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  • Writer's pictureCarol Wiebe

Our Own Hands Are Our Primary Tools

B. J. Adams tells us that the pursuits that instigated a life of art for her ~ painting, drawing, and making her own clothes ~ coalesced into fiber art:

When I discovered fabric and thread as a medium, a whole new textural world opened and ideas poured forth. The sewing machine has become my brush and pencil; hundreds of colors of thread have become paint for realistic and abstract images set on various backgrounds.

Adams’ bio points us toward the large number of international art exhibits, public buildings and publications her work has appeared in. What stood out for me, in that illustrious list, was Celebrating the Stitch, a book  by the inimitable Barbara Lee Smith, that mesmerized me almost 20 years ago and continues to do so today whenever I pull it from my art bookshelf (B.J. Adams is featured on pp. 202 to 207).

The evolution of Adam’s work is, and always has been, assured by her self-perpetuating approach:

While working on one piece, another concept often emerges, and it is this constant, stimulating flow that causes my work to evolve. The unusual or commonplace materials and techniques I use, the focus required by the slow process of this art, and the infinite available subjects, keep my work ever-changing, challenging, and always interesting.

A portfolio of B.J.’s work can be accessed from her home page: all of it demonstrates an incredible attention to detail, flawless workmanship, beautiful design, and flashes of humor or narrative. The hand is ubiquitous, even beyond her “Hand Series,” about which Adams states:

My hands are the primary tools for all the techniques I use in my artwork, as well as in daily life. Therefore I have included them as an important and expressive image in much of my embroidered textile art.
Seasonal Spectrum ~ by B. J. Adams

Seasonal Spectrum ~ by B. J. Adams (used with permission)

See more of B.J. Adams’ artwork on The Painter’s Keys, where we learn that

To connect and vitalize contradictory images, elements of landscape, still-life, botanical drawings, paintings, embroidery, or old textiles may be included. The resultant art may be modular, stretched and framed, or formatted as a banner or quilt.
Framing The Landscape ~ by B. J. Adams

Framing The Landscape ~ by B. J. Adams (used with permission)

She is also featured on SAQA and New Image Artists.

In 2004, Robert Genn wrote a post called “The Interrupted Life,” to which Adams responded:

I stopped painting when my children were small and interruptions were frequent. I went to fiber art as I could stop and leave things as long as needles and pins were hidden and come back to it in short spurts. As they grew older I started combining the two as well as using the artwork in the community. That was an even busier time, but I found the busier you are the more you can accomplish.

I can certainly relate to frequent interruptions. In fact, it is probably rare for anyone to have long expanses of time where they can do whatever they like, without distractions or interruptions. While it is true that taking care of small children leaves very little time for personal pursuits, Adams obviously made it happen. In fact, her statement about getting a lot done when she is busy points to acceptance of interruptions as a way of life. One can simply shift one’s attitude andrename them. Interruptions, disruptions, delays, hindrances, obstructions . . . can all be seen as sign posts for taking another look, finding a different way, taking a breath, letting something new in.

We can be miserable about interruptions, or allow them to guide us into a whole new approach to working, and being. The way B.J. Adams combined painting with fiber may have started in short spurts, but it resulted in a phenomenal body of work.

Where might your interruptions lead?

#embroidery #embroideredtextileart #hands #machineembroidery #interruptions #tools #primarytools #thread #BJAdams #CelebratingtheStitch

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