My Other Passion

At Art Is Petaluma, I moderated a panel discussion about My Other Passion, about the other thing–or things–that inspire artists, aside from their usual work. I picked the topic in part because I already knew that two of the artists are really passionate about this and would have lots to say, and of course that’s always key if you’re doing a panel discussion, especially if it’s scheduled for early in the morning, when some of the panelists might be a little less than loquacious. Michael deMeng is, of course, passionate about Mexico, about his travels there, about the art, the people, the food, the rich culture and history and folktales. Thomas Mann is no less passionate about food, about the slow food movement, about cooking and feeding his friends. While I haven’t been to Mexico with Michael, I know someone who has, and I have been a guest at the table at The Rose Tattoo, Tom’s home in New Orleans.

I love how creative people find multiple ways to express that creativity. Painters cook. Sculptors garden. Writers build. Collage artists sew. Rather than take away from their work, these secondary passions support what they do in the studio.

My other passion is stitching. I learned to sew by hand when I was five–I still have the first doll I designed, with buttons at her waist and shoulder so I could cut out clothes from scraps and button them to her, like a three-dimensional fabric paper doll with two-dimensional clothes.

This is the original, with original clothing (styling by Lennie Lulu)

This is one I made decades later. She never got any clothes.

I like sewing by hand, and over the years I’ve stitched stuffed figures–human and animal–art quilts, wall hangings, and clothes. Lots and lots of clothes. Re-fashioning and embellishing clothing has totally captured my interest in the last two decades–it’s something that grabbed me in high school. I share a lot of my projects on my own blog, and I thought I’d start sharing some of them here, as well, because–of course!–I have an ulterior motive in sharing them publicly: I want to hook more people and get them excited about altering clothing so they’ll start projects and post photos. I’ll get ideas (and can ask questions, because the truth is that I don’t really know how to sew, not The Real Way), they’ll get ideas, we’ll all get new ideas for ways to change the boring clothes available to us.

I buy almost all my cltohes at thrift shops and consignment stores. I like to start with garments that have been washed and worn and broken in. They’re easier to dye and I don’t feel bad about cutting into something that didn’t cost a lot. Plus it’s just a good practice to re-use and recycle. The local Goodwill has clothes half price on Sundays, so I can get t-shirts to cut apart for 79 cents and skirts for less than $2.

The inspiration for my current obsession came from a cropped sweatshirt in Anthropologie in downtown Portland. Here it is: (I can’t provide a link because this isn’t on their website any more–it was on clearance when I saw it):

On Friday, I’ll show you how I made my own version, which, as you might guess, looks nothing at all like this one.


Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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2 Responses to My Other Passion

  1. Tonia Davenport says:

    I can’t wait to see your version! I’m sure it’s way cooler than the Anthropologie one.