.

GLR bike wheel


Me: Your sculpture was part of the series “Art in the Dark” sponsored by the art department. Can you tell me a little bit about what that entails?


Isabelle: Art in the Dark is an experiential based creative process that involves responding to sensory deprivation. Each individual that participated was blindfolded for 5-7 hours with a given task that they chose prior to the experience…they did test runs to figure out [how it] worked.


Me: So, you were able to experiment with your project beforehand?


Isabelle: Yea, and I personally picked a task that I knew catered to the deprivation of sight, so something very touch oriented knowing that I would only have that to guide me for those five hours. Also before the experience started, laid out a good assembly line of materials, workspace and cutting utensils. I had all the materials on the left and cutting utensils and discarded materials on the right. I chose to be in a more private space and did this pretty much alone. Other people, Raina Martens and Lily Rain, chose to spend their time telling each other their life stories.


Me: Can you tell me a little bit about your personal process. Why did you choose the materials that you did?


Isabelle: The materials that I used were all collected from different aspects of my life. I asked close friends and family to give me string, yarn, articles of clothing that I could rip apart and then incorporating things that I use everyday like the bike, the dog leash, tights, a lead rope, a couple of old phone chargers….things that I could use that lent themselves to be woven and things that I use in my daily routine. And then in the process knowing without looking I could tell the different textures apart. Getting aesthetic appeal from transition within colors, rhythm and repetition and then repetition from each material was hard to achieve at first. The first hour was just hashing out how the rest of my time was going to go. It was getting comfortable. I didn’t really have a great gauge of time


Me: Did you have sort of timer set?


Isabelle: Yes, it would just ring at the end. What felt like 45 minutes was a lot of muscle memory…figuring out the patterns of weaving through the spokes of the bike. All the spokes are angled, you can of have to make a consistent weaving figuring out where they cross each other. Once I figured that out it was kind of easy, kind of like a looming, weaving a full circle, then push it down, weaving a full circle again, pushing it down. I really like that repetition, like in sewing.


Me: So would you say that is somewhat therapeutic in a sense?


Isabelle: Yes and I find a lot of comfort in repetition in that way. I was a pretty jittery kid, I had pretty bad ADHA…its easier for me to think sometimes when I am moving my hands or moving something. So after those 45 minutes I had some space to think. I thought first about how I was at the art building at night and blindfolded. I started to think about safety, if someone walked in and they didn’t answer when I asked who it was I would take off my blindfold. That was one thing about the blindness I didn’t think about. Being comfortable because I spent almost 4 years there memorizing the space there changed.


Me: Did you encounter having to use the bathroom or anyone coming in?


Isabelle: Yes, Ruth and Alejo came in but I recognized their voices almost immediately…the bathroom was kind of funny. I definitely did the whole putting my hands out in front of me on the walls to guide me sort of thing…it was definitely goofy. It was a lot like going to the bathroom when I was a kid walking back in the dark.

What I can remember most (during the experience) is that I was singing to myself a lot, pretty loudly. I didn’t have music. So yea, I just spent a lot of time singing to myself. The songs that came up gave me time to think about parts of my life that I didn’t really think about.


Me: Why the lead rope, the dog leash…the very identifiable and personal materials for the sculpture?

Isabelle: So things that are pretty important that are in the sculpture are my horses lead rope from when I was a kid and had that privilege, and the dog leash. Having my dog here is Greensboro is a big part of my identity. It’s having this being that is really close to me mentally and physically. Other things is that I ripped up an old shirt of my grandfathers…so pulling these parts of me that might not be able to be externally identified is very personally fulfilling.


Me: You had this work in a show outside of Guilford?


Isabelle: It was in a student show at UNCG and yea; I got some good feedback from that. It was exciting to go to that exhibit and see the great work other Guilford students are doing. We don’t really get to see other students work in the art department. There is not really a space for that at Guilford. And it was great to see the other amazing work other students are doing in Greensboro, it was pretty empowering. It makes me excited to be among other artists. The art world is pretty individualistic sometimes so this was nice.


Me: Would you ever engage in this process again?


Isabelle: Yes absolutely I would do it again. I think that I’ve learned a lot from this first trial but I don’t think it will be my last.


Me: Do you ever see yourself doing a series based off of this?


Isabelle: Sure, yea. Id like to incorporate different materials and different methods of creating that isn’t maybe weaving, something that is maybe less based on muscle memory. Maybe incorporating a kind of collaboration.



Isabelle’s piece Dendrochronology can be found in print in the 2014 edition of “The Greenleaf Review”


Samantha Metzner is also a Guilford College student. Born in Chapel Hill, she also studies Art and English.


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