Bev Haring creates fine art from textiles that reflect the world around her. She sees construction and growth, as well as decay and decomposition in her daily life where urban and rural meet. She documents these images, begins her designs in Photoshop, then creates her textile art adding a bit of hand stitching to the finished pieces.
I’ve come to “painting with textiles”, which is what I consider my work to be, in a long process that began when at an early age my grandmother taught me to make clothes for my dolls.
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Along the way I have dabbled in just about every fiber craft I’ve ever seen which has led to my use of a wide variety of techniques and materials in my pieces. I learned to embroider, knit, crochet, tat, bead, spin, weave, dye, cut stamps, silk screen and work with paint.
Quilting is a process which can involve a wide swath of the knowledge I have gained and that allows me to create beauty or tell a story with each piece I make.
From those first lessons with my grandmother, I have been blessed with good people who have shared their enthusiasm and knowledge with me and helped to guide me to where I am in my journey as an artist.
At the heart of this fascination with textiles is the firmly held idea that cloth is important in our lives, it is the first and the last material we are wrapped in, its origins are deep in our human past – in short, it matters.
Where do you find your inspiration for your designs? Does your work have stories to tell?
The short answer is “everywhere”!
Most of my pieces are based on photos I have taken or by other photographers who have given me permission to use their work as inspiration.
I love old, abandoned buildings, rusty metal, damaged machinery, antique houseware – man made objects that have a “history”. Those who the makers stories are still present in the bits and pieces of their lives left behind long after they have gone speak to me.
Memorial quilts are also part of my work – pieces that represent people or pets who have passed on.
Do you plan your work out ahead of time?
Yes. Because I work mostly from photographs, I spend quite a bit of time at my computer in PhotoShop Elements both melding images together and drawing the “pattern” or “cartoon” from which the piece is made.
Changes do happen along the way from the drawings to the finished piece, but it all begins with the ideas being represented on the screen.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal?
When I first started making my textile paintings, I used a file folder to keep the photos, notes, drawings and material samples in, but in the past 5 years I have begun to use a sketchbook for that purpose. They are a sort of mash up of scrapbook, journal and actual sketches that I use to develop ideas, consider possibilities and record progress. Recently I have started using small sketchbooks to record ideas and impressions from trips and to plan a new series of work.
How do you manage your creative time?
Creating is like breathing – I need to do that every day. I do have a routine that includes early morning computer time, followed by time in the studio which is where the design wall and the sewing machines are, then handwork during the evening in the recliner. If I’m working to a deadline any one of those parts may take precedence until a project is completed.
Are you a “finisher”? How many UFOs do you think you have?
Yes, I’m a finisher, but I work on several projects at the same time. At any given moment I’m likely to have at least one piece in each of the process steps, and there are likely a number of new ideas floating around in my head pleading their case to be the next one done. Currently I have five pieces that I consider to be actively “in process”, and two on the drawing board.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating?
I do. The basement of my house was finished specifically to be my studio, with space for my cutting table, materials storage, design wall and sewing machines.
Since my husband’s passing three years ago, the entire house has become fair game for workspace, however!
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
Some of my pieces begin with just an idea or an image I “see” in my head (usually in that fugue state between awake and asleep). Others come from a specific photo that I have taken or have received from a photographer.
Once I decide I’m going to do the piece, I pull the image into PhotoShop Elements and begin to make the edits to create the pattern. This may include cropping, color adjustments, textures and melding of several photos before I add layers of outline drawings on top to create my “patterns”. I save the pattern layers as .PDF files that I can print out at the size I want to work from.
As I create the pattern, I also think about the technique I will use to create the quilt. My first pieces were all hand stitched, including the quilting. As my work has evolved, I create more fused pieces and quilt on my domestic machine. Most of this evolution has come about as a way to get my ideas out of my head and into “real” space, but some of it has to do with working inside safe physical limits.
Next, I pick out the fabrics I want to work with. This is where I select the specific colors/prints/textures I want to use in the piece and determine if there are any materials needed. I pull out a lot of possibilities and before I make the final decision about what will actually be used as the piece is put together.
The rest of the processes involve applying fusible, cutting pieces, putting the puzzle together on a piece of background fabric (usually light weight muslin), then the quilting stitching. Many of my pieces have hand embroidery or other embellishments that are done after the quilting is complete.
How does your environment influence your creativity?
Living in an area where urban and rural meet, I see construction and growth as well as decay and decomposition daily. These observations fuel my work.
How has your work changed over time?
I’ve gotten braver about taking on big challenges even when I’m not sure how I will do them. Many of the pieces I make now use a bigger selection of the types of fibers I use (anything I can stitch through is fair game), and I frequently use textile paints in my pieces. I’m no longer afraid to make really big pieces, but I don’t like to do more than one or two of those a year.
Do you critique your own work?
For every piece there is a process of review when it is complete. I use my sketchbook/journal to write down issues that I have as a piece progresses and to make notes about things that I want to change when I approach the topic the next time.
I also belong to two “in person” groups of artists who meet on a regular basis to share and critique each others work. I have found this to be educationally helpful and supportive.
What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have as compared to people who are not creative?
I think we are all intended to be creative, but a great many of us have either never found what it is we have a passion for creating or have had that creative urge squashed by criticism.
My interaction with other creatives (regardless of what medium we work in) has brought me to believe that we see the world in a different way — we notice the color of the light, the turn of a phrase, the sounds and smells around us. Perhaps that we are more fully alive.
Do you feel that your chose your “passion,” or did it choose you?
I think I stumbled into it. When I was a teenager I wanted to write the next great novel, but writing is an even more solitary process, and I need people around me. The art that I make springs from those very early experiences working with textiles as a young child and has been well watered by what I have learned from many others.
What (or who) has been your biggest inspiration in keeping your creative energy going?
The internal need to “make” things has always been there. My tribe of fellow creatives has encouraged this, and I have some family and friend “cheerleaders” as well.
Do you enter juried shows? Do you approach your work differently for these venues?
I do enter juried shows, but only if the theme “speaks” to me and I have a piece that fits it. In the past I have tried creating a piece for a specific call for entry, but I find that approach to my work is not nearly as successful.
Is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you feel compelled to achieve in the future?
Yes, I would like to do a solo show of my work (my current series of pieces that are in the planning stage are aimed at that goal).
Tell us about your blog and/or website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website (www.BevHaring.com) is very “generic” at this time. It shows some of my work and serves as a contact point.
My blog (www.Esmerldas.Blogspot.com) has been ongoing since the beginning of my textile paintings and before. It is written at a more chatty, personal level and talks about pieces as they are in process.
I am a member of 4 Common Corners, a group of artists from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, and my work can also be found on our group website (www.4CommonCorners.com).
Interview posted May 2023
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