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A well-loved sweater and its second(hand) life

Leaves are Falling I 2012

Leaves are Falling was a 2012 artwork made with a plant-dye-soaked sweater which I printed onto silk. With it, I was imagining the past life of the handmade pink and purple sweater that I had found at a fripperie (aka Montreal thrift shop). The sweater itself was my main tool and instrument for the unearthing of evidence of lives past.

When I found the sweater I was super excited to have found such a special handmade item. Not everyone who eyed it in the fripperie would spot that it started as white fleece (or roving) in the hands of an eager crafter who then spun, dyed and knit it into a sweater (I may be wrongly assuming it was all done by the same person). It was quite dirty but I recognized its value, so I bought it. I found out pretty quick that the previous wearer knew that the yarn had been hand-dyed incorrectly. It was not wash fast; if washed the sweater would leak dye in plumes - each colour staining lighter ones around it. This meant it was never once washed before it met me. But, it was sure well worn and well loved.

Detail photos of Leaves are Falling I 2012

I hadn't bought it with the intention of making art with it. I had intended to wear it. So, once I knew I couldn't wear it I washed it well, dried it, and put it away in my closet in its own large Ziploc bag. It went out of sight for almost a year - until I began imagining printing with it. Then it was game over. I received a jolt of creativity which resulted in this (pictured above) artwork as well as many others, some of which were accompanied by Arduino-activated audio like this one which played the sound of torrential rain when activated by the shadow of the viewer.

Leaves are Falling II 2012


I also did a four-month-long natural-dye-printing study (below), and only just remembered that the sweater is where the printing began.

Natural dye printing study in process, 2012

What story did the sweater tell me? I can't assume to know anything about the person who made it or wore it, but it shared the creative energy locked within it. In working with it, I learned that everything holds energy, and when respected and even loved there is abundance that can be unlocked with the smallest amount of longing, in even the most unlikely places.

Have you ever felt particularly drawn to an unlikely object? What story did it tell you?

Janna Maria


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