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Vendor Spotlight: Eliza Fernand

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Geometric ceramic vessels and colorful quilt installations. Fernand talks about Quilt Stories, site-responsive work, and her residency in Pentwater

The Market on First Fridays

August 1, 2014

From 5:00pm - 9:00pm

Located on South Division

Stumbling upon Eliza Fernand’s booth at The Market on First Fridays, I was instantly captivated by the unique forms and shapes that she creates with ceramics. From geometric vessels to casts of leaves, pinecones, jars, and honeybears, all of her work displays a clear mastery of craft. Once I began speaking with Fernand, I wasn't surprised to find out that she has a very extensive art practice. Her contemporary, cleanly sculpted ceramics merely scrape the surface of all that she does. 


Geometry and bright color schemes is a consistent theme that Fernand uses in mostly every medium. She is an amazing quilter who uses quilting in unconventional ways. Quilts made up of bright colors and bold shapes cover spaces, wrap around objects, take on nontraditional shapes, create spaces, and transform spaces. These quilts act as sculptures, paintings, costumes, and installations. The patterns and colors are so deliberately and expertly combined, its hard to believe that most of the fabric she uses is repurposed material. In some of her works, quilts became a catalyst for conversation. In her piece Quilt Stories Fernand used quilting as a way to gather stories from people that she met in her travels. She recorded over 100 quilt stories in 25 cities and set up a quilted tent. Inside of the colorful handmade tent, she taught people how to quilt and multiple people worked together on a single, white quilt. While they worked together, she got to hear about the lives of many people from diverse perspectives. 

“After I stopped touring, I had so much to work with.  The whole trip was really a research project for me- I learned about how to make quilts, felt inspired by how they are used, and had so many new things to try out in the studio.” says Fernand. 


In much of her work she is very in tune with her environment and the people in it. She often interacts with her surroundings through her work by transforming a space into a new landscape. Fernand muses, 

“I think every artist is affected by their environment and surroundings; living in a city or rural place, having a studio or not, living alone or sharing a room, all of these things affect our practice.  I have noticed that I thrive on change, on moving around and changing scenery, I have moved so many times and been to so many residencies that it is ingrained in my practice to make site-specific or site-responsive work.”

While some of her quilts create environments or covers them, she also creates quilt patterns that mimic architectural features found in urban landscapes like brick and sidewalk patterns.


Teaching and collaboration is an important part of her art practice. She has done many lectures, artists talks, workshops, and residencies all across the U.S. Currently she’s a director at the artist residency Shared Space Studio in Pentwater, MI. 

“I have continually been so impressed by the projects residents have made here.  Each artist is asked to do a project that involves or benefits the community, and really wonderful things have come out of that request.  I love going to the studio each morning to see what they have come up with- little surprises are happening all day and every day is the best day.” She says.

Pentwater is a tourist destination and galleries there dont typically exhibit contemporary artwork. The residents of Shared Space Studio both introduce a new type of art practice and work with the community to create work that is inspired by the surrounding environment. 


To learn more about Shared Space Studios visit their website Check out Fernands work at and at her booth at The Market on First Fridays this Friday!


More about Eliza:

What is your favorite business in Grand Rapids?

My two favorite businesses are Have Company, the shop where I sell my work and love dropping in just to hang out, and the new recycled art center, Wisemaker, in the Geek Group Leonard St Labs, where I want to spend so much of my future life in Grand Rapids.

Whats your secret, non art related, talent?

Karaoke. But that is art too.

What movie do you recommend that people should watch?

I just saw The Dance of Reality at the UICA and it was so, so good.  I recommend that people should watch every movie that is screened at the UICA because that place rules.


If you missed previous articles in the Vendor Spotlight Series, read about the featured vendors, George WeitorDan and Tiffany GarbowitzTaylor Bultema, and Rose Beerhorst!

The Avenue for the Arts is a neighborhood title for the South Division commercial corridor. We are residential, commercial and nonprofit groups working together in a creative community. We are residents in Heartside, and active participants in shaping change in our neighborhood. In 2005, we choose the Avenue for the Arts as a title to represent our commercial corridor and the projects and events that we create. Because the Avenue is powered by volunteers guest writers create our Rapidian content. Special thanks to Leah Burke, Avenue member and writer for her coverage of "The Market on First Fridays."  

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