Every fabric has a story to tell. Through color, texture, and weight, fabrics evoke feelings and images for me. In my work as a theatrical costume designer, I use this to convey messages to my audiences about character.
My collection of fabric scraps are like words waiting to be put together into stories. I am fascinated by transformation--how something ordinary can be transformed into a greater and different whole by recycling thrift store finds into period costumes or recycling garments and scraps into collages that are evocative. My hope is that each viewer finds a different story in each collage--castles, forests, rivers; beauty, eccentricity, joy.
Theatrical production is a collaboration of artists working towards presenting a cohesive whole. The “whole” is the vision of the director. Working in collaboration with Grey, who is an experienced visual artist and Collaborative Drawing instructor, has opened me up to a different and more one-on-one type of collaboration. Creating these collages is like a conversation between us. Grey lays something down, I respond, he counters, etc. Each of us must let go of control and surrender to the process. It is a form of trust in each other as well as in the process. Grey brings a bold sense of color and form to the process, a sense very different than mine that forces me think in ways that are new and revelatory. I am constantly challenged to find creative ways to respond to his vision, as I hope he is challenged to respond to my gestures. We never know how each piece will turn out--we are just along for the ride, letting the work tell us its story.
Collaboration means I’m not in total control of the outcome, a situation accompanied, for the most part, with a sense of relief, though occasionally it’s a challenge to surrender artistic authority to the collaborative effort. I have so much respect for my collaborator, who happens to be wife, as well as an award winning costume designer. To our work together she brings her unique creative vision, a deep affinity to fabrics, and a keen awareness of the subtleties of “finish,” down to the perfect color of thread to complement or contrast with what’s being sewed down.
For most of my life, paint has been my artistic medium, but for the past four years, collaborating with my wife on these fabric collages, I’ve come to love working with the rich visual complexity of textiles, where color, texture, pattern, motif, transparency, etcetera become starting point.
Sometimes we begin by choosing a color palette, that sets the emotional temperature of the piece, Sometimes we deconstruct various fabrics down to one repeat pattern or to a section of embroidery, and then reintegrate them in novel ways, on the worktable. What emerges can evoke a sense of flowing like a river, or colorful cacophony like a carnival, or a jungle at midnight. That unexpected evocation then sets a direction for the collaboration, one we did not consciously plan. Let’s try this or maybe this would work better, or let’s move that over here. It’s a very intimate process and my hope is that that intimacy of process translates for the viewer into an engaging experience with the finished collaborative textile collage.