One of the best things about being a textile artist is that I have control over all things textile in my life. Rags, sheets, old towels, cashmere sweaters… nbits of wool and bits of clothing.
I remember the thorny art school problems we were challenged to unrvel. For example, shortly before my thesis museum show at RISD, I hit a wall. We were tasked to create a new material, and craft that material into a series of art pieces for the exhibit..
I have always made things as complicated and hard to do as possible. I dyed massive amounts of fiber in huge vats, carried heavy buckets, and created massive itajime forms. The heavy work all that entailed landed me in the hospital.
Maria Tulokas, my teacher and mentor, got me keys to the elevator, special studio access, and material support — but more than that, she said to me, “Simplify…What can you do on a small scale? Can you get to this big work one step at a time?”
I was so busy fighting the wall that I never saw the solution.
I began to dyeing the cloth in small pieces and stitch them together. That practice grew and developed into a discovery of multiple ways of working that I would never have discovered on my own. I credit Maria Tulokas with that.
I tell this story now because even today this approach of working in building blocks has informed my practice and made me more productive. And, over the years, I have found a way to make these individual practices become complete and useful items.
While simple, the techniques I use require support.
If you overcomplicate things, try Maria’s solution: simplify. Take one step at a time. Oh, and the shirt on the ladder? My old favorite stained white holey silk turtleneck. I think its at least 18 years old. I stuck it in the red pot the other day. I will post another picture when its had its next step.
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