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A&E >  Art

Pandemic projects: Retired teacher creates fabric collages with goal of loaning or donating to children’s programs

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Lady Liberty stands tall in all her flowery beauty. Her gown composed of hundreds of tiny pieces of teal and aquamarine fabric. Lavender butterflies and dragonflies dart around her legs. Her hem needs just a few more finishing touches.

This fabric collage came to life under the skilled hands of retired teacher Carole Imus and is one in a series of six she’s creating during the pandemic.

“My husband bought me a sewing machine for Christmas in 2019,” she recalled. “I took some classes at the Quilting Bee, but quilting just wasn’t my thing.”

However, when Imus spotted a fabric collage at a local sewing shop, she was drawn to the intricate work. She picked up a book by Montana fiber artist, Laura Heine, and dove into her first project, a colorful seahorse.

“I love creating,” Imus said. “And with this it’s never perfect at first. you get to play with it.”

She used an outline pattern for the seahorse, but chose her own fabric.

“Each piece is individually cut and added to make the pictures come to life,” she said.

In addition to the seahorse, she’s completed a peacock and a mermaid. When she completes the Statue of Liberty, she plans to make an angel, or fairy or perhaps a sea turtle.

Though she used a pattern for the seahorse, she created her own designs for the other collages.

“First I get an idea. Then I draw the pattern on chart paper,” Imus explained.

Next, she traces the design onto a material called Pattern Ease. Then the fun of choosing and cutting fabrics begins.

Using an appliqué pressing sheet and an iron, she fuses the fabric with Steam a Seam 2, and then cuts it into the shapes and sizes she wants.

“The scissors are the key to getting a clean cut,” she said.

Imus uses Karen Kay Buckley scissors.

Like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, she plays with the tiny scraps fabric, moving pieces around until she’s satisfied.

Lastly, she fuses the fabric for the final time, cuts out the entire pattern, and adheres the design to background material.

“Each one takes about a month and a half to complete,” Imus said. “I work on them two to three hours a day.”

She showed the seahorse at an art show in February at the Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center in Post Falls, and was offered $500 for it. Imus passed on the offer because she has a different vision for her work.

“I’d love to loan or donate the pieces to some place like Ronald McDonald House or Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, somewhere where children and families see them,” she said.

The vibrant prints and colors she chooses in her fabric selections remind her of the work of Eric Carle, a children’s book author and illustrator, so the lifelong teacher would love to donate some of his books along with her art.

Imus is part of a book group and during the pandemic she read an Albert Einstein quote that resonated: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

“In our book group we look at solutions,” Imus said.

She pointed to her fabric collages.

“This was a solution for me. It’s been life-saving,” she said.”These bring me joy. It’s been such a godsend to do this.”

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