Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Marriage of Passions

One of the wonders of working with my hands is being able to combine beloved techniques with new mediums. My first introduction to the handcrafted world was through origami. Someone gave my older brother an origami kit when we were kids. He wasn't interested in it, so he gave it to me. I spent many happy hours playing with the beautiful papers and intricate folds. I collected interesting papers and all the books I could find on the subject. I think my parents still have little pieces of folded up paper decorating their offices and tucked amonst their Christmas decorations.

But I got older and although my fascination for origami never waned, I tired of making items that were basically decorative knick knacks. I was devastated whenever one of my creations was torn or crushed because it got knocked over or was handled too roughly. So I put away my papers and my origami books and looked for other outlets for my creativity. Still holding a love for the art of creating 3 dimensional objects using a basically 2 dimensional medium, I learned to knit and crochet and tat. I was young enough to not be too impressed with hats, scarves or afghans, but rather, I was drawn to the sculptural side of these arts. I experimented with different stiffening agents to make decorations, snowflakes and angels. But again, I found myself creating basically decorative items that, while nice to look at, eventually got in the way and had to be either put up or thrown out.

Then I discovered fabric, and the whole creative world opened up for me. Using fabric, which is basically flat, I could create all kinds of wonderful 3 dimensional objects. I found that I prefered to make clothing over decorative items. There was more of a challenge for me to get a garment to fit a figure perfectly. I really love fine fabrics, silks, satins, lace, and brocades which tend to be a bit much for most people's home decorating needs. And, quite frankly, I just couldn't tolerate the idea of seeing a pillow I had made from silk dupioni lying on someone's floor gathering dust and dog hair. So, garment sewing it was for me. I spent years catering to the bridal industry, creating gowns and bride's maid dresses, full of lace, luxurious fabrics and infinite detail. But I still held a love for origami and it's simplistic complexity.

During one of my many moves, I had a terrible accident that produced an amazing result. One of the boxes holding my crafting supplies was damaged and its liquid contents leaked into one of my fabric boxes, rendering the fabric stiff as a board and completely unusable for garments. The fabric in question was a lovely cotton with a small geometric print that had always reminded me of the beautiful washi papers i loved for origami. I decided to try to make a crane from the ruined fabric. To my utter delight, it turned out beautifully and still adorns my Christmas tree every year. And thus began my journey into the world of fabric origami.

I experimented with different types of fabric and stiffening agents until I found a combination that produced a stiff, yet flexible fabric perfect for origami. But what to make? What could I produce with this new medium that wouldn't be just one more thing for my friends and family to have to find space for?

I dug through my origami books and found several wallet designs that I had always loved, but felt were too impractical made from paper. More experimentation made me realize that many of the wallets using Origami techniques revealed the wrong side of the fabric. Since I prefered to use patterned fabrics, I found this to be unattractive and dove in to find a solution. After yet more experimentation, I discovered a way to laminate two fabrics together that provided additional strength, covered the wrong side of the fabric and added to the finished beauty of the wallets. I played with the different patterns I had available, and finally settled on a style and size that I felt would be the most useful: a wallet to carry my ATM card with enough pockets to store receipts, credit cards and even my business card. I expanded the pattern to make a checkbook cover and am now contemplating notebook covers.

What a wonderful combination, the simple and elegant folds of origami, the endless colors and prints available in fabrics and a finished product that is not just beautiful, but indispendable. My mom uses hers for her business cards and tells me at least once a week of the compliments she gets. My daughter put a photo wallet in hers and carries pictures of BFFs. I am still using my original protype to carry my ATM, credit and insurance cards. It truly is a fine example of a marriage of passions.

postscript - After writing this entry, I did some internet research. You cannot imagine my frustration, chagrin and eventual humor at finding that I was not the first person to combine fabric and origami techniques. Nor even the first to reproduce this particular pattern in fabric. Though I do believe I am the only one using two layers of fabric. I guess this just goes to show that every journey into creativity is just a repeat of something that has happened before. I cherish my time spent in figuring this out for it is through the journey and all I learned along the way that I discovered my ability to find solutions to my creative roadblocks.


XUE said...

Hi Genevieve! A pleasure to read this wonderful posting. Each description creates an image of you in mind. And again thank you, for the honour of being in yr treasury. I truly appreciate that & hv written the whole world about it (ok, ok....just in my blog)!

Elizabeth said...

I like the clean, neat look of these card cases and checkbooks. No "frou-frou" and yet no masculine look. They are definitely feminine, not exactly tailored, but are business-like and graceful at the same time.

You are really good!g

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i sew because i cannot draw.