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Hand painted, heat cut synthetics. Wood. not stitched.
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, Betty Busby founded a ceramics manufacturing company. After about 20 years, she sold the company and moved to New Mexico, where she began to devote herself to textile art. Her background led her to continuous experimentation with techniques and materials, which she uses in her artwork.
She is an artist and fiber teacher and maintains an intense program of national and international exhibitions.
Harvest, 72×31, 2018
hand painted cotton, wax resist treatment, twigs, LED lights. Machine stitching
I often ask this question to the artists I have the pleasure of interviewing: why did you choose to use fabric and threads as a medium for your art?
I love fiber because it is never boring! the range of materials and techniques we can use in endless, and I enjoy pushing the limits every day.
Can you tell us something about yourself and your history as an artist? How did you start?
As the oldest child in a military family, my two sisters and I were often the only people we knew in the early stages of our frequent household moves. My mother was wonderful at creating things from discarded household objects, and I followed her example by having arts and *crabs* sessions with my younger siblings. We made little sculptures from discarded tin can lids, creatures from cut up egg cartons, and small sculptures from twigs and leaves that we found.
Alone in the Woods, 43×24″, 2018
Hand dyed silk, wax resist treatment, machine stitching, twigs, yarn
Can you tell us about the birth and development of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
Normally I work on one project at a time when I am in the stitching phase, however I do experiments almost daily. Often I am burning to expand my results, what would it look like over a larger area? What will happen if I add another element to the mix?
These questions occupy my mind as I complete the finishing stage of the previous work, I don’t allow myself to start another until the boring stages of finishing, photographing and labeling are completed.
Down the Garden Path, 53×41″ 2018
synthetic sheers, hand painted, heat cut, non woven materials, ribbon. Machine stitching
What are the differences between your first and most recent works?
My initial exposure to quilting was during my early teenage years, when we lived in Pennsylvania and would attend the Kutztown State Fair. On display were magnificent Amish quilts, many of which I feel to be masterworks to this day.
I initially started with purely geometric piecing, using fabrics I had dyed myself- or found in the trash! There was no money to purchase expensive materials, and it seemed that handmade and discarded materials were appropriate to the history of the art form.
Several years later, the gallery that represented my work in New England requested smaller pieces that would fit into the smaller homes on the East Coast. That was a big turning point for me, I could abandon the subconscious need to make bed size, washable items.
Incubator 33×53″, 2018
Digitally printed and hand painted cotton sateen, medical tubing, non woven material, machine and hand stitching
How do you choose the subjects of your works?
I belong to an international challenge group, Viewpoints 9, curated by Martha Wolfe. Every month and a half we make something inspired by a suggestion by another member, I’m finishing up my “geology” prompt right now.
I often choose macro imagery as well, beyond a certain magnification, there is no color, no top or bottom- there is a freedom of expression that is harder for me to find in more expected areas.
How important is the choice of materials for you?
It’s essential to what I do. I love the feel and history of handmade cloth, as well as the excitement of new materials that are coming on the market through advanced technology.
Often, I will combine both for visual impact.
The advantage of working with mixed media is that a great range of expression can be achieved. One material may be good for cutting into fine detail, whereas another might have a rich color, and a third an amazing texture.
Betty, to design and create your work, do you also use computer tools such as digital printing, photoshop …?
Yes I use the computer extensively. It’s another, powerful tool, but will never take the place of the human brain, hand and heart.
Let There Be Light, 60×60″, 2017
synthetic sheers, hand painted, heat cut, non woven materials, LED lights. Machine stitching.
Do you work in a series? Why?
Not officially, but one work springs from another all the time. I will also revisit older works if a new idea pops into my head to expand, or alter, the methods used in making it for another result.
Let Your Light Shine, 44×67, 2018
synthetic sheers, hand painted, heat cut, non woven materials, felt, LED lights. Machine stitching.
What are you working on at the moment? Would you like to tell us about your current textile projects?
I have been working with heat shapable material for several years to make large three dimensional works. I’m beginning a new project that incorporates it combined with a vintage, handmade lace gown from the early part of the 20th century. should be interesting!
Multicellular, 67×50, 2014 Hand dyed silk, hand painted knit and synthetic non woven, rubber bands. Machine stitching