(Ed.) How many of us are fiber artists in multiple forms? Do you embroider? Knit? Crochet? Sew? Spin? Weave? Rughook? Needle felt? More? Multi-talented fiber artist Cal Patch will teach TWO classes this year — On Friday afternoon, you can sew a folk dress or tunic and make it your very own with embellishments. Cal will share her passion for crochet on Sunday afternoon with the gorgeous Wingfeathers Shawl class. Her broad knowledge of the fiber arts is sure to help you to hone your skills, or maybe you want to try something new! Remember that you can register for Fiber College classes at our website: www.fibercollege.org And now. let’s meet Cal!
What does this year’s Fiber College theme “Do It Your Way!” mean to you as a fiber artist and teacher? When it comes to creativity, art or craft, “your way” is the only way. Explore, experiment, but follow your gut; don’t try to be anything you’re not!
How did you decide to become an artist? I consider myself a maker, designer, or artisan more than an artist. When I decided to major in clothing design in college, it was because it seemed similar to being an artist and I might be able to get a job and earn a living. My rationale at the time was “Everyone wears clothes!” and it’s still true.
How do you develop your own style? You have to listen to your own beat. It might take time until you find it, but don’t give up. You can be open to influences, but be mindful that they “influence” and don’t “lead” your direction.
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have? I’m very slow to begin working, and to transition between tasks. But once I get going, I don’t want to stop. I often think about ideas for years before I take action.
What would a student be most surprised to know about you? If you told me ten years ago that I would write a book on pattern drafting and be best known for that, I would insist you were mistaken. It was never one of my strengths, largely because I feel that the way it’s typically taught isn’t practical. However, this is exactly what led me to develop my own simplified, practical methods which are exactly what I teach.
How does your early work differ from what you are doing now? I used to add a lot of very delicate handwork embellishments. However, I also like my pieces to be very utilitarian and hold up well over time, so now I tend to be less ornate.
Tell us about a proud moment you’ve had as a result of your students’ efforts. My students tell me all the time that they never thought they could make their own clothes. I never tire of hearing it!
You’ve just run into an old friend from high school. How do you answer the question, “What do YOU do?” I make clothes, and I teach others how to make their own handmade wardrobe.
How do you imagine your work might change in the next five years? I am trying to source more organic, sustainable, domestically-made fabrics. I’d love to be more involved in the world of textile manufacturing, and help encourage more garment-appropriate fabrics.
Tell us about your studio space and how you work. My studio is the largest room in my house, with large windows on three sides, which means I’m surrounded by the seasons and nature. I see my chickens, my garden, forest, and deer, chipmunks, birds and other wildlife from my seat at the sewing machine. Inside, it’s a bit of a jumble; I work in a state of organized chaos. I’m trying to learn to be tidier, but many a project has begun with an unintentional pairing of materials that happened randomly in the studio. My process tends to begin with the fabric or yarn, so keeping it in sight inspires my brain to be constantly thinking about how I want to use it.
As an instructor, what would be the best advice you could give to a student? Keep going. Try things. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll only get better with each successive attempt.
What project has given you the most satisfaction and why? I recently taught an online workshop which shows people how to draft two basic patterns (a skirt and shift dress), then how to modify each pattern and add on extras like collars and pockets, so that one can make a whole wardrobe. It’s very rewarding to know that I’ve helped people make what they want to, completely from scratch, and all from their own unique body measurements.
Who has had the greatest influence on your work as an artist? I admire J. Morgan Puett, Rei Kawakubo, and Natalie Chanin.
How do you ensure plenty of time to be an artist? The work comes first, and everything else is planned around it.
What’s the greatest thing you’ve learned as a fiber artist? I try to respect and utilize the unique properties of any fiber. I don’t like to use artificial stiffeners or softeners or anything that changes the quality of the material I work with. Either I choose the fiber based on the project, or let the materials tell me what they want to be.
What’s the most important thing that you want potential students to know about you? I love teaching, and giving my students the gift of new skills that will allow them to make a lifetime of beautiful things brings me great joy!
My website/blog urls are:
You can find Cal’s book here: Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified