Midway through life, Sally Chang found a new love.
She enrolled in a fabric arts class at the University of Idaho in the 1990s and couldn’t resist pursuing what she learned.
“I’ve always liked to work with my hands and design,” she said. “I took a textile class one semester and that was the beginning. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Today, Chang is an accomplished fabric artist and designer experimenting with new ways to express the medium. “I’ve never seen anyone else do this kind of stuff,” she said.
Her work is on display through Feb. 29 at the Chase Gallery in the lower level of Spokane City Hall.
Arts Director Karen Mobley organized a combined show of Chang’s fine art pieces with the equally beautiful, but more traditional quilted fabrics of renowned Spokane craft artist Debbie Mumm.
The pairing at one of the city’s important art showplaces offers a nice contrast between two distinctly different ways of creating art from fabric. The show is Chang’s first exhibit in Spokane. She lives in Juliaetta, Idaho.
One of the exhibit pieces is a dyed silk hanging showing rust, gold and gray-green tones with a soft but expressive interplay of shapes. Another one with similar silk fabric design is mounted on copper pipe and rusted steel rods with one section containing woven strands of copper.
Geometric patterns in her art are created by stitching metallic silk organza fabric onto regular silk and then exposing the fabrics to ammonia gas. The fuming process “weds” the oxidized metal in the organza to the regular silk, leaving dark stitching patterns. She said the technique often has unpredictable results.
“I like the inability to control what’s going on,” she said. “There are lots of surprises.”
Mobley said that Chang’s works resemble a painting, but done in silk. “You wouldn’t wear these or put them on a bed. They are fabric as art,” she said.
Chang first went to college in the late 1960s at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She moved to the Lewiston area, where she and her former husband raised two girls and ran a family whitewater business known as Grand Canyon Dories for nearly 20 years. The business was eventually sold and now is operated under the name Oars.
In the 1990s, Chang turned her attention to more college work and earned a bachelor’s degree in arts and fine arts at UI. She also took graduate studies at UI in family and consumer science and had attended Lewis-Clark State College over the years.
Her passion for art took her to the University of Washington, which awarded her a master’s degree in fine arts in 2002.
Chang’s work has been exhibited at a number of galleries around the country, including the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, the Kaewyn Gallery in Bothell and Reflections Gallery at UI.
She also has been involved in a partnership known as Arrow Clayworks with Maggi Fuhriman, an artist and neighbor in Juliaetta. She teaches occasional seminars and workshops, and was a visiting lecturer at UW and UI in 2001 and 2002.