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Burke Residency 7: Debby Weiss

Written by Emma McFarland

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Posted on February 08 2021

EMMA: Hi Debby! I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to ask you a few questions in this virtual space, thank you for taking the time to share your responses. 

Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little bit about your history and the evolutions you’ve moved through with your textile work—how you began and where you are at present. 

DEBBY: As a young girl in the 1960’s I learned to sew, crochet, cook and bake with my mother. As I became a teenager I taught myself macrame and would go to Venice Beach and peddle my wares. In college after a couple years of science I decided to study textile design, at the time battling the internal struggle of craft versus art. Needing to make a living I ended up working in the medical field for 25 years, all the time still creating and making and raising three girls on my own.
In 2000 I started a business designing clothes. This took many twists and turns and to this day is still evolving. I never stopped creating with my hands and fiber, embroidery, piecing, stitching, knotting, crocheting and weaving. My pieces have become more art focused and relay messages about the years of life and experiences we accumulate. I have recently over the past few years had the privilege to show my work and have a couple shows scheduled in 2021.

Artist Debby Weiss

I love to share my knowledge of craft in my very carefree approach. I work intuitively letting the materials guide me as I make. Nothing is planned but becomes a piece of interest and beauty.
These days of making allow for slowing down, observing and finding inner peace. I believe we collect experiences throughout our lives. These experiences mold and change us, they sway our character. When all is said and done we remain the same person, however changed we may seem. Our integrity, our soul, our being that was birthed into this lifetime remains unchanged. Through stitching layers upon layers, I create unity and celebrate life. I make objects of color and beauty while thinking about what life means to me and what I’ve seen in the world. This journey began over 50 years ago for me and now I would love to share it with others.

 Artist Debby Weiss

E: Your work has included traditional quilts, functional clothing, fiber structures, and two-dimensional pieces (such as your painted and stitched journal); I’d love to hear about your relationship with textiles and your approach to exploring all of its potentialities. 

D: My love has always been for textiles/fabric and my joy comes from using the different techniques I've acquired in my lifetime to make both pieces of function and beauty. I have a difficult time just working in a singular technique so I have allowed my mind and hands to wander and incorporate a variety of materials oftentimes into one piece and/or jumping from one medium to another in small collections, bodies of work. Over the last few years I was able to travel prior to covid, and my work turned towards the thoughts of what I would see while exploring. I mostly return to the thoughts of homes and gardens but not necessarily in a literal sense. My notion of what might be behind a window, a door, a wall. This year in self isolation that feeling was intensified and created a new meaning of home.

 Fiber Art by Debby Weiss

E: I’m struck by how varied your work is with regard to shape, size, and dimension. I’m curious to hear how (or if) you think about scale in your work. I’m thinking here too about how you create color, texture, abstract forms and images with thread while you also make similar gestures with pieces of fabric for your sculptures and larger wall hangings. Do you think of scale more in relation to the materials you work with, the space you envision them occupying, to the body?

D: I generally work smaller scale but I've focused this past year on using up all my scraps, in particular the ones left from making face masks. I never have a plan before I start. My work is created by pulling from what surrounds me and letting the piece tell me what it wants to become.

Quilt Fiber Art by Debby Weiss

E: Could you talk to us about your use of scrap materials and the act of remaking anew?

D: I wouldn't say that the scrap is being remade, more that it is not wasted. As above it tells me how it wants to live.

Fiber Art by Debby Weiss

E: The way you articulate your practice on your website is moving in its intimacy; I was particularly struck with the statement, “As we change and grow we remain ourselves only different, so does the fabric with each puncture of my needle.” It speaks poignantly to the relationship between time and physicality and I’m wondering if you could elaborate more on the connection you feel between the two. Has your perspective around time and the tactility of fabric changed at all in the unprecedented experiences that the pandemic continues to bring us?

D: My perspective has not changed but my practice has become much more prolific because of the pandemic. In the prior years I would collect experiences riding on public transportations among strangers, wandering cities, pulling so much inspiration from the grit of the world along with its beauty. This past year has left me drawing from memory. I reach deep inside and without cognitive thought let my hands and fiber create.

Fiber Art by Debby Weiss

E: As we conclude, could share what has been bringing you joy or inspiration lately?

D: The hope for better times, I miss being embedded among strangers. I get joy from teaching on zoom which allows a temporary connection. I have recently started collaborating with others unknown to me except by instagram. It brings me joy and a challenge to work outside my comfort zone while interacting with their work and voice and to see what they do with mine.

Fiber Art by Debby Weiss

E: Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your work with us, I’m very much looking forward to seeing it at Burke!

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