The Queue: Beth Dow

The Queue: Beth Dow

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

Published on Monday, March 7, 2022.
blog post cover graphic for The Queue featuring Beth Dow
Cover of Spring 2022 issue of American Craft

Welcome to the Fashion series of The Queue.
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.

For Beth Dow, craft is an anchor amid life's changes.
Beth Dow is the Twin Cities–based artisan behind Fieldword Goods. Featured in the Market section of the Spring 2022 issue of American Craft, her bags and other goods are made using traditional saddlery techniques and vegetable-tanned leather that turns darker with age—in line with the company motto: "We make it like we mean it." | @fieldworkgoods

handmade leather bag
portrait of Beth Dow

Photos courtesy of Beth Dow.

How do you describe your work or practice?
I make classic leather bags with a minimalist, utilitarian aesthetic that are sewn by hand with traditional processes and materials. With a little love, my bags will grow more beautiful through use and time. I make new old favorites.

The past 18+ months have presented many challenges, from a global pandemic to renewed urgency around issues of racial equity and police brutality. As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
I’ve retreated into my work and teaching, holding fast to things that are good and true that will outlast this ugliness. I’m also a visual artist (mainly photography-based), and my studio practice has grown more experimental during COVID restrictions. I'm dedicated to both studios, yet my photography and leather worlds remain separate practices at the moment.

model in long black coat holding a handmade leather bag

Photo courtesy of the Beth Dow.

The theme of the current issue of American Craft is "Fashion." Can you reflect on that theme as it relates to your work and practice?
I make bags that inhabit fashion’s negative space—that realm of objects adjacent to fashion that define the same edge. My bags have a minimalist sensibility, where material, function, and structural integrity are key. Fashion is current, and I make anchor objects you will use for decades.

What research or writing are you doing, or seeing others do, that’s kinda cool, and why?
Since research is the gathering and production of knowledge, I’ll include Loewe, the fashion house known for gorgeous leather goods. Their own bags are innovative and beautifully made, and the annual Loewe Foundation Craft Prize is an inspiring resource for furthering conversations around craft. I love learning about the winners and finalists (and panelists, too).

If you could purchase any craft artist's work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
I would love a leather wall by Casey Gunschel. She seems to really understand how to work with her material as a collaborator, trusting the beauty and integrity of the leather to support her skills in drawing and surface decoration. We’ve never met, but I’m a fan. @casey.gunschel

bedroom featuring a handcrafted leather wall
artist at work in studio on a leather panel

Photos courtesy of Casey Gunschel.

Stephanie Syjuco is one of my favorite contemporary artists, and I would love to own a chroma key dress from her project The Visible Invisible (2018). She sewed historic American dresses out of green screen background fabric to suggest the slippery constructed nature of American history. These dresses are set in front of the grey/white checkerboard "invisibility screen” of absence used in digital image editing. The processes of photographic image making always run through her work about identity and history. Her attention to craft and hand processes is also inspiring. I’ve recently been working with fabric in my studio, and I remain in awe of her work. @ssyjuco

Are you binge-watching anything right now?
My brain spins at 100 mph all day long, so I look forward to slowing down at night by binge watching Scandinavian crime dramas and British TV, from the high brow to the very, very low. My husband’s English, and I lived in London for many years, so it’s a nice way to stay connected.

stack of four issues of american craft with the spring 2022 issue on top

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museum of craft and design the object in its place as designed by ted cohen february 12 through june 5 2022