This is a recent piece that is currently traveling with our latest High Fiber Diet show called “OMG—That’s Fiber!” We were urged to push some limits of the medium for this show. Though it hangs on the wall, it is a 3-dimensional piece. I’ve been asked a lot of questions about it, mainly how I made it. I actually took a few photos as I was working on it, so I could add some visuals to my explanation. I am definitely not the first person to create fabric sculpture. It’s a thing, and there are lots of ways to approach it, but I kind of figured out on my own what my approach would be. Rather than sew a shape that would be stuffed with something that would give it form, I was interested in trying to create form from flat pieces that fit together in a way that resulted in creating the appearance of a rounded object, kind of like the way a soccer ball is made up of flat hexagons.
I started with a paper maché mask purchased at the art supply store. I visually identified flat planes and potential places where planes come together, and began cutting and recutting paper, and joining them together with tiny pieces of masking tape, refining the pieces to fit nicely together and deciding where two pieces could easily be more efficiently cut as a single piece, until I was satisfied with the form.
At this point I could see that it went together pretty well, but was smaller than I wanted, so I traced each piece onto paper, scanned all the pieces, opened them in a graphics program on my computer and enlarged all the pieces by the same percentage and printed out my new, larger pattern pieces on card stock.
Since the face is symmetrical, it seemed easiest to just create half the face in this initial version.
I carefully removed the tape so I could lay them flat and trace each piece, flipping it after one side was drawn to draw the mirror imaged opposite side. I needed a sturdier paper for my pattern, so I traced the pieces onto some of my supply of used file folders. (These are endlessly useful and free!)
Now I had all the pattern pieces for cutting the fabric and interfacing for the final piece, but first I taped it all back together again just for a final check to see if everything fit together.
I have used this method before for other projects. My father was a mechanical engineer and I remember him building small cardboard models of all, or parts, of machines he designed, often to determine the ways planes would intersect or join together. I think I got my ideas for my methods from observing him. Several years ago I blogged about designing this crow in a similar way. (See here)
I find that adding that third dimension is a welcome challenge. More of the exhibits I like to submit work for are accepting 3-D work now. This week I started working on a new piece in 3 dimensions. I have barely begun and it is proving especially challenging.
Perhaps I’ll update this one as I work. Perhaps it won’t ever come together in an acceptable way. I don’t think you can tell yet what I have in mind. I have a deadline looming, however, so my fingers are crossed....
It’s an adventure, this third dimension.