Bobbi Baugh: An expert in hand-printing fabrics for mixed-media collage design
Bobbi Baugh loves to explore the internal and external layers of her subject, whether following the life and dreams of a character or delving into the depths of nature. She studied art as an undergraduate and developed a career in stationery design. This made good use of her passion for printing, but it wasn’t until she made major changes in her life and left the family business that she was able to concentrate full-time on her mixed media artwork.
Her work collages layers of monoprinted, painted and stencilled fabrics and photo transfers, using stitch to compose and create texture. She chooses harmonious colours to attract the viewer and as a result, the eye is encouraged to linger. A glimpse of a window reflection or a cracked wall in a building might catch the eye, making the viewer pause and reflect on the work.
Baugh’s first solo show was at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in February 2015. This was the award for winning First Place in the Museum’s 2014 Evolutions Exhibition. Baugh exhibited in 2016 in “Immigration Stories” at the GWU textile Museum in Washington DC and has exhibited in juried group shows, SAQA travelling shows and regional juried arts festivals.
She has just completed her second solo show at Arts on Douglas Fine Art Gallery in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. “Home is What You Remember” is the culmination of a year in the studio, creating the body of work focusing on “home” as memory, dream and metaphor. Bobbi has a You-Tube channel called Bobbi Baugh art studio channel and you can follow her blog via her website.
Read about how Bobbi’s artistic life evolved from monoprint design to mixed media collage using a variety of techniques including acrylic monoprinting, screen printing, photo transfer and collage. After time spent working with fabrics and learning a few techniques she started to get the results she was looking for. Then she began to refine her processes while investigating the layers of life, concepts and stories that intrigue her.
Her desire is to make work that gives the viewer multiple layers of meaning to think about.
The endless possibilities of printing on fabric
TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? How was your imagination captured?
Bobbi Baugh: I was drawn to textiles as a medium because of its relationship to printmaking. I knew a little about fabric as I had sewn clothes as a teenager and created sculptural items with stiffened fabric. However, I was not familiar with the concept of creating fabric designs.
I joined a local surface design and artmaking group in 2011 and discovered that monotype printing, relief printing, screen printing and collage could all be part of working with textiles.
I had a professional background in commercial printing on paper. I had also taken some classes and workshops on printmaking as an art medium.
Although I had learned very few techniques and had a very limited visual vocabulary, I could imagine endless possibilities and that’s what got me started.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
As an undergraduate art student, my exposure to creating work was very generalised.
I took courses in drawing, watercolour, printmaking, photography, three-dimensional work and art history. It was a small art department and the program did not call for specialising in one particular medium or digging deeply into concept development. However, it did provide an introduction to basic art making principles and various mediums and I subsequently pursued several independent studies in watercolour.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
The creative part of being an artist has always been a part of who I am; finding joy in making, finding peace in the solitude of working on projects.
The disciplined part of working as an artist and the opportunity to pursue art as my life work has evolved over time. Until 2014 I had a full-time career in printing and stationery product design. Then I made changes in my personal life that included leaving the family business, which enabled me to practice studio work full-time.
Sketchbook ideas growing into printed batches of fabric
Tell us about your process from conception to creation
I work out ideas in my sketchbook. I almost never work in colour in my sketchbook. I record ideas visually with a pencil or ballpoint pen.
Once I come up with an idea I spend time exploring it, composing it in a number of different ways to see which will work best. I want to have a good idea of content, composition and values before I start creating my fabric designs.
Next, I create the fabric design. I generally create a batch of fabric with a particular project in mind; working to create colours, values and patterns that will accomplish what I’ve outlined in my sketches. This is the most spontaneous and serendipitous part of the process.
Of course, I always end up creating more than I need for one project, so I am building up a valuable stash of pieces that I can draw from in future works.
Then I compose my collages. Recently I have been working on medium-large works (about 35 x 45 inches). To do this I have to work with smaller sections that will fit in my sewing machine. I collage fabrics onto the backing and stitch an overlay of patterns for texture. Then those pieces are joined by machine stitching, with more painting and collage added to the artwork once it has been constructed.
Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques and how you use them
I create all of my images with acrylic paint, working almost exclusively on cotton muslin and sheer polyester. I frequently combine the two fabrics side-by-side in my works.
All of my image-making is very low tech. I paint with foam rollers, print with hand-cut stencils, relief print with hand-cut lino-cut blocks and stamp with found objects. I combine all these techniques with monotype printing on a gelatin plate.
I use the acrylic paint wet-into-wet, wet-into-dry, and also with little dilution for opaque colour. For collaging my fabric to the backing fabric, I use a liquid matte medium or gel matte medium.
I also incorporate photo transfers into my compositions. I love the mixed reality of a photo next to a printed pattern. For this, I work from colour laser copies transferred to muslin with gel medium. It is a tedious and imperfect method, but I love the results and the character of the photos in the fabric. I frequently enhance the photos with acrylics and with stitch.
What currently inspires you?
I am drawn to implied stories. I like images to be interesting and compelling, without being so literal that a viewer cannot inject their own meaning into a work.
In recent years I created a number of pieces dealing with a girl’s journey and over the past year, I have focused on the concept of home.
Avoiding being distracted by techniques. Focus on the idea behind your work
Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?
I love the piece “How Can We Sing in a Strange Land” that I created for the Diaspora/Immigration Show at the Textile Museum in Washington DC (2016).
It was the largest work I had made at the time and the most challenging. I was very involved both in a tactile way and an emotional way with the big photographic bird nest that is the focal point of the work.
For this work I used a number of experimental surface-design techniques, layering sheer printed shapes over other fabrics for the first time. I was thrilled that the quilt found a home with a collector.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I believe that the first few years of my work with fabrics were all about developing a visual vocabulary. I was learning techniques that I could employ reliably to achieve desired results.
Once I was comfortable with my methods, I was free to begin exploring concepts and stories.
I would like to continue creating in series. So far I have never run out of ideas. I hope to make work that gives viewers multiple layers of meaning to explore and think about.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Each artist has a unique “why.” Don’t lose sight of that. What’s important to you is your unique voice.
It is very easy to be seduced by technique, to focus exclusively on “how”.
Textile artmaking is so fascinating and varied. There is lots of temptation, but the techniques are not the art! The idea being communicated through technique is the art. Don’t forget that your ideas are what is most important.
For more information visit bobbibaughstudio.com
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