Because the industrial zig-zag sewing machine I draw with has only one stitch, a mechanized version of an artist’s scribble, which can scumble or lay in solid color or thin into a line; because I have drawn all my life in a great variety of media, and now that I’m drawing with a sewing machine, there’s no reason to call it anything else; and because drawing/sewing is the primary transformative agent that over days and weeks turns scraps of patterned fabric into works of art.

     

I still have the power grinders I used when I was a sculptor, for such materials as steel, cast bronze, brass, aluminum, epoxy and polyester resin and fiberglass. From the top, my 7” side-grinder, a real beast, my 25,000 RPM miniature die grinder, a screamer but great for details, and my sweet little 4 1/2” side-grinder, a wonderfully versatile machine.
 

I hated sewing. In Seventh Grade Home Economics, each of us girls had to make a skirt. I selected the fabric, a turquoise paisley in polished cotton, but refused to sew a skirt from it. After my mother made the skirt for me so that I wouldn’t flunk the class, I refused to wear it. I had only a vague idea of how to use a sewing machine when I started to make sewn drawings. But I was trained and worked for many years as a sculptor, using all kinds of hand and power tools. An industrial sewing machine is just another power tool, one that I draw with. I still have absolutely no interest in making curtains or clothing.

 

Process generates the imagery. I just have to show up and do the work. I start by moving around scraps of patterned fabric and paying close attention to what is happening under my hands. When something interesting comes together, I lay it on another printed fabric and sew into it. I keep sewing, making changes, picking out stitches, pulling off pieces of fabric and sewing down new scraps, sometimes even cutting the whole thing apart and reconstructing it, all in the service of the process, groping toward something I’ve never seen before.


 
 

I shop in discount fabric stores all over Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, seldom buying more than a yard at a time or paying much more than $10 a yard, usually without having any idea of what I’m going to do with it. Second-hand clothing stores sometimes have very nice things—there is more than enough fabric in a printed blouse for my purposes. Whenever I travel to another city, I try to visit fabric stores and vintage clothing shops, where I sometimes find wonderful things. After my sewn drawings were first shown, people started giving me pieces of fabric and trim. Mickey Kreuger of Windham Fabrics invited me to his warehouse in Jersey City to choose anything I wanted.

It is a greater challenge to find thread. No matter how many spools and cones of thread I already have, I am always trying to match a particular color in a fabric that is part of a new drawing. I buy whatever I can find, industrial cones, Coats & Clark, Metrosene, and Gutterman spools, offbrands and surplus—polyester, poly-cotton, cotton, and silk.


 
 

Weeks or months, depending on size and complexity. For every hour I spend sewing, I spend another two hours drawing threads back, one by one, tying them off to the bobbin threads, and trimming the excess. For example, it takes about fifteen hours to do five hours of sewing. And since I never know what the finished drawing is going to look like until very late in the process, I invariably spend a lot of time revising, undoing, re-doing, and repairing collateral damage. Fortunately, sewing/drawing is the most interesting and compelling thing I have ever done, and no amount of trouble is too much.


 


 

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