We are excited to continue our weekly series, FeelGood Features, with quilt artist Belén Parisi! FeelGood Features will do exactly what its name implies: feature a new fiber artist each week. Our goal is to feature artitsts that work primarily with upcycled/recycled and sustainable materials. Because it’s not only important WHY we quilt, but it’s also important HOW we quilt. Our hope is that this series will introduce you to artists that you will love learning about and demonstrate the ways in which you, too, can incorporate sustainable materials into your craft. Thanks for being here!
FeelGood Feature: Belén Parisi
This week, we’re meeting sustainable fiber artist, Belén Parisi.
Why do you feel called to use upcycled or recycled materials in your work?
It’s a natural call because I’ve always felt attracted to digging into my grandma’s drawers and sewing boxes, where I could often find surprising textile pieces, threads of all colors, buttons, trims, etc. As a grown up, I continued playing this game in flea markets, “special offers”-corners in stores, street markets, second-hand stores, and old-fashioned ones in little towns.
How did you get started using these types of materials?
I had a bunch of pieces collected and realized that having them stored in a drawer was not a way of enjoying and honoring them. I had to lose the fear of cutting them first, but once I did that, I discovered a whole new world of creative possibilities and started adding them to my patchworks and quilts.
How do you source your materials?
Aditionally to the previous answer, I would like to add that I love to travel and when I do that, I like to visit street markets and second hand stores. Textiles are the kind of souvenir that I bring home and when I work with these pieces, I feel that the memories of the place that I once visited are embodied and present. I also like to source my materials in special, beloved garments that have been part of my life. Friends often find beautiful things for me. And sometimes, when I’m working on commissions, people bring me an emotional piece or personal treasure to add to the work.
Were there any particular challenges or surprises to using upcycled materials?
Yes! Upcycling is all about surprises! I often go for a particular thing and end up with a couple of beautiful findings that I was not expecting! It feels like receiving gifts instead of shopping for materials. Once in my studio, there are also a few nice challenges (for example, taking special care of vintage pieces when washing and handling or making decisions about how to work out borders in embroidered napkins and tea towels) when I’m piecing them for patchwork and quilt tops.
What would be your advice to someone who is curious about using sustainable materials in their own work?
Follow that curiosity! Pick up the material that attracts you the most and open your heart to a creative dialogue with it. Just start with something, anything! See what happens when you combine old and new! A little movement means that you are already creating and transforming. Keep on doing that and see where the path takes you.
Does using these materials have any additional impact/value for you personally? (i.e. does it make you feel more connected to the earth)?
Beyond making me feel connected to a more sustainable world, it engages me to the magical power of creation and by doing this I end up turning something that was not being used or even discarded into something functional and beautiful. I honor what is given and create a whole new story. And in the case of a commission, if I’m working with a special piece from a client, the whole experience beautifully engages me with that person and that story.
What project are you working on now and how would you describe it?
I’m working in a series of one-of-a-kind functional goods. And a quilt in progress is always on my design wall.
Thank you so much, Belén! For more of Belén’s work, follow her on instagram @belenparisi.
Want more inspiration? Meet Sam Mikolon.