“Flowers II”   Vintage Fabric

“Rain”   Mohair, Silk, & Beads

So, how did my interest in art get rekindled?  While a Police Detective, I had an opportunity to take classes and become one of several people trained to do forensic art. Forensic drawing is a tool used by the Police Bureau to translate the memory of a victim of a violent crime into a drawing of the suspect that can be distributed to the public.  My training never was in this area, but I jumped at the chance to learn to draw faces.  After a week of intense training, which started with some very scary drawings, I was reminded that I could draw.  The classes taught me how to refocus on  looking at the face the same way you look at anything you are drawing.  I was also taught how to break the face up into grids.  I  learned how to draw from a witness description of the suspect they remembered.  HOW COOL!  OK, it will never make it to a museum, but it sure was amazing.

After that experience, I was on my way back to working with art.  But where to start?  I looked around the house and realized that I have a lot of fabric just lying around.  I started thinking about how I could use that fabric without just making a ‘wall hanging’. 

I wanted what I did to rise to the level of “art” and have people not just view it as a craft.  (I have seen many fabric pieces which are true works of art, but some people will never consider it such unless it is framed.)

So, I began to experiment with how to attach the finished fabric to a surface to create a collage and make sure it stayed put.

My idea was to then mat and frame the work, just like a drawing.  I was afraid to use an adhesive for fear that over time it would release inside the frame.  I then had to figure out the proper mat and frame combination.  Some of the pieces needed to be framed in a deep frame because of the addition of three dimensional object.

Although I felt like I was reinventing the wheel, I was sure that other artists had already been there.  As it turned out,  I have never seen anyone do anything exactly like this.  I have had the pieces in galleries (I will talk about that experience later) and they are quite popular.  I have shown two pieces at the top of this post.  Immediately you can see the problem I faced;  photographing the finished work is very difficult.  Shadows change how the piece looks, but they also show the depth and details that would otherwise be lost.  Beading gets lost unless the light catches them, but that then distracts from the image and the collage elements.  So, it became difficult to send pictures out, they had to be seen in person. 


My journey began with solving the problem of affixing the collage within the frame so it would not move.  I tried wiring the collage to a mat board using grommets in the fabric.  I then ran wire through the grommet and the mat board.  That solution seemed to limit what I could do with my designs (always using the same materials on each collage).  I made lots of experiments and finally punched holes in the mat board with an ice pick.  I then actually sewed the collage onto the mat board with fine mono-filament after temporarily affixing it in position with a glue stick.   The collages are made using an underlayment to position the pieces on, they are washed sometimes, painted on and beaded after washing.  I use found materials, sometimes cutting the finished product apart and reconstructing into another form.  The possibilities are endless, but I was limited by how big I could make them.  The design elements seem to lose structure as the pieces got bigger.  When the piece became too large the fabric pieces became distracting as fabric instead of a shape of color.  Also, all of the small details really meant that the pieces needed to be more intimate.  So from across a room you see an abstract collage and up close you see all the fine details.

I still make collages and some are still fabric.  I have had much more fun learning how to paint and have been using some of the materials from the collages as part of my paintings.  Next time I will talk about my first gallery experience.

Keep making art!