Transformit Gorham, ME

Project Details

Fabric 1

Supplier: OTHER

Fabric 2

Supplier: Associated Fabrics

Design Name
Cynthia Thompson

Design Company

Fabrication Name
Cynthia Thompson

Fabrication Company

Installation Name
Cynthia Thompson

Installation Company

Please describe the project specifications

Retail window art installation at Maine Craft Portland, the Portland, Maine gallery of the Maine Craft Association. The installation, donated by the artist to benefit the Association, covered 165 square feet across three windows.

What was the purpose of this project? What did the client request?

Holiday shop windows are a thing in Portland. A walkable city, the Portland's Downtown Association has for many years encouraged lively holiday window installations to add to the vibrant downtown atmosphere.

Maine Craft Portland had opened in July in a carefully renovated retail space within Mechanics’ Hall, a historic building and home of the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association. Maria Wolff, artist and gallery manager for Maine Craft Portland, wanted to give the shop a strong presence in its first holiday season, building awareness of the gallery heading into the slower winter months and establishing enough commercial momentum to enable the gallery to retain all its staff through the quiet stretch of the season.

Maria asked me to create a unique installation in the shop’s windows to help elevate interest in the gallery. I did not want to simply evoke traditional holiday themes. I thought about where I live, and the time of year. I thought about the Wabanaki native people, whose name means 'People of the First Light'. We in Maine receive the first light of the United States. I imagined how the light of the winter solstice would look, low in the sky, with the sun's rays streaming into our world and into the windows of Maine Craft Portland’s store.

Also, because the Gallery celebrates the work of many Maine artists, I wanted to use the sculpture to highlight other artists whose work was on display in the gallery. I incorporated Don Best's 'Wooden Dog’ and Nancy Nevergole's 'Eternal Spring' and 'Cecilina Ballerina’ into the installation.

What is unique or complex about the project?

The two identical windows hold symmetrical installations of stretch fabric “wings”, white and blue in one window, and blue and white in the other. Each window holds eight wings, with 49 rig points in each window. The third window holds five wings with 29 rig points. In all, the installation has 127 rig points, each placed by hand.

From initial sketches, I made scale models to work out my idea and refine how to actually make the parts. The models were taken to the installation site, where each rig point was measured in three dimensions, then “lofted” up to full scale in the actual window.

Installations in small spaces require planning and balance! I first installed all of the upper points by ladder, then removed the ladder for installation of the lower points. Working up high on a ladder, with one hand on the driver and the other on the ladder for safety, I used square-drive screws which hold position well on the driver-bit. Small fishing swivels were used to capture the thin braided line, enabling me to adjust line lengths and tension of each rig point of the installation.

What were the results of the project?

The installation won the People’s Choice award of the Portland Downtown Association’s 2018 Holiday Window Display Contest.

Maine Craft Portland gallery manager Maria Wolff said about the installation, “Maine Craft Portland currently represents 140 Maine craft artists. Being part of a non-profit organization, there is little money for advertising. This winning window masterpiece awarded Maine Craft Portland a full-page ad in ‘Visit Portland’ magazine for a full year! These results are truly bringing broader exposure to the new gallery.” Best of all, this exposure helped keep the gallery busy and staff employed through the winter months.

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