Textile Art Work Process

I like to work in a series as one piece informs the next and leads to a collection that has examined an idea more fully. I like to observe the way a piece evolves from one expression of an idea to the next in an integrated and harmonious whole.

I begin with writing to find the content and imagery of a series. I free associate to uncover ideas in words I can later translate to imagery. For example, in the series Kimono, I connected to words like confined and trapped when reflecting on the word shame. These words led to sewing words like hemmed-in and needled also cut-off and cornered.

Once I have a generous list of words, I develop a collection of images both drawn and cutout or traced that illustrate my seminal idea. I allow the unconscious to make connections and I translate those connections into images. I do not hurry the process. I work on it until I have run out of ways to show my idea. Finally, I limit the images to a very few that will simply and directly illustrate my idea(s.)

catherine kirsch color is primaryAfter I choose my image, I develop the tools for translating those images to the cloth. This involves choosing the cloth, choosing the palette, creating different kinds and sizes of silk screens, and cutting stamps and stencils. I work on handkerchief linen and silk broadcloth in panels fourteen to sixteen inches wide. These textiles take dye beautifully and are easily manipulated with heat and stitch. As the cloth has a tight, smooth weave, a silk screen prints a clear image.
I approach my work with consideration for the artistic principles of balance, color, line, shape, texture and color. The Japanese aesthetic of asymmetry, a muted color palette, attention to detail and fine workmanship are central to my work.
Color is primary in my work and I study it diligently and deeply. For every piece I make a series of color wheels to identify the palette in its hue, intensity, value, color, context and harmonies. In fabric paint, I enjoy observing the way a hue changes when mixed slowly in regular additions. I often add a hue to another in 1/4t increments around the color wheel. These studies help to understand visually and immediately the way color works on a particular cloth.

I do the same with Procion MX Dye when I color the cloth in strips and then cut out small shapes to paste on to the catherine kirsch process 2color wheel. The same idea applies; I visually experience the changing hue as it is mixed with another in a regular manner. This exercise can result in a collection of coordinated cloths that often find their way into the piece at hand.

catherine kirsch process 3I use shibori, an ancient Japanese dyeing technique to create line, shape and texture. This resist dyeing method involves binding, stitching, folding, twisting and compressing the cloth. The resulting patterns are a lovely first layer on the fabric. This is also a wonderful technique for creating texture, as are other resist techniques applying soy wax, acrylic medium and flour. Stitch alone creates line and shape. And screening tools are ideal for printing shapes and words. All of these tools and techniques are used to create a rich layered surface enhanced with stitch and appliqué.