Enjoy the masterful portfolio of fiber artist Dawna Ellis, and visit her website to see more of her work.
My love of textiles is rooted in the endless possibilities that can become of them. Textiles have been a part of my creative outlet for the majority of my life as well as a core player in my 30-year career in the entertainment industry as a costume designer and fabricator. That experience, and exposure to working with textiles in often unconventional ways, was instrumental in my ability to transform ordinary textiles into 3-D vessels that are more commonly made from basketry materials or clay.
I began making textile vessels when I had a personal need for a more challenging creative outlet. I became immediately enamored when I discovered that by wrapping strips of fabric around cording, I was transforming the fabric into a new fiber that looked completely different from the original piece of fabric. As this new fiber is coiled and sewn into shape, a more complex pattern of color and texture emerges.
I experimented with all kinds of shapes and sizes, even organic shapes that I called “lifescapes”. I felt a deep desire to make each and every vessel different from the next, which flexed the boundaries of my comfort zone and honed my technique. The shapes I create are uniquely my own and the materials themselves influence the attitude of each vessel. While similar ones can be made, no two are alike.
My distinctive vessels are all one-of-a-kind decorative objects that are, what I like to call, “music for the eyes”. I am drawn to texture, pattern and color as they interact with each other to create the harmony of each vessel, many which are made from re-purposed kimono fabrics and may incorporate an antique Japanese hair ornament called kougai to serve as the handle. Many of these kougai are hand carved, hand lacquered and hand painted one-of-a-kind art pieces in their own right. Some of my vessels are made with cotton batik fabrics, often incorporating a found branch to serve as the handle.
From a distance, my vessels have the appearance of a ceramic piece, so when people view my work up close they are surprised to see that they are made from textiles. These customers are even more surprised at the tactile experience of holding a vessel in their hands, of how firm and light they are.
My process involves simultaneous planning and spontaneity and has taught me to step back and observe the direction that each vessel is taking and then respond appropriately to complete it. The time I am able to spend in my studio is relaxing for me, where the world slips away to the purr of my 1940’s era sewing machine.
My greatest achievement thus far is to be a double finalist for the 2014 NICHE Awards. This is an enormous compliment, so even if I don’t take home a title in January, I will have the honor of being considered for it.
What inspires me? Vintage Japanese textiles. The dimension of color and pattern they offer is unfound in Western textiles.
What am I working on now? Honing in on successful shapes that take on a different appearance depending on the color combination of textiles used.
What are my goals? To have my artwork be my full time vocation and primary source of income. A well rounded representation in galleries nationwide would be a dream come true.