Fiber artist Sarah Wiley shares a collection of fabric collages that capture special memories. See more of her designs and commissions on her website.
In fifth grade I won the Lower School art award. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Easterly and I remember loving my teacher and her class. She taught us not to draw “balloon” trees (a stick with a ball on top) but instead to “Be loose!” with our drawing style.
Throughout my primary school and college years, I found myself taking many art classes. I liked to draw, paint and create, love all needlework, am a day dreamer, and not an academic!
When I was sixteen or so, I developed a passion for photography. I even had a black and white photography darkroom in my parent’s basement, and mostly photographed children for a summer job.
At the age of fourteen, I learned to sew and made many of my own clothes. Sewing is a tool I have used off and on through life. When I married and moved to our first home, we needed curtains for the windows, so I created balloon and roman shades and draperies for them. I also painted and wallpapered all the walls in our home. My friends saw my work and began asking me for help decorating their homes. As a result, I launched my own interior design business which flourished and grew over the next twenty-eight years.
When I design interiors, I love to combine different fabrics, color and texture. I love the challenge of mixing unexpected fabric combinations—I’m not one to be “matchy-matchy.” I am not a rule follower, but like rooms that evolve over time and are traditional, yet with a bit of whimsy. I like them to look untailored and loose, never wanting them to look like the designer just left.
In 2012, my daughter and I purchased a small embroidery machine. I’m always up for a new challenge that involves a learning curve. Boy, this was certainly a challenge! I soon learned that monogramming was not for me. It was too precise and far removed from my “loose” comfort zone. Instead, I taught myself how to digitize, which is the art of drawing an image the embroidery machine is able to copy by creating a path for the needle. I began creating custom pillows.
For my pillows and framed art, I use a lot of appliqué. I create a collage effect with fabric. Some of my favorite images are from my miniature room series. Most of the room designs I create are meaningful to me. I find comfort in the design. I gather inspiration from photographs in design books and magazines and familiar spaces where I have spent time. The trickiest part is finding a fabric with an appropriately scaled pattern for my miniature rooms, without selecting the limited fabrics that are designed solely for this purpose.
I also do commission work, creating pillow and wall designs for my clients after speaking with them to find the true, and sometimes vulnerable story, behind the photographs they send me. Their photographs range from scenes of a memorable vacation to the death of a loved one. I love my conversations with clients! Our conversations stick in my mind and are strategically pulled into the design as I create.
I love that I have found an outlet and career in life that combines my strength in art, design and technical ability.