Out of South Africa


In the mid 1980’s I became interested in the use of textile and fiber – a group of media that bring together processes that have great appeal to me:  designing, sewing, creating physical objects by hand and working with fabrics and color. This rich tactile world has been an absorbing and ever-changing part of my life ever since.
I live in Durban, a subtropical city of many cultures, on the east coast of South Africa and work in a large, elevated and light-filled studio.  The wide view leads the eye over the garden with rolling hills and the Indian Ocean in the distance.
Aspects of both contemporary and traditional techniques that are used in my stitched textiles, convey an eclectic quality to my work. Both hand and machine stitching may be combined in one work, depending on what seems appropriate. I use cotton, silk, organza and other textiles like bark cloth and linen,  that may be hand dyed, painted and screened or commercially printed.
The multi-layered spirit of my African environment is an enduring influence in my work. (See  Remix Africa, My Heart is Glad, Babanango Meets Grey Street and Raw Wall.) Another inspiration is organza fabric which has different characteristics to other fabrics that I use. I am fascinated with the delicate, translucent qualities of organza fabric which allow light and vision to pass through the layers of fabric. (See Breath no.1, Cross Section, Shadow Traces and Pentimento).
My process of working is direct and improvisational. I may start with a thumbnail sketch or not. Several ideas usually merge together in one work and they could originate from memories combined with observation and thoughts and indeed, the fabric itself.  The need to create and to understand or interpret my thoughts, feelings and experiences are what motivate me.
The formal elements of design are always an important ingredient and can feature as a starting point for a work e.g. On The Edge no. 3.  I am endlessly fascinated by the relationships and contrasts between shapes, lines, colours and textures. Abstract imagery is typical of my surface design, although it’s not unusual to occasionally see some realism.
Over the past 30 years I have participated in many juried and invited artist group textile exhibitions, both locally and internationally in the U.S.A, Canada, U.K., New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Europe and Taipei.  My work has been published internationally and in South Africa (most recently in CraftArt In South Africa: Creative Intersections by Elbe Coetsee) and is included in private and public collections in South Africa, U.S.A, Canada and France.
For more information, visit www.odettetolksdorf.co.za.