Welcome to Cultural Cloth

© Michelle Davis Petelinz 2008

Welcome to Cultural Cloth: Exploring and Expressing Our Cultural Histories. I hope you will return here again and again, as Cultural Cloth workshop participants share their work and experiences. We have plenty of space for comments, and welcome your input into the ongoing discussion of diversity in America.

Cultural Cloth, the workshop, utilizes fiber collage, also known as fabric collage, to entice group discussion. Fiber is present in every culture. We all feel fabric against our skin in clothing, and in our beds as we sleep. Fibers serves to frame the view out our windows and as a barrier between our feet and a cold floor. The touch of fiber is as natural as taking a breath, a breath that has been adorned with custom, tradition and imagination.

CMMAG members collaging thier heritage

While creating the collage, group members share their thoughts, experiences and the effects of cultural diversity in their lives.  The topics vary and are derived from the subjects being explored in the art.  Participants may talk about a personal experience, tell the immigration story of an ancestor, or the successes and failures of diversity in their community. Asking questions of each other, misconceptions and stereotypes are addressed in a non-threatening environment.

Through exhibiting the art work completed in the workshop, the conversation moves out of the workshop, into the community. When we are free to just talk about our experiences, we are free to change the way we think about race, ethnicity and multiculturalism right at home, in the communities we live and work in every day.

I had the great joy of sharing Cultural Cloth with members of the Carolina Mixed Media Artists Guild.  Together, we learned a great deal about each other, and how we came to be American.  Eight guild members , some with no fiber experience at all, created fiber collages depicting the influences of Asia, The Netherlands, Native America, Wales, the Southwest, New Orleans, Mexico and Germany.

Carolina Mixed Media Art Guild Members Workshop

Carolina Mixed Media Art Guild Workshop

Looking around the table, I didn’t see a lot of difference in the faces of the participants. There were eight proud Americans, who valued their right to vote as dearly as their lives. Yet, listening to the discussion, these women couldn’t have been more diverse, each holding a distinct opinion on what it is to be part of  ‘the ‘many’ who make up the ‘one’.

Experiences discussed ranged from the perception of ‘Southern’ intellect in other areas of the country, to the blended cultures of the ‘Bayou’.   Of importance to all was the rhetoric of the current election and how  all Americans are effected and distracted by it.

Food is an integral part of just about every culture. This group decided on a pot luck meal for lunch break with amazing dishes that reflected the cultures of the collages. Foods such as gumbo, sausage and sauerkraut, enchilada casserole and black-eyed peas are rarely seen on the same menu, but really do work well together. What a treat it was to share!

I hope you enjoy these examples of the work created in this workshop. It was a pleasure to share the works, along with their statements, at Art of the Carolinas 2008, an event sponsored by Jerry’s Artarama . For more information about the guild, please visit the Carolina Mixed Media Artists Guild.

Culturally Yours,

Ann Flaherty