About The Artist – Catherine Kirsch

catherine kirsch about the artist

I trace my life with cloth and, as with many textile artists, I was introduced to needlework by my mother and maternal grandmother. My mother was at ease sewing without a pattern and once made living room curtains from designer sheets. In Paris, France, my grandmother opened a small shop selling women’s custom-made trousers, a garment coming into fashion after the Second World War. As a young girl, I made aprons by hand, learning to gather the top edge with small stitches, even gathers and a finely stitched waistband. The care expected to create the apron extended to the hem. The blind stitch used to finish the garment was to be invisible.

During high school, I made new outfits over the weekend to wear to school on Monday morning. I liked unusual fabrics and once made a shift dress from a blue-green Indian bedspread that I paired with turquoise tights, a long strand of blue beads and pale orange shoes. As a young woman, I used money from my first paycheck as a professional social worker to buy a gorgeous length of silk for a Vogue dress.

Sewing was (and still is) a source of comfort and focus when my life was (or is) in upheaval. My mind is stilled and my attention focused by the soft hum of the sewing machine, the hiss of the steam iron and the satisfying sound of thread pulling through cloth. Immersed in a creative flow, I am temporarily free from everyday conflicts.

As a young mother, I explored quilt-making projects that were portable and easily interrupted. But I found the task of cutting cloth into small pieces only to sew them together again an unsatisfying prospect. I was delighted to discover crazy-quilting, a much looser method focused on showing materials to their best effect, where
I reconnected with the pleasures of texture, color and self-expression. Here, I began to consider that sewing might have possibilities as an art form. With exposure to the art quilt, I noticed that the same principles applied to painting and photography could be found working with cloth. Line, shape, texture and color all had a place in art quilts.

At about this time, I noticed the work of Jane Dunnewold, a maker in San Antonio, Texas who wrote a book in 1996-called Complex Cloth. She presented the idea that an artist could layer dye, paint, stitch and imagery on cloth in much the same way a painter layers acrylics on a canvas. Cutting cloth was no longer necessary!

In 2007, I took my first course with her at ProChemical and Dye in Fall River, Ma and followed that with an online independent study. This led to joining her two-and-half year ArtCloth Mastery Program which I completed in 2011.The rigor and attention to detail was very interesting and harkened back to that earlier time learning to sew with care and awareness. I now began to think as an artist and discovered I was creative, innovative and original like my mother and grandmother before me.