Chardel Blaine has been making stuff for as long as she can remember and in every place she has lived. Mid-size cities, small rural communities and major metropolises have shown her that creativity manifests itself in ways as unique as each artist.
Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
In my checkered past, I’ve been a student, a stenographer, a teacher, a corporate trainer, a volunteer, a board member, a retail manager, an editor, a spouse and a mom.
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Not much in common there, except that I was creating with my hands whenever I could during all of those incarnations, several of which overlapped. Fiber art and jewelry, often combining the two, became Flying Goat Studio.
How did Flying Goat Studio get its name?
Lagniappe and Boudreaux, two Nigerian Dwarf Goat kids, came to live with our family near Seattle in 2001. They were excellent escape artists, and I decided that they must be able to fly because there could not possibly be a weak spot in the fence that we would have to fix! Their adventures have inspired many creative endeavors. One of these is Flying Goat Studio.
What made you interested in fiber art and jewelry?
I was blessed with parents who valued creative and independent thinking.
Mom and Dad always had some sort of creative experience around the house. Sewing, crochet, pottery, drawing, painting, jewelry, weaving, baking, singing, piano, carpentry, guitar – most done at the kitchen table with supplies that Mom and Dad brought in with care and sacrifice.
I took to some. Others skipped a generation. Needle and thread consistently brought me joy. (But I still get a rush when I turn on a power tool!)
I like to play with color, texture and unique materials embracing the “what-ifs” and happy accidents that occur when one has backed into an artistic corner and must find a creative means of escape. “Sure, I meant to do that. It was the plan all along….” she said when she ran out of fabric or misplaced some stitches.
What inspires you to create?
Art that comes from the soul and has stood the test of time – cave drawings, totems, aboriginal paintings, tribal art, ceremonial garments and artifacts, cultural symbols, vintage textiles, antique quilts. And tall trees. I love my tall trees.
My husband and children inspire me by example to pursue what I love.
Every picture tells a story, whether it’s a tale of the earth via a gemstone or a visual representation of a person, place, thing or idea expressed as painting, sculpture, art quilting, ceramics or woodworking.
I don’t have the aptitude (or the toy budget!) to engage in all of these mediums, so I start with the familiarity of needle and thread which I learned from my mother and grandmother and push myself from there to tell a visual story.
The story can be serious, such as remembering a loved one or making a social statement, or completely frivolous and fanciful, such as a pair of goats on an imaginary fishing trip or a hip prosthetic taking on new life as an anti-sedentary superhero doll.
What different creative mediums do you play around with?
I’ve tried lots of creative outlets and jumped in with enthusiasm, but I always come back to fabric, stitching, beadweaving, gemstones and metal. As long as a needle and thread or metal and hammer are close by, there is art to make!
I have stitched as long as I can remember, and pounded things for almost as long. My mother and grandmother taught me to sew, and my father taught me to saw a shape and pound a nail. It seemed that all of the projects involved designing components that fit, then measuring twice and cutting once to ensure that they did. The three of them were patient with my early efforts, but always encouraging.
I felt (and still do) that while there is always more to learn, doing your best with the tools and abilities you have at the time is always a positive.
The early stitching evolved into garment and quilt making, then art quilts, embroidery and beading. Sawing and hammering gave way to manipulating metal and wire to enhance a gorgeous gemstone or revel in the metal’s own natural beauty.
And all of the mediums require the very coolest of tools!
Do you plan your work out in advance, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
I always begin with a plan, but plans change as circumstances change.
Some of my most successful pieces have come about because I started with a set of rules. (I’ll build my background from a single hand-dyed fabric, for example).
Then I discover that I don’t have enough of that piece (and cannot obtain more) to complete the project. Or it just looks dull. What else will work? What can I add?
How can I change the rules so that my adaptations become part of the plan rather than glare as mistakes? And how can I apply that new rule to the other elements of the piece?
How many UFOs do you think you have?
How often do you start a new project?
In my head or for real?? Neither number is achievable, but they sure are fun to think about!
Are there indispensable tools in your studio? How do they help you?
First, I appreciate full-spectrum lighting to show me the true colors of my materials.
Hands-free magnification makes precise detail work possible while placing a gazillion French knots or shaping a sculptural Peyote-stitched object.
My camera is my very good friend, although I am still learning the bells and whistles. A good light box gives me clear images for accurate templates.
My Bernina sewing machines are workhorses for sewing through layers of canvas or creating a delicate decorative stitch.
Good thread – not the icky stuff that tangles and breaks and offloads lint.
Strong, sharp beading and sewing needles penetrate with ease.
Consistent and accurate Lindstrom jewelry pliers and cutters.
And finally, a big mug of coffee in the morning. With, perhaps, something a bit more grown-up later in the day.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Love is always the right answer. Do the right thing, even if you’re the only one doing it.
Where can people see your work?
You may have seen my work at a few juried Pacific Northwest shows, including Association of Pacific West Quilters Quiltfest (Tacoma and Seattle), Redmond Arts Festival, YWCA RAGS Wearable Art Show and Sale (Tacoma), Gig Harbor Summer Arts Festival, Celebrate Woodinville (WA) and Affordable Art for Everyone (Hillsboro, OR).
Nationally, my work has been displayed at the Nassau County Museum of Art Craft and Fine Arts Fair (Roslyn Harbor NY), produced by the American Concern for Art and Craftsmanship; Uncommon Threads Art-to-Wear Show, Fine Line Creative Arts Center (St. Charles, IL) and in “Multiplicities: New Directions in Fiber”, IMAGO Foundation for the Arts, IMAGO Gallery (Warren, RI), also juried shows.
Feel free to browse Flying Goat Studio to see more of my quilts, embroidery and jewelry.