Tell us a bit about yourself name, location, the personal stuff.
My full name is Amber Dawn Coppings. Currently, I am located in Pittsburgh, PA which is really just a small town in a mid-size city atmosphere. My yard is connected to a big green space that is host to deer, owls, woodpeckers and a lot of bunnies.
Apart from creating art, what do you do?
I am the Education Coordinator for Calliope: The Pittsburgh Folk Music Society. We have a School of Folk Music and also develop Outreach programs that provide music education for children.
What first made you want to become an artist?
My mom always encouraged creativity, so I sewed, crocheted and made pretty pictures when I was young. However, it wasn’t until I was a senior in high school and took a sculpture class that I realized that making art was something I could not live without. From then on, I have pursued art-making and a career in the arts relentlessly.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
My main passion is to create three dimensional textures with cloth using sewing, or fabric dyeing techniques called Shibori. Shibori is a general term for hundreds of different Japanese fabric dyeing traditions that use objects to create design on cloth. Think tie-dye times 12 using wood and clamps, sewing techniques and whole lot of patience. While traveling in Japan, I saw many examples of contemporary shibori where the artist left the three dimensional texture of the objects used to dye the fabric in the cloth, though the objects themselves were taken out of the fabric. I was hooked. I started experimenting and I have since created several lines of work that celebrates Dimensional Cloth. Amtextiles and its signature Silk Organza Bubble Wraps use marbles, bicycle parts, vintage buttons and other objects to create ethereal and dimensional art-to-wear. My other line is Xmittens--fleece and recycled fabric accessories that have unusually sewn 3D thread ridges.
As often as possible, I translate these shibori and dimensional cloth techniques into non-wearable art as well. Currently, I am working on a Textile Art Installation for the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. The Mattress Factory is world-renowned for its focus on art installation as an art form. I am really honored to have been invited to create a piece! The working title is “Echoes of Objects”. I am creating silk organza “camouflage” panels (hand-dyed and sewn) that will be strung all over the space. Each panel has a series of shapes embedded within the fabric that were created using donated objects such as old toys, broken wrenches, remote controls that don’t work, things that we keep around that have no purpose and we don’t really see anymore. In a sense, they are camouflaged by all the stuff we have in our lives.
To help me create texture, I have a fancy serger (for silks and jersey), an industrial serger (for fleece) and a regular sewing machine. It can become a sweatshop in here in summertime as I get ready for the holidays! My fabric dyeing studio is in the basement, or sometimes I go outside to dye fabrics. I love color very much and it is great to see the beautiful dye colors unfold themselves in the buckets. I use low impact fiber reactive dyes that are non-toxic and create vibrant, permanent colors on the fabric. As I stir the dye bath buckets, I feel very connected to previous cultures that considered creating color on fabric an art form and necessary for their civilization.
My day job is part time and flexible (thank goodness) so I do get 3-4 days a week in my studio. My studio days go something like this: Wake up-computer time-putter around and make lists-make dye baths-go outside-sew-sew-sew-wash and hang fabric to dry- pet the cat and eat- repeat.
What artists have influenced you and inspire you to create?
Yoshiko Wada is a huge influence for me. She almost single-handedly brought back the shibori Japanese art form from near extinction. She has written many informative books that inspired me to start my journey with Japanese shibori dyeing and cloth manipulation methods.
Where else can we find your work and connect with you online?
The best places online are am textiles, and xmittens. For stories and documentation of my artistic process visit my blog, and I am on Flickr. If you are in the Pittsburgh area, visit the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Shop and/or Patricia’s Boutique in Apsinwall. I travel around and sell my work at shows, so definitely check my blog to see what is coming up!
Images copyright am textiles, copyright 2009.