Jennifer Swift is a mixed-media artist who specializes in the use of wire and fabric. Her blog, Bird from a Wire, regularly features tutorials for making all sorts of fabulous things, many including fabric. Her work graced the cover of the May/June issue of cloth paper scissors magazine. Jen is also the author of Creative Bloom: Projects and Inspiration with Fabric and Wire, published by North Light Books.
Q: What kind of art are you known for?
A: I love to combine wire and fabric to create sculptures, wall art, books, jewelry etc. I love the juxtaposition of the hard black wire with soft colored fabrics combine to create such an usual look.
Q: What are you working on right now?
A: Right now I’ve been exploring ways to create dimension in my wall quilts and really any way of taking fabric 3D is a huge draw for me artistically.
Q: What’s your current favorite, can’t-live-without-it tool?
A: Oh I LOVE my carpenter’s rulers. My grandfather was a carpenter and I collect them obsessively. I do use them too though so I feel like the collection’s justified. My pliers and wire are a can’t-live-without, travel with me everywhere supply as well.
Q: What is your least favorite technique that you still use anyway?
A: Stamping quotes and phrases on fabric. I use little acrylic letter stamps and stamp each letter individually. It’s horribly time consuming and I get distracted and mess up a lot. But the alternative is printing them off on a computer, and I really like the look I get with the stamps so much more.
Q: What do you listen to when you create?
A: I usually like quiet. I have a 6-year-old boy, and it’s usually fairly loud in the house. I do like listening to crafty podcasts while I’m cooking though.
Q: What’s the most inspiring trip you’ve ever taken or adventure you’ve ever had?
A: I was lucky enough to grow up with parents who were teachers and would take us on one big huge road trip each summer. I’ve seen a lot of the national parks because of this. I also have a husband who indulges my whims for international travel to places like Italy and Spain. Each trip is an adventure!!!
Q: What’s the last thing you cooked?
A: Wheat-free pizza with goat cheese, homemade pizza sauce, and Sicilian olives. YUM!
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
A: A trip to one of my local quilt shops. I really don’t need any more fabric; I just love it so much!
Q: With whom would you love to spend one day making art?
A: My blog friends. Most of them I’ve never met. but they are all amazing, creative women I admire tremendously.
Q: When is your favorite time of day?
A: Usually mornings—I have the entire day before me, and it’s always filled with possibilities.
Q: What is your first memory?
A: I have a couple. One is walking into the King Tut exhibit in Seattle when I was four. Another is from around the same time, I’m not sure which is older. But I remember creating little felt ornaments with my mom one Christmas. We used cookie cutters to trace out a camel shape, stars, simple shapes. Then cut out, stitched them with yarn, stuffed them, and then decorated the ornaments with a few sequins. I still have mine.
Q: Why do you make art?
A: It’s a way of discovering who I am. Like digging through an old chest of drawers—you never know what you’ll encounter or uncover until you take the effort to really get into it. Creating is also the way I connect with my Creator.
Q: What’s your best piece of advice for artists?
A: Don’t over-think it—just be in the moment and enjoy the act of creating. Realize you can’t be on all the time, that life will interfere, so cut yourself some slack when it does. Love how you play, and you’ll love what you make. Love what you make, and you’ll love what you do.
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS