I remember the day that I chose the name for my business. I’d been playing around with words connected to what I wanted my business to be about. And then there it was. The Phoenix Green Store. I had a truly settled feeling that with these words, strung together like an identity bracelet, I was perfectly describing the ideology of my artistic practise. An ecological and very GREEN phoenix rising from the ashes of an old life to begin a new one. It was about my life as much as my art, and I loved the concept.
The very idea of buying new fabric to realise my creative and business goals didn’t even cross my mind, even then. I had always wanted to use fabric that was destined for the bin, for rag bags, for landfill. Cherished pieces of fabric with history and stories and a whole life lived, given new purpose. I suppose it was an expression of the hoarder in me, the “mustn’t throw that away, it might be useful for something” gene that I had gathered enough of these woven artifcats to begin a business in the first place. And so I began to make things with rescued fabrics, with cloth that found its way to me, with a lifetime of stories bound in the warp and in the weft.
As time went on, I found there were things that I needed to buy new – thread, batting, pins and needles. The tools of my trade. And yet fabric has always been something I have never had to buy new – and never wanted to.
As time has passed, my business and really, life ethos has just continued that way. I have been gifted fabric, inherited fabric, collected scraps from cottage industry, bought up rags from charity shops. Buying brand new fabric in a world which seems to be overflowing with unwanted cloth, with “fast fashion”, seems like an alien concept to me now. And I’m utterly delighted about that – it informs my creative process in a way that pre-meditated shop bought brand new fabric never could.
The result of this gathering of second hand cloth is best seen in my rainbow quilts, where the eclectic combination of colour and print and textures, all sitting in rhythm with each other really does bring the whole cloth quilt to life, so that it becomes more than an enviromental goal to not buy new, but a very real part of the way my creations are borne into their new lives and therefore a huge influence on my creative process.
There’s nothing I love more than seeing utterly different patterns and colours connecting with each other as part of a whole. The fact that there is no plan to which fabrics will find themselves in my studio at any given time, feels incredibly freeing and really rather wonderful. Like trusting in the universe to provide me with the materials of my craft, and letting that trust sit gently alongside the joy of watching colour and shape and 2 dimensional form create their own symphony right before my eyes. Perhaps in a wonderful metaphor for the human condition – that we are all so wonderfully different, in our stories, our experiences, our lives, yet have this potential to come together in perfect connection to create something beautiful.
Could I buy brand new fabric? No, I really don’t think I could.