Cristin Richard gets deep at Detroit Design Festival

In the flesh

Sep 23, 2015 at 1:00 am

Working as a fashion materials consultant by day, Detroit-based artist Cristin Richard has made a name for herself by incorporating animal intestines into her designs — creating a body of work that is at once macabre and feminine. On Friday, Richard will launch the first of a trilogy of shows with Metabolism, a one-night only event as part of the Detroit Design Festival. We caught up with Richard by phone to learn more.

Metro Times: Much of your work has utilized animal casings as a material. Is that true for Metabolism?

Cristin Richard: It's an element that I've incorporated in my work. I've been practicing in a way where I experiment with a lot of natural materials, and I like to push them to their limits. I want to reference the human body — the human condition, what it feels like to be human. So the majority of the work, especially the early work, was utilizing animal casings.

MT: Where does one procure such materials?

Richard: These are the kind of questions that I'm really not concerned with providing too much information — for me, I've been fighting for so long just to talk about content rather than the material itself. I understand the material is interesting, but I've been using it for some time, so I want people to be more conscious of why I'm using it — not exactly how I'm using it.

MT: Can you tell us more about the work in Metabolism?

Richard: Basically, it's an interdisciplinary approach. I've been working in sculpture for quite some time, and I really started to dive into incorporating the human being into the sculptures, and the human being seems to bring its own charge and energy to the work. In that sense I feel that the viewer has an opportunity to look at the work in a more human way, where they kind of compare themselves to what they see in front of them.

I'm also collaborating with a couple people. Nate Czarling is a local musician that I've worked with in several of my shows. He'll be bringing in the music element, and basically his work is really experimental. I say that I like to push materials to the limits, but I think he is really innovative in pushing sound and noise to its limits, so it's quite a good complement to the work I do and adds another dimension. And then the other person that I've hauled in is Simone Else. Simone is also a local designer. She's into fashion and accessories. She's just a creative wonder, a superpower. We have done some accessories together for the show. It's not often that I find people that I share the same vision with. My practice has been pretty intimate, pretty solo. So it's nice to be able to work with other people that have this intense energy to them.

MT: What about the venue for this show?

Richard: It's in a historic bank that was built in the 1920s. In the bank itself, it's almost timeless. You can be working in there for hours and so much time goes by and you don't even realize it. We're utilizing the original space of the vault in there, so it has a very formal presence to it. Going to a bank nowadays you can wear whatever, but back in the '20s it was a formal place where you conducted business, and you can feel when you walk in the building that it has a very serious tone to it.

MT: Why are you launching this series during DDF?

Richard: My parallel career is that of a colors and materials designer. A lot of my work is about pushing materials to their limits. [In my job] I do a lot of research on trends, and how trends fuel one another. When I study trends I look at architecture, fashion, fine art, furniture design. A lot of times you might see a trend that pops up in all of these sectors in some way. I'm using design as a term kind of loosely, but even fine art influences design. I really wanted to push the boundaries of what is presented at the Design Festival — this is more of an experiential design piece that is pushing the boundaries of what it is to go to an art show.

Metabolism is from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25 at 5001 Grand River Ave., Detroit (formerly the Kunsthalle); see for more information.