Kari Breitigam and I first met as neighboring vendors at a holiday pop up shop last fall. I immediately fell in love with her work and saw the potential for us to collaborate. You'll be able to see what we've been working on later this spring, so stay tuned! Below is a chat we recently had about her work and process as an artist.
Kathrine Zeren: Tell me a little about your background. What made you interested in working with textiles?
Kari Breitigam: I began working with textiles when I was in college. I have an MFA in painting, but while in school I always enjoyed playing with the canvas more than creating a traditional painting. I would cut, stitch, and stain my canvases (as well as glitter and bedazzle them, but I try to forget about that). The hands-on, tactile approach to art-making was far more interesting to me. Eventually I moved away from traditional paint altogether and just dyed my own linen and canvas to use in my work. After I finished school, I wanted to make items that were more useful, and I began dyeing fabrics for bags and scarves and creating fiber-based jewelry.
KZ: What are your favorite materials to work with? Why?
KB: I love the warmth and comfort of yarns, threads, and textiles. I grew up surrounded by my mother’s latch hook and macramé, so fiber work has always held for me a sense of comfort and nostalgia. I prefer to work with natural fibers. Much of my current artwork depicts abstractions of nature, and working with wool, silk, cotton, and linen seems a logical extension of this connection to our natural physical world. Acrylic and polyester just don’t bring up those same feelings.
KZ: How would you describe your creative process?
KB: My process is fairly organic. The techniques and aesthetic of my artwork feeds into my accessories work and vice versa. Sometimes I sketch out designs but mostly I experiment a lot, just playing around with materials and seeing what comes of it. It’s really kind of embarrassing how nonsystematic I am. My process is very direct and my materials are relatively simple so I feel that my hand is very apparent in everything that I create. No two pieces are ever exactly the same.
KZ: Did you approach this collaboration any differently than any other project? Or, does each project require its own take?
KB: I feel as if I have similar approaches to most projects, but they all have their own unique considerations. For example, I use the same technique to dye my scarves as I do to dye canvas and linen for my artwork. However, when stretching canvas or linen I must consider the overall arrangement and placement of the dyed areas on the surface, whereas in a scarf that isn’t as important since they are intended to be worn folded or scrunched.
For this collaboration, I needed to consider color choices in a way I never had before. Thinking about which color combinations would be “masculine” or correspond well with menswear was completely new territory for me, and I consulted my boyfriend quite a bit. I had also never dyed fabric in this large of quantities before, which was a new challenge. This entire project allowed me to experiment with new colors and techniques, and I learned a lot from the process.
All images courtesy of Kari Breitigam.