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  • Michelle Sirois Silver

"Sure, that would be nice."

Last year a dear friend called me up and asked if I wanted some fabric samples. Someone she knew wanted to get rid of the samples but didn’t want them to end up in the landfill. She also offered to pick up and deliver them to the studio. My inside voice was screaming NOOOOO!!! But my outside voice said, “Sure, that would be nice. Thank you for thinking of me.”

When she pulled up the SUV was packed with boxes. There was even a huge suitcase. My heart leapt and sank at the same time – I don't think that's physically possible. I became acutely aware that I was now responsible for ALL the fabrics. If you live in Vancouver, you know how expensive real estate is here, so when I store something I have to think about the cost per square foot. It’s no small thing.

I was working to a deadline, so I stacked the boxes away from my work area to avoid any distraction. My plan was to go through them sometime the following week. But here’s thing about unopen boxes of fabrics, my will power lasted five minutes. It was as if Poseidon himself had put the three Sirens inside those boxes. And once I opened one box there was no turning back.

Over the next few months I sorted the samples into piles with names like Plush, Sheer, Shiny. I took a couple of boxes over to my friends at the Bees. I gave some away during my studio sale. But I was left with a lot of fabric samples. So, I did what every self-respecting fiber artist does – I began to make art with them.


I don’t think of myself as a pack rat, but the reality is I am. I hate throwing things away, even the smallest pieces. And when I do throw something away, I stand over the garbage can and peer down at the disposed item with a profound sense of guilt. Sometimes in the middle of the night I lay awake regretting the things I’ve discarded. Rug hookers can be very frugal. Some save their tiny snippets and use them for stuffing pillows and dolls. And when I say tiny, think 1/8-inch x 1/8-inch.

Photo: Andrea Sirois

I’ve written about the importance of making small work and how it brings a creative balance to my art practice. One day I was looking through Three-Dimensional Embroidery by Janet Edmonds and was inspired by her stacking soft sculptures. I began experimenting using the fabric samples and wool blankets that I had collected over the years. The wool blankets were too thick to use in my hand hooked rugs and I had set them aside, they were ideal for the soft sculpture.

Photo: Andrea Sirois

The first sculpture I made had a cute factor, which is akin to a death knell for me. But I was intrigued by the colour play, textures and the dense form. I loved the simple pleasure of making it. When I stood the sculpture upright it tilted ever so slightly. One led to two. Two led to three. Which led me to consider submitting the pieces for an exhibition this fall.

I’m now adding my Nuno felted samples and pieces of hooked rugs to the mix. I have a few more ideas which I’ll explore over the summer.


Working with the limitations of the materials I have on hand inspires me. I often find that the work I enjoy making the most starts from this point. I love sorting and preparing the materials. It’s meditative and creates a space where I can intellectually, emotionally and physically integrate their tactile and visual qualities which will go on to influence my material and colour choices during the making process.

Photo: Andrea Sirois

What I have discovered with the soft sculptures is I have the option to rework each one if I choose to. I love assembling them. And I particularly love that I can take them apart, reorder the pieces and make new combinations. I love that they can shift and change to suit my desires. And I love the impermanence of it all.

So, what started with “sure, that would be nice” has evolved into a new body of work. And to my dear friend, thank you for thinking of me.


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