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.”

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:

Alyson Hurt / Flickr

If we can determine a great deal about our culture by the objects we value, it stands to reason that we can learn a lot about ourselves from the objects we value. Especially when it comes time to move all of them.

Pete Kaesberg is a drummer and a guitar player who has, until recently, lived in Madison all of his life. And before the move he's had the stuff to prove it. But after twenty two years, Pete is moving out of the House of Men, so called because it has a history of having mostly male tenants, to Eau Claire. Over the past few weeks he's been packing up, and getting rid of parts of his life and finding himself box by box. 

He tells Lake Effect's material culture contributor Gianofer Fields what it feels like to make such a change.

"I think being a musician kind of keeps you in a state of arrested development. A musician, especially a rock musician, is kind of a young person's job. So if you keep doing it throughout your life, you tend to always have a fair amount of cohorts that are young...when my [girlfriend] first saw my room she's like, 'you have a room of a twelve year old boy.' My dad always referred to me as the world's oldest teenager, and I think I still am," says Kaesberg. 

Gianofer Fields

If you're a regular listener to Lake Effect Weekend, you know that we regularly feature stories about material culture produced by contributor Gianofer Fields. 

The segment has called It's a Material World - a name Fields says came to her in a dream and for a while it was a perfect fit. The project has been and continues to be funded by the Milwaukee-based Chipstone Foundation and now, like a blushing bride, the series will also take its partner’s name and become Radio Chipstone. 

Wisconsin Historical Society

An exhibit at the Madison History Museum might seem straightforward at first – full of watercolor paintings of Wisconsin landscapes. But look a little deeper into the artist's life...and you'll find there's a history mystery here.

This is what we know: In the late 1800’s German Immigrant Paul Seifert arrived in Wisconsin’s Driftless area and put down roots. He graduated from a Forestry Academy and made his living as a farmer and taxidermist.

Special Collections at Wofford College / Flickr

Lake Effect contributor Gianofer Fields has visited the Wisconsin Veterans Museum several times, and with each trip we learn more about military history and the objects that survived the wars. 

In this edition, we return to the museum and meet up again with Kevin Hampton, the Curator of Research and Public Programs, who talks about some of the other items Civil War soldiers brought with them to stay connected to home:

Boston Bill / Flickr

Our notions of what makes a place “home” are as varied as we are. Photographer Jess Horn is a bit of a tumbleweed – spending a great deal of time on the road. Horn met Material Culture contributor Gianofer Fields in Madison's Tenney Park by the duck pond and explained that even though home isn’t confined to one place, that doesn't mean there is a lack of connection.

Wally Argus / Flickr

This is the time of year when people who have things to sell are pulling out all stops to get folks to buy their stuff. So what makes a good ad? How is it possible for a seller to get notice when so many are vying for attention?

Hallie Zillman-Bouche is the lead graphic designer for the Willy Street Co-op in Madison. She's also the daughter of an ad man.  She tells contributor Gianofer Fields that she's been selling things for so long she can't even really remember her first ad:

Untitled (Woman Painting), ca. 1907-1908 Monotype, 4 1/8 x 3 1/8 inCredit American Monotypes from the Baker/Pisano Collection / Chazen Museum of ArtEdit | Remove

Like most artists who have a place in the popular consciousness, Georgia O'Keefe is associated with some very specific images: bleached New Mexican landscapes, a close up of an iris, or even a giant animal skull. However, in this case the O'Keefe is smaller than a breadbox. 

Camel Teapot with Snake Handle, ca. 1745.Credit Chazen Museum of ArtEdit | Remove

In Madison’s Chazen Museum, there is an exhibit of 18th Century Ceramics that was curated by students and the Chipstone Professor in the Department of Art History Ann Smart Martin.

If the only image the word embroidery conjures for you is one of dainty flowers cross stitched onto a tea towel, Melissa Reiss wants you to take another look.

Reiss’ blog states, quite emphatically, that embroidery can be anything. As she tells Lake Effect’s Material culture contributor Gianofer Fields, embroidery doesn’t have to be baby ducks and girls in bonnets doing “women’s work”:

The Kohler Art Library is located on the UW-Madison campus.  The Artists' Book Collection was established in the early 1970s to support the Art Department's courses in letterpress, printmaking, and papermaking.  There are now over 1,000 artists' books in the library.  Some are one-of-a-kind, while others are produced in limited editions.  But Material Culture contributor Gianofer Fields wondered, what makes a book an artists' book?

Fields met with Lyn Korenic, the Director of the Kohler Art Library, who says that’s a tough question to answer:

arnoKath / Flickr

Material Culture contributor, Gianofer Fields introduces us to remarkable people – and things – in the project, Radio Chipstone.  This week, she continues a series called "Curator’s Choice," introducing us to Tracy Honn.  Honn is a printer and curator of Silver Buckle Press, a working museum of letterpress history in the Department of Special Collections at the UW Madison Memorial Library.

Chazen Museum of Art

What happens when the material you use to make your art changes its properties over time?