Working in Fabric

Fabric Hangings

The women I knew growing up in post-war Britain all sewed. It was part of being a capable woman. Over the years, I’ve made clothes, shortened skirts, replaced zips, patched worn knees and elbows, changed ugly buttons for prettier ones, and taken out dozens of shoulder pads. I’ve made baby quilts, coordinated group quilts, pieced patchwork footballs for toddlers and juggling balls for adults. In 2001, I was inspired to do a much bigger project. The immediate military response to the attacks of September-11 made me scared and angry. I longed to do something creative to express the core of what matters. Years before, I’d made rough sketches for four fabric hangings representing earth, air, fire, and water, the foundations of life. Their time had come…. [Click on any image to see a fuller, larger view]

Wet Felting

I learned about nuno felting when a friend exhibited her work. It was entrancing. I came straight home to search the Web and find out how to do it. I’ve made small pieces, scarves, and woolly pots. Two pieces have been photographed and used for book covers: “Red” and “Composting”. [Click on any image to see a more detailed view]

I’m inspired by projects like the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the Boise Peace Quilt Project, and Ribbon International that bring people and fabric together. Women in Chile have made arpilleras from scraps of cloth and yarn to raise international awareness of the plight of their loved ones who were “disappeared”, tortured, and murdered under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Feminist artists like Judy Chicago and Faith Ringgold, and untold numbers of quilters have demonstrated how fabric work can bridge art and craft, the personal and the public, creating beauty and making a point.

Working with Other Materials

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Over the years I’ve taken evening classes and weekend workshops, learning about drawing, painting, ceramics, and making books. Painting teacher Sandra De Visser insisted on the importance of the three C’s: concept, composition, and color. No matter what I try, this idea helps.

I want to thank the artists and teachers for all I’ve learned and to honor their skills and patience—especially Juana Alicia Araiza, Helen Hattori, Annette Lawler, Pam Rex, and Leah Virsik. And all those who’ve posted “how to” videos to youtube.

 

Creating a Garden

Ten years ago I moved to Oakland with two friends. We wanted a home where we could also create a satisfying garden. Almost nothing in the garden now was here then, except one tree and a white rose bush. We took out what passed for a lawn. We got rid of thick cement to free up more soil. We brought in wheelbarrow loads of mulch and compost.

We drew diagrams and made lists: a Santa Rosa plum, Concord grape, fig, apple, pear, avocado, persimmon, and citrus trees. Christine added roses and dahlias; Albie chose salvias. I dug asparagus in deep, to last a decade or more. I bought a stunning white camellia, a Tasmanian tree fern, and irises with names like Waltzing Widow, Overjoyed, and Johnny’s Blue Eyes.

Many people have worked here since then. Every season is different; some plants thrive, others struggle. The color palette changes, the composition shifts around, but the concept continues as the garden links us, a widening web of people and plants.