6 Textile artists using recycled materials
Recycling in art is not a new concept, but practitioners working with textiles seem to be discovering evermore innovative means of harnessing this abundant source of raw materials. The range of textile art being created from recycled or reclaimed goods is testament to the versatility offered by making use of stuff that has had a life already; a life that is often purely functional and as far removed from ‘art’ as you can imagine.
The appeal to the textile artist using recycled materials goes much deeper than an easing of their social conscious! The materials being used often have an inherent history, which can offer a powerful starting point and make for a more meaningful process. Collectors and art-lovers will also potentially connect with the finished artwork on a deeper level if they are privy to its story.
Today we explore the work of 6 diverse textile artists doing incredible things with recycled materials.
1, Su Blackwell
Su Blackwell‘s textile training plays a vital role in the creation of her exquisite book sculptures. As noted by Justin Croft (Antiquarian Bookseller) ‘Each letter is like a stitch; it’s as if she’s weaving with words‘.
Working predominantly with paper, Su uses intricate cutwork to bring her 3-dimensional illustrations to life. The use of old book pages as source material not only hints at melancholy (supported by the extensive use of muted and subtle shades), but it also creates a direct connection to the themes Su often explores; fairy tales and folklore.
There is a dark and sometimes eery quality to these dioramas, which often depict young girls lost in haunting locations. This subject seems to marry perfectly with the use of such a delicate material and highlights the vulnerability of youth and the fragility of life.
Much of Su’s work is beautifully framed in display boxes, which adds to its sense of surrealism and theatricality.
In recent years Su has diversified, but usually sticking within the realm of fairy tales; she designed the set for a production of The Snow Queen at the Rose Theatre in Kingston in 2011, and released an illustrated book entitled ‘The Fairytale Princess‘ in 2012.
2, Natasha Kerr
Natasha Kerr uses old photos from her own family album and combines them with vintage fabrics and trims to create her distinctive brand of recycled textile art.
The stories embedded in both the black and white/sepia images and the fabrics used give Natasha’s work a depth that is very appealing to the viewer and triggers an emotional response.
In 1998 Natasha’s work took over an entire Victorian townhouse in Battersea, London; the teaming of a historical venue with a multi-sensual experience gave the artist’s figurative work a contextual setting that was both moving and uncomfortable. Aptly named ‘There are things you don’t need to know’, the exhibition painted a poignant picture of family life through the ages.
In recent years, Natasha has been taking commissions to create works that tell the stories of families other than her own.
3, Susan Stockwell
Susan Stockwell is not an artist who is content to work in one medium or style; her work ranges from tiny intricate studies to huge elaborate installations. She uses a combination of sculpture, drawing, collage, stitch and weave to create politically charged work exploring issues of trade, history, ecology, and mapping.
Susan uses source materials that may have started life in domestic or industrial settings, but that are common-place and familiar, such as maps and currency. These items are then recycled through manipulation and often fused together using stitch to become extraordinary pieces of art.
Borrowing materials is a recurring element of Susan’s work; in these instances, the recycling continues. For example, her exhibition Flood was created from 4 tons of recycled computer components; these were re-invented as an installation in a 13th-century church in York. Once the exhibition was over, the computer parts were returned to Secure IT Recycling to begin a new life elsewhere.
Curator Grace Chung gave a pertinent evaluation of Susan’s work in the text for the exhibition B-Side Ecology in Taiwan: “Meticulously hand crafted, the benign sublime beauty in the work belies the devastating effects of our culture and our role in shaping it. Look more closely, and one is confronted by a cultural urgency of global-proportions“.
4, Louise Baldwin
62 Group member Louise Baldwin is a textile artist using recycled materials and found objects. She combines hand and machine embroidery to create collaged wall hangings constructed from ‘the mundane waste of domestic packaging‘.
Louise’s artwork depicts the hectic nature of her own life. She gathers anything she can get her hands on from around the home, including card form toys, medication boxes, biscuit wrappers and layers them, building up the collage as she goes with the sewing machine. There is nothing pre-planned about this process; this is an artist relying entirely on instinct.
Finally, once the background is in place, ‘naive’ or ‘idyllic’ images are hand stitched onto the surface.
Over time, Louise’s work has become a metaphor for human behaviour; the everyday and seemingly ordinary daily activities juxtaposed with the potential of our imagination and its engagement with our hopes and desires.
5, Jennifer Collier
Jennifer Collier creates incredibly detailed 3D works from paper; the subjects are normally household objects.
She recycles vintage papers (sometimes from old books) and tea bags (amongst other things) which she bonds and waxes to create ‘fabric’. This material is then treated as if it is cloth and stitched together to build the sculptures.
Once again with Jennifer’s work, we see how recycled materials become both the media and the inspiration. The narrative of the books and pages informs what should be created from them.
The uniqueness of this work comes from using traditional textile techniques in a new way to resurrect and transform paper that might otherwise be discarded.
6, Jane Perkins
Jane Perkins categorises herself as a ‘re-maker’ and is well-versed in recycling for art, having written an entire thesis on it!
Jane’s current body of work is entitled ‘Plastic Classics’. For the creation of this collection, Jane takes unwanted objects and uses collage techniques influenced by her background in textiles to create reproductions of artworks by the old masters.
Tracy Chevalier, author of the novel Girl with a Pearl Earring, praised Jane’s interpretation of the painting by the same name by writing “Jane Perkins has taken the portrait a step beyond and made it her own – a textured image that I bet would have made Vermeer smile“.
Humour is central to the concept of using unwanted and seemingly worthless plastic items to reinterpret priceless pieces of classic art.
Other textile artists using recycled materials (featured on TextileArtist.org)
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