Creating artwork with textiles is an ancient craft, which many of us are experimenting with more and more. I am not a historian or an expert on the subject, but I have noticed that throughout history artisans choose to use elements that are abundant and easily obtained. Today we are seeing elements that are being re-purposed such as old clothes, knitted items and even burlap feedbags. It brings joy to create with items that seem bound for the trash bin, don’t you agree?

Personally, I am fairly new to working with textiles only beginning in the Spring of 2016. As an illustrator I have always turned to watercolors and pen and ink as this was my favorite medium. As my career developed, I switched to computer graphics and today I am using textiles. Yes, they are each totally different, however the approach is still the same.

Commissioned Work Brings Discovery

I was recently commissioned to create a gift for a newborn baby. I wanted to choose elements that could best “tell the story.” Choosing the fibers is an important selective process that I have found can take an so-so project and turn it into a WOW!
I like to think of all of the fibers as tubes of paint. How can I blend them together to create the illustration?

My approach:

After I have chosen the photo, (stock image I purchased) I head to the drawers and bins to look at the many items I have collected. I usually touch them, as somehow this helps me “connect” and decide what may work best. Wool, cottons, denim, threads, lace and vintage doilies are all part of my stash. When working on commissions, I ask questions to become more familiar with the person the gift is intended for. Using this information helps me choose which fibers and textiles will be included. Favorite colors, hobbies, memories, their career, etc. all play a valuable part of the story. How? Well, I will look for fabrics that will pull all of these tiny tidbits of information into the art.

If you look closely at the giraffe, you will see birds, fish, a toy soldier, butterfly and a rocking horse. The mother-to-be is a nurse and I could have included some medical related icons. By including simple iconic images into the illustration, it helps add interest and personalize the gift.

I chose to create an abstract background with copper satin to give the impression of the mother giraffe in the background. The satin has a nice sheen and helps to make the foreground fabric collage stand out. I always leave all of the embellishments to the very end, that way I can be sure to just use them as accents. The use of decorations in my opinion is like adding certain spices to a recipe — a little goes a long way. The giraffe’s mane could have been illustrated using thread painting, ribbons, beading, felt, lace or hand embroidery. I chose a specific textile for this called “eyelash silk.” It frays easily and comes in many colors. I pulled the threads to create a hot pink fringe. Next, I carefully pinned this along the neckline and stitched it into place using various shades of 50 wt Aurifil cotton thread, creating the shading of the muscle tones, to build up the ridge.

There are no hard and fast rules in creating with fibers, only life experiences. Playing with everything you have collected is like being a kid again…NO RULES!
I hope this blog helps you look at valuable elements that can add some excitement to your next project.

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