Some of us inherited the tradition of fiber arts perhaps from a dear grandmother, a favorite aunt, or a loving parent. My grandmother taught me how to use her old Singer sewing machine back in the sixties; my mother first showed me how to knit (a scarf, of course!). Maybe you’ve been fortunate enough to carry on a fiber tradition and teach one of your grandchildren how to knit or spin.
Anita Palsgrove came from a rich heritage of fiber arts but knew early on that she needed greater opportunities for creativity than clothing construction and hand sewing would allow. Anita continued to explore, learn, and teach today with and from friends she made while traveling across the country each year. Fiber College held a special place in Anita’s heart.
Tell us about how community plays a part in your life as a fiber artist.
I value solitary time, and because we live “on the road,” it’s my daily norm. But any time I have a chance to gather with other artists, informally or in workshops, classes or special studio times, I always leave feeling energized and inspired. Finding Fiber College was truly life-changing! It provides the best possible combination of artists, vendors, workshops, sharing, inspiration, mini classes, and adult “summer camp” – and all on a predictable schedule that we can plan travels around. And best of all, many friendships have grown from this annual gathering! It’s great to say, “See you here next year!”
Tell us how you entered into the world of fiber and the fiber arts.
I was born into a world of fabrics, sewing, tailoring, and home decorating. My mother took her sewing very seriously—as did her two sisters—and I learned hand sewing at a young age. But clothing construction and tailoring were too constraining, too precise, and frustrated my creative energies. Years later I met Maine’s master papermaker, Richard Lee, and became enthralled with the alchemy of Kozo fibers floating in the slurry of pulp, that would allow me to create paper of unequaled beauty and possibility. The hours spent in his studio were so valuable, and led me to try large, 3-dimensional assemblages, mobiles, small books and into the world of artists’ journals and surface design; it was the perfect creative medium.
How do you keep your creativity fresh and new? What have you experimented with in the fiber arts in the past year?
I’m always trying new things, and I follow several blogs that are endlessly inspiring. I always have clip books or notebooks dripping with interesting ideas I saw somewhere. Last year I returned to hand sewing, working on a relatively large wall piece entitled The Sacred Woman. I also worked on smaller pieces mixing eco-prints with rust dyeing to create abstract quilted and embroidered assemblages. I also work on several small artist journals each year – it’s a way to connect my love of paper with collage and color.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given to a student or another fiber friend? You’ve hit a roadblock and need to get back into your creative groove. How would you do that?
Just do something every day. If you can’t paint, gesso blank pages for an artists’ journal or altered book. If you can’t sew, glue images of things that attract your attention into an idea book. If you can’t add something of interest to your journal, then doodle, doodle, doodle. Any creative effort of 10 minutes or more will feed your soul, and get the juices going.
What does your studio space look like now? What change would you make if you could?
My husband and I (and 3 cats) live full-time in a 35’ RV, spending our time traveling between new adventures and favorite locations. My “studio” consists of a series of cubby compartments, the kitchen table, and a nice size tent when the weather allows me to work outside. I have found that larger projects like paper making, or silk screening have to be restricted to special studio time with friends, but most everything else can be done in my limited space. I do tend to work smaller these days, and organization issues are never ending. Fortunately, my dye and rust tub travels nicely in the back of the pick-up truck, getting rustier as we drive along.
What’s the most important thing that you want potential students to know about you?
Life – and art – is meant to enrich us, inspire us, and make us happy. There are no rules in the work I produce; we share in the adventure of making it up as we go along. So bring a sense of fun, your best laugh, some stories to share, new ideas, and let your creativity leak out all over the place. What I produce will reflect me – but what you produce will be ALL YOURS. And that should make you very happy.