Brenda Ackerman’s creative work is a highlight of the Textiles and Clothing Museum’s current exhibit, “On the Surface: Textile Embellishment Techniques,” which is on display until November 11, 2016 in the Mary Alice Gallery, 1015 Morrill Hall.
Brenda will be giving a talk on Meskwaki Ribbonwork on Tuesday, November 1, from 5:30-6:30 pm in 2019 Morrill Hall. The Mary Alice Gallery will be open 30 minutes before and after this special event, and admission to the talk (and the exhibit) is free.
Brenda, who is also a Senior Lecturer in the Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management Department, spoke recently to the blog about the symbolism in her apparel designs and her work with Iowa State’s apparel, merchandising, and design program.
Brenda is a member of the Meskwaki Nation, and her design work is strongly imbued with its cultural traditions. In addition, she also creates garments for individuals from other Native American peoples around and from the Great Lakes region, such as the Ho-Chunk and the Potawatomi. A feature of her garments is the use of applique, often based on traditional motifs. The importance of motifs cannot be understated. Brenda noted that the Ho-Chunk, for example, use their motifs widely and regard them as a “form of cultural identity.” In Wisconsin where the Ho-Chunk are concentrated, motifs specific to their tradition can be spotted on city water towers and freeway overpasses.
Color is also highly symbolic in the garments Brenda creates. The Meskwaki have “two colors that are especially important, which are on the Meskwaki flag: Green is for God, the creator, and red is for the Meskwaki people, who are the red-earth people.” It is much more than a rectangle of green on top of a rectangle of red.
Each clan within the Meskwaki has its own distinctive color as well. Ackerman was born into the Thunder Clan, whose color is yellow. The Bear clan, from whom Meskwaki chiefs are drawn, is associated with the color green. The Fox clan, who attend to religious functions, is associated with the color red. All of these meanings and associations with color and motif must be taken into account when designing garments.
Brenda noted that “I love doing it….I’ve put in fourteen-hour days and not realized it. It’s just so enjoyable to be creating.” She typically works on garments over the summer, since she is busy during the academic year teaching a variety of courses.
One of the courses in the apparel, merchandising, and design program at Iowa State that Brenda teaches is product development and manufacturing, which is “an overview of the apparel product industry from the design conception to the factories and the machines they use.” This class is a foundation course that all AMD majors take. In the spring, she typically teaches apparel production management, where students learn about how products are actually manufactured. The class has students undertaking time studies, methods analysis, and making sense of the order of operations in a factory. She also teaches the technical design processes class. Though not specifically related to design, Brenda finds these classes very interesting and extremely rewarding to teach.
Please join us on Tuesday, November 1, from 5:30-6:30 pm in 2019 Morrill Hall, 603 Morrill Road, Ames, for Brenda Ackerman’s presentation on Meskwaki Ribbonwork.
The Mary Alice Gallery, 1015 Morrill Hall, will be open 30 minutes before and after this special event.
Admission to the talk (and the exhibit) is free.