Remembering: Glen Kaufman

Remembering: Glen Kaufman

We celebrate textile artist and ACC fellow Glen Kaufman, who died January 16 at age 87

Portrait of Glen Kaufman

Portrait of ACC fellow Glen Kaufman

Photo from the ACC Library and Archives

Glen Kaufman's story is one of international travel and study. He was born in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin in 1932. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on an Air Force ROTC scholarship, where he earned his Bachelor Degree in 1954. Following his Air Force service, he enrolled at Cranbrook Academy of Art, and in 1959, he earned his MFA degree in Weaving & Textiles. In 1960, he received a Fulbright Scholarship to attend the State School of Arts & Crafts in Copenhagen. He returned to Cranbrook Academy in 1961 to launch his career as an educator, where he was head of the Fibers Department until 1967. At that time, he was hired by Lamar Dodd as associate professor of Art at the University of Georgia, where taught for over 40 years. Since 1983, he divided his time between homes in Athens, Georgia and Kyoto, Japan. 

Kaufman was a master in the field of surface design. His early work included both textural weaving and macramé-knotted and interlooped hanging sculptural forms. He worked as a designer of textiles for such companies as the Dorothy Liebes Design Studio, General Motors Corporation, and Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corporation. He was a world traveler devoted to researching the textiles and techniques of cultures outside of the United States, and it was in 1979 on an extended tour of Asia that he became enamored with traditional Japanese design. His more recent work explored the use of photo processes to create photo collages over which he used the Japanese technique of applying gold and silver leaf on top of intricately woven damask fabric. A grid motif is present in most of these pieces, reflecting the prevalence of the grid in Japanese architecture.

Glen Kaufman was deeply active in the Surface Design Association, writing numerous articles for Surface Design magazine. Kaufman also co-authored with Meda Parker Johnston the book Design on Fabrics, long considered a “bible” of surface design. He was the recipient of numerous awards including multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ford Foundation. He was an honorary life member of the Surface Design Association and was elected into the American Craft Council College of Fellows in 1988. His work was featured in hundreds of group and solo exhibitions in both the United Stated and abroad, most frequently in his second home of Kyoto. Institutions holding his work in their collections include the Museum of Arts and Design, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Racine Art Museum, the James Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto.

An oral history interview with Glen Kaufman is available through the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.