I have the most amazing group of artist friends. One of my faves is Vicki who is quite the world traveler and photographer. In addition to doing graduate work teaching Spanish, she is a part time dental hygienist who spends time every year going to remote locations of the world providing dental care to folks who have never seen a dentist or a hygienist. Yep, I know how to pick friends. Anyway, Vicki just returned from a trip to India and invited several of us over to see her pictures. Her work is lovely and the subject matter eye-opening. Seeing her photos of beautiful young women dressed in their colorful saris spreading dirt and gravel to repair the roads makes me think how underdressed I am most of the time in some variation of scrubs or yoga clothing.
Travel too is one of my passions and I love the Mark Twain quote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”. By seeing the world we gain a better understanding of other cultures and also a better insight into our own biases and beliefs.
Vicki picked up some amazing textiles on her journey, one of which was an elaborate antique shirt that she had custom fitted. Despite some extensive time fitting her in India, the shirt was quite binding and she felt that she would never wear it. Knowing my love of textiles and repurposing, she offered it up to me to remake into something she would use. With great care and delicacy, I ripped seams and cut into this 90 year old garment. GASP! I used the back fabric to make a bag strap and folded the front into a simple bag shape. I used some of my own linen which i random straight line quilted with cotton and fusible batting as the liner to give the bag some extra structure. I then used a vintage button from my growing collection to help secure the top.
I think she and I are both pleased with the result but hearing back from the person who helped her buy the original shirt gave me a chance to ponder. The town’s specialty are these handsewn textiles in which they rightly take huge pride. In the end, Vicki’s guide in India was also pleased with my repurposing but I think also a little surprised that I would alter it so. It gives me a better appreciation of all the handmade textiles I so treasure at home and overseas as well as the people and history involved in their making.