Ruth Cowen

Fabric Features

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Growing up with a mother who was a dressmaker meant that I was constantly surrounded by fabrics and the discussions invariably focused on garment styles, colours, patterns and textures.  Those were the fabric heydays in Adelaide with dedicated fabric stores in the city and suburbs and department stores with whole floors dedicated to bolts and rolls of fabric. A shopping trip into town with Mum meant several hours of looking at people’s knees, or, running amuck (as my mother would have it) amongst gorgeous colours, patterns and textures, draping myself in the fabric and just imagining.

That early delight and immersion must have stuck, as, following a teaching career, and raising a family of my own, I am now, once again, immersed with fabrics, colour, pattern and texture.  I have come home, but, this time, I am creating the colours, patterns and textures, exploring the possibilities of the fabrics and their features.

I love using natural fabrics, so my work is predominately on silk, cotton, linen and viscose.  As a child of the ‘60s, I love colour, so, yes, much of it is bright.  I love patterns too, they can sooth and surprise at the same time depending upon what you see.  All my work is done by hand using fabric dyes and inks.  Inspiration comes from many places, but I find nature is the best resource. 

I challenge the fabric that I work with: I fold it this way and that, I place on colour here and there, I manipulate with water, alcohol, ice, salt, heat, gravity or resists, and then, I let it rest.  While I pretend it’s all planned, in truth, more and more, I am following my intuition.  The joy is that the fabric doesn’t let me down but surprises me in the final reveal, and this is what you see and hopefully delight in too – the fabric’s features at the end of the process.