Coming off of Philalalia poetry festival over the weekend, the Tyler School of Art had its fifth annual Art Market Friday Sept. 23. Tyler graduates showed off their work for purchase, or just for show. The market had prints and ceramics, clothing and jewelry from probably three dozen vendors throughout the main floor of the art school. Some vendors had more elegant pieces, perfectly fit for a modern home, while others had very rough ceramics in the form of flasks and pipes – great for a counterculture teen. Of all of these vendors, one stood out.
Rupert Gregory sat at his vending table. He was going for an incredibly clean and thoughtful presentation. His display had a very welcoming aura to it, along with a very interesting product. I felt comfortable and excited asking to know about his story and art. Gregory graduated from Tyler in 2009, majoring in sculpture and ceramics. Like other graduates of the school, he talked about Tyler with an air of gratitude and pleasant nostalgia.
He now works as a 3D design teacher at the Haverford S
chool and has a passion and joy about his job that is so rare and very inspiring. Gregory feels that teaching is one of the most important jobs someone can do.
“[It’s] important for people with knowledge and excitement about the subject to spread that enthusiasm and knowledge,” he said.
In the last two years, both of Gregory’s grandparents passed away. While looking through their home with his family, he found the thread they used to make quilts, something they did their entire lives. Losing his loved ones changed his perspective.
He began to think about receiving letter through the mail, and how it becomes less and less exciting as you grow up. Also, he saw a statistic: in the last two decades, the volume of physical mail has decreased from 46 million pieces to 20 million, stunted by the rise of Internet and email. Gregory then decided to use the thread from his grandparents’ home to attempt to reverse this trend with his family and friends.
The project was a simple thread and paper 3D design. To create the pieces, he pokes holes in a card in a certain design and uses the thread to create the design visually. The designs change depending on the day and on Gregory’s mood. He describes the pieces as reactionary. Some make a picture, like the chicken house, which he made when he was in a nostalgic morning mood thinking about his childhood growing up on a farm. Or there’s a piece with a tent and mountains, which he made when he was living in a tent in Iceland.
Some designs are simple, normally coming to him on days when he does not feel like spending a lot of time on the project, but others are just the opposite. Still others are symmetrical and balanced, showing a tranquil mood. He decided he would make one design a day for an entire year and send it to someone, giving them mail besides their bills to open.
It started small – Gregory would send it to family and friends, but as he continued to talk about the project and present it at exhibitions and vendor fairs, the idea began to grow. He tried to strictly mail the art, but he understood why that could not sustain. To point at a piece, pay for it and then hear you’ll be getting it in the mail in about a week simply isn’t in our modern human nature, which Gregory acknowledged.
So he began to sell designs on the spot, adding paper edgings for the pieces and custom wood framing, all handmade. Visitors walk away from the fair with a completely unique, custom framed piece with your choice of thread piece, paper edging and wood frame. Every piece’s template is saved, so after Gregory sells one, he uses the template to remake it and always has a full set. By the end of November, a year after he began selling, he will have 365 unique thread and paper pieces as a portfolio to recreate his designs and make mail beautiful.
In order to purchase or simply admire the pieces, follow Rupert Gregory on Instagram at @rgregorydesign, or on his website www.r-gregorydesign.com.