Salvaging even the thread from discarded garments such as jeans, denim textile artist Eliu Hernandez uses materials that have been discarded by others to create art with life and texture. The process goes through many stages as he takes jeans and shirts apart stitch by stitch in order to waste nothing. This yields him fabric with rich patinas and interesting shapes that he challenges himself to use, making the most of every bit of material.
What do you do?
I’m a textile artist. I make cool quilts and other pieces from reclaimed materials. I’m currently on a kick which may border toward an unhealthy type of obsession with denim.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners. Your purchases via these links may benefit Create Whimsy. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.
What inspires you to create?
I feel a constant need to do and to create. In my day job as a chiropractor, I use my brain and my hands throughout the day. When I’m home, I often have an itchy brain and itchy hands. A while back, I realized that creating helps to calm that itch. There is a meditative aspect of quilting which I enjoy/need.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I’m a reclamation specialist. So all of my work includes recycled, reused, upcycled materials. I’ve made quilts which have reclaimed fabrics included in the tops, backs and batting. I’ve been improving on a technique to harvest usable lengths of thread from specific seams in clothes. Then I’ve incorporated #reclaimedthread into my hand-quilting. As a result, I have pieces entirely hand-quilted with reused thread!
Why upcycled textiles? Why do you do it?
The textile industry is responsible for a disproportionately huge portion of landfill waste. They are also responsible for a huge part of resource consumption and pollution in production. So I encourage ongoing use of the clothes we have, rewearing and mending as appropriate. Then proper reuse of those textiles. I also prefer natural fibers when possible. I try to show people that there is function and beauty in things some would prefer to discard.
Where do you find your materials?
I source my materials from different places. Some are my own clothes, some are thrifted. I’ve become the guy many people give their used jeans to. Donations have become essential to my making.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I’m definitely more of an improviser because in my process the materials often dictate the design. When harvesting material from a pair of jeans or from a shirt, maximum yield is one of my primary concerns. This often leaves me with interesting shapes and sizes which I try to incorporate into the finished work. I’ll also include the #pocketshadow, the buttons, the pockets and other reminders of lives past.
Is there a part of your process you enjoy most? Why?
I’ve really come to enjoy the deconstruction phase of things. I can pick apart an entire pair of jeans using only a seam ripper. I’ve found that the endless blues that stem from a multi-faded pair of jeans might be one of the most beautiful things to see—the waistband, the beltloops, the pockets, the zipper flies all hide wonderful blues in interesting and secret ways!
I’ve also come to love hand-quilting. I find that the repetition that comes with deconstruction and with hand-quilting is a large part of the meditative aspect of quilting that I love.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
I wouldn’t be able to make denim quilts the way I do without the use of my seam ripper. It’s used to undo my mistakes, but more importantly, I use it to deconstruct my jeans. Because of how well-constructed jeans are, I break seam rippers regularly. I have at least 4-5 seam rippers at any given time. Because of this, I use the cheap ones from the big box store. I also use diagonal angled cutters to easily remove rivets and buttons.
I use jeans’ leather patches to make my own thimbles. These are able to withstand the abuse sustained as I do my hand-quilting through multiple layers of denim!
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works?
My series of Waist Not quilts came as a result of leftovers. As a collector, I have a difficult time throwing out things that I know and feel could be repurposed. As my collection of waistbands grew, I kept revisiting them in the hope that they would sing and suggest how to use them. A couple of waistbands stitched together end-to-end and then side-to-side and they grew to form a wonderful tapestry of faded and contrasting and worn blues. I estimate at least a million different blues in each piece!
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I think that creativity and artistic ability are traits which we’re all born with. As kids, I think that many off us have that creativity and that artistic ability squished out of us as we’re taught to prioritize other aspects of ourselves. I also believe that these traits can be stoked and cultivated at any point in life.
Where can people see your work?
I’m part of an exhibit at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, CO, and I was also part of QuiltCon in 2020. Currently, you can see my stuff on Instagram:http://instagram.com/madeorremade andFacebook: https://m.facebook.com/MadeOrRemade/
Interview posted February 2022
Browse through more modern quilts on Create Whimsy.