I don’t know why it took me so long to get into Instagram but now that I am, it has opened up this entire world of creativity, collectors and artists. I get such a kick when I find a ribbon without documentation and now know enough to take a stab at the epoque and ribbon maker. It has been a wonderful journey of discovery – and yet there is so much that I don’t know and I can’t wait to learn and grow. Isn’t that what makes life interesting?
I discovered this weeks Les Petits Bonheurs muse, Brenda Colling, on a particularly dreamy textile voyage on instagram, her incredible range and diversity of antique textiles is truly inspiring. I couldn’t help feeling a kinship with Brenda, someone who cherishes craftmanship, design & colour.
I think for people like Brenda and I – it is not just the warp and weft that draws us in but the whispers of stories woven into these threads, stories of a tribe, be it the tenturiers of Burkina Faso or passementiers of Saint Etienne. The essence of these people is to be found amongst the fibers and by holding them in our hands, we can be a part of it – even for just a moment.
Brenda is not simply a collector and dealer of antique textiles, she is an accomplished artist who creates beautiful paper sculptural work and I am so happy that she allowed us a glimpse into her world, her creativity and collection.
“Whether the tradition is 50 or 500 years ago, these textiles have stories to tell, silently woven, appliquéd or embroidered into the fibers.”
“To begin my history, I will start with my grandmother, pictured below, with some samples of her work.
She was an expert needlewoman (English smocking), and my mentor. Every year, right after Christmas she would begin making smocked dresses for her granddaughters. There were many of us. It would take the year to complete them. She would sit in her rocking chair sewing, and I would sit in another rocking chair, watching and absorbing her techniques. I have cherished these pieces, as they represent the beginnings of my collection. Dowry textiles still existed when I was a child. My mother had a trunk full of handmade quilts when she married. We used them daily, until they disintegrated. Later, when I Ieft home, she bought handmade Mennonite quilts for my use.
Acquiring vintage textiles was a random activity when I began. Friends would give me their old lace collections. Others would scour their attics for textiles untouched in decades. From there, becoming a textile artist was a natural development. There was an abundance of scrap material, and clothing that could be cut and recycled into art.”
“Pictured below is one of my favourite sources for fabric. It is the Garage Antique Market in New York City, which closed a few months ago. Many of the vendors can now be found at an outdoor market nearby. As you noticed, my collecting interests are diverse. The indigos from Burkina Faso are a perennial favourite. There is a worldwide passion for indigo, that never abates. African indigos are a sizable part of my holdings. I would love to share more pictures, but they would take up a lot of space. Occasionally, there is a piece that I don’t want to part with, such as the Dida weavings. The tradition has disappeared, and the pieces are quite rare.”
“The first magnificent textiles I saw were Ching Dynasty robes on exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum. They were truly breathtaking for their opulence of embroidery and colours. Below is a garment I purchased much later. Though not an imperial piece, it does have exquisite gold couching, in the dragons, buddhist symbols and ideograms. My interests have evolved since then. The textiles and adornment from Africa inspire me most.”
“African textiles continue to be my main interest today. The vitality of design never ceases to inspire me.”
“It is made of hand woven cotton strips. They are sewn together, by hand. The embroidery is done in wild silk.”
Pictured above are several pieces that will be shown/worn in Brendas upcoming show, Wearing a Cloud, at Art 101 in New York.
“Pictured above is a corner of my studio. Some of my treasures are stored in these baskets. I have a live/work studio. The front room is where i work and store materials. But the whole apartment is full on occasion: if I am doing 30’ draperies for example. I am happiest when I am working on a project. This could anywhere in my home where there light and space are suitable.”
“I have many collections: African indigo, aso oke, strip weaving, kuba, Miao. There are many pieces that I am willing to share. Many can be seen on my blog, brendacolling.wordpress.com or website, www.brendacolling.com
Every piece that I acquire is something that I love and cherish. When I go out sourcing, it is with an open mind. One never knows what will be out there.