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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The Verve: Quilts weave memories, art

Pam Hansen, standing in her basement studio on Jan. 7, is using her quilting skills and large quilting machine to create hand-dyed wall hangings with varieties of stitching, added beads and even bits of rusted metal. A side business is creating quilts from T-shirt collections, like the one at right. (PHOTOS BY JESSE TINSLEY)
Jennifer Larue

We all have a favorite T-shirt, a lucky one or one that contains good memories of a place or a time. When the much loved T-shirts wear out or no longer fit, they go to the bottom of the drawer where they remain; memories are hard to throw out.

Mixed media fiber artist Pam Hansen understands, and so she began a business of taking the memories of others and stitching them together into T-shirt quilts. Now, she puts her own memories together with textile art.

“If I’m making a T-shirt quilt, perfection is an asset, but if I’m making art it is a liability,” she said. “Art gives me permission to break the rules.”

Hansen began working with fabric in high school in Renton, Wash. She went on to study fashion design and textiles at Central Washington University. She made costumes for a theater and later moved to Spokane where she worked in display at a department store until it closed in 1992.

She then went back to school to study landscape design and became a stay-at-home mom after her daughter was born eight weeks premature, allowing her more time to nurture her child as well as her creative spirit, working over a long arm quilting machine or hand stitching art which she displayed in her home, away from critical eyes.

“The desire to make art was always there, but the fear of not measuring up was greater,” she said.

She worked on breaking through that fear, and used her art as an emotional outlet.

Her skills with fabric became “Grey Area,” a creation that hangs off a wrapped dowel and contains an edge of black and another of white, meeting in the middle to become gray with sinewy red fibers, and “Fractured Lives,” a textile enigma of shapes and colors with subtle competing patterns.

Lately, she has been fastening her mixed-media pieces to canvas for strength to support the addition of found objects including rusted metal, beads, and painted wood.

Hansen hopes that, through her work, she can connect with others. Like T-shirts that hold personal memories, her work holds universal memories of the good and the bad from her own point of view that we can all relate and connect to.

“We have our own stories to tell and through those stories we discover the unique connections we have to each other,” Hansen said. “My intent is that others see my art and discover their own personal way to identify with my story. I think we can all relate to breaking down barriers.”