Viva Italia: Fabric Collages in Italian Colors

Last summer, I completed two pieces in my Flow series before going on a vacation to Italy. The series was very engrossing, but it required many hours of hand stitching and proved hard on my hands. The vacation came right when the pain was starting to get annoying. It gave my hands the long break they needed.

Italy was fun, experience-packed and very inspiring. As often happens when I go on vacation, though, once I returned home the few weeks of travel felt like months. I was eager to get back into the Flow, but also found it difficult. Switching modes can be hard.  Going from  intense travelling to routine creating requires a steep mindset adjustment.

In the past, I found that starting small helps. That’s where my travel journals play an important role: they help me process some of the experiences of the trip I just completed, and also get me back into art making. So I started by making an Italy-inspired art journal. Before I knew it, I wanted to create more. The last few pieces of the Flow series were at the back of my mind, but I wasn’t ready to start them yet. Instead, I felt like getting my hands dirty with some acrylic paint on fabric.

Painting and Printing Bonanza

Out came my acrylics, my brushes, my gel plate and my stamps. It was still summer, after all, and I wanted to play. I stuck with the colors of Italy, because I loved them so. Ochers and red hues, with some black and a touch of white in between.  At first, I used strong reds, maroons and mauve, but soon found myself mixing in more magenta. Perhaps because I was back in my studio, surrounded by the sari silks for the Flow series. Or perhaps because a lot of fuchsia flowers were still blooming in my yard.

I printed layers of paint on fabrics, creating the look of old walls. I smeared paint directly onto fabric with brushes and brayers. Sometimes, I used stencils and stamps to create more interesting textures.  

At the end of each day, I hung the wet collage fodder on a clothes rack I confiscated from our laundry room, and let them dry overnight. After a few days, a little mouth-watering colorful pile emerged.

Viva Italia: Mixed-media Collages in the Colors of Italy

I composed four, 10″-square abstract compositions, and stitched them onto interfacing using 30-weight cotton thread.

Then I selected some pearl cotton in matching colors for hand-stitched accents.

Selecting thread is one of my favorite stages of creating textile art!

I decided to call this small series Viva Italia, because it was inspired by the colors and textures of that beautiful country. Here are the resulting mixed-media fabric collages:

I couldn’t always decide on the orientation of each collage. Some pieces just look “right” from different angles…

I love the nuances the paint created, the unevenness, the hinted layers and the contrasting textures. This combination of colors made my heart sing! I also enjoyed the meeting of thread and fabric, as seen in the detail pictures below: 

Here is the Viva Italia series together:

After I completed these textile collages, I was ready to get back to the Flow series. This time I was able to work on it continuously, without further distractions.

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