Monday, February 10, 2014

7 reasons saving things is not hoarding

fiber necklace from that recycled sweater yarn
I have met many artists who collect materials for their work and end up with an overwhelming stash that borders on hoarding. I may or may not have such a stash of supplies, but I do know that there is a big difference between keeping things that may prove useful to your art and keeping things that have no use or value (hoarding).

I never thought that I was sentimental, but I have discovered that I save things because I want to make use of them. I save gifts that I may never use or wear because I feel the givers intentions of kindness are still held within the object and to throw it away would somehow feel hurtful. So, I keep it with the intention of reusing the materials. [reason #1] I do feel that all the objects I save can be given a new life.

I saved the first sweaters I ever bought for myself with money I earned form my first job at Stewart Photography while I was a senior in high school. I wore those sweaters out, but I couldn't bear to throw them away, so I decided to unravel (or is it ravel?) the yarn to reuse in something new. Just the process of pulling the sweater apart and rolling all that yarn into a ball was cathartic and relaxing. [reason #2] Honestly, knitting and other fiber arts are very therapeutic.

In high school I claimed my dads tattered old cashmere overcoat that he had when he was in high school. It was ripped up the back and frayed at every edge. My dad told me how he remembered the day he tried it on and his dad purchased it for him. I can't remember the rest of the story, but [reason #3] I remember feeling a connection and that it felt important to honor the memory in the coat. I cut the coat shorter because so much of the fabric was worn out. I repaired the rips in the lining and then added a deep red velvet (recycled from an old dress) to the cuffs and the collar. I was so proud of that coat and wore it all the time - in fact I still have it hanging in my closet. And every time I wear the coat I feel a connection to my dad and grandfather.
My daughter posing with the altered coat - it's difficult to see the burgundy velvet...

The more I collect materials to work with, the more I realize that reusing and recycling fabrics from previously used and loved items is an important part of my work. [reason #4] They add more meaning to my work. Even the current abstract embroidery work I'm doing has fibers and fabrics recycled from old bed covers, pillowcases, and threads from my own projects.

Community by Kelly Darke - embroidery on cotton

The more I think about the direction of my work and wonder where it all started I realize I've always been saving and collecting. When I was a kid I collected all kinds of fabric, yarn, and things. I didn't know how to sew very well, but I would make my own clothes. [reason #5] The freedom to experiment with materials was a great way for me to build my creative problem-solving skills.  One of my favorite pieces that I made was a patchwork wrap skirt that I made with pieces recycled from a worn out favorite plaid shirt, part of a t-shirt from a friend, and other various pieces that I had saved from other projects. I used to wear the skirt in the summer over a pair of shorts or leggings - I loved it.

the original cards I made
a very small portion of my stash
I also had bags of string, yarn, and cones of string for weaving (still do). I didn't know how to knit or weave at the time. I barely knew how to crochet. My older cousin had given me a spool of string and showed me how to make a crochet chain using my fingers. So, I made a lot of really long chains. At some point, my mom gave me a craft magazine with an article about card weaving, which was so inspiring! [reason #6] The support from my mom also gave me confidence to continue working on projects even when they didn't always turn out. I took some old card stock and cut into into squares, punched four holes in each, and started weaving.
ring made with woven gold wire

The first thing I made with that was a small pocket size bag with a strap that I painted with swirls and smiley faces. In college, I purchased the book, Card Weaving, by Candace Crockett and wove with metal wire.

I've since learned how to knit, weave, crochet, sew, paint, print, …. I am an artist - a maker - I am constantly making things and thinking of new things to make. I still use recycled fabric and yarn in my art today and it is often from personal source and contains a lot of meaning or emotion. As an art therapist, I continue to study the relationship of fiber art and emotions - our connection to the texture and memory of our fiber objects from clothing to soft toys. [reason #7] I also share my knowledge and techniques with other artists and therapists in online workshops. My early obsession with fiber has grown up a bit and is even more curious.

What do you do with your favorite old sweater? or that tattered old baby blanket? Tell me your ideas.

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