Upcycling the Everyday Garment

The prevalence of cheap clothing makes it a ready source of art material. Apparel comes preloaded with meaning, giving it associations to culture, people and historical context. This workshop will examine a multitude of ways artists create work through sculpting, deconstructing and defamiliarizing everyday material. Images highlighting artists who use clothing as an art medium will be sent to participants ahead of time.
Using clothing, fiber or material of one’s choice, students will create sculptures or functional items employing textile processes or simple, repetitive actions. These might include hand stitching, crochet, knitting, wrapping, knotting, folding or cutting. In addition, participants will develop predetermined sets of parameters within which to work, including systems of time, material or a predetermined set of instructions.
By committing up front, this approach provides a specific plan to facilitate the process. We will consider Richard Serra’s Verb List as a guide. Serra used his list of verbs and possible contexts as “actions to relate to oneself, material, place, and process” in his practice in multiple media.

Materials list

Please bring:
  • fabric shears
  • clothing, bedsheets, fabric scraps, etc. that you’d like to use as art material: consider the history of the garment or material, what it is made of, perhaps it’s a favorite garment that’s now falling apart, a sweater that became felted in the wash or a soft, fuzzy pullover. Some of my favorite materials include cotton, wool, linen and silk. I will also bring material for participants to use.
  • favorite writing implement and paper or book for writing
  • a card table if you’d like extra space to work larger
Some ideas for additional materials to bring depending on your project idea:
  • a variety of hand sewing needles for thinner weight fabrics to thicker fabrics like denim
  • embroidery thread and needles
  • crochet needles (I use 10.00mm/N and 15.75mm/Q)
  • knitting needles (I use 3/4-inch and 1-inch/15mm/#19) I will demonstrate crochet and knitting basics.
  • stuffing
  • malleable wire

Inspired by her love of collage and painting, Leah Virsik transforms used clothing into artful adventures. She believes in play, in going through the process and staying open to possibility. Optimistic and with a love for learning, she’s open to alternative outcomes when her creative explorations don’t go as planned.

Leah exhibits and teaches art in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her Masters of Fine Arts degree from San Francisco State in 2016 and is the Gallery Director of Adobe Art Gallery in Castro Valley.