This month, meet Barb Boatman, the creative force behind Cut, Sew, Create Studio!
Barb is a textile artist very different from others. She has background experience in quilting, photography, multimedia collage and other artistic endeavors. Often, her works start with the complex woven 'fabric' she makes from recycled aluminum soda cans and strips of material. Then, she adds embellishments, building up her design. Some of her favorite add ons are buttons, ribbon, vintage quilt pieces, watch parts, zippers and whatever else she lays her hands on. Most of the works get tied together with free motion machine stitching. Barb might work toward an abstract design, or a semi-realistic piece, such as whimsical houses.
I am personally touched and impressed by her work on many levels. Barb's work is a prefect blend of all the arts she has 'played with'. The disciplined finishing of traditional quilting comes across in her binding or framing of certain pieces. The eye for balance and composition comes from photography. Her dappling into multimedia paper collages is highly represented. I find her work inviting, comforting, fun and cute. And, of course, I love it because it is green!
Read on to find out why Barb feels: "Doing something that gives you personal joy is what fills the glass."
Q~ How would you describe your art?
A~ My work is definitely mixed media and most of the pieces are totally abstract. Each piece starts with torn fabric and strips of deconstructed aluminum soda cans. After selecting my fabric I decide if I'm going to display the inside or the outside of the metal. Then I hand weave the two elements together to create a new piece of recycled fabric which I then quilt using my little Bernina sewing machine. After quilting, I make the decision about embellishment and framing.
Q~ How did you get started?
A~ In the 70's I jumped on the Bi-Centennial bandwagon like so many other young housewives. Which means I started making quilts like my grandmother. But that took too long. So for a while I made patchwork pillows, table clothes, hats and skirts. Along the way I taught a few quilting and sewing classes. By the late 80's I was working full time and there was very little time for art or sewing.
In 2006, I decided I needed to stop dreaming and begin creating again. I started by copying mixed media pieces from magazines. I did this until I figured out that I enjoyed working with recycled aluminum and fabric. A year later I joined the Del Ray Artisans so I could enter two pieces into my first gallery show: "What's Your Bag?" Both pieces were miniature pocketbooks made from my recycled fabric.
Q~ Do you have any special training or education?
A~ I had mechanical and perspective drawing classes in high school. I actually started college expecting to become an art teacher. Which means I had a few classes before stopping to start a family. Over the last 4 years, I've taken free motion quilting classes, a variety of mixed media and collage classes from regional and national instructors.
Q~ Do you have a favorite material, medium or substrate you love to work with?
A~ No question, it's fabric. I learned to sew when I was 13, so fabric is what I feel most comfortable using. My sewing machine is by far my most important tool. I absolutely love free motion quilting and thread painting.
Q~ Why do you continue?
A~ I currently work full time, but retirement isn't too many years away. So I'm using this time to experiment and refine both my skills and my artistic direction. Now that I'm finally comfortable identifying myself as an artist, I can say that I create for my soul and for my retirement life.
Q~ What is a great success story?
A~ There are two. The first was walking into the Del Ray Artisans Gallery and realizing my very first show submission had received a Curator's Award!
The second came at an art market last summer. This gentleman walked over, looked at my art for about 5 minutes, and said, "I'll take that one." Now, this wasn't my first sale. What made it a success was that the customer appreciated the piece so much that he didn't care what it cost. He wanted my art for his home.
Q~ What is one of your greatest failures?
A~ Vending at a local art market without enough research in advance. The group totally failed to advertise the event. I had zero sales because there was no foot traffic.
Q~ Where do you get your inspiration?
A~ My inspiration comes from two directions. Most of the time I start with a unique piece of material and that drives the direction. Or, sometimes I'm inspired to create a type of work after seeing something created by another artist.
Q~ Why do you make/create what you do?
A~ It took me a long time to get started. Now that I'm finally creating as an artist, I don't seem to be able to turn that drive off. And I don't want to.
Q~ What is your dream about your art?
A~ Oh that's easy! I want to show my work outside the DC area at juried shows. I want to travel to give workshops around the country. In other words, I want people to see my art. I want people to look at my creations and say, "Wow, how did she do that?"
Q~ Where are you based?
A~ I live and work in Northern Virginia in the Annandale community on the edge of Alexandria.
Q~ Where would you live if you could live anywhere?
A~ In a small cabin, with lots of windows, and a very large screened porch on the side of a mountain near Asheville, NC.
Q~ What would you be doing if not this?
A~ Working with photography full time. Years ago, I worked as a news room photographer. It was the best job I've ever had. That's where I learned to use my natural sense of balance and composition to create pictures that tell a story.
Q~ What's next?
A~ Next is turning this creative passion into more of a formal art business. I experimented with ETSY for a while and I've tinkered with Pintrest. I started a blog. I've done a few local art markets and exhibited with Del Ray Artisans. This next year, I need to pull all these parts together with a business plan, so I can take this start-up venture to more of a public traded commodity.
Q~ Glass half full or half empty?
A~ I've had a lot of years when all I could see was that empty glass. But since I've started living a more creative life I have to say my outlook is much more about the full glass. Doing something that gives you personal joy is what fills the glass.
Q~ What is your favorite question to ask people?
A~ "Where are you from?" I think a person's roots can tell you a lot. It's usually a good way to get people talking.
Q~ What is your answer to that question?
A~ I'm from Charleston, West Virginia. That should tell you family is very important to me and I enjoy the simple life much more than a city life.
To learn how to Barb does what she does, take her upcoming workshop!
Title: Reverse Canvas Assemblage
A one day class in which each participant will use a stretched canvas as their base to build an original piece using collected bits of their past or present life. Workshop at Artistic Artifacts, Alexandria, VA - May 19th
To see samples and register to attend, please go to the Artistic Artifacts website.
Or, contact Barb for forthcoming markets,shows and classes:
Cut, Sew, Create Studio