“Mabelin Castellanos is a Cuban fiber artist based in Miami. She interprets life as seen from her window, often made from scrap fabrics. Her practice is marked by self-reflection, pleasant observations, and a tender reconstructing of identity. Mabela’s body of work is a series of textile snapshots honoring the fleeting beauty in moments of life most would describe as trivial. ” Maria Gabriela Di Giammarco, curator of the CAMP gallery.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
In my forties and out of pain. I couldn’t get my sons out of Cuba before the conscription, I was suicidal. I enrolled in glasswork classes at the community college, and that saved me. I was a scientist at the time, but I was hooked. The opening of the kiln… to see the result of my creation gave me the same adrenaline rush as the analysis of the results after an experiment.
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What pressure do you feel as an artist?
I don’t feel any pressure, I work compulsively every day because I feel the need to do it.
What are you saying with your art?
Right now, I just feel the need to express the beauty I encounter on my daily walks. The sea, the vegetation, people, their interactions, all of that.
What is it like in your studio?
Why do you create the art that you do?
While expecting the birth of my first granddaughter, I bought a sewing machine and taught myself how to sew to make her dolls and clothes. The fabric patterns, colors, and textures inspired me more than glass, so I started exploring the new medium, first gluing them to make collages, later quilting and piecing. Nowadays I use the technique of free-motion quilting that gives more freedom of expression.
Who inspires you? And why?
The work of my many artist friends on social media. It is part of my daily routine to see their wonderful art. After a series of ischemic episodes and a nervous breakdown as a result, my career as a scientist ended, and once again the creative process saved my life. I started compulsively working on my quilted drawings. They healed me, and now I can proudly say that I am an artist.
How did you adapt to the socially distant world?
My mental disease has evolved into agoraphobia which is a decrease in social skills with apprehension of getting outside and socializing so the distancing did not affected me.
Outside of your art, what is something that you are most proud of?
Getting my whole family out of Cuba.
What do you do in your day when not creating?
Walking and swimming.
Lastly: tell us a story, anything, that lets readers know who you are—the person.
I am a mother, grandmother, bipolar, grapheme-color synesthetic, former scientist and artist.
Interview posted June 2023
Browse through more art quilts on Create Whimsy.