Gianofer Fields

Material Culturalist

Gianofer Fields is a freelance producer and reporter for NPR, BBC and Madison's WORT Community Radio. She says, “Once you seriously consider the objects you use to fill your emotional and functional needs, you will never see those things the same way ever again. From delightfully intriguing to dangerously obsessive, objects affect our daily lives. They creep into our subconscious. They say volumes about who we are or wish to be, without uttering a single word.”

Dominic Alves / Flickr

Crosses, Stars of David, the Egyptian ankh, Chinese characters - they're all symbols that are commonly worn by people who subscribe to their meanings.

In this edition of It’s a Material World, contributor Gianofer Fields explores what symbols as objects mean to the wearer. Madison's Catherine Dorl says there's one symbol she clings to - both literally and metaphorically: The Peace Symbol.

Independent filmmaker Guy Maddin says he had made a number of films long before the short lived Canadian Documentary Channel contacted him about a commissioned work.

The head of the network gave Maddin a challenging task - document his hometown Winnipeg, Manitoba and...make it interesting.

Material Culture contributor Gianofer Fields spoke with Maddin while he was in Madison for a presentation of the film, and inquired about how he recreated this place on film:

Gianofer Fields

Spring may be just around the corner but that's little comfort for those who are completely over this winter. Yes, we've spent our share of days cooped up at home waiting for the latest bout of bad weather to pass. At least we have things like radio, television, and shopping online to keep us from pulling out our hair. 

Madison Childrens Museum

As Wisconsinites, we're lucky to have access to some really stellar museums. Our state boasts nationally and internationally recognized institutions like the Milwaukee Art Museum, Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot and Madison's Chazen Museum of Art, while researchers travel far and wide to look at artifacts and materials like the Racine Art Museum's renowned collection of contemporary crafts and the Wisconsin Historical Society's vast Civil War holdings.

Alex Watson / Flickr

Gardening, scrap booking, knitting, wood-working, bird-watching, golf. We've all got hobbies - some we're prouder to admit to than others. But what do these activities - and the supplies required - signify about our lives? What does what we do in our leisure time say about who we are?

Gianofer Fields

Wisconsin is known for many things - cheese, beer, and the Forevertron. Dr. Evermor's Forevetron is the world's largest scrap metal sculpture - at 50 feet high, 120 feet wide and 300 tons, and it's located right in North Freedom, Wisconsin.  It looks like something that's from out of this world - but it's not just space this sculpture transcends.

Some public art is not meant to last – it’s created for temporary enjoyment. But other art and objects are created with more longevity in mind, and are preserved so that we may enjoy them and learn from them well into the future.

Gianofer Fields

It's a special dad who teaches his children life lessons that shape who they are and what they become. Take for example the Howard family of Stoughton, Wisconsin.

William Howard is a Master Goldsmith, and father to master Goldsmith Missy and master Blacksmith Aaron. William's been teaching his children his craft for as long as they can remember, as Missy explains:

"I made my very first ring when I was five years old, because my dad's a jeweler, so he had me come up to the shop and made a little silver ring with a little daisy with it."

Teresa Boardman / Flickr

Buying a home is part of many people's idea of the American dream, and for those who do it's likely the biggest purchase they'll ever make.

Your home is the biggest statement of who you are to the outside world so, how do you go about choosing which home reflects who you are? And when you're selling a home, how much of the "you" that's part of it stays behind?

Gianofer Fields

Many of us have memories of going into a museum on a field trip as a kid, or even visiting a museum as an adult and feeling the stifling pressure of "be quiet and don't touch!"

Art Historian and Director of the Chipstone Foundation, Jon Prown believes that objects need to be explored, touched when able, and most importantly - discussed with others to have a meaningful impact.

Material Culture contributor Gianofer Fields met with Prown to discuss the power of objects and the even greater impact of learning and sharing their stories:

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