John Ravet: Into the Fold

Artist John Ravet creates “art for the walls and for the wearing” in his Mainframe Studios space. 

Artist John Ravet’s studio space is a work of art in itself.

Writer: Brianne Sanchez
Photographers: Alfelino Santiago Feliciano and Duane Tinkey

Step into John Ravet’s kite-shaped third-floor artist’s studio and let the layers of texture draw you in. Tapestry, origami and decorative branches line the walls. Racks of shibori tie-dye shirts, shelves of vintage shoe forms, fabric samples, buttons and baubles catch the eye. Mannequin busts modeling hand-knit and woven shawls are on display across from the loom on which one-of-a-kind pieces are fabricated. Baskets stacked upon baskets conceal high-end fibers awaiting the spotlight. What could be a cacophony of creative materials is so thoughtfully arranged that the effect is of a soothing symphonic movement. 

“Because almost everything I do is a rectangle, I can’t be in a rectangular space,” the 57-year-old Ravet (pronounced Rah-vey) says with a smile. Talk with him for an hour and it’s evident he’s not the kind of person who could be put into any simple box. His background as a classically trained musician and dancer, educator, and interior designer is evident in the room’s balance of abundance and restraint. 

“What I inherently do is fold things. It’s about pliability and strength,” says Ravet, who creates “art for the walls and for the wearing.” Avidly curious about cultures, he makes contemporary interpretations of traditional techniques, creating his own stitches and drafting his own designs. 

As an interdisciplinary artist working across mediums, Ravet needed space for all of his materials. He also craved community connection. Living here was an unexpected twist for Ravet, who moved to Des Moines from New York City sight unseen in 2012, to care for a friend in the late stage of a serious illness. For the first several years, Ravet’s exposure to the city was doctors’ offices and hospital rooms. 

He was impressed enough by Des Moines’ major art institutions to see potential but missed the vibrant support of local artists he’d experienced in college towns and other major metropolitan areas he’s called home. Then he started giving workshops and meeting more creative people. Mainframe Studios had opened by the time Ravet emerged from his immediate grief, and he quickly found his place in the fold. 

“I live on the line between craft and art,” he says. “It’s a really happy place for me.”

Ravet (above left) creates luxurious textiles on a loom, including sweaters, scarves, shawls, pashminas and more. Though he focuses primarily on textiles, he also works in other mediums, including paper (above right).

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