Featured Artist Julie Kornblum

Artist Julie Kornblum shares a delightfully quirky portfolio created using fiber techniques with recycled materials. Visit her website to see more.


3D basket made with upcycled materials

“Let’s Call This” coiling, basketry, used plastic shopping bags, telephone wire, bottle caps, 12″ x 26″ x 21″


The roots of my fiber and textile artwork are among my earliest memories of my mother bent over her sewing machine while I played with fabric scraps on the couch. My grandmother knitted and crocheted and taught me during the summer of 1972.


artwork made from recycled plastic trash

“Plastic on the Beaches Gyre #2″ Coiled basketry wall piece incorporating discarded plastic items, 28″ x 28″ x 5”


In an era when all girls took Home Economics, I became an avid sewist through junior high and high school. I also did crewel work (embroidery with yarn rather than thread) and macrame. I did batik in ninth grade art class, because in 1974 adults allowed 14-year-olds to paint with hot wax on cloth.


vessel made of recycled plastic using basketry techniques

“Five Seconds to Forever” coiled basketry, disposable and discarded plastic objects and surplus wire, 6″ x 4″ x 4″


When I arrived in Los Angeles at age 20, I entered the fashion industry through sewing. I attended the Fashion Design program at Los Angeles Trade Technical College and worked as a pattern maker in the garment district.


vessel made using basketry techniques made of recycled materials

“Pacific Rim” coiled basketry, used plastic shopping bags, telephone wire, discarded objects, five gallon lids, and hubcap. 20″ x 24″ x 24″


Later when I returned to school to complete a degree, I was happy to find a fiber and textile program in the art department at my local university. Since I was married with children and a house in the San Fernando Valley, a long commute across Los Angeles to any other university was not going to happen. It turned out the Fiber Art program at California State University Northridge was the most perfect place in the universe for me at the time.


weaving using recycled plastic and yarn

” Plastic in the Trees I” weaving, surplus yarns, used plastic shopping bags, 43″ x 42″ x .5″


There I learned weaving  and basketry, and began experimenting with non-traditional materials. Often, people had surplus materials they didn’t want to throw away, hoping students could use them. My professor accepted donations of all kinds of things, and she encouraged us to use them. Soon I searched for and found scrap and recycle yards for surplus materials I could use in my fiber arts. I became starkly aware of the vast amount of discarded stuff in the world.


weaving using recycled plastic shopping bags

“The Fifth Element” overshot weaving, cotton and wool yarn, and used plastic shopping bags, 86″ x 86″ x .5″


Environmentalism came into my life in my very formative pre-teen years. I went from middle school, through high school, became an adult, and moved to California in the decade of the 1970s. I remember the first Earth Day. The Environmental Protection Agency was established by a very conservative Republican president. Upon gaining my degree in 2002, I decided to focus my artwork on the use of surplus materials, and to avoid buying new materials as much as possible.


commissioned vessel with basketry techniques, recycled plastic bags and objects

“Stash of Trash” coiled basketry with used plastic bags and discarded objects, 24″ x 18″ x 10″


My intention at that time was to reinterpret traditional fiber arts using nontraditional materials. Then I learned about the plastic trash floating in the oceans, in remote areas known as gyres. I refocused my work to address the issue of plastic pollution in the environment. That was twenty years ago. The awareness of plastic pollution is now nearly ubiquitous. Awareness of the plastics problem has not led to any decrease in the amount of new plastic entering the trash stream. Solutions for cleanup remain elusive.


upcycled plastics and trash woven vessel

“Gyre” coiled basketry wall piece incorporating discarded plastic items, 45″ x 45″ x 2″


In the last few years, I’ve had opportunities to create commissioned work employing a variety of fiber arts materials and techniques. I continue my plastic awareness work. It remains central to my body of exhibition artwork.


Julie Kornblum invites you to follow on Facebook and Instagram.


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