The talented and über-creative Sandy Stone combines sewing, upholstery, and collage in her work, which can be charming, funky, cheeky, and beautiful—all at the same time, on occasion. Sandy’s first book, Fabric Remix, celebrates her clever transformation of recycled and salvaged materials into 35 of the coolest functional things you’ve ever seen. A satchel made from old canvas signage? A bolster from an old wool coat? A tote made from vintage obis and belts? All in a day’s work for Sandy. If you’re lucky enough to be in the Minneapolis area, see her work at hunt & gather, and do make plans to visit her and have your book signed at The Creative Connection event in mid-September. Here’s a quick Q & A with Sandy:
In the introduction to Fabric Remix, you discuss how difficult it is to describe exactly what you do, which is basically transforming old objects into new using all sorts of different techniques. Did you have an “a-ha!” moment when the notion of repurposing materials resonated with you?
I don’t recall any epiphany. In the early days of working with furniture, I painted designs onto canvas to create my own upholstery fabric. The designs were very vintage 1950’s inspired, mostly geometric and minimalist, but I grew tired of the process and never liked my designs as much as the actual clothing, neckties and scarves that they sprang from. Using the items themselves seemed to be the natural next step. My first repurposing project involved many neckties, I believe. I love piecing small things together to “grow” my own textiles.
A lot of your fabulous work involves thinking outside of the box when you’re making projects; a great example is the moneybag pillows that are made, obviously, from old moneybags. When you find an intriguing item like that, do you immediately have a purpose in mind, or do you nab it simply because it’s cool and you know you’ll find a use for it eventually?
Usually the latter. I’m drawn to items for lots of different reasons…occasionally I love something so much it inspires a project immediately and I can’t wait to get home to get to work on it! Sometimes things hang around so long I forget that I have them, and upon re-discovery I wonder “what the @#$% was I thinking?” Most often, though, certain items are just waiting for their perfect “mates” to come along and then I get to perform the “marriage.”
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve found recently while junking?
A baby raccoon in a cage. Seriously. But wait, that’s the SCARIEST thing I’ve found junking.
Which item in your stash are you most excited about working with right now?
From a fellow junker, I bought some amazing heavy natural linen tarps from the Swiss Army Corps with the cross insignia and numbers printed in black. They also have lots of straps and buckles and will make such fabulous slipcovers that it may be impossible for me to part with them.
What’s your favorite new creation?
My favorite is usually the most recent, because in a few days I’ll probably no longer like it. That’s sort of the way it goes with me.
I’ve been experimenting lately with “deconstruction.” When I tear old upholstery from a piece it sometimes reveals such beautiful underpinnings that I find it a shame to re-cover them. By modifying some upholstery methods I’ve found that I can make a piece functional and comfortable while leaving the structural elements, such as the wood frame, muslin, burlap and charming rusty tacks and springs, exposed. I’ve gotten some interesting results.
You have a fine art background, and you did all the charming how-to illustrations in your book. Do you make “art” today? If so, what kind?
Now and then I slip in something purely aesthetic for fun…it’s usually 3-D, though, like a barbed wire chair or a delicate paper slipcover. Maybe when I “retire” I’ll have a little time to develop some of the more conceptual ideas that pop in. I hope so!
I love that you don’t use a lot of fancy expensive tools to do your creative work. What’s the one tool you couldn’t do without?
You mean aside from my hands? Because if I could not work with my hands I would perish. I guess if I had to choose, it would be my simple old straight-stitch sewing machine. Hardly a day goes by that it goes untouched.
Fabric Remix was shot in your amazing home, which is decorated with lots of great vintage finds like old fire hoses, funky neon signs, eye charts, and various and sundry ephemera. Do you often switch out these accessory pieces when you find a new treasure?
Yes, the décor is constantly revolving and no room is ever “finished.” This method of switching things out is necessary since I hate clutter and owning a lot of stuff makes me anxious!
Finally, here’s a question I love from Vickie Howell’s Craft Corps: When you someone outbids you for a great stash of vintage linens, what’s your favorite curse word?
Well, since my mother-in-law may read this and I really hate to offend her, let’s just say “fiddlesticks” maybe.