Plastic As Fabric

The Merill Cumeau workshop exercise that I finished last week was a floral collage. I’m not a ‘floral’ person, but that exercise was the first real sample of using clear plastic as a ‘fabric’ for sewing on or in, and it has potential I am starting to explore.

Hibiscus collage exercise, week 2 of the Stitch Club workshop series.
Plastic area approx A4+

Of course, such plastic is widely used as covers for new furniture, or containers for goods such as new pillows – which incidentally are the core of my fabric storage system here 🙂 but it hasn’t been widely used as a raw material for making art. I’ve been thinking about such plastic for some time, though not from the recycling, or upcycling, point of view.

I was very impressed with a work by Lillian Madfes (UY) in a 2011 exhibition of her work here. In each pocket between two layers of clear plastic sheeting stitched to form a square grid, were a small quantity of carbon and a hank of thread in tones from pale pink to deep maroon, progressing from dark to light across the work. Clearly this artwork referenced the notion of ‘quilt’, with plastic performing the role of fabric.

And in a Quilt National exhibiton around the same time, there was an art quilt made using layers of plastic. Although I didn’t particularly care for for the work itself, it was certainly innovative.

A few years ago I encountered a remnant of black vinyl faux patent leather, and as an experiment with a totally new material I made this wall quilt, Landmarks –

Landmarks” detail, black vinyl with mylar, hand drawn marks

The silver segments on the black were nylon backed mylar, of which I had several yards @$1/yd, but finally realised I wasn’t going to do anything with it, and threw it out. But it was all interesting to work with.

On my last trip to USA I looked in fabric shops for more, but there wasn’t any around, and shop assistants gave me blank looks. However, there was some heavy duty clear vinyl, and I bought a few yards of that to experiment with. When I looked around for a suitable fabric on which to compose the collage in Merill Cumeau’s workshop, I settled on the clear plastic sitting in my workroom. It was a good result, and I need to do another exercise making more use of the sheer quality of this material / ‘fabric’ .

Rings of thread wrapped with thread then sewn down onto the plastic background. It handles well, but of course it could be ripped off.

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