I like to use re-purposed materials in the work that I do. Most frequently, I make use of clothing or old bedsheets. While occasionally I will use non-traditional materials such as newspaper or VHS tape, I just prefer working with fabric. Perhaps you may not consider re-using old clothing as doing much to combat the landfills, or you may just see it as a fun hobby to upcycle clothing like the ReFashionista (an amazing site, btw), but you’d be wrong. I actually work for a 2nd hand store during the day, have been for over 3 years now, and I see every single day how much textile waste we create. What I use may not be making much of a dent in huge piles of waste we create, I also do my part to not add to that pile if I can help it.
Working with what I have
Rather than seek out some specific pattern or shade, I have to work with what I have available to me. While there are some constants when working with clothing – denim is plentiful and will almost always be some shade of blue – I cannot always anticipate what I will have at my disposal. Even with the items I have already, I often forget what I have shoved into the corners of my closet so it’s usually a surprise. It is good to learn the basic properties of common fabrics/fibers and how to identify them when there is no label present. There are entire books written on fabric properties/ identification.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine paid me to hem several pair of jeans for him. As I often do, because I hold onto everything and have nightmares about turning into a hoarder, I saved the scrap bits that I’d cut off from the bottoms of the legs. I decided to take them apart and flatten them out. When I did that, I noticed something interesting. The creases and crinkles of the original hems create a pattern which, to me, looks something like sound waves. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I wanted to incorporate them into my artwork. Immediately, my thoughts are turning to the sounds of screams and crying – the sounds of arguments late at night. Of course, the sound wave patterns created by screaming look quite a bit different, so I’m going to claim a little bit of artistic license. My next thought is to isolate the throat, the organ that creates sounds. I do an image search for throat scans and throat xrays to get an idea of what they look like. Sure, I could go with the tongue and tonsil image I see when I open my mouth in the mirror, but I want to go a little further, I want to see the voicebox itself… And so it is that I will spend (waste) half an hour or better just looking for just the right diagram or image that I might want to incorporate…
What am I working on?
In case you haven’t read my previous post, each year, 40 North – the arts council for Champaign county, orchestrates the Bonyard Arts Festival throughout Champaign-Urbana, IL and the rest of the county. I am registered with 2 different venues (more details at the bottom of this entry) and have set to work creating artwork for this festival. At C4A I am set to display artwork during April 12-13 and at Habitat for Humanity I am set to conduct a live demonstration on April 13, from 1-5pm, on artistic things that can be done with used clothing.