Driving Force

Using vintage fabric odds and ends for quilts

Obsessive?  Perhaps, a bit…

I work in mixed media, arrived at when I felt constrained by sticking just to textiles since I needed to alter things to work together.  As a former art teacher I was always combining odd materials and encouraging the same from my students, so I had no fear about modifying things until they worked. Printing my photography to fabric on my inkjet opened up whole new vistas of what could be done, then laminating and fusing paper to cloth was the next step.  Some work is stretched on canvas stretchers, some mounted on rigid surfaces, some hung like traditional art quilts- whatever the work needs.  The first piece for which I won an award contained a sewn on border of Christmas tree lights that blinked through the whole show, admittedly a cheap trick to garner attention, not necessarily all positive!  Of course there are some construction issues that come up with every hare-brained scheme, but so far I’ve been able to devise an individual system for each piece as I go.  Embroidery and stitchery, acrylic paints and various printing methods are employed, or invented, where needed.  There is a technique to achieve just about anything, aided by some simple power tools, lack of common sense, and overabundance of confidence that anything can be done.

I especially love working with vintage fabrics, and collect anything I find in consignment and junk stores. My huge piles of oddities and manufacturers off-cuts act as inspirations as the fabric is always the driving force of an idea that leads me through a series of discovering new rabbit holes as the plan develops.  Currently I am mulling over a pile of 30’s barkcloth scraps and planning to integrate it with my grandmothers 1880’s 2 piece wedding dress.  By adding layer upon layer of fabrics and materials, the story develops depth and detail, and there is always a story!

I have a studio in a local industrial park here in south Florida that has been a life saver for my supply and material hoarding instincts.  Occasionally I can barely walk through the room so I then spend weeks fondly touching, refolding, recategorizing, and tossing out.  Recently I was facing another overdue clean-out, and received news I was fortuitously included in a retrospective of my Boston critique group which has been faithfully meeting for over 35 years.  I needed new work for the exhibit at the New England Quilt Museum so without a bit of hesitation I dove into cutting up my giant backlog of quilts made since the mid 70’s. 

‘Autobiography’ is the result of slicing up almost 200 quilts completed over 40 some years.  Best clean-out ever.  The leftover scraps from that endeavor have been the basis for three more (very) multi media work!
Since my studio was finally clear and I could do anything I wanted, I started a new series based on names of animal groupings: ’Murmuration’,  ‘The Snipe Hunt’, and ‘A Scurry of Squirrels’, included here.    For this, I have no plan other than the group names and the ‘rule’ that I do not allow myself to buy any new materials, and have to include vintage fabrics- I must use what is at hand.  I have enough to keep going for many more years, and sometimes it just takes a bit of paint or an edge touched with a rust treatment or a border of some Guatemalan weaving to complete a project.

To learn more visit http://www.sandydonabed.com.



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