We are excited to continue our weekly series, FeelGood Features, with quilt artist Eliu Hernandez! 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: Eliu Hernandez
Why do you feel called to use upcycled or recycled materials in your work?
Conceptually, I’m working toward using more and more reclaimed materials in my work. I’d like to show people that things destined for the recycle bin or for the dumpster can be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The things I’m making are meant to be admired visually and are meant to be used and maybe even a little abused! I’m working toward making a quilt with 100% used materials. Until now, I’ve been able to make quilts which include:
1. Reclaimed top
2. Reclaimed batting
3. Reclaimed backing
4. Reclaimed thread to hand-quilt
5. Only the thread used to piece it was new.
My favorite quilt, Waist Not, is made entirely from jeans’ waistbands and is hand-quilted using reclaimed thread from the same jeans.
The textile industry is responsible for an enormous amount of pollution and post-consumer waste. I’d like to do my part to influence others to reuse and redo whenever possible.
How did you get started using these types of materials?
I got started using reclaimed sewing materials about 10 years ago. I’ve been using reclaimed materials otherwise for a long time prior. I’ve made reclaimed furniture, reclaimed fridge magnets, lamps from liquor bottles and other upcycled projects. I started making bags from clothing and quilting came naturally as a result of the scraps I couldn’t throw away. I feel I have a healthy/unhealthy obsession with denim currently as I save almost everything from a pair of deconstructed jeans. I harvest the pockets and the waistbands and the belt-loops and the rivets and even the thread! I consider myself a collector, but my wife thinks I’m a hoarder.
I’ve been improving on a technique to harvest usable lengths of thread for several years now. It looks great and adds a level of authenticity when working with reclaimed denim.
How do you source your materials?
I source my materials by using my own clothing. I also do some thrifting and rely heavily on donations. In my community, I’m known as the guy people give their unwanted jeans to. It’s getting tougher and tougher to sneak piles of jeans past my wife and into my studio anymore.
What would be your advice to someone who is curious about using sustainable materials in their own work?
If I’m handing out unsolicited advice, I’d include a recommendation to play around and keep experimenting. Don’t strive for perfection because it will only come as a result of imperfections. All of my stuff is asymmetrical, flawed and wonderfully imperfect.
Does using these materials have any additional impact/value for you personally? (i.e. does it make you feel more connected to the earth)?
I really enjoy talking about this stuff—making, sewing, repurposing, creativizing! Please reach out to me w comments, feedback and questions. I’m also available for teaching and speaking engagements for your guilds and groups! Thank you, Kim!