Upcycled Hand-Dyed Dresses from Indonesia and Beyond Timbuktu (Part 1)
What a find! Digging through the racks of my favorite shop, Beyond Timbuktu, in Edwardsville, IL with a textile project in mind for my daughter, I stumbled upon two beautifully hand-dyed dresses (3X and 1X) from Indonesia. Not only were they on the sale rack, they were each marked down from $98 to $10!! The owner of Beyond Timbuktu, Andi Smith, and her family, adopted my daughter and I into their family back when we were on hard times 15 years ago; and they have been an integral part of out lives ever since. Betsy worked for Andi for many years at Beyond Timbuktu while she was in high school and junior college before she moved to Ft. Myers, Florida to finish her Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy.
A few weeks ago, I called Betsy and asked her what she would like me to bring her for Christmas. (Yes, it will be tough, but I am spending Christmas week on a beach in Florida.) She gently reminded me that two years ago, as I helped her pack up her apartment, I vacuumed her office chair with the working end of the vacuum (the little brush was NOT doing its job properly!). The cloth on the chair lost the battle and the vacuum ate a bite out of the fabric. Not good!! But the chair went into storage until Betsy recently moved into a larger condo in Cape Coral, FL. So when I asked her what she wanted this year, my sweet voiced daughter (the same woman who can easily move a 200 pound man in and out of a hospital chair as an OT) gently asked if I might make her a new seat cover for her slightly damaged office chair. At first, I thought about dying fabric (in my spare time while teaching 30 art classes each week, ha!). Then I thought about buying fabric at Goodwill ... and I did. But the queen-sized baby blue quilt I found at the Goodwill was so beautiful and in such perfect condition, (yes, I am selfish) that I could not cut it up. So I put it on my bed for the winter since it was nicer than the one I had on the bed. Thus, when I found the generously sized, hand-dyed dresses at a place that means so much to both Betsy and me, it was already like Christmas!
Since Betsy's office is also her guest room, I thought it might be a good thing to make, not only a seat cover, but also a small pieced quilt and a few pillows for her new futon. Thus, this weekend, I put away my book binding and handmade paper collage supplies, cleaned off the work table in my dry studio, set up my beloved 1972 Singer sewing machine, and started cutting a pattern out of manila paper from the measurements and office chair photos Betsy texted me from Florida. With a cup of coffee perched on the back right corner of my machine (as it has been for almost 40 years - YIKES!!!!), Dommie (our Bichon Frise) patiently watching from his corner chair by the window, and madrigal voices filling the studio from Itunes Radio on my Mac (plugged into my old stereo system), I picked up my scissors and made the first cut.
Having been an illustrator, art educator, and an avid gardener for many years, I have always been drawn to aerial views of land, maps, rivers, soil, and organic systems. Experimenting with handmade plant fiber paper is a culmination of that attraction to texture and natural materials. By combining my papers with ephemera collected along the way, my work layers history, meaning, and place into objects that are no longer lost or mis-placed, but reconstructed and transformed.