In his book, The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty, Soetsu Yanagi writes that, "In pattern man gets a view of a mighty world transcending man." Pattern, which extends from edge to edge, without beginning or end, suggests a time past, a time present and a time that will continue into the future. In addition to hand embroidery, I have used traditional Japanese dyeing techniques known as Shibori to create the patterned linen cloths in my work. By stitching and gathering or folding and clamping the fabric prior to dyeing it, symmetrical patterns are born within the cloth and hopefully, for the viewer, maintain a memory or knowledge of the handwork. The repetition and cyclical nature of the process - the work - becomes a living pattern.
A continuing theme in my artwork of the past decade has been work or labor and specifically, how our work or occupation interweaves with our identity. I began to consider place in relationship to this theme and looked to the remnants of the 19th century factory buildings on the near west side of South Bend (Indiana) as a subject for my fabric constructions. As a native of South Bend, I was very familiar with the history of the hardworking, blue collar laborers of this region. My own paternal grandfather emigrated from Poland and eventually found his way to this mid-western city for jobs in the area factories. Four generations of my family have continued to live and work here.
In an effort to re-examine this place that I call home, I began to photograph the remaining factory structures in the Studebaker Corridor (automobile plant) and at the former Singer Sewing Machine, Oliver 's Plow and Wilson Brothers' Shirt factories. Long-time, familiar profiles on the city's west side, these decaying buildings and the jobs they once provided are an integral part of my own and many area families' histories. Over the past several years the city has begun to clear some of these sites and I have returned to document them as they are torn down. The patterns and embroidered scenes in my fabric work are derived from the photographic studies of this industrial architecture.
These remnant landscapes and the generations of people they represent repeat themselves throughout the Midwest and Northeast and are mirrored in obsolete industrial and agricultural economies everywhere. As I looked to other post-industrial cities for subjects, I also was attracted by the imagery of bridges. Symbols of industry, progress, connection, communication, travel, change and overcoming, bridges create a link to both past and future.
A rural landscape was not part of my lexicon until I moved to an 18 acre farm in 1999. Influenced by the natural and agricultural subjects found in my new environment, I also recognized the parallel issues that exist when comparing the small farmer to the blue collar worker as both struggle to remain viable in this global economy. Now my daily commute takes me past both new development, which is quickly supplanting rich farmland , and the skeletons of the abandoned factories which await demolition. The picture is of a time past, a time present and patterns, for better or worse, which continue into the future.