I firmly believe that everybody can create, and that the direction of that creativity will be unique to the creator. I came to fabric collage at a point where my husband and I had more than enough clothing, and I wanted to keep on sewing. I tried making doll clothes for my nieces, and while they were well received, I found that 1) it did not really use up much of my stash, and 2) it did not particularly interest me – everything was too tiny!
I had made my husband a shirt from a wood grain fabric, and he had gotten me a lovely vibrant ocean wave fabric out of which I made a top for myself – but there were scraps from both, of course! They spoke to me and led me to make a pair of placemats, two beach scenes, which I gave to my parents in 1996, when they had just moved into an assisted living facility. I later learned that these never went on the table, but on the wall!
While I enjoyed making these, it was only after both my parents had passed away, my mother in January 2000, and my father in September 2001 (15 days after 9/11), that I began making more collages. My husband’s original thought was to gift the placemats to a friend, a suggestion he repeated when I brought them home. I said no, now they were dear to me from having been those five years with my parents, and I then made collage wall hangings for a few friends – and kept on making them!
And as I continue to create art from fabric, it is very seldom that I start with any idea of what I am going to do. I joined an art guild, which instituted an “Open Guild Room” day for people to come in and create. While others brought in paints or pastels, I tried just bringing a bag of scraps and a backing piece to lay them on – and it worked so well that I made it a regular practice. Each week, I would add to the bag, or create a new selection of scraps, and at my table, I’d paw through them and bit by bit they came together as if they were talking to me. With some shaping with scissors, I would pin them down, filling the space until it felt complete enough for the next step, sewing them down.
During the pandemic, this has changed to a biweekly Open Guild Zoom, each in our own spaces – and this works too, I am happy to say!
The Open Guild Room included some friendly critiquing of each other’s work, and I’d get suggestions on what worked well, what to enhance – do you have a bit more of that green, or something a bit brighter? And my husband often has a final word on what element needs to go in when all else is done.